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Questions Of The Day Transcript - May 14 2003


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) WEDNESDAY, 14 MAY 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers:

1. Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)—Provisions

2. Terrorism—Saudi Arabia

3. Prime Minister—Procedures

4. Foreign Policy—European Union

5. Electricity—Water Heating

6. Energy—Television Advertising

7. Television—New Zealand - made Programmes

8. Bail—Mandatory Provisions

9. Research and Development—Investment

10. Taxation—Inflation Compensation

11. Waitangi Tribunal—Inquiries

12. Biotechnology—Regulation

Questions to Ministers

Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)—Provisions

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage : Why did her office, on Monday, ask the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to forward to her the official files relating to changes to the definition of historic heritage in the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): So that I could be fully informed should there be follow-up from the New Zealand Herald article on Monday morning. Unfortunately, in the event, I was not.

Hon Bill English: Now the Prime Minister has given an explanation for her statements in the House, is she willing to apologise to the listeners of Newstalk ZB to whom she said: “People don’t recall having made conscious decisions to include them”, and to the readers of the New Zealand Herald to whom she said, as reported, that “the offending clauses slipped into the bill unnoticed”; and if she will not apologise to those New Zealanders, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No. Because I had no recollection of it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Prime Minister and the Clerk’s Office had the offending statements put before both the office and her yesterday, so how can the Prime Minister get up today and say she has no recollection of them, if not for the reason that she has utter contempt for you and everybody else in this House and in this country?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a debatable issue.

David Benson-Pope: Why did the Government agree to the amendment to remove the phrases from the definition of historic heritage in the Resource Management Bill Amendment Bill (No 2)?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the Minister for the Environment stated on 8 May, United Future had raised some reservations about the terms with her. Upon further consideration and consultation with colleagues, she considered that removal of the words was sensible because they created uncertainty, and the issues concerned were covered by other, more understood terms in the definition.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister accept that when she gave her answer yesterday—while she had the primary bill in front of her—the answer could not be correct and that she could not have been telling the truth, and, more important, does she accept that the explanation relating to the United Future that she has just given could not have been the truth either, because at the time of the approval of the bill those offending words were in it in the introduction; and if the Prime Minister is prepared to admit that, is it because she did not read the bill, or was she deliberately not telling the truth?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will withdraw and apologise for suggesting that someone deliberately did not tell the truth.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Unconsciously did not tell the truth.

Mr SPEAKER: No. First of all, the member will withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will withdraw and apologise for that, and I will amend the last offending phrase. Does she admit, as a third proposition, that she was unconsciously not telling the truth?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My references to the primary bill were to the bill that was introduced in 1999, which came back to the House in 2001 with the changes. Then the reported-back bill, of course, was re-introduced in March and went through the House yesterday.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall the statements she made on 23 February 1999, recorded in Hansard, regarding the then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley’s statement that she had some papers missing with regard to Kevin Roberts, and her own statement to the House that that raises very serious issues about the integrity of Government, that the then Prime Minister’s statements were rather Clintonesque, and that the Prime Minister had an opportunity to make a ministerial statement to the House on those matters; given that, would she not think—unless she wants to be accused of being hypocritical—that she should make a ministerial statement explaining how the Ministry for Culture and Heritage came to have those documents missing?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is reviewing what happened. I did not come to the House fully informed. Having been Prime Minister for 3½ years, I have a great deal of sympathy for former Prime Ministers trying to remember everything that happened.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that whenever this Prime Minister gets in trouble, she acts as if the Government does not do anything that she does not remember; that she always says she cannot recall it; and she ends up giving up giving an apology that is never sincere?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The bigger offence, when asked about this on Monday morning, would have been to say that I recalled things I did not recall at all.

Stephen Franks: Now that we know we have to fend off cultural and ancestral landscape provisions inserted at the Prime Minister’s express written request, why did she ever want to impose them on property owners, and what did she think they meant?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The report that came to my attention late yesterday showed that officials in September 2000 responded to submissions made to the select committee going back to the original bill introduced in 1999, which was reported back in May 2001. Among the submissions were submissions sympathetic to the inclusion, such as one, for example, from the Palmerston North City Council. What the officials did—and I accept that they did, because I have now seen the document since question time yesterday—was ask me to approve the contents of the draft report prepared between the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Ministry for the Environment as their response to the submissions.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell us at what time officials presented the information to her yesterday?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: When I got into a car after a function at 6.15 yesterday, I was advised, as the Leader of the House had already been advised, that this document had come over.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister a much simpler question: having had access to the bill, and seeing, therefore, that on its introduction her words could not be correct, why did she take 4½ hours to come down to the House and explain herself, when it is palpably true—

Hon Annette King: Didn’t you listen? [Interruption]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is in the bill, junior. [Interruption] Why are there all these interruptions?

