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Questions Of The Day Transcript May 20 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

TUESDAY, 20 MAY 2003 Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers


1. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What steps has the Government taken to progress youth development?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs): It is difficult to be modest. The Government is undertaking a huge range of initiatives to support youth development, such as the $56 million plan announced recently by the Prime Minister to get all young people into education, training, or work by 2007. This Government is focused on taking a positive approach to youth development, rather than rehashing failed policies of the past.

Darren Hughes: Does the Government support the concept of more punitive measures against parents whose children are not in education or training?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, who is proposing beneficiary-bashing under a rehash of the code of social responsibility, this Government is looking for real solutions. This year’s Budget announced an additional $8 million for getting students back to school, bringing the total package to $46 million over 5 years. This Government is focused on solutions, not just slogans.

Simon Power: Has youth development been progressed by denying Government funding to WellTrust , which delivers critical services in addressing substance abuse in the wider Wellington region; if so, how?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I understand from newspaper reportage that WellTrust is not receiving funding. Apart from that, I cannot elaborate any further.

Craig McNair: Is the Minister concerned that measures carried out, presumably, to address problems facing youth development, such as the ramming through of alcohol excise tax earlier this month, have prompted such comments as “abuse of democracy”, “unethical”, “sticking plaster measure”; if not, why is he not concerned at the general public’s united disapproval of that obviously rushed and impotent legislation?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: In answer to the first part of the question, no. When we have statistics such as those from the Alcohol Advisory Council, which suggest that 94 percent of parents are concerned about teen drinking habits but only 24 percent of their children are concerned, we have a problem.

Energy, Minister—Confidence

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Energy; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a good, hardworking, and conscientious Minister.

Hon Bill English: In the light of the Minister’s statement today, why is the Prime Minister imposing a tax on users of electricity to pay for stand-by generation, and is she aware that that tax will mean higher prices for electricity every year?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government’s announcements today are predicated on the assumption that the public would rather pay 80c extra a week to have secure power under Labour than have cold showers under National. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: It is early in the week, and I will not have people shouting out like that. I am being constantly told that it is not polite to do so, and I agree.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is all very well for you to have a go at the Opposition about responding to the Prime Minister like that—

Mr SPEAKER: I never mentioned just the Opposition.

Gerry Brownlee: No? That was clearly the inference that was taken. I have not yet heard you suggest that any Minister was being impolite when giving a response to the House. I strongly suggest that