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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 8 May 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

THURSDAY, 8 MAY 2003

Questions for Oral Answer


Questions to Ministers:

1. Privy Council—Referendum
2. Tonga—Democracy
3. Electricity—Consumer Savings
4. Legal Aid—Eligibility
5. Winter Power Task Force—Hot Water Heating
6. Immigration, Minister—Confidence
7. Examination Fees—Education Act Guidelines
8. Early Childhood Education—Innovation
9. Air Force—Maritime Interdiction Operation
10. Building Standards—"Better Regulation of the Building Industry in New Zealand"
11. Food Labelling—Country of Origin
12. Health Services—Rest Homes and Home Support

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer
Privy Council—Referendum

1. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Given the constitutional significance of abolishing the right of appeal to the Privy Council, does she support holding a referendum on the issue; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice): No.

Stephen Franks: If not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Parliament is perfectly capable of making those decisions.

Tim Barnett: Has the Minister seen the recent comments of Lord Cooke of Thorndon* that the matter was too complicated for a referendum; if so, what is her response to those comments?

Mr SPEAKER: I warn people about interjections during questions, and that is the only time today.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I note that Lord Cooke of Thorndon, who served with distinction on the Privy Council, said: “I tremble at the thought of how one might try to educate the electorate in the issues involved. Parliament has to take responsibility for change, as it has always done with matters of court structure.” I agree with those comments.

Hon Bill English: In the light of a statement by law commissioner* *Ngatata Love that states: “If the bill goes through local courts will have to give greater recognition of the treaty and tikanga issues”, why does she agree with Lord Cooke’s arrogant view that the New Zealand public cannot possibly understand that?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Lord Cooke of Thorndon* was commenting on the fact that the Parliament of New Zealand is competent to make these decisions, and said that the issues were very complex. I do note the fact that that member suggested we abolish Mâori seats without going to a referendum.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If it is a fact that Mâori have been consulted on this issue, as she and her other Ministers claim, why is there to be a hui with Ngâti Tûwharetoa*, and if that is proper, why is there not a hui with Ngâpuhi, the biggest tribe in this country by miles?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There has been ongoing consultation with Mâori throughout the process, as there has been with all other members of New Zealand society, and indeed the select committee process is designed for submissions to be made on this important matter.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of any country in the world that has held a referendum prior to abolishing the right of appeal to the Privy Council?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I am not aware, and indeed I am aware of Australia and Canada both abolishing appeals to the Privy Council and in neither case were referenda conducted. I should make the point that under section 128 of the Australian Constitution Act there is a requirement for referenda on changes to the Australian Constitution Act, and Australia still did not have a referendum on abolishing appeals to the Privy Council.

Murray Smith: Does she agree with Lord Cooke of Thorndon’s comments to the select committee yesterday that the Privy Council is going to change quite radically within the next few years and will be a quite differently constituted court, with more Scottish judges and no judges from Commonwealth countries; if so, how is that likely to impact on the quality of the Privy Council bench, as far as New Zealand is concerned?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I was not aware of the detailed comments that Lord Cooke made to the select committee yesterday, but I take it from the member that he commented on the nature of the Privy Council and how it is appointed, and I think that is a matter that we should have some cognisance to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is it that a discussion paper on the review of New Zealand’s court structure is now turning into a full-scale consultation on the issue of the Privy Council, as claimed by this Government, and why was it that at Rotorua on Monday all Mâori submitters said they were never consulted, and they represented all the tribes in the middle part of the North Island?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I believe that question was answered in the House on Tuesday.

Mr SPEAKER: Irrespective of whether the question was answered on Tuesday, it can be commented on by the member now.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The advice I have is that there has been full consultation. I think the member assumes that consultation means agreement.

Stephen Franks: Is the Minister aware that Lord Cooke advised the select committee yesterday that it is unlikely the fundamental structure of the State could be altered by a bare parliamentary majority overnight, and even without any form of mandate from the people, and in explanation of why he thought that might not apply to the Privy Council, said he trembled at the thought; if so, is that the reason the Minister does not support a referendum?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, it is not the reason the referendum concept is not supported. The bottom line is this Parliament has within itself the power and the jurisdiction, and indeed the knowledge base, in order to make these fundamental changes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In respect of the Mâori people, why are she and her colleagues against going to, for example, Gisborne, Otiria up north, or the heartland of Maôridom and seeing them on the marae, rather than holding it in some junky hotel room?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There is no such objection.

Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 2 to Minister

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future)27DUNNE, Hon PETER14:10:10Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question that appears as No. 2 in my name bears little relation to the question I submitted, which was: “Is the Government satisfied with the current level of democracy in Tonga?”. I would like to know how that question does not meet the Standing Orders, because I believe it is in order, and, secondly, I would like the leave of the House to ask the question I submitted, not the one some prissy pedant has altered it to read.

Mr SPEAKER: I can tell the member that the “prissy pedant” concerned was a member of his own party, who negotiated that question with the Clerk’s Office*.

Hon PETER DUNNE: That is not so.

Mr SPEAKER: I have been informed of that, but if that is not the case I will investigate it. I will hold the question over and come back to it later.

GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam)14BROWNLEE, GERRY14:11:26GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take this opportunity to back Mr Dunne in what he is saying, because in fact we do not always get the opportunity to negotiate the wording of questions. I raised this very point with you last week when a question’s context was considerably changed by the Clerk’s Office in order to accommodate the Minister whom the Government had decided would answer it. I have another point when you are ready.