Mr SPEAKER: I am conscious of the fact that the member does not have a question. She will leave the Chamber. Please, I have asked the member who interjected during question time to leave the Chamber.

Hon Annette King withdrew from the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the offending words are in the bill and therefore her comments against that bill could not be correct, why did she not come down immediately someone read the bill out to her, explain that she was wrong, and correct it in the House?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It became clear in the course of question time yesterday that the member and I were speaking at cross-purposes. I was referring to a bill introduced in 1999; he was referring to the reported-back bill that was reintroduced. Can I remind him that I said in answer: “The 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.” So that point was covered.

Hon Ken Shirley: Is she prepared to table the full information she received from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage at her request, to see whether Opposition MPs can find the references to the word changes to the definition of heritage in the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2), which was the specific information that her department sought from that ministry?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: When I am satisfied that I do have the full file I will be making it available to members, pursuant to the Act, as some have already asked for.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has made a personal explanation in respect of saying that these provisions were added by the select committee, when they were, in fact, added by the Minister. But the Minister for the Environment, both in a public statement and in a parliamentary statement, has also said these matters were made by the select committee, and I believe that Minister should make a personal explanation on misleading the House.

Mr SPEAKER: That is just a debating matter.

Terrorism—Saudi Arabia

2. MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What steps has the Government taken to protect New Zealanders in countries like Saudi Arabia against the threat of terrorist attack?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Can I first express, on behalf of New Zealanders, our condemnation of last night’s terrorist attack, and our condolences to the families of at least 29 people who were killed, and as many as 194 injured. Our embassy in Saudi Arabia established a register of New Zealanders living in Riyadh following the deterioration in security conditions earlier this year. It used that register 10 days ago to advise 450 New Zealanders registered of US intelligence information about the risk of an imminent attack by terrorists. That register is also being used to determine whether New Zealanders were living in the compounds that were attacked last night, and to confirm that the two individuals and one family of New Zealanders resident in the Alhambra compound were, in fact, not casualties.

Martin Gallagher: Is the Minister satisfied with the level of protection offered to New Zealand diplomatic staff based in Riyadh?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Perhaps fortuitously, I announced on Sunday a budgetary provision that includes $3.5 million to improve security at those of our embassies that might be considered as being at risk. That does include Riyadh. Additional security being put in place includes the reinforcing of a double perimeter fence, closed-circuit television, additional guards, and enhanced facilities for screening those entering the embassy compound and mail being received by it.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why would New Zealanders believe now that New Zealand receives full intelligence from the United States, given the Prime Minister’s recent foolish comments about the United States and in the light of the fact that New Zealand clearly did not receive all the available intelligence that Australia received following the Bali bombing? This is a crucial issue that the Minister must address.

Mr SPEAKER: The last part is not part of the question, as it was an extra piece.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Perhaps because the warning given to New Zealanders in Riyadh was identical to that given by the United States to its residents.

Keith Locke: How does it help protect New Zealanders in countries like Saudi Arabia from terrorist attack for our Navy to issue a press statement, as it did yesterday, praising “coalition forces taking military action to liberate Iraq and secure weapons of mass destruction”, and for us to have our frigate Te Kaha, and now an Orion, conducting operations in the Gulf under overall US command?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I would have thought it was obvious to almost every member in this House that the reason we have the frigate in the Gulf, the reason our P3 surveillance aircraft went up there last week, and the reason our CI30 military aircraft will be going up there in a couple of weeks’ time, is that we need to assist the international efforts against that form of terrorism, which endangers every civilian everywhere, regardless of race, colour, or creed.

Hon Peter Dunne: When the Minister spoke of a $3.5 million allocation to upgrade security in embassies deemed to be at risk, was that risk determined on the basis of generalised intelligence briefings, or have there been specific threats issued against New Zealand embassies from time to time?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer is the former. There have been no specific threats in recent times issued against New Zealand embassies, but there is a generalised threat. The at-risk embassies are obviously those embassies in countries that have had a tradition of bombing against Westerners and diplomatic posts.

Prime Minister—Procedures

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What procedures are in place to ensure that she has seen and read documents to which her signature is affixed?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The procedure is that my signature confirms that I have seen and read a document. It does not mean that I will recall that paper, or its detail, 2½ years later.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister recall questions in the House regarding the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, in which she wrote a foreword stating it was her Government’s goal to return to the top half of the OECD by 2011, and does she recall her response that “she had no recollection” of that foreword, and how does she reconcile her response that “she had no recollection”, with this document, a memorandum from her adviser Nicholas Bain, which asks her to “confirm you are happy with the foreword before I pass it on to the authors”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: At the time that was raised I did not recall that, either. [Interruption] Of course, it has just been revealed that the member could not recall his party’s principles—in the middle of an election campaign!

