Questions Of The Day Transcript - May 13 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
TUESDAY, 13 MAY 2003
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS:
1. Youth—Education, Training, or Employment
2. America's Cup—Government Funding
3. Accident Compensation Corporation—Investments
4. Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)—Provisions
5. Immigration, Minister—Prime Minister's Views
8. Electricity—Winter Power Task Force
9. Justice, Minister—Confidence
10. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Funding
11. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Results
12. Dietary Supplements—Consumer Safety
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Youth—Education, Training, or Employment
1. DAVE HEREORA (NZ Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) : What is the Government doing to ensure that 15-19 year olds are in education, training or employment?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Yesterday, the Prime Minister and I announced a $56 million package of new initiatives. The centrepiece of this education and training leaving age package was $23.6 million to expand the very successful Gateway programme to 12,000 secondary students by the year 2007. Other elements include more apprenticeships, targeted career planning assistance, follow-up support for young trainees, and regionalised programmes for youth.
Dave Hereora: What response has he seen to the education and training leaving age package?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Industry Training Federation has strongly supported the expansion of Modern Apprenticeships and Gateway. The New Zealand University Students Association has welcomed allowances for under-18-year-olds who have completed school. The package as a whole was described as, and I might quote the Mayor of Christchurch, “bloody brilliant”.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Given that the Minister has managed to increase vocational training by only an average of 7,000 to 8,000 per annum in the last 3½ years, and his plan is to expand it on average to 25,000 per annum in the next 2 years, how is he possibly going to find an additional 100,000 places per annum to meet the 2007 target?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This package, combined with the earlier one of $85 million put into industry training, is intended to take us through to 150,000 trainees by 2005. Of course between now and then there are other Budgets, which can be used to help drive it further.
America's Cup—Government Funding
2. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister for the America's Cup: What justification can he give New Zealand taxpayers for the decision to subsidise Team New Zealand’s next America’s Cup challenge?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the America's Cup): I remind the House that the support is subject to a range of conditions being met, and is in the order of the amount suggested by the National Party. The support is likely to be approximately fiscally neutral, provide trade, tourism, and employment benefits, and a chance of returning an event worth over $600 million to New Zealand.
Hon Richard Prebble: How does the Minister justify spending up to $33 million on the America’s Cup, which is a rich man’s sport, by increasing the tax on sherry, which is the pensioner’s pleasure, and what sort of Labour Government is this?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I remind the member that the budget for a challenge is likely to be in the range of $120 to $150 million. With tax-resident sailors in New Zealand, GST, and boats being built here, it is very likely we will get all the money back in tax.
David Cunliffe: What conditions would have to be met in order for Team New Zealand to receive any Government funding?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Team New Zealand would have to decide to mount a challenge and raise substantial funding from the private sector. Those two things are obviously linked. The assessment would have to show trade, tourism, and economic benefits to this country in relation to the net cost to the taxpayer.
John Key: Why does the Minister think that the Government should spend seven times more on a challenge based in the Northern Hemisphere than it did on defence when it was in our own backyard here in New Zealand?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the briefing notes left for me by the previous Minister were more adequate, it could well have been logical at the time to have spent more and to have retained those sailors.
Hon Peter Dunne: Aside from support for previous America’s Cup campaigns, what precedent exists for this type of support being advanced for an America’s Cup challenge, and how does the Minister answer accusations from other sports that they are being discriminated against by this particular form of support?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If there are other sports that are likely to, or can, bring forward something that is fiscally neutral and likely to lead to more than $600 million worth of economic activity, the Government will contemplate their suggestions.
Mike Ward: Does the Minister not think that investing the $34 million proposed for the next America’s Cup campaign to change young people’s eating and exercise habits and thus prevent the $1 billion blowoutin type 2 diabetes might not make a better investment; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member should wait until Thursday.
Hon Richard Prebble: In clarification of the last two questions from the Green Party and United Future, can the Government, as it is minority, give us an assurance that it has a parliamentary majority to spend $33 million on an America’s Cup campaign?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is important to note that the Government is not suggesting appropriating that at this time, because no decision has been made to spend it.
Accident Compensation Corporation—Investments
3. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for ACC: Is she satisfied that the Accident Compensation Corporation’s equity investments contribute to the corporation’s mission of reducing injury; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): The Accident Compensation Corporation’s equity investments are not required to contribute directly to its injury prevention programme. Those investments help fund accident compensation claimants’ entitlements.
Sue Bradford: When did the Minister become aware that the Accident Compensation Corporation owns over 8 percent of DB Breweries Ltd and has shares worth tens of millions of dollars in Lion Nathan, and does she think it appropriate that the value of accident compensation funds available for rehabilitation and compensation depend in part on alcohol sales, given that alcohol abuse is a significant direct cost in tens of millions of dollars to the Accident Compensation Corporation?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I have been aware of that information for some time. As I said, the corporation’s equity investment is not related directly to its injury prevention programmes.
Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House how the Accident Compensation Corporation’s mission of injury prevention is progressing?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The Accident Compensation Corporation has substantially increased its funding of injury prevention programmes. It is supporting numerous initiatives. For example, the corporation’s early employer intervention programme has achieved injury reductions for the 6 months to December 2002 of between 8 percent and 22 percent compared with the same period in the previous year.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Given that the Accident Compensation Corporation 2002 annual report states: “Injury prevention is the ultimate fulfilment of ACC’s responsibility to the people of New Zealand under the Act.”, why has her Government failed so miserably to prevent an increase of over 14,000 moderate to severe injuries between 1998 and 1999, when it came into office, and 2001 and 2002?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I agree that the increase in reduction of injuries has not been enough, and that is why we are continuing to expand the many successful initiatives that have been introduced only since that member’s party left Government.
Peter Brown: Noting that the Minister is satisfied with the Accident Compensation Corporation’s financial investment regime, could she tell the House whether she is satisfied with the way the corporation treats accident victims, particularly long-term victims?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No I am not 100 percent satisfied, and that is why the Government has continued, through measures like the introduction of the Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights, to improve the quality service available to claimants.
Sue Bradford: Given that a 1996 study of the social costs of alcohol abuse showed tangible costs to the Accident Compensation Corporation of almost $30 million from alcohol abuse, what rate of return does the corporation need from its multiple brewery shares to break even?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I indicated in my answer to the primary question, there is no direct link between the number of injuries and injury prevention programmes related to the corporation’s equity investments.
Sue Bradford: Does the Accident Compensation Corporation’s current statement of corporate intent contain a statement of “on ethical investment” as required under its Act; if not, when will she require such a statement to be produced given that the bill was passed in 2001?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am advised that this requirement has not been met by the Accident Compensation Corporation, but having had it drawn both to the corporation’s attention and to my attention, it is highly unlikely that this oversight will be repeated.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a chart from the Accident Compensation Corporation’s publication Consequences, which shows that moderate to severe accidents increased by over 14,000 during her Government’s watch.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)—Provisions
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement on Newstalk ZB that the inclusion of cultural landscapes, ancestral landscapes, and spiritual resources in the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) were changes inserted by the select committee and that “people didn’t recall having made conscious decisions to put it in”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The statement referred to the Minister for the Environment’s consultation with other Ministers. My understanding is that the changes to the bill were made by the select committee prior to its report back in May 2001. I personally have no recollection of either MPs or officials drawing my attention to them at the time.
Hon Bill English: Were the following people conscious when they took part in a process going back to May 2002: the Labour MPs on the select committee, who voted twice for these provisions; the Minister for the Environment, who introduced the legislation; the Cabinet committee and the Cabinet Ministers, who must have approved the legislation before it came to the House; the officials who have written several reports on exactly this issue over 3 years; and was she conscious, being the Minister who was in charge of all this?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Minister in charge of the bill, of course, is the Minister for the Environment. As the House knows, the bill that was introduced was the bill as reported back by the select committee. Those changes were made prior to the report back in 2001.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He voted for it.
Mr SPEAKER: One member is about to stop having any consideration for voting for an hour.
David Benson-Pope: Is the term “cultural landscape” referred to in any other legislation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, it is referred to in the Historic Places Act 1993, passed under a National Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was the Prime Minister telling the truth about the offending words “cultural landscapes”, “ancestral landscapes”, and “spiritual resources” when she spoke on the ZB radio stations; if she was not, was that level of demonstrable untruth of the same level—
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot assert that a person was not telling the truth. The member was perfectly entitled to ask the first part of his question, but then he started to stray when he got out of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will rephrase the question so it is all nice and harmonious. Does the Prime Minister accept now that her statement in respect of those phrases was demonstrably, palpably not the truth; and is that level of a lack of truth of the same level as the United Future party describing the bill as the “Thank God for the United Future Bill”, that they had the clauses taken out when, in fact, on the bill’s introduction those words were in at their behest and approval?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have stated the truth on the matter today in the House, and in the Holmes’ interview.
Hon Richard Prebble: When the Prime Minister tells the House that she was not conscious of the fact that the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) in the name of Marian Hobbs contained phrases like “cultural landscapes” and “spiritual resources”, what does that say to all the business groups that have lobbied her Government about that section of the bill over the last 2 years—were they wasting their time or did she just switch off whenever anyone from business talked to her?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The bill is in the name of the Minister for the Environment. The Prime Minister has not been receiving delegations about it. The matter is appropriately handled by the portfolio Minister—the Minister for the Environment.
Larry Baldock: Was the inclusion of the phrase “ancestral landscapes” by the select committee in the original Resource Management Amendment Bill possibly related to the repeated use of that term by the ministerial advisory committee in its 1998 report on the Historic Heritage Management Review, which was initiated and supported by the then Minister of Conservation, Dr Nick Smith?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Quite possibly it was, but as I was not a member of the select committee I cannot say.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Prime Minister confirm that, contrary to statements made by the United Future party that the Greens had those words inserted, it was, in fact, officials from the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage advising the select committee who brought that wording to the committee, and that the select committee simply accepted their advice?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no idea. I was not at the select committee, and I can find no evidence whatsoever that my permission, as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, was ever sought by officials on that matter.