Mr SPEAKER: I can tell people that substantive changes are not made without consultation. The second point is that the question as it was originally lodged is not in order, but the member is perfectly at liberty to seek the leave to ask it as he originally put it. Does anyone object—

Hon Peter Dunne: No, I do not object.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is not. The member may ask it.

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future)27DUNNE, Hon PETER14:12:13Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future): I raise a further point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like some explanation about why a simple question asking whether the Government is satisfied with a situation, is not in order.

Mr SPEAKER: The fact of the matter is that the Minister who is asked the question does not have responsibility for the current level of democracy in Tonga.

Hon PETER DUNNE: But he does have responsibility—

Mr SPEAKER: No, he does not. Tonga is an independent country. But that is irrelevant, because we are now allowing the member to ask the question.

Hon PETER DUNNE: Speaking further to the point of order, I say that it is not irrelevant because the Minister does have responsibility for the view of the New Zealand Government on whether a situation is satisfactory. If we are going to end up splitting straws over this type of process when members are seeking to ask questions, then, frankly, our question process will be reduced to the farcical.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me say that I always respect the member’s Points of Order
, because he rarely raises them and they are all usually of some substance. I will have a look at this matter, but now that the House has decided to give him the opportunity, I will allow him to ask the question and I will have another look at the point he raises.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ)88PREBBLE, Hon RICHARD14:13:20Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is helpful to take a few moments now, because you heard a view from the National Party, and now you are hearing from United Future, that there is concern that the Clerk’s Office is actually preventing this House from asking reasonable questions. I say to you that if we cannot ask what the Government’s attitude is towards democracy in Tonga, it would follow that we cannot not ask, for example, what the Government thinks about developments in the EC* on trade, or what is going on in Iraq. They are all matters that must come under the purview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and, I would have thought, of the Prime Minister. They are all matters of Government policy and attitude, and when you are doing this review I think you should be saying to the Clerks that the rule should be that when in doubt, allow the question, rather than the other way around.

Mr SPEAKER: I think that the member has made a very valid couple of points, and I certainly have some sympathy with the points he is making, particularly with the second one.

Questions for Oral Answer
Tonga—Democracy

2. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Is the New Zealand Government satisfied with the current level of democracy in Tonga?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): No. While the Tongan constitution provides for many of the freedoms and rights we would regard as essential for modern democracy, Tonga falls short of the criteria that define a fully democratic State. Executive Government that is not elected by universal franchise and restrictions on the freedom of the press are two examples of that.

Hon Peter Dunne: In view of the curbs on freedom of speech, on the freedom of the press, and on freedom of association that now occur in Tonga, will the New Zealand Government reconsider its overseas development assistance of $5.6 million to Tonga until such time as the State does embrace democratic principles; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer is no, because the people the member is presumably concerned about who may be deprived of the rights that he supports would, if we withdrew our aid, also be deprived of basic education, health, and good governance provisions that are designed not to help the Government, but to help the people.

Simon Power: How does the current level of democracy in Tonga benefit from the New Zealand aid payment of $5.6 million in the 2002-03 year, when only $450,000 of that is prioritised for civil society and community-based development projects?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As the member said, a percentage of that budget is designed to help directly with good governance. Another part of it is providing an expatriate puisne judge, and it is important for the justice system that judges of an appropriate standard are appointed there. Two-thirds of the aid that we give to Tonga does not go to the Government at all. It goes directly to non-government organisations and community groups. All of the aid that goes to Tonga is money that we spend that we know the outcome of that is designed to help the well-being* of people and alleviate the poverty that would otherwise exist there.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports from Tonga as to its attitude towards New Zealand’s democracy, where, day after day incompetent Ministers cannot answer questions properly?

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is an irrelevant question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it is not.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Not only is it irrelevant; it is incorrect.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that question is not in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If we can ask questions about our attitude towards Tonga’s democracy, then I have a right to ask whether there are any reports in reverse coming our way in respect of its view on our democracy. That is legitimate.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot ask that.

Keith Locke: How will the Government be speaking more publicly about greater democracy in Tonga, such as asking the Tongan Government to abide by the court decision in favour of the Taimi’o Tonga* magazine in asking that its distribution in Tonga be allowed to resume, particularly in the light of the fact that the democracy movement wins the majority of votes in the elections they hold there?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have spoken publicly on that, expressing our concern and regret at the action taken again Taimi’o Tonga and our expectation that the constitutional provision in the Tongan constitution about freedom of the press be upheld. I can tell the member too that we are responding positively to requests from the Speaker of the Tongan National Assembly for guidance on measures that will improve the workings of that assembly.

Hon Peter Dunne: What does the Minister say to the people of Tonga who are concerned, and to the Tongan community in New Zealand who are concerned, that the New Zealand Government is not doing enough to promote democracy in Tonga, particularly in view of our historic relationship, and that more attention is required, and maybe the issue of aid ought to be tagged to that?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am sure that if the member talks to Tongan people, either in Tonga or in New Zealand, they would not for a moment agree with the withdrawal of support of development assistance designed to assist the health and education of ordinary people whose standards of living are well below those of people in New Zealand, including Tongan people in New Zealand. What I need to tell the member as well is that while we can express our opinion and our position against restrictions on freedom of the press, Tonga is a sovereign country. It is not subject to our direction.