Hon Bill English: When she receives a memorandum addressed to her from a senior member of her office, saying: “Please confirm you are happy with the foreword before I pass it on to the authors.”, why should the House believe the statements she made that she had not seen the foreword, could not recall what was in it, and nothing in it was her responsibility?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That matter was raised in the House by that member a few weeks ago. He is harking back to memoranda that were dealt with in late 2001, and, as I say, perfect recall, with the best will in the world, is not possible.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall on 23 February 1999, on the question of missing documents, saying to the House: “The reason the Prime Minister was choosing the mechanism of a personal explanation is that she knows that her word following that statement cannot be doubted”, and, further stating: “The Opposition was absolutely correct to insist that this be a ministerial statement.”, then saying: “It comes down to the question of the integrity of the Prime Minister”; was she right in what she said in February 1999, or is she right in what she is saying today?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I certainly recall the occasion. As I have already said, I am somewhat more sympathetic to the former Prime Minister than I was at the time.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement made recently that the public see her as a person who means what she says?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I stand by my statement that the New Zealand public appreciates the Prime Minister speaking her mind, even if the Opposition does not.

Hon Ken Shirley: Were these procedures in place when she signed a painting that she had not painted, or were the procedures adopted after that incident?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not intend to traverse that matter. It has been well dealt with in the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall saying that she is a person who front-foots issues, and, that being the case, could she please advise some of us who are interested in physical sports how one front-foots things when one is constantly on the back foot?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member should know—he has not been able to get a single allegation to stick in the last 3 years.

Rodney Hide: Has the Prime Minister any advice for the public of New Zealand and for Parliament that when she is front-footing an issue and speaking her mind, we can tell that, firstly, she is recalling everything; secondly, she is conscious at the time of making her statement; and, thirdly, she is actually telling the truth and is correct, or are we to find out only if she subsequently gets caught out?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can assure the public that I answer each question to the best of my ability, which is more considerable than some.

Hon Bill English: Is it now the case that the standard by which this Government and her behaviour should be measured is that the Prime Minister of New Zealand takes no responsibility for anything that she cannot recall absolutely clearly; if that is the standard, how do we know when she is not selectively forgetting things that do not suit her?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There would simply be no truth or honesty in pretending to recollect things one does not.

Hon Richard Prebble: Accepting totally that she is doing the best according to her ability, that she was not conscious that she was misleading the House yesterday, and given her performance over the last 3 weeks, does the Prime Minister think she is up to the job?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If I can paraphrase my own words, I am a hard-working and conscientious Prime Minister.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could the Prime Minister clarify whether she said “conscious” or “conscientious”?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member is just making a fool of himself.

Foreign Policy—European Union

4. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: How was her statement that New Zealand’s relationship with the European Union is of “paramount importance” received by European leaders, and what steps is she taking to ensure Government policy gives effect to this statement?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): New Zealand has a number of key relationships, including that with the European Union. My visit to Brussels was well received because of the strength of that relationship, and the Government will continue to prioritise the relationship with the European Union.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why is New Zealand joining a United States – led case to the World Trade Organization disputes tribunal to force European Union citizens to eat GE food and plant GE crops against their democratically expressed will?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government will participate in that case as a third party because of New Zealand’s strong interest in defending the integrity of the international World Trade Organization system, and in particular the sanitary and phytosanitary agreement, which requires members to set health-related standards based on scientific evidence and risk analysis.

Hon Bill English: When she was discussing New Zealand’s relationship with the European Union, and she said: “What everyone is looking at is whether there is going to be a Franco-German-Russia link-up with good links through to the Chinese”, has she had time since she was last questioned on this matter to find out just who “everyone” is and whether “everyone” includes New Zealand?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The question is falsely premised. That statement was not made in discussions in Europe.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would be happy to repeat the question, because I believe that the Prime Minister misheard it. I did not say that this statement was made in discussions in Europe. I actually phrased it like this: “In discussing New Zealand’s relationship with Europe ... ”, when she made the statement, and her answer was based on her misunderstanding the question I asked.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the member said “discussions”, but if the member says he said “discussed”, I accept—[Interruption] There is to be no interjection at all. If the member says he said “discussed”, I accept his word. The Prime Minister might care to comment.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: New Zealand has no interest in being asked to choose between the United States and Europe. Both are very important to us.