Hon Bill English: In the light of the fact that there was a stack of paper over 3 years that has been through Cabinet committees, and Cabinet chaired by her, does the Prime Minister believe the statement that “people didn’t recall having made conscious decisions to put it in”, and that “as reported, the offending provisions somehow slipped into the bill undetected”, and how can we possibly believe that those statements represent the truth?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This bill was introduced in 1999. It was a bill that came back to the House after changes had been made to it in the select committee. The form that the select committee had reported it back in was the bill that was withdrawn and reintroduced without attention being given to me that those were offending phrases.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Prime Minister accept the simple proposition—which any school child would be capable of understanding—that her claim that those clauses were changes inserted by the select committee cannot possibly be the truth; if not, what is her defence for making that statement?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The truth is that they were inserted by the select committee.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree that Mâori spiritual and cultural values are already protected by the definition of “historical heritage”, which remains in the bill despite the removal of those words?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The definition of “historic heritage” refers to both historic and cultural, and I understand that many people would see that that covered the matters that those who wanted spirituality included would have wanted covered. In response to the earlier question, I say that the bill as reported back in 2001 was the bill that was then introduced without amendment again to expedite the passage of the resource management amendment.
Rodney Hide: On what date did the Prime Minister first become aware that she had Ministers and members of Parliament making far-reaching decisions unconsciously, and what did she do about it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Last Tuesday in the House the Minister for the Environment sought my opinion on those words, and that is the first time I personally recall having given it any thought whatsoever. I gave the Minister my opinion that if it had not been the Government’s original intention with the bill going back to 1999 to 2000, then it was no great issue to take the words out.
Hon Bill English: How can the House possibly be expected to believe that statement, when the Prime Minister herself criticised me quite viciously over the issue of wâhi tapu, and over subsequent speeches I gave about the inclusion of spiritual values in legislation; had she not heard of any of that until last Tuesday?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am delighted to advise that I do not waste a minute on that member’s speeches.
Stephen Franks: When did the Prime Minister’s Cabinet first turn its mind to those provisions for cultural and ancestral landscapes, and what does she think Cabinet members thought they were?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member should address his questions to the Minister for the Environment, who was in charge of the bill. I have made it plain today that this has not been a matter receiving my personal attention.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is, presumably, still chairing Cabinet, conscious or unconscious. That is the question she was asked: whether Cabinet turned its mind to that issue. It does not matter whether a Minister might have.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was asked and answered.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of veracity I seek to table the original bill as introduced, which shows the offending words on page 6.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that bill. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table a letter dated 5 April 2000 from Helen Clark to Marian Hobbs asking that the heritage provisions of the bill be strengthened; a letter from the Minister Marian Hobbs to the select committee making the same request; and a report of the Prime Minister’s own officials giving advice on the inclusion of ancestral landscapes in the definition of historic—
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: It has been drawn to my attention that a member made a comment that was right out of order and against the rules of this House. If that member did so, I want that member to stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.
Hon Richard Prebble: I said that I thought it was a knockout.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that was not the comment. It was the person who said “She’s lying.” I want that member to stand, withdraw, and apologise. Presumably, no one said it.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is an interesting conclusion for you to reach, because, presumably, if you had heard that comment, you would not let it go so lightly. What we noticed over here is that your reaction was straight after Trevor Mallard had indicated to you that he thought he had heard that. It is not appropriate that the Speaker is in any way influenced by Government Ministers. I think what we are seeing here is a very clear demonstration of that. We would like some assurance that you did hear it.
Mr SPEAKER: Occasionally I do not hear remarks, and I am pulled up by members of the Opposition or by members of the Government. When I am pulled up about an unparliamentary phrase that I did not hear, I do, of course, have to take notice of that, whoever raises that particular issue.
David Benson-Pope: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I also saw the person concerned and heard him make a comment.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps in the future it might be better practice that, if you do not hear what is considered by some other member to be an unparliamentary statement directly, that member should take a point of order and call the whole House’s attention to it, so that you are not left stranded, as I think you have been in this case, notwithstanding the protestations of the Labour senior whip. If he thinks he heard someone make that comment, he should stand up and say who that person was.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I probably should have done it that way. In my opinion, Mr English made an unparliamentary comment.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member whether he made an unparliamentary comment.
Hon Bill English: I may have done, because I was outraged at the Prime Minister’s answer to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I asked whether the member made an unparliamentary comment. If he did so, I want him to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Bill English: I am not sure whether I did, but I am happy to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I said exactly the same thing as the Leader of the Opposition, and I withdraw and apologise, as well.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I also made a similar remark, and I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I should do also. I said, “Of course he’s unconscious. It’s a knockout.”
Mr SPEAKER: That was not out of order.