Questions for Oral Answer
Electricity—Consumer Savings

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Energy: What is his response to energy consumers, such as Becky Ashe of Mission Bay, who is unhappy at being blamed for power shortages and said: “I don’t like the way this is all being blamed on the household consumer … We did our bit last time—and that wasn’t so long ago—so why is it happening again? I don’t want to spend nights at home in a cold dark house because something is happening that is not my fault.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Minister of Energy: The Minister of Energy is presently announcing a new 80-megawatt *wind farm in the Wairarapa, which I understand will provide nearly enough power for the entire Wairarapa: Nobody is blaming consumers such as Mrs Ashe for the prospect of power shortages and nobody is asking her to spend nights at home in a cold dark house. The information on power savings being provided in the target 10 percent campaign shows how savings can be made without such drastic measures.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe there are other New Zealanders who take the same view as Becky Ashe of Mission Bay, or does he have some other explanation as to why the campaign he is running has fallen so far short of its target of 10 percent, and what is he going to do about it?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I might say a more unified and nationalistic approach from the Opposition might be a good way to start. There are a number of things that people can do. For example, people who turn off *towel rails will, on average, save the 10 percent, with that alone. People who turn off appliances at the wall will, with that one action, save 5 percent. There is a lot that people can do, that is reasonable. I just ask the National Party to get in behind, and stop whingeing.*

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have just allowed that member to have a lash at the National Party, when that answer has nothing to do with the question. I am going to take leave of the House for the Minister to be able to tell us on what occasion the National Party has ever said anything, other than offering full support for the savings campaign.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that. Is there any objection? There is not. [Interruption] No, the member cannot take leave on behalf of someone. He can ask a question.

Gerry Brownlee: I took leave of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot take leave for another person. The member has leave to ask a question, which will not be within the allocation that he has been granted by the House.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister name the occasion, and give the statement, where any member of the National Party caucus has suggested anything, other than encouraging New Zealanders to support fully the savings campaign?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think one could look at the tone of Questions for Oral Answer
—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: No, I am listening to the answer first, then I will hear the comments.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not like a normal question. This is a question allowed by the House, very specifically, and the Minister should give a specific answer. Has there been an occasion? Is there a quote? If the answer is no, he should stand up and say so.

Mr SPEAKER: No, it is an ordinary question that was allowed, and the answer addressed it.

Mark Peck: Can the Minister assure consumers in areas such as Southland and Otago, which are achieving significant power savings, that their efforts are worth while, when other regions are saving less at present?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, the efforts made by consumers such as those in Southland are very much worth while, as they will help avoid more severe disruption to power supplies. The Minister urges consumers in other parts of the country to follow the leadership shown by Southland and increase their efforts to reach that 10 percent target.

Dail Jones: What is his response to other energy consumers, such as Max Peers of the Waitakere Gardens retirement village in Henderson, a volunteer driver for the Cancer Society, who on his night off will also have to suffer a reduction in warmth, both externally and internally, arising from the power shortages and an increase in the price of The Old Masters rich cream sherry from $12 to $18, being a double blow to himself and other New Zealanders of a similar age?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think anyone who has any sort of medical knowledge would know that the warmth provided by alcohol does not last for very long.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is the Government concerned that the spectacular failure of its call for power savings might be because the public perceives this Labour Government as blaming everyone else for the failure except itself—with another example of that occurring today with the Government saying it is the fault of the Opposition—and has the Government considered that if the Prime Minister was to go on television and personally accept responsibility it might get a better response from the public?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If there was one person in this House who had more responsibility for the mad excesses of the free market—which includes this area—it is the Hon Richard Prebble.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member might like to authenticate that answer. I have not been a Minister for 12 years.

Mr SPEAKER: The member raises a very, very valid and interesting point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely it cannot be acceptable for a Minister to give an answer that is totally irrelevant—and, in the case of Mr Prebble, totally wrong, as well—

Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the point—do not make derogatory comments like that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just relax; I am getting to the point. There is a Standing Order that states that I have the right to make that point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. [Interruption] The member will leave the House if he is not seated. He has the right to make a point of order, but I have the right to intervene when I think it is not a point of order, and it was not because of the member’s remark. Please make a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: There are two material issues to my point of order. One is that the Minister made no attempt to answer the question, and, worse still, in political terms, he set out to make a character assassination on a member who could not have been responsible. I thought it was your duty to get up and make him answer the question, which is what would be expected in any other democracy.

Mr SPEAKER: As far as I was concerned, I heard the answer. I then heard the member’s point of order, and I thought there was a good spirit in the House, and that he was taking it in that regard. I thought that that was where the matter ended.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm his view that Becky Ashe of Mission Bay is “whingeing”—to use his word—when she says, “I don’t like the way this has all been blamed on the household consumer.”, and when is he going to figure out that it is precisely because of the Government’s attitude that it is everyone else’s fault the savings campaign is failing?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: At no stage did I indicate that she was whingeing—it was the tone the member used that whinged nearly as much as the two people next to him.