Hon Peter Dunne: Which outstanding New Zealand issues with the European Union does the Prime Minister now expect to be advanced considerably as a result of her visit to Brussels?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have had a concern for some time about the effects of the Schengen Agreement, if implemented as it stands, on the rights of New Zealanders to travel without visas for a period in Europe. Over a period of representations leading up to and including those in Brussels, I believe we should be able to get some movement. Apart from that, I was able to discuss with a number of European commissioners—and, indeed, in the bilateral visits with other Governments—the issue of getting movement on the common agricultural policy so that the European Union can make a meaningful contribution for the Doha round in getting agriculture dealt with.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Did she discuss with European leaders her intention to undermine the social democratic notion held deeply by many European Union nations that citizens have the democratic right to elect representatives who may legislate to set standards, such as for the import of GE foods; and why is she challenging this tenet of international social democracy?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think detailed questions on this should be put to the Minister for Trade Negotiations. But can I say that I am not aware that the European Union has legislated. One of the problems is that it is a de facto moratorium without limit, and that is what has caused the US frustration, because over a long period of time it has not been dealt with. I repeat the answer I gave to the member’s first supplementary question: New Zealand stands as the third party in the case, because that enables us to set out position of setting standards based on scientific analysis and risk analysis.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given that GE foods have never received any safety testing and that the reason for that is the Food and Drug Administration’s decision, contrary to the advice of its own scientists, that it was substantially equivalent and therefore needed no safety testing, what scientific information is she relying on in considering these foods to be safe?

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest that the member cannot possibly authenticate her claim that genetically engineeredfoods have never been subject to any safety checking. There is an enormous amount of checking going on with all food. It is a ridiculous question.

Mr SPEAKER: I am not here to judge the question. The Prime Minister, however, I am sure will be able to provide a brief answer.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The European Union, like New Zealand, like the United States, has very stringent food safety standards, but I do not think that this is an issue of food safety. I think it is an issue of a de facto moratorium that has gone on and on and is not seen to be based on thorough scientific evidence and risk analysis.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table documents presented to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, showing that the Food and Drug Administration overrides the advice of its own scientists.

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

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the document I referred to in my question—a memorandum from Nicholas Bain of the Prime Minister’s department, to the Prime Minister.

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

Electricity—Water Heating

5. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: What is his response to the comments made recently by the head of the Winter Power Task Force that cutting hot water in households for up to 18 hours a day was being considered—which would mean people having to take cold showers—and he could not rule out pensioner homes being treated the same as other houses?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): My response is that that is a very good reason for New Zealanders to save power now and help avoid the need for hot water cuts.

Gerry Brownlee: Has he seen any reports indicating that due to the contractual arrangements with its half million - plus customers, Vector, the country’s largest lines company, cannot cut hot water heating for more than 5 hours a day, meaning that Auckland electricity consumers will continue to have hot showers while the rest of the country goes cold?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Dr Patrick Strange, of the Winter Power Task Force, advises that he is confident that should it be necessary to go to hot water cuts, there will be a national protocol in place that shares the burden fairly.

Mark Peck: How much would hot water cuts contribute towards the 10 percent power savings target?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am advised that cutting hot water for 18 hours a day would reduce electricity consumption nationwide by about 3 or 4 percent, a saving that could readily be achieved by voluntary measures.

Peter Brown: I note those answers and the answers to similar questions yesterday. Is the Minister telling the House that despite our having millions of tonnes of coal, his preference is to export that coal to nations that largely ignore the Kyoto Protocol, and that New Zealanders should potentially suffer power cuts and cold showers? Is that what he is telling us?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is a matter of fact that New Zealand’s largest generator is being fuelled today almost entirely by coal and that the constraint on that company is how to mine it fast enough.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Before consigning pensioners to cold showers, has the Minister investigated the net economic cost to New Zealand of Colmalco shutting one of its three potlines and thus saving half our national target in one go, and could we afford to buy that electricity cost-effectively for the nation at a price that would still see Colmalco better off? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to warn any more members about interjecting during question time.

Hon PETE HODGSON: If that were to happen it would be a matter of commercial negotiation, and therefore, I am afraid, must be wrapped in the confidentiality attending it.

Gerry Brownlee: Given the contractual arrangements that Vector has with its half a million - plus customers that would prevent it from cutting water heating or introducing power cuts of more than 5 hours a day, how can he assure all New Zealanders that if 18-hour power cuts to hot-water heating are called for, Auckland households will not be exempt?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That is the question I placed to Dr Strange, who advised me that he is confident that should it be necessary to have hot water cuts a national protocol will be in place that shares the burden fairly. Currently, Dr Strange is currently holding a press conference where he says that the new regional data out shows that Auckland has now closed the gap. I congratulate Aucklanders accordingly.

Gerry Brownlee: Does having a national protocol in place mean that Vector will be relieved of any legal obligations it has and therefore not be liable to court action from its consumers if it cuts supply for more than 5 hours a day?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can do no more than advise the member what I have already advised him—that is, I have put that question to Dr Strange and his advice is that he is confident that should it be necessary to go to hot water cuts, a national protocol will be in place that shares the burden fairly.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have asked a question of the Minister of the Crown about matters that are extremely important in his portfolio area. He has given me, this House, and this country an answer that says that he has taken his advice from Dr Patrick Strange. Dr Strange is heading the Winter Power Task Force, as we all know, which is a group that has no direct reporting to the Government whatsoever. What I am asking the Minister, and what he should know, is that the largest lines company in New Zealand cannot comply legally with a requirement, should it brought to it—

Mr SPEAKER: This is not a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: Yes, it is.