Immigration, Minister—Prime Minister's Views
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Why did she say last month that her Minister of Immigration was a hard-working and conscientious Minister?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Because she was, last month and is, this month.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, why is she giving glowing references to a Minister of Immigration based on her penchant for blaming every previous administration, her unwillingness to accept responsibility, her inability to provide accurate numbers of immigrants, visitors, or overstayers, or her gymnastics in rearranging the status of an overstayer to now call him a “worker”, when he will not work for the next 12 months—and probably longer—without ascertaining just how many New Zealanders are on waiting lists and will die because of the money that should have gone to them as New Zealanders first?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The gentleman concerned, I understand, came to New Zealand as a visitor in 1998, and presumably overstayed while that member was Deputy Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will have heard my question. My question is detailed and specific, and the Prime Minister getting up and telling another porky will not do.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Please be seated. The Prime Minister gave an answer. That is her answer and she stands by it. It can be questioned.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have heard, over and over, that you are not responsible for answers. You are responsible for Parliament remaining a credible body and, I think, also for question time being relevant. Therefore, I would think that you might require Ministers answering questions to at least make the answer have some relevance to the question. In this case, the Prime Minister simply said that the person concerned arrived in New Zealand in 1998.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Presumes.
Gerry Brownlee: She presumes that. That has nothing to do with the losses that some New Zealanders may now suffer as a result of this guy getting treatment.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a point of order that is not one.
Marc Alexander: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Minister of Immigration is so conscientious that she asked the Minister of Statistics to offer party leaders a briefing on interpreting immigration statistics, to which one leader replied that he was “busy, so stop sending me these stupid, puerile letters, there’s a good boy.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am aware that the Minister of Statistics did offer the leader of New Zealand First some coaching.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you perhaps tell me how a question on the performance of the Minister of Immigration has anything whatsoever to do with Statistics New Zealand or that Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: The original question was whether a Minister was a hard-working and conscientious Minister, and the supplementary question developed that part of that question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You must not rush to her defence that easily every day. The reality is, that question from the United Future party was about the Minister of Statistics having sent a letter. It has no connection or relationship whatsoever to the original question. Now, that being the case, how can the Prime Minister in the first answer say she presumes something, and in the second answer give a wishy-washy answer, the details of which she does not know, and that is the end of question time on that issue? It is simply wrong, and my point of order was simply asking why you allowed it to be ruled in.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member’s own first supplementary question referred to the issue of immigration statistics. The briefing was about the issue of how immigration statistics are collected.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct, and that is why the question was ruled in.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister tell me how it could possibly be the case where the Minister of Immigration, conscientious and hard-working as she is claimed to be, could arrive at a decision to call an overstayer a worker, by reason of a temporary work permit, when he would have no qualification to fulfil that role in the foreseeable future; and how many other New Zealanders, firstly, would be getting that job—if they could get the job—or, secondly, could get that treatment if they were given the same priorities every foreigner in this country is, where this Labour Party is concerned?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The overstayer concerned was invited to regularise his status last year. The reason for the invitation was that he was married to a New Zealand woman, and, of course, by March this year he had a New Zealand – born child. The leader of New Zealand First may well relish going in and pulling the plug on someone’s machine in those circumstances; the Minister did not.
Marc Alexander: I seek leave to table a copy of a letter from Winston Peters to John Tamihere, telling him that he was a busy man and so he should stop sending him “these stupid, puerile letters”.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 6 to Minister
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): This question was put down to the Prime Minister, because it was based on a public comment she had made. I seek leave of the House to ask the question of the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
6. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Energy: What lessons did the Government learn from the 2001 power crisis and why does the Prime Minister now say that the Government has been waiting on “frustratingly slow” advice from officials in order to address the current power crisis?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): Many lessons. The transmission constraints of 2001, for example, have all been identified and fixed. We have been working on long-term security of supply issues for some time, and I will be announcing long-term changes later this month.
Hon Bill English: Does he believe the Prime Minister correctly blamed officials, and does he think she was conscious of the review of the electricity market done after the 1999 election, the review of the 2001 winter crisis, and the Government policy statement on energy; was she conscious of the amended Government policy statement on energy following the 2001 crisis, and, if she was aware of that, how can she claim that his officials have been “frustratingly slow” in offering advice?
Hon PETE HODGSON: By way of example, I just say that following the winter 2001 review the official advice was that the market would self-correct to a considerable extent. That is now no longer a fair representation of their view, and it most certainly is not of mine.
Mark Peck: What lessons have been taken from earlier dry-year power shortages?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The 1992 power crisis, which resulted in a major power savings campaign and hot water cuts for 18 hours a day, was taken, then, as an example of failure in a centrally managed system. The lesson taken at that time was that we would be better off with a market model—and with privatisation.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers, is the Minister aware that, worldwide, nearly 40 percent of electricity is produced from coal; is he aware that New Zealand has billions of tonnes of coal; does he not believe that it is worth while that we should be developing power stations run on coal, and, at the same time, advancing technology to eliminate the carbon dioxide by-product; and does he not think that is a lesson we should have learnt in 2001 and should learn now in 2003?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may answer two of those questions.
Hon PETE HODGSON: If it is just two questions I can answer, then the answers to the first two are yes and yes.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have a power crisis in this country, and the flippant answer that the Minister gave—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. I would have thought that the answer “yes” was a specific answer, and that is something that is always demanded.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What comment does the Minister have on the analysis by Colin James in his column on 5 May in the New Zealand Herald, where after discussion on the energy efficiency and conservation strategy, he said: “But since the initial fanfare there has been no visible urgency. When the long-term electricity supply constraints edged into ministerial consciousness late last year the strategy was nowhere to be heard amid mutterings about market failure and denials of crisis. Ministers’ focus was on the supply side.”?