Hon Richard Prebble: Has the Minister seen the article in yesterday’s Dominion Post, “How and Why the Power Crisis Happened”, which stated: “There is a shortage of electricity generation capacity. The demand for electricity continues to grow, but no new hydro stations have been permitted or built in New Zealand for more than 20 years, even though there is an identified hydro generation potential of about 20,000 megawatts, of which 10,000 is considered to be economic and environmentally reasonable to develop.”, and could he explain to the House why Richard Prebble is responsible for the situation?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Obviously, the Hon Richard Prebble has had an enormous influence. We know that during the 1990s he was running Ruth Richardson and others on a string. On the—

Mr SPEAKER: I want the Minister to come to the particular question that was asked.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: On the question of permits, 1,300 megawatts of new generation has received resource consent since 2000. The reason it has not all been built has not been uncertainty around the resource management process, but uncertainty around gas supply.

Hon Bill English: What action does the Minister intend to take to improve the rate of power savings from under 5 percent to somewhere near the 10 percent target the Government has set, bearing in mind that if we do not reach the 10 percent target, we will be facing blackouts in the winter?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member means we may be facing blackouts during the winter. There are factors such as when and where it rains that are also relatively important.

Hon Bill English: Too late.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member says it is too late for rain. The Government is looking at ongoing and developing campaigns for power saving in the area, and if the member—[Interruption] Gerry Brownlee should just wait and see.

Questions for Oral Answer
Legal Aid—Eligibility

4. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (NZ Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Justice: What steps have been taken to review eligibility for legal aid?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): In December 2002 a discussion document on eligibility for legal aid was released to groups with a direct interest in that subject, including Government agencies, the New Zealand Law Society,* community law centres*, and the New Zealand Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux*. The responses have been received and are being analysed. This document has also been made available to the Justice and Electoral Committee, and is now available on the ministry website.

Russell Fairbrother: What are the goals of reviewing and reforming eligibility criteria?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The key goal is to provide access to legal representation for people with genuine need in a fiscally affordable way. The system also needs to be efficient so that the resources are being used to the best effect. We also need to discourage unnecessary litigation.

Richard Worth: Against the background of the abuse of the system by legally aided claimants before the Waitangi Tribunal, which has been the subject of evidence to the Justice and Electoral Committee, what specific actions will he take to stop similar abuses when claimants to the Ministry for the Environment* seek money for the Environment Court* as impoverished environment action groups, when members of that group, as individuals, have significant amounts of cash?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member may not be aware of it, but the money that is available for environmental groups is not paid out of this legal aid fund, but by a separate ministry and a separate fund.

Dail Jones: What action will the Minister take to ensure that any legal aid review deals with the problems arising from a grant of legal aid in domestic violence and interim custody matters to one party heard on a “without notice to the other party” basis, resulting in the other usually non – legally aided party not getting interim custody, resulting in serious prejudice to the child or children and the other party in any subsequent custody action? I refer to the Law Commission’s Report 82 on dispute resolution in the Family Court, paragraphs 984 and 992.

Hon PHIL GOFF: That is an issue, as is the fact that when legal aid is provided to one party over custody matters, the other party that is fighting the legal battle may be above the threshold level and may have its assets dissipated. Both of those issues are before the Ministry of Justice as appropriate issues to examine in the context of this review.

Stephen Franks: What steps will the Minister take to ensure that the eligibility review considers ways to avoid wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on counsel who defend crime described by the judge as “cruel and unspeakably depraved”, yet excuse the brutal rape and murder of a jogger by saying: “The inequality between Mâori and the white ruling class explained why a troubled young man with a decent family came to act like a psychopath”—

Hon Richard Prebble: Who said that?

Mr SPEAKER: The member has interjected and I have warned him. I am going to take it that that interjection meant that the question was over, then he will not be forced to leave.

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are, of course, specific tests for the provision of legal aid in criminal cases. The person needs to demonstrate that having legal representation would be otherwise unaffordable, and it must also be in the interests of justice. The interests of justice have been taken to mean that the seriousness of the consequences for the individual is high—that is, that the individual is likely to imprisoned. In that case, there needs to be certainty that all the issues are argued properly before a court of law, so that the verdict of guilty is, in fact, the appropriate decision.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to this question, which has been illustrated by the supplementary question. Surely Mr Russell Fairbrother, who has been a personal beneficiary of legal aid, has a conflict of interest that he should have told us about before asking the question?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not think that is the case at all. Otherwise we would have people who are dairy farmers never being allowed to ask questions about the dairy industry.

Nandor Tanczos: Has there been an examination of the policy of not allowing legal aid in criminal cases where defendants are unlikely to receive a prison sentence because it is not considered significant—a practice that may lead to wrongful conviction—when, in fact, a first conviction, even without a custodial sentence, will clearly have significant impacts on a person’s life?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I understand the point the member is making, but I have to make this point in reply: the amount of resources we can put into any area is finite. In this area, we are currently expending $80 million of taxpayers’ money, and we therefore have to make sure that we prioritise who is eligible and what cases are appropriate to give legal aid in. The line has therefore been drawn that in criminal cases the probability of imprisonment is a factor that should be taken into account before legal aid is granted.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister intend to review the ability for grandparents raising grandchildren to access legal aid to contest guardianship when, currently, means testing* often leaves them with no option but to re-mortgage their homes to protect the interests of those children; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have considerable sympathy for grandparents in that situation. I have talked to a number of them, and that is what I was alluding to when I answered the question from Dail Jones.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the record of the trial in which Mr Fairbrother made the defence, as read out by Mr Franks.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Winter Power Task Force—Hot Water Heating

5. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Does he support the call by the Winter Power Task Force for hot water to be switched off for up to 18 hours a day if a 10 percent voluntary domestic power savings target is not met by the end of the month; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Minister of Energy: The answer from the Minister of Energy who, as we know, is doing good work at this time, is that he is advised that the Winter Power Task Force** is not calling for hot water to be “switched off”, as the member puts it. The task force* is doing everything it can to avoid disruptions to the power supply, and has pointed out the fact that 10 percent savings will help make more severe savings unnecessary.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely that answer cannot be accepted, because the question would not be on the Order Paper if we had not had to take verification of that statement made by the Winter Power Task Force to the Clerk’s Office* this morning. The whole integrity of question time is at stake here.