Mr SPEAKER: No, would the member please be seated. It is not a point of order. This is a debating point. A general debate is coming up and there are other opportunities for the member to raise this subject by way of question at another time. This is a debating point.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In my third supplementary question I very clearly asked the Minister if the so-called protocol he talked about will relieve that company of its legal obligations, then surely that becomes a matter for the Minister. It is a matter that ministry should be dealing with.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did, and he answered the question, in my view. It may not be satisfactory to anybody else, but he answered the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Should he not give us an answer that comes from his ministry? Referring us to some individual who has—

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. No, the Minister has to address a question asked, and he did, each time.

Question No. 6 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question came down for the Prime Minister and left the Clerk’s Office for the Prime Minister, whereupon it was promptly referred by her to the Minister of Energy, excepting that anyone who has been involved in Cabinet would know that if the answer were that there was no prime ministerial involvement, that is an answer that the Minister of Energy cannot be certain about. Anyone above that Minister would know that from past and present practice. That is why I have referred this question specifically to the Prime Minister. Dr Cullen can look curious, but it is a fact that the number of issues to do with a Minister may have been considered away from his office and portfolio by a Prime Minister, or treasurer, or a Minister of Finance. That is my point, and that is the reason I wanted my question answered by the Prime Minister. I now seek leave for the Prime Minister to answer this question.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. I will now rule on the point of order. There is no reason one Minister with responsibility for an issue, which the Minister of Energy has here, should not answer for the involvement of another Minister, even the Prime Minister, in that issue, and that has been the ruling for as long as I have been in this House.

Energy—Television Advertising

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Energy: Did the Prime Minister have any involvement in the preparation of current energy savings advertisements that run on television?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he telling me that such a serious issue of a potential national crisis, which requires substantial savings to be now made by New Zealand people, and the expenditure of massive amounts of taxpayers’ funds on that purpose, actually occurred without the Prime Minister having any idea whatsoever what would be in those advertisements; if that is the case, why is it fitting for her to go on morning television and criticise the content of the advertisements if she was so unconscious, frivolous, or careless as to have no involvement in the first place as Prime Minister?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The advertising campaign is being commissioned by the Winter Power Task Force under the supervision of the Grid Security Committee. The origin of that is that I called in the industry some months ago now—I cannot remember the date—and said: “You will manage this.”, and it has done so.

Lynne Pillay: Why is the electricity industry commissioning and paying for the television advertisements this year, when the Government commissioned and paid for them in 2001?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Because the industry got a very clear message from Government earlier this year that it needed to take more responsibility for dealing with a very dry year than it did in 2001 when it was led by the Government. I congratulate the industry on its actions to date.

Gerry Brownlee: Did he decide to have the power crisis managed by the Winter Power Task Force in order to have someone else to blame when things go wrong, just as he has this afternoon?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If other people are going to be responsible, as he phrased the answer when he said: “You will manage this.”, then why on earth are we employing him, and, second, does he think it is fitting for such a campaign to have these sorts of responses from the Prime Minister, when she said: “Fortunately I have gas for my hot water and for my heating, so that puts me in a reasonable position.”, or “I’m not a great TV watcher myself, I am not seeing them.”, and does she think that he is doing, any way, a halfway competent job?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not sure which part of the question is best answered, but the issue about who should manage this was discussed by the Government and the industry earlier this year. The long and short of it is that in 2001 the industry was not up to scratch. This year it most certainly is. The underlying reason it is being managed by the industry, be it contracts with Vector or any other aspect of the management, is that under a previous Government the market system was set up, and there was partial privatisation. Indeed, the member who asked the question was the Treasurer at the time.

Television—New Zealand - made Programmes

7. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What recent reports has he received highlighting the achievements of putting New Zealand - made programmes on television?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): The NZ On Air local content survey, which was released today, shows the biggest increase in locally made television programmes in a decade. Last year local content accounted for 27.4 percent of the total television schedule, up 3.8 percent on the previous year. All three channels increased their total local content.

Dianne Yates: How did those figures reflect the level of the Government’s investment in NZ On Air?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There was a 20 percent increase in the screening of first-run New Zealand drama and comedy, both reflecting our unique culture and identity. This increase in higher cost, high-risk productions highlights the benefits of Government funding increases to NZ On Air in 2000 and last year. There was also a marked increase in children’s programming after nearly a decade of decline.

Question No. 8 to Minister

RON MARK (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise it pertaining to Standing Order 357(2) in respect of some parts of my question that have come from a written question to the Minister. I seek your indulgence in looking particularly at the time this question was lodged and the time it was due back. The answer to this question was due back to me on 13 May this year at 1200 hours. It was received by my office on 13 May at 1547 hours, which was after question time had clearly gotten under way. It concerns me that information such as this that is so critical to the questions I have been asking should have been delayed, although it was in the Minister’s hands until after question time had started, thus preventing me from—

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member has not read the Standing Order correctly. It is due back on a particular day, not at a particular time. It was given on that day, as the member himself said. Please ask the question.