Mr SPEAKER: The question itself was a little long.
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is quite true that the Government is preoccupied with the supply side, because it is the lack of fuel that we currently face. Part of the solution to that is to reduce demand, both through energy efficiency, which the strategy the member referred to addresses, and also from a savings campaign that New Zealanders are now stepping up to usefully.
Stephen Franks: Having previous asked about the water being spilled down the Wanganui River, and understanding that it is about 25 megawatts, will the “doing something” include stopping that wastage of water?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Right off the top of my head, the reason that water is heading down the headwaters of the Wanganui River is pursuant to a 1992 court case.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister believe that there is additional capacity in New Zealand for hydroelectricity generation, and from an environmental point of view that that should rank ahead of thermal generation using coal?
Hon PETE HODGSON: From an environmental perspective, yes, but, more important, from an economic perspective, mostly renewables that are being planned over the next several years come in under coal, which is why a pure coal-fired power station has never been applied for in this country ever since Meremere.
Hon Bill English: Now that the Minister is aware that the Prime Minister is blaming the electricity crisis on slow officials, is he concerned that he may get some of the blame, given that he said that it was not until he went for a cycling holiday, got fit, and was able to think clearly, that he came up with an answer just a few weeks ago?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is true that it has taken us longer than we would want to fix it, but that is because we did not realise just how comprehensively Max Bradford had stuffed it up.
7. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Justice: What, if any, initiatives is he planning to address the causes of youth offending?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): This year’s Budget will provide $600,000 for a proven early-intervention programme—Project Early—to be established in Auckland, and $4.62 million for education and health assessments for high-risk young offenders appearing at family group conferences. Project Early will allow schools and pre-schools to identify and remedy behavioural problems in children aged 4 to 8 before those problems become entrenched and long term. The education and health assessments will allow family group conferences better to identify and address the causes of offending.
Lynne Pillay: Why will health and education assessments make family group conferences more effective in dealing with young offenders?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The assessments will help family group conferences to identify underlying problems that are critical factors in young people engaged in serious and persistent offending. Problems in attendance and success at school and health factors such as drug and alcohol abuse or mental health disorders are direct factors in offending and have to be addressed in decisions taken by family group conferences if we are to successfully reduce reoffending.
Richard Worth: Given that family group conferences have been in place since the legislation was enacted in 1989, why has it taken 4 years in the term of this Government to re-establish money flows to the department for education and health assessments, and what other initiatives are proposed to improve family group conferences, or is that simply as far as it goes?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act dates back to the late 1980s. It may have taken 4 years for this Government to put this particular money in, but it is better than the 9 years that the National Government took and did absolutely nothing.
Lynne Pillay: What evidence is there that programmes like Project Early are effective in preventing later negative social behaviour, including offending?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Project Early was piloted in Christchurch, and it has been formally evaluated. That evaluation shows that in 80 percent of completed interventions the behavioural problem was permanently resolved. Early intervention is less costly and is more effective that trying to deal with problems once they have become entrenched. There is no doubt that this is value for money in preventing the waste of human potential and in preventing the social and economic costs that are otherwise incurred through educational, behavioural, and offending problems.
Larry Baldock: Is the Minister aware of the programmes called Home Instruction Programme of Pre-school Youngsters, and would he consider those to be of similar nature and worthy of support, such as this early intervention programme?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I am aware of the Home Instruction Programme for Pre-school Youngsters. In fact I was talking, just over lunch, to the woman who began it, Lesley Max, and I am very proud to say that my colleague the Minister of Education has poured a lot more money into another early intervention programme that has been similarly effective.
Electricity—Winter Power Task Force
8. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Does he agree with the Prime Minister and Dr Patrick Strange, head of the Winter Power Task Force, that New Zealand is currently experiencing an electricity crisis; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): The situation is potentially very serious if it does not rain and if we are unable to lift savings further. Most commentators refer to that situation as a crisis. I myself tend to reserve that word for blackouts, which I earnestly hope we will avoid.
Gerry Brownlee: Despite the Minister’s fervent hope that we do not have blackouts, does he agree with the Prime Minister that it is now time for the message to save power to “get a little more explicit”; if so, how far away does he believe long hot-water cuts will be for New Zealanders, particularly New Zealanders living in the Auckland district?
Hon PETE HODGSON: These are matters that have been dealt with by the Winter Power Task Force. However, my own view is that there will not be long hot-water cuts in the next week or two anyway, and let us hope we can push them out further.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House whether he is satisfied with the progress that is currently being made towards the 10-percent power savings target?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am pleased that the savings are continuing to climb slowly but steadily and are now past 5 percent. We must see savings closer to the 10 percent target, however, if we are to avoid more serious problems in the next few months.