Mr SPEAKER: The point made by the member is absolutely correct, but the member did not agree with that particular comment. He is entitled to do that as Minister.

Gerry Brownlee: The Minister said the statement was not made. Who is right? Us and the Clerk, or the Minister?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will repeat my answer. The Minister is advised that the Winter Power Task Force is not calling for hot water to be “switched off”, as the member puts it.

Mr SPEAKER: That was the answer I heard.

Gerry Brownlee: It is quite clear we cannot address this question. There seems to be a totally different view of the information on which the question is based. I seek the leave of the House for this question to be held over until the Minister of Energy is back in the House.

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

Gerry Brownlee: Has he seen electricity industry players’ suggestions that domestic consumers need short, sharp shocks and a few cold showers to get them to save power, and does he support this method of introducing power savings; if so, how soon would he suggest it start?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: For some consumers opposite, quite soon.

Hon Ken Shirley: Could he explain to the House why New Zealanders are being urged to save power, including short, sharp showers, if not cold showers, when the *Tongariro power scheme is not running to capacity, and instead water is being spilt in vast volumes down the *Whanganui River?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That question has the level of detail that as an *acting Minister I do not have. I do not have information about every power scheme and I suggest the member puts the question to the Minister as a substantive question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although I have to accept the Minister’s assurance that he does not know the answer to that question, surely there is some obligation to have an acting Minister who knows something. I would have said that most members of Parliament are well aware of the fact that this Government put pressure on *Genesis Energy to settle a Mâori claim to the Whanganui River. I would have said that most MPs are aware that the Tongariro power scheme, which cost multimillions to build, is now hardly running at all. Most MPs know that that is one of the reasons for the power shortage. But the acting Minister tells us, and we have to accept his word, that he does not.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, as the member just said, the Minister had a perfectly proper way of responding. Whether it was satisfactory is another question.

Darren Hughes: What contribution will the Government sector make to power savings?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Cabinet has set a 15 percent target for the Government sector. *Archives New Zealand, for example, has estimated that it is now saving 20 percent of its usual consumption. The State Services Commission has a number of interesting proposals. It has asked cleaners not to do their night cleaning, to vacuum once a week and do all other cleaning during daylight hours rather than have the banks of lights on, timers have been added to the hot water boilers so they do not operate between 5.30 and 7 o’clock, and, something that might be somewhat of a *flashback for some of us, they have been recommended to wear jerseys if they are cold.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Before the Minister allows cold showers to be forced on all householders who have no alternative source of hot water, will he ensure that every significant commercial, industrial, and retail user of electricity is visited by an official from Government or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority* to advise on how it can cut its power use without reducing production, safety, or health?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it would not be appropriate for me to make that undertaking here.

Stephen Franks: Does the Government agree with the advice of Tim Saunders, chairman of the State-owned enterprise, *Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd, that new coal-based high efficiency electricity generation with negligible pollutant emissions could maintain the wholesale electricity price at 5c to 6c per kilowatt hour near current rates for hundreds of years; if so, why is another State-owned enterprise forced to import coal from Indonesia and Australia—half a million tonnes this year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is a question of having the coal and the coal-fired power stations not in the same places—in fact, not in the same islands.

Gerry Brownlee: When the Minister said in the House yesterday that he would be making an announcement about future generation this week, was he referring to the Meridian Te Apiti *wind farm; if so, how likely is this project to help with the current crisis, given that New Zealand’s consumption last month was, on average, 94,604 megawatts per day, and this project will, perhaps by 2005, produce only 2,400 megawatts per day?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No.

Questions for Oral Answer
Immigration, Minister—Confidence

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Is she of the opinion that her Minister of Immigration is on top of her portfolio responsibilities; 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.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Putting aside the obvious that the information Minister for Iraq was also very similarly qualified—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please come to the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK.

Hon PHIL GOFF: That was not funny yesterday, and it is less funny today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It won’t be funny tomorrow, as well. The Minister is living proof that New Zealanders can take a joke.