RON MARK: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No. Please ask the question.

RON MARK: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have ruled on the point of order. Oh, another point of order?

RON MARK: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Then, can you as Speaker take steps to speak with the Clerk’s Office about the offending words—which clearly have misled me—that say: “due date: 13. 05. 2003 at 1200 hours”, because I took them to be factual.

Mr SPEAKER: There is nothing in the Standing Orders under that, as far as I am concerned. I have just consulted the Clerk. If they are there, that is a mistake made at another level. Certainly I know the rule that when a question is due on the 13th, the answer has to be submitted on the 13th. As the member himself said, it was.

Bail—Mandatory Provisions

8. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Why is he seeking all-party support to make an addition to the Statutes Amendment Bill requiring bail conditions to be mandatory for offenders who have had their sentences deferred?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Judges have always been able, where there are special reasons, to place offenders in the community, without conditions, for a short period before the start of their sentences. I would hope that all members of this House would agree that offenders whose sentences are deferred should be subject to strict bail conditions. The concurrence of all parties would allow a straightforward and common-sense change to the criminal law doing this, to be enacted without delay through the current Statutes Amendment Bill.

Ron Mark: How long has the Minister known that in the year 2002, 98 drug dealers, four kidnappers, two rapists, 11 killers, and 12 sex offenders were released into the community on deferred sentences under this legislation; and is he proud of that achievement?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I would want to challenge at least some of those statistics from that member, and that number of 11 killers, if he is talking about front-end detention. If the member is talking about back-end detention, which he says was put in place without the authority of this Parliament, he should read the statute of 1993—10 years ago—that explicitly allows back-end detention. People are able to be put out, and have been put out, on back-end detention since that time.

Russell Fairbrother: Is it correct that sentencing laws have, for at least 18 years, allowed judges to defer sentences on convicted offenders, leaving them in the community without bail conditions; if so, why is he making this change now?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It is correct. The law has been that way for at least 18 years, and, quite possibly, for longer, but I believe there are good reasons for making this change now. Most alleged offenders, while awaiting trial, remain in the community but do so under bail conditions, provided they are not an undue risk and provided they are not at risk of absconding. It makes sense that an offender who has been convicted and released temporarily into the community before the sentence starts, should be subject to conditions that are at least as strong as he or she had when on bail awaiting trial. That is why I have proposed this change.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why on earth would the Minister try to duck the issue by doubting the veracity of information provided by his own department on 13 May at 1547.41 hours—it is all clearly laid out in these papers—or is he like the Prime Minister, not conscious of what he does, and just plain soft on crime?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Patently the last point is incorrect because the Sentencing Act under debate is the toughest piece of legislation that has ever gone through this House—including the legislation passed in the many years that that member spent as a member of a Government party. I have the same answer, delivered on 13 May—the day it was due to be delivered to Mr Ron Mark—and the figures that he has quoted do not appear to align with the figures I am reading on the chart.

Ron Mark: What faith should New Zealanders have in a justice system that, on the one hand, operates a traffic ticket quota system, supposedly with the aim of making our roads safer, and, on the other hand, releases back into the community 132 offenders who had been convicted and sentenced to jail for driving with excess blood alcohol, dangerous driving causing death, reckless driving, and driving whilst disqualified?

Hon PHIL GOFF: To the first part of the member’s question, I say that nobody gets a ticket for speeding unless he or she is breaking the law. Unless the member is advising the House that he thinks one should break the law and not deserve to get a ticket, then I am not sure what he is telling us. With regard to the people who are put on home detention, I can say that quite a number of those people, under the sentencing regime so preferred by the National Party, New Zealand First, and the ACT party, would have got suspended sentences. That is like a wet bus ticket—there are no conditions, and no penalty.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister cannot go from not knowing the details of the law or his portfolio to alleging the policy of other parties about which he knows nothing and for which he is not responsible. He will have a letter shortly, telling him just that.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion the member has made a valid point of order.

Ron Mark: In order to clarify the clear confusion the Minister has, I seek the leave of the House to table the answer to written question—

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

Research and Development—Investment

9. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What reports has he received about the level of investment in research and development in New Zealand and what do they say?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): Statistics New Zealand has released summary results of the 2002 research and development survey. The report shows that business research and development increased by more than 40 percent in the last 2 years, which is a remarkable, astonishing increase. In part, it is due to the many positive policy changes the Government has made over the past 3 years, and also to the fact that more and more New Zealand businesses are treating research and development as an investment, not a cost.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: If the 30 percent increase over 2 years is a remarkable effort, does that mean it is also a sufficient effort?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, it does not mean it is a sufficient effort—not by a long shot. New Zealand still ranks low in private-sector research and development expenditure, but the latest figures show that the transformation has begun emphatically, and I acknowledge and congratulate the business sector on its contribution to the research and development effort.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister give an answer that everything is glorious in the area of New Zealand’s investment in research and development when a leading expert, namely James Dyson, as published by the Sunday Star-Times, talked about this country heading straight for the Third World, given its current level of investment and lack of understanding on competitive taxation policy for research and development.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The author is clearly, and usefully, out of date.