Peter Brown: Is it true that the Total Energy Centre at Wellington Hospital has four marine engines that are capable of powering the hospital and up to 30 percent of the city, yet are mothballed; if it is true, will the Minister give this House an assurance that he will reactivate those engines?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not know, actually, but I have had discussions with companies just in the last day or two—not hospitals but electricity companies—about whether such a plant can be used for spinning reserve, meaning that other plants can be used for electricity production. That might be the best way to use such a plant.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does he concede that this energy crisis is partly the result of the public seeing this Government blaming anyone else for the crisis—today, Max Bradford; last Thursday, myself—and does he not concede that if he was to accept there is a great deal of responsibility for this crisis by the Government itself, for example, for allowing lake levels to drop, as they did over Christmas, he might get a better response from the public?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member, as usual, manages to confuse the facts. The lake levels over Christmas remained static; in fact, they remained static right through to the end of February. The reason is that thermal generators heated up their machines much earlier this year than they had before, because the possibility of a crisis had begun to emerge.
Gerry Brownlee: If the House is to believe that answer, why did he tell us some time ago that he knew as early as November there was the likelihood of a dry year this year that would result in this power crisis; and, if he knew that, why did he do nothing early in the piece to try to avert it?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member misquotes me, as he has on many occasions. I have said in this House that I was aware of problems last year. If the member wants to know precisely what caused me to become aware of those problems, I will say that on or about 13 or 14 December we became aware of the independent expert’s formal opinion of the amount of gas left in Maui.
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Justice; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister, and I have had requests from a number of Ministers to see whether the Opposition could ask these questions about them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister possibly have confidence in the Minister of Justice, when in answer to questions in the House last week about the rise in immigrant crime he emphatically denied that the Government’s immigration policy is clearly contributing significantly to the crime of this country, when we have seen in this country—
Hon Phil Goff: Ha, ha!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is hardly a laughing matter—a 760 percent increase in reported kidnappings by Asians in the last 3 years in Auckland City alone; how can she have confidence in a Minister who disowns those facts?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am advised by the Minister that Asians have about half the proportion of offending of any other group. I think that to blame new New Zealanders for a crime wave is absolutely ridiculous. What the figures out this week show is that there is not a crime wave.
Richard Worth: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Justice when we heard last week, in answer to a question on the loophole that had been discovered in the home detention scheme, that there were a number of persons convicted of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery who were roaming the streets until the courts decided whether they would get home detention?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Minister has written to all parties asking for their support for a speedy amendment to enable judges to be required to impose conditions so that people cannot be roaming around if they are considered a problem.
Stephen Franks: Has she asked the Minister of Justice for an explanation why the 2001 victimisation survey report was released a year late, without any explanation or excuse, with no comparison with international victimisation surveys; if so, what was the explanation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no idea whether it was released a year late or 5 years early. The member should ask the Minister that question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister seen a letter in today’s New Zealand Herald by Steven Lam of Auckland, who is complaining about Asian theft, fraud, fighting, assault, intimidation, vehicle crashes, disorder, domestic stabbings, and a sideline of extortion and weapon carrying, and further states: “No doubt if I was in Parliament’s debating chamber my comments would be strongly denied by those in power. I suggest they come to Auckland”—[Interruption] Well, what does the member know about it?
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question already is long enough. If he has more to come, then it had better be the very last part of the half sentence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am trying to get it out, but they are overtalking me. He states: “I suggest they come to Auckland and patrol on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, or ask any front-line cop in the Auckland CBD what goes on, with these unsupervised individuals should be on their best behaviour.”, and what is her response to those facts?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Unfortunately, no ethnic group in our country is immune from crime. People in all ethnic groups commit crimes. However, I can say that for Asian New Zealanders the rate of crime is actually rather low.
Ron Mark: How can the Prime Minister possibly have confidence in a Minister of Justice when on top of the flaws in his Sentencing Act and Parole Act that have seen rapists put on home detention, and armed robbers being set free having been sentenced to prison, I now find that under that legislation it is more advantageous for a criminal to be sentenced to 27 months in prison than to be sentenced for 21 months, and how does that work—are we promoting more serious crime; look at her book?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot follow the thread of that question. I suggest he puts it down to the Minister of Justice.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Every day we have questions in the House. We expect Ministers and the Prime Minister to come here conscious of what is going on. We have had three explanations from her today where she does not know, is not conscious, or is unaware of matters within her responsibility. She is, after all, the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Right.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Let me finish what I am going to say. She owes this House a better answer than “I’m not conscious.” or “I’m not aware.” She is, after all, the Prime Minister, and most Prime Ministers in most democracies carry the can for their colleagues, or in this case, does the buck stop with the cleaning lady?
Mr SPEAKER: I just want to say that this is not questions with notice. This is a question without notice. The member cannot expect a detailed answer to a detailed supplementary when no notice has been given.