Mr SPEAKER: I give the member a final warning, and that is why I have not put the member out. The member will please ask the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Minister of Immigration possibly be on top of her portfolio when her open-door immigration policy has created a situation where on one day, 3 May, in the Auckland District Court* alone, at least 24 immigrants appeared on multiple charges that involved extortion, kidnappings, aggravated robberies and assault with intent to rob, and when does the Prime Minister expect the Minister to get on top of this alarming situation outlined in this document?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Firstly, let me correct the member. There is no open-door immigration policy in this country, and the member knows that. Secondly, if the member wants to make assertions about immigrants being a disproportionate cause of crime in this country, he should check with my other department, the Ministry of Justice, where he will find, for example, that Asian immigrants perform disproportionately less crime than any other area, and half the level of crime of their proportion of the population. If the member wants to look at where crime comes from, he will find that most of it is home-grown*.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Minister possibly come to that answer, knowing full well that in many cases the country of origin is not asked of the offender; if he cannot tell us that, then he is again simply misleading this House?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It is not this member who is misleading the House; it is the person who has asked the question. I will seek leave at the end of answering this question to table two documents: one document from the Ministry of Justice on the sentencing and convicting of offenders, which shows that the other category in terms of ethnicity, 79 percent of which is Asian, committed only 3 percent of the crime in this country. The other document comes from the police, which makes a distinction of Asiatic as an ethnic group, which indicates that it commits 2.2 percent of the crime in this country. The member should stop making allegations about ethnic groups for which he can never produce the evidence to back up.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is the rate of increase and what are the per capita figures in respect of the other category that the Minister now asserts is a low crime committing area?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The figures that I can give to the member is that it is my understanding that the Asian section of the population now constitutes something around 6 percent of the population, and the crime rate as set out in the police figures indicate a crime rate of committing 2.2 percent of the crime in this country.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister was asked what the percentage increase and growth figures are. We want to know that, and I have asked him that very, very carefully. If he cannot answer that, he should say he does not have the figures, not seek to avoid it by providing information not asked for.

Mr SPEAKER: That point is valid. I think the Minister should actually address that part.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Because that question has nothing to do with the original question that was asked, I do not have those figures with me. Those figures would be available. I can indicate that the Asian section of the population has increased rapidly, but the most important point, in terms of the proportionality of crime committed by ethnic groups, is that this is a group in the community that disproportionately commits less crime that other ethnic groups.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister consider it a sign of failure in immigration policy when people like the Auckland Mayor, John Banks, call for a more coherent policy to help people integrate into their new community, and what is the Minister’s response to his claim that the strain on infrastructure caused by the current influx of migrants is actually making their lives unhappy and uncertain?

Hon PHIL GOFF: With regard to one aspect of the question, John Banks, the Minister of Immigration, and I attended the opening of the Migrant Resource Centre in my own electorate, and I heard the mayor speak on that occasion. The mayor was gushing in his praise for new migrants to New Zealand and welcoming their contribution.

Mr SPEAKER: I told the Minister I put the leave for him to table his two documents, which he has described.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the court record of the Auckland District Court for 2 May, showing 24 people being charged with all sorts of serious offences in this country.

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

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table another document. It is entitled “By hoki, where is the scampi?”, challenging Winston Peters to provide the evidence on the scampi fishing industry when he had no evidence.

Mr SPEAKER: That has no relation to this question. [Interruption] The member has sought leave. Anyone can seek leave. Is there any objection? There is.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to bring something to your attention and ask for your assistance. I have, through written questions, asked respective Ministers in the Government for precisely the sorts of figures the Minister has just said he now has. He has told the House in his answer to the principal question that the figures of ethnic groups show specifically the levels of crime to support the figures he has given. I have been told in numerous answers to written questions that the amount of data involved does not warrant the time and the money involved in providing me with the answers I wanted, which were, specifically, a breakdown of crime and offences by ethnicity. I have been denied that information, and he now tells the House that he has it.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. That is a debating point.

Questions for Oral Answer
Examination Fees—Education Act Guidelines

7. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Education: Who was responsible for the breach of section 4.2 of the Assessment and Certification Rules and Procedures for Secondary Schools 2002, pursuant to Part XX of the Education Act 1989, which states: “The Chief Executive’s Nominee will advise schools of the following year’s schedule of fees for each of the Qualifications, no later than 1 December in the year preceding the assessment.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I am advised that there is no legal requirement to advise examination fees by a certain date. Clearly, New Zealand Qualifications Authority did not meet the deadline that is set down in its own rules and procedures that it has made. While this is regrettable, I hardly think it is the hanging offence the member tried to make it yesterday.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority told the Education and Science Committee in response to questions on the increase in the fees: “It is a decision made by the Minister in conjunction with the Ministry of Education … There were just a series of options … There were no recommendations.”, when all these statements are contradicted by the official documents in her own name, how can we continue to have confidence in the chief executive of this most important authority when it so grossly misleads a parliamentary select committee?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I understand that the acting chief executive has accepted that she made an error. I understand that she was on leave on 6 January, the day the important paper that was signed up in her name but that she did not see because she was on leave—I was working, and some of her staff were working—was released. We dealt with it during the holidays. She made an error at the select committee and she has apologised.