Taxation—Inflation Compensation

10. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister of Finance: In light of the tax cuts in the Australian Budget giving every worker a tax cut, partly by lifting the tax thresholds to compensate for inflation, does he believe it is fair to compensate workers for inflation; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I think the assumption in the question is incorrect. As the editor of the Australian Financial Review says: “All Mr Costello is doing is giving back (some) creep.” In Australia there is a much more steeply progressive taxation system; roughly speaking, below $36,200, Australian tax is lower than New Zealand’s, and above that level it is higher than New Zealand’s. This Government’s approach, when it considers it is prudent to do so, is to address tax issues on a more targeted basis to low and middle-income earners.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Minister know that to compensate taxpayers in New Zealand for inflation, the low tax threshold should be lifted from $9,500 to $13,200, the $38,000 threshold should be lifted to $41,700, and the $60,000 threshold should be lifted to $65,000, and does he accept that his failure to adjust the tax thresholds has meant he has increased the real income tax paid by working families, and what is fair about that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The total tax revenue as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) has risen slightly under this Government over the last year or so, largely to solve the growth of the economy, and also because of some temporary factors. I note that tomorrow’s forecast will show that proportion falling back to around the 30 percent mark, which is well below the OECD average for tax revenue as a portion of GDP.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is all very interesting, but it had nothing to do with what the Minister knows about the tax thresholds. Can I take it that the Minister does not know about the tax thresholds?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It actually does have a great deal to do with it, because the proportion of GDP that tax revenue takes in is the best expression of how much of the country’s income the Government is taking proportionately.

Clayton Cosgrove: What areas will the Government be highlighting in tomorrow’s Budget in relation to tax?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The primary areas that will be highlighted tomorrow will be about taxation as it relates to encouraging investment into New Zealand from outside, and also issues relating to tax compliance costs to small and medium-sized businesses.

Rod Donald: Having said that his priority is tax relief for low and middle-income earners, why will the Minister not implement the Green Party’s proposal for a tax-free threshold at the bottom of the income tax scale, bringing New Zealand into line with several OECD countries, and giving low-income families, in particular, the pay packet boost that they deserve?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Comparing tax rates between countries is one of the most difficult tasks there is. Many countries have some form of social security or payroll taxes, which often start at the first dollar of income. So although their income tax rates may have a tax-free area, they may well have social security taxes that do not have a tax-free area at the front end. Of course, New Zealand does not separate out hypothecated social security taxes. In any case, as I am sure the member is aware, in order to achieve rough fiscal neutrality, if there is to be a large tax-free area at the front end, there has to be a steep increase in the rates paid at the upper levels.

Hon David Carter: Given the Minister’s answer to Mr Prebble’s statement that the best method of measuring tax collection is as a percentage of GDP, how can he credibly argue—as he did in the House last week—that New Zealand enjoys lower taxes than Australia, when the total tax take in Australia as a percentage of GDP is 31 percent, whereas in New Zealand it is 36 percent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is confusing Government revenue with the Government’s tax take.

Waitangi Tribunal—Inquiries

11. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Minister for Courts: Does she consider that Waitangi Tribunal inquiries are being completed in a timely fashion?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister for Courts): Yes.

Murray Smith: How can the Minister claim that inquiries have been completed in a timely fashion when the Department of Courts assessment of the new approach inquiry process makes it clear that resolution of claims by 2010 will occur only if the Government provides greater financial resourcing to enable it to do so?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government, in 2002, committed $1.5 million to support that process, and we can, I am sure, look forward to some good news tomorrow.

Hon Georgina te Heuheu: Does the Minister expect the Waitangi Tribunal to receive extra funding in the near future to ensure that its inquiry process—so critical to the final settlement of claims—is able to keep pace with the Crown’s negotiations with central North Island iwi in respect of their hundred or more claims scheduled to reach formal agreement within 2 years, as indicated in her address to claimants on 23 April?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The member will know the answer to her question tomorrow.

Georgina Beyer: Could she enlighten the House on the pace that the Government has been able improve upon?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government has been able to make considerable progress through the settlement of claims, and at the moment, we have increased the pace of settlements to the unprecedented rate of two deeds of settlement yearly.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister clarify whether the $5.5 million of additional funding for the treaty settlement process will be directed to the Waitangi Tribunal rather than to the Office of Treaty Settlements, given that in the last year the Office of Treaty Settlements has underspent its operational budget by almost $3 million, an amount equivalent to half the Waitangi Tribunal’s total operational funding?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The member is correct that funding is required both for the tribunal process and for direct negotiations. Funding is being directed to both those parts of the settlement process.