Stephen Franks: I seek leave to table a letter of 6 May to the Prime Minister asking her to intervene and secure the release of the 2001 victimisation survey.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table Government figures that I have received that show that violent crime amongst Chinese, for one ethnic group of immigrants, has risen by 300 percent in 4 years.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Funding
10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Education: How much additional operational funding will secondary schools receive next year per pupil to assist schools with NCEA-related costs, in relation to the funding announcement on 2 May 2003?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I announced a $78 million package recently and there will be more in the Budget for schools. The member will have to hold on until Thursday.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. In a previous answer and a previous point of order you said that with questions on notice it is reasonable for members to expect detailed answers. This is a very detailed question that asks what is the funding for secondary schools per pupil. It is based on an announcement that was made last Saturday. I think that it is reasonable for me to expect an answer.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Apart from the fact that my colleague would question the veracity of that last part of the statement, the important point is that the final details on funding will be announced on Thursday, and it is standard for Ministers to give those kinds of answers whether or not the question is put down. I invite those members to go back over Hansard from Budget weeks of many, many years when Ministers gave answers saying: “Wait till Budget day.”
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is quite different because this is part of an announcement that the Government made pre-Budget. The announcement was, as I understand it, made on Saturday—or it might have been made on Friday. But the point is that the announcement has been made, and the figures are there. It is a fairly easy mathematical calculation for even this Minister to make.
Mr SPEAKER: If that was what the Minister said in his original answer, I would be asking him to be more specific. But the fact of the matter is he said we have to wait till Thursday for any extra funding. That is a traditional answer relating to Budget announcements.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have sat through, I think, 12 annual rounds of questioning about the Budget. I hesitate to challenge your ruling directly, but the fact is that the traditional circumstances are that the Opposition asks questions about matters that have not been announced. In fact, it is only in the last year or two that there has been the practice of making a substantial number of Budget announcements before the Budget is published. I do not believe it is correct to say it is traditional in this House that Ministers answer the questions in that way, because that has not been the traditional at all.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the Minister’s answer. I thought that he said that he had made an announcement on Saturday and that there may be something further in the Budget. I thought that was an entirely appropriate answer. He is not forced to release details—he said “recently” actually—of Thursday’s announcement before the Budget.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the statement that was made by the Minister on 2 May, I have a two-page press statement setting out the funding for each individual item. I think it is extraordinary then for you to rule that it is not reasonable. I even wonder why the Clerk would accept a question that asked how much does this mean per pupil per year. It seems that if Ministers are able to get all the free publicity associated with such statements and not be able to answer questions in the House, it is an extraordinary ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot rule on the actual answer given, except to say that I heard the Minister say quite clearly that there may be something further in the Budget about this. At that point then the answer becomes in order.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With due respect, that renoucement from you misses the point. We get limited opportunities to question the Government about its activities. There is a set of conditions laid down in the Standing Orders that requires us to verify questions whenever we go down to the Clerk’s Office. We go over this again and again. It is abundantly clear that the Government has announced this funding. To get a simple calculation of how much this means per pupil to assisted schools should not be greeted by an answer that says “wait till Thursday, there might be more”. The Government has made an announcement. It presumably has stated what the bulk is, and it is embarrassing for its members to find out that it is something like $1.60 per pupil. But Government members should be made to answer that in Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a question. The Minister gave an answer. The member can now have supplementary questions on that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister advise the House how much funding there is per pupil for secondary schools in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) funding he announced last Saturday?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I said earlier, firstly, there was not an announcement on the Saturday. Secondly, I cannot give the total amount of operational grant funding that will be used on NCEA because that is a matter for schools.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question very specifically talks about the funding announcement on 2 May. For the Minister to start dancing around and playing semantics over whether it was a Saturday or a Friday, or anything else, is inappropriate. Further, everyone knows that this Government has taken decisions off schools and centralised them back to the bureaucracy in Wellington. He must be able to give an answer on a per pupil basis.
Mr SPEAKER: He gave an answer, and I judged it to be within the Standing Orders.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your ruling you said that the information might come through in the Budget on Thursday.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not know whether it will, I said that it could.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You excused the Minister answering the question on notice on the basis that it would be. My understanding on that basis is what action is available to me in the event that it is not? Because my experience of being involved in a number of Budgets is that this information would not be available on Thursday, or subsequently, because it will be in a more detailed form than the normal announcements that are made in a Budget.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for that information. But I too have been in a Cabinet and observed this happening and observed similar situations in previous years right through the time that I have been here.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to take this matter on a little further. This question talks about a measure of per pupil per school. Everyone knows that all funding available to schools is committed on the basis of per pupil. It is one of the things that this Government has hung its hat on. It is one of the things that Labour members run all over the countryside skiting about. It is not acceptable for some sort of an obfuscation of his obligations to Parliament for the Minister to be supported by the Chair and failing to give an answer to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not supporting the Minister. I am saying whether the Minister gave an answer. Having examined what was said by the Minister in his first and second answers, I will give the member another supplementary question in relation to that, and we will see how that goes.
Jill Pettis: Would the Minister advise whether there was funding available to support the implementation of NCEA when he became Minister?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Despite the fact that it was due to start in 2001, no.