Hon Brian Donnelly: How long has the role of the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority* been carried out by a person in an acting capacity, and is it in the best interests of the long-term strategic development of this beleaguered entity to have allowed such temporary leadership for such a prolonged period?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Too long, and no.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister consent to a $16 million increase in student examination fees—[Interruption]; $16 million I say to Mr Peters—from $83 to $150 per student, when he had been advised officially by the authority this breached its own rules or, to specifically quote the document, “This decision must be made by 1 December”, and will he now defer that huge increase, given that the authority broke its own rules?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As the member is aware, following that advice I sought advice as to the basis of the legal advice and found that it was incorrect.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister share with the House the specific advice he obtained at the time, which was not disclosed in the papers to the select committee—it was promised we had all the papers—that suggested there was anything other than a breach of its rules?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: My understanding is that that paper was a December paper supplied to the committee.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the official advice given to the Minister on 13 November 2002, and also the further paper that was provided to the Minister on 6 January 2003, both of which state it was a breach of the authority’s rules under the Education Act.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Early Childhood Education—Innovation

8. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour)HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour)139DUNCAN, HELEN to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to actively encourage innovation in early childhood education services and schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education)67MALLARD, Hon TREVOR14:58:29Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Just over $2 million is available every 3 years for six early childhood* education centres of innovation. This is pursuant to last year’s Budget. We have also established a $1 million annual Collaborative Innovations Fund in the school sector. Ultralab South, the New Zealand branch of the wonderful UK* research and development institute, will assist in identifying new and innovative technologies to improve educational programmes.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House when these initiatives will improve teaching and learning?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Early childhood services working alongside researchers and schools working together will identify and share innovative teaching and learning practices, building professional knowledge and expertise. In my opinion, we are not good enough at identifying and developing good practice then sharing it.

Heather Roy: Who does he imagine will implement this innovation when this Government is actively introducing a registration system that will sideline thousands of experienced and capable teachers who will not be grandparented, resulting in staffing shortages in early childhood centres around the country?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there were three wrong assumptions in that question.

Questions for Oral Answer
Air Force—Maritime Interdiction Operation

9. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Defence: Is the reason for the secrecy surrounding the base for the RNZAF Orion bound for the Gulf of Oman concern that people of that unnamed State might object to elements of the Maritime Interdiction Operation being based in their country; if not, what is the reason for secrecy?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): Non-disclosure of the destination was at the request of the host State.

Keith Locke: Is the New Zealand Government colluding with the host Government in hiding the presence of the US-led maritime interdiction operation from the people of that Middle East State because opinion polls show that very few Arab people support their Governments hosting US and allied military forces?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: I am not party, and the Government is not party, to the deliberations of the host State. The New Zealand Government simply agreed to respect its wishes, and we regarded that as a reasonable request on its part.

Lynne Pillay: When will New Zealand deploy a P3 Orion* to the Gulf of Oman?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: On Sunday.

Simon Power: Since the deployment of the P3 Orion to the Gulf of Oman, does the Minister still agree with the Prime Minister’s statement of 26 March 2000 that,

“I think we’ll find, as the world becomes a more peaceful place to live in, a lot of people will start looking at New Zealand and what are the capabilities you need.”, and her statement of 21 March 2000 that we live in “an exceptionally benign strategic environment”; if so, why?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: As I indicated in answer to the previous supplementary question, the Orion has not yet departed; it departs on Sunday. As to the balance of the question, I am confident that this is an appropriate deployment. It is an appropriate contribution to the ongoing international effort against terrorism.

Mr SPEAKER: A supplementary question? No, ACT members have had their questions for today.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been counting very carefully. I believe we have had only seven supplementary questions.

Mr SPEAKER: I have counted eight supplementary questions. The member can check both the records concerned.

Hon Peter Dunne: Notwithstanding the request of the host State to remain unnamed, can the Minister assure the House that the normal New Zealand command and control provisions will apply in respect of the deployment of this aircraft?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, I can give the House that assurance.

Keith Locke: If New Zealand defence personnel, as part of the US-led maritime interdiction operation, detect and detain a suspected terrorist, will that suspected terrorist be handed over to American jurisdiction, knowing that that person would be unlikely to have access to a lawyer or to receive the normal legal rights under New Zealand or international law?

Mr SPEAKER: Interesting though that is, it is far too wide of the original question.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The original question was about the maritime interdiction operation and the involvement of New Zealand military personnel—and it is with the aim of detecting suspected terrorists. Surely what happens as a result of that work in terms of those terrorists is relevant to the original question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might be able to comment briefly.

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: I can assure the member that the P3 Orion deploying on Sunday, and its crew, will not directly, personally detain anybody. They will be flying over the area concerned.

Questions for Oral Answer
Building Standards—"Better Regulation of the Building Industry in New Zealand"

10. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (NZ Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Commerce: What advice has she received on the response to the Government’s discussion document “Better Regulation of the Building Industry in New Zealand”?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): Over 300 submissions were received by the Ministry of Economic Development in response to this paper and, overall, submissions have been very supportive of the proposals and the direction this Government is taking.

H V Ross Robertson: What were the themes reflected in the submissions?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The main themes of the submissions were the need for competent and good-quality trades people, support for building practitioner registration, and the need for better, more accessible, good-quality information. Along the lines of the document, the people of New Zealand are saying we need to build it right first time.

Hon Tony Ryall: In the light of the fact that none of the recommendations in the document suggest that the Building Industry Authority should become part of her department, what advice did she get from the building industry that suggested the Building Industry Authority should be swallowed up by her department, and given her bench mate’s track record in this area, why should New Zealanders believe that she will do any better?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: When I announced that the Building Industry Authority was to come within a Government department, not necessarily the Ministry of Economic Development, the announcement was received in two different ways. There were groups within the building industry that felt that would make it too close to Government, and there were those groups that felt it did not bring it close enough—that the Building Industry Authority had not been acting strongly enough as a regulator in this area.