Murray Smith: Given the Minister’s advice concerning greater resourcing to the tribunal, will she commit herself to doing all that she can to ensure that enough resourcing is provided to the tribunal to implement the new approach for all claims, given her promise to the House 17 October 2002 that if the Government could resolve historical grievances before 2010, it would?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes.

Murray Smith: Given the Minister’s commitment to assisting the tribunal to complete its investigations by the 2010 deadline, is she willing to commit herself to a target date of 2015 to have 90 percent of historical treaty claims fully settled; if not, what date is she prepared to target?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am confident that we will still be the Government at that time, and yes, we will put forward our best endeavours to be able to achieve that target.

Murray Smith: How does the Minister then intend to address the concerns expressed in the assessment of the new approach inquiry process that there are insufficient experienced historians, skilled inquiry facilitation personnel, and historical report writers, all of whom are vital to the process?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: We are in the process, at the moment, of trying to refine the processes and align them better with the process through the tribunal and direct negotiations to make sure that the resources are available, and are used efficiently and productively.

Murray Smith: I seek leave to table the Department of Courts assessment of the new approach inquiry processes of the Waitangi Tribunal.

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

Biotechnology—Regulation

12. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (NZ National—Port Waikato) to the Minister for the Environment: Will she support changes to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill that are complementary to the changes recommended to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 by the Biotechnology Taskforce “to ensure New Zealand has a world class regulatory system that … is quick and cost efficient”?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): The New Organisms and Other Matters Bill is now before the select committee, and I will take that committee’s recommendations into consideration.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Noting in the Minister’s press release of 8 May 2003 that she stated that the words “cultural landscapes” and “spiritual” should be removed from the Resource Management Act because “they created unnecessary uncertainty”, I ask whether she will now make a conscious decision to apply the same logic and remove similar confusing phrases relating to cultural and spiritual effects from the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill; if not, why not?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: “Spiritual” is within the call-in provision of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. In the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) it was within an extended definition of historic heritage. They are quite different contexts.

Dr Wayne Mapp: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked a specific question: would she remove it? She did not answer. Simply talking about the subject matter and then saying that that addresses the question does not obviate the need to actually answer a question that has been asked. A direct question was asked. She must know the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister could perhaps elaborate just a little on her answer. She does not have to give “a direct answer”. However, I am sure she can address the question. [Interruption] That member is lucky today—very lucky. I am on my feet. The Minister could perhaps just address the question as originally asked.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Because the word “spiritual” is used in different contexts, one in the Resource Management Act in the definition of historic heritage, and one as a provision for call-in in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, I do not expect that it will be removed.

Nanaia Mahuta: What reactions to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill has the Minister heard of?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: During the first reading debate on the bill, all speakers in this House spoke in favour of the bill, except, of course, for the Green Party. Even the leader of the National Party spoke in favour of the bill, saying how important it was for New Zealand’s future biotechnology. Clearly, however, he has no sway in his caucus, because when it came to the vote, the National Party, consciously or unconsciously, voted against the bill.

John Carter: I was going to leave this till later, but I now admit to making a mistake. I voted incorrectly and I seek the leave of the House to correct the vote to 27 in favour.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a perfectly fair comment. The member has sought the leave of the House to change a vote that was made on behalf of his party. Does anyone have any objection to that course being followed?

John Carter: In favour instead of against.

Mr SPEAKER: The vote is to be changed to “in favour” instead of “against”. No. We will come back with new numbers and I will announce it to the House accordingly, but that has been given the leave of the House.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister think that a world-class regulatory system would establish strict liability for any harm caused regardless of whether the law had been broken, instead of letting the cost of any disaster fall on society at large, as the bill proposes?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: A world-class regulatory system has actually been devised in this bill for some liability, not the liability the member has envisaged there.

Larry Baldock: In the light of the biotechnology task force recommendations for changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, will she consider amending the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill to ensure the Bioethics Council is used to complement existing Environmental Risk Management Authority processes—thereby assisting in the timely progress of applications under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act—and does not become a source of duplication?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The Bioethics Council is designed to be the Government’s future watch, and will not look at individual applications, which is the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s responsibility. I think the council’s task is almost in line with action 18 of the biotechnology task force.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to ask a further supplementary, as I understood from the whips that we had not as yet—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is entitled to seek leave. Is there any objection? There is.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a paper regarding the Minister’s press release of 8 May, where she said, referring to spiritual and cultural landscapes: “The removal of these words is sensible, because they create unnecessary uncertainty.”

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that paper. Is there any objection? There is. End of Questions for Oral Answer (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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