Bernie Ogilvy: Can he confirm that the increase in operational funding for secondary schools is complementary to additional funding for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and that both are specifically targeted at covering increased expenses associated with the implementation of NCEA as identified by the select committee in its report?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, and I want to thank the Chair, and Dr Ogilvy, and others—sorry, Bernie Ogilvy—for their very good work. I just say that it is a pity some members of the committee did not read their own report.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister please advise the House, as in the announcement made on 2 May, how much funding there is for schools, per pupil, for implementing the National Certificate of Educational Achievement?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The full amount of operational grant funding increases has not been announced, and, therefore, I cannot.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister, in the announcement, justify giving the Qualifications Authority an extra $69 million, on top of the Government’s approved increase in fees for parents of $40 million, while giving schools just $2.4 million—a ratio of 50:1—and is that how the Government rates the bureaucracy versus the work done by schools in the education of our children?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There were some pretty simple questions asked by members of the select committee, and they got some very good answers. The very clear message members gave was that the system, and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in particular, had been under-resourced. I listened to my parliamentary colleagues, and fixed it—unlike that member when he was Minister.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I note in the evidence before the select committee that secondary schools advised that the average cost of implementing the National Certificate of Educational Achievement was $50,000 per school per year, and that this funding package will provide less than $1,000 per school per year, so I ask what secondary school programmes the Minister expects schools to cut in order to be able to implement the national certificate?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member’s figures are inaccurate. He does not take into account the rest of the statement, which indicates the things that will be paid for in schools by the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. He is a very foolish member.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now withdraw and apologise for that unnecessary comment.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On the one hand when I ask for the numbers, I am not allowed them. Then, when I do a calculation based on averages with the limited information I have, I am accused that the information is inaccurate. How can a member do his job?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: By reading the statement in his hand.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Results
11. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui), on behalf of MITA RIRINUI (NZ Labour—Waiâriki) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on the results of students participating in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): National statistics on the achievement of students who did level 1 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement last year are now available on-line. They provide a rich source of information that can be used by schools to identify weak spots in students’ learning, and to make targeted changes in teaching to strengthen those areas.
Jill Pettis: Has this level of information been available in the past?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. This is the first time we can look at students’ achievement patterns by gender, ethnicity, and school decile, and on a school-by-school basis, look at the specific detail on strengths, weaknesses, and places to target changes in teaching practice, and track whether those changes are working. That is the sort of information, I think, that could make a big difference to teaching and learning, and I am pleased the committee convinced me to put in the computer resources to provide it.
Dietary Supplements—Consumer Safety
12. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister for Food Safety: Does she have any consumer safety related concerns about the wider dietary supplements industry following the Pan Pharmaceuticals scandal?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): While there is no evidence to suggest there are safety-related concerns with the New Zealand dietary supplements industry, it is an opportunity for the supplements industry and the Government to look at the industry practices and processes in relation to good manufacturing practice in the industry. It certainly puts a focus on safety aspects of the New Zealand industry.
Judy Turner: Can the Minister give an assurance that New Zealand consumers are not subject to the British food supplement industry practice of overages, where products contain a higher than declared amount of a particular nutrient at the time of formulation to ensure that sufficient levels of the nutrient are maintained through the products’ shelf-life; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot give the member that assurance. One of the problems we have with dietary supplements in New Zealand is that we do not test them before they come into New Zealand. We do not have the same sort of regulation, therefore, it is not certain that what is in the products is what is said to be in the products. However, when a product is reported to the Food Safety Authority then a testing is carried out. The member will be aware that in the last year there have been a number of products of which it was claimed certain contents were in them but were found to have others and they were made to be withdrawn.
Steve Chadwick: What are the lessons to be learnt from the recent recall of Pan Pharmaceuticals products?
Hon ANNETTE KING: It highlighted the need for annual audits of manufacturing premises, and a registration system for dietary supplements in New Zealand.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why have the lists of Pan Pharmaceuticals products that have been recalled not been published in the majority of provincial newspapers; and how are provincial New Zealanders to access information on those recalled products, when a large number do not have access to the Internet?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Food Safety Authority publishes the lists in all the major dailies. Most places in New Zealand receive a major daily newspaper. We even get the New Zealand Herald here in Wellington, and I am pretty sure that the Press goes into Blenheim. So the Food Safety Authority provides the lists in the major newspapers. There is a cost in terms of doing that, which is about $500,000 at this stage, and does not include the latest notice that has just been put in the papers.
Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that the original scandal triggering the Pan Pharmaceuticals recall related to two over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, not to dietary supplements; why, therefore, have not all pharmaceuticals produced by that company been recalled, instead of only dietary supplements?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is correct. What started the recall of Pan Pharmaceuticals was the recall of three over-the-counter pharmaceutical medicines. When problems were found with those medicines, an audit was then carried out on Pan Pharmaceuticals, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration found that that company had substituted ingredients, manipulated data to give the impression the products were compliant when they were not, fabricated product testing results, and had deficient raw materials and finished controls in place. So, on the grounds of those and other means, it was decided to recall Pan Pharmaceutical products, and it was done for the safety of the public.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question specifically asked why the recall had not extended to pharmaceuticals.
Hon ANNETTE KING: There were only three pharmaceuticals in New Zealand that were made by Pan Pharmaceuticals, so only three needed to be withdrawn in New Zealand.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)