Questions for Oral Answer
Food Labelling—Country of Origin

11. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs: Does she support mandatory country of origin labelling for food so that consumers can find out where the food they eat comes from; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister of Consumer Affairs): New Zealand consumers have a right to safe food and to know what is in the food we eat, and not to be misled or deceived by information on the labels. The Government’s policy is that country of origin labelling for food should not be mandatory because the information is not always meaningful, particularly for processed foods, and it adds cost to the processes. However, I am always willing to receive submissions on the matter.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that the absence of any labels on imported fresh produce like lamb, mutton, beef, and fish—the vast amounts of it that are on sale in our supermarkets—could mislead or deceive consumers into thinking they were eating New Zealand products and not imported produce; and will she therefore use her powers under the Fair Trading Act* to develop regulations that require country of origin labelling for food, similar to those that already exist for footwear and clothing?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I think it is true that consumers could be misled if this is a matter that is of concern to them. However, our concern is that any imported food, including meat, is safe for consumers. The Government has rules prohibiting beef and beef-product imports from countries unless they are categorised by New Zealand and meet specified requirements in relation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. For other issues, all imported meat must be safe. However, if consumers want to inquire, they should do so.

David Cunliffe: What protections do consumers have against misleading claims regarding the origin of food?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Commerce Commission has put out a ruling that no labelling of any product can be false or misleading. The rules are quite strict about that, so any consumer who has a complaint about labels should refer it to the commission and also complain to the retailer and manufacturer.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that the Fair Trading Act she is referring to applies to only products that are labelled and not to unlabelled fresh produce; and can she further explain why the Government supports mandatory country of origin labelling for footwear and clothing but not for food—that is, does she think it is fair that consumers can find out where their jandals and T-shirts come from, but not their meat and vegetables?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The problem with labelling is that we have international agreements about giving imported goods the same deal we give local goods. I believe that country of origin labelling is often used to discriminate against imported goods. I personally think that consumers should have as much information as possible, but that information has to be meaningful. The problem with many food items is that they have many ingredients, and I do not think that the Australian rules, which are mandatory, are meaningful when all that manufacturers have to put on processed goods is that they contain imported ingredients. I think country of origin labelling is a good idea but it is very difficult to implement, and we have chosen to make it voluntary, not mandatory.

Questions for Oral Answer
Health Services—Rest Homes and Home Support

12. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Associate Minister of Health: What is she doing to ensure the country’s rest homes and home support services are delivering the best standards of care?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health): Adding to a list of initiatives that are already well under way, $1 million is being allocated this year for a project to assess the quality of care of older people and also of people with disabilities, and to develop further initiatives to ensure that the best standards are in fact delivered.

Steve Chadwick: What are the key issues so far identified for ensuring good-quality care?

Hon RUTH DYSON: A key issue identified by the sector has been the need to address the *workforce issues that were neglected so badly during the 1990s when there was no planning, no assessment of workforce needs, and no workforce monitoring of care workers. We are now working constructively with the sector to rectify that neglect.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why has the Minister not increased the funding for our frailest elderly in hospital care in line with the Health Committee report that said particular attention should be paid to hospital care funding; and does she not think that the hospital-care funding freeze is putting our elderly at risk as rest homes have no choice but to cut care, cut corners, or close?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As the member should know, because she was a member of the select committee that heard the Nelson petition looking at that very issue, the decision was made that with the significant amount of increased funding given to residential care providers those who were most underfunded would receive that money first. But I am very pleased to say that the funding increase for hospital-rate beds will be made this year.

Judy Turner: Are there any concerns that services are being financially compromised when the elderly are being wrongly assessed as less dependent than is the case, and that rest homes are therefore being underfunded?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The issue of elderly people being assessed and then referred to an inappropriate level of care was raised at the select committee, but I am confident that that was an error made by the petitioner, having discussed that personally with him. I have confidence in the needs assessment and referral process leading to the right level of care.

Steve Chadwick: What are some of the initiatives the Minister alluded to in her response to the original question?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Home support standards have just been completed, and all needs assessment services are being reviewed to ensure that individuals receive the most appropriate care for their needs. A needs assessment tool for older people is currently under consultation, and various other workforce-related initiatives are in progress.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why has this Labour Government not increased the number of elder-abuse services; and how on earth will the proposed package of initiatives announced on 10 April, which set up a review and the holding of a forum, possibly stop elderly New Zealanders from being physically and financially abused by family members and carers, as is happening all too often in New Zealand today?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am delighted to receive the assumed support from that member for dealing with elder abuse in a comprehensive way. The member noted three parts of the package. Firstly, there is a review of the current contracts, which have been in place for a long time, and, frankly, the previous Government did not look to see what information was gathered. On completion of that review, which will be in the third quarter of this year, I will be hosting a forum to look at the issues raised during the review, and to develop an action plan. The third part of that process is then, in consultation with Steve Maharey and Annette King, to appoint a lead agency to drive that action plan.

Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 6 to Minister

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade)38GOFF, Hon PHIL15:15:56Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I seek the leave of the House to table the full answer to question for written answer on 14 November 2002 from Ron Mark to George Hawkins, showing a full ethnic breakdown of crime committed in this country that the member said he could not get, and which confirms that 2.2. percent of all crime is committed by Asiatic people.

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

RON MARK (NZ First)69MARK, RON15:16:32RON MARK (NZ First): In order that I am not seen to have misled the House, I seek leave to table the other questions on ethnic-based crime that the Minister George Hawkins refused to answer—

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

ENDS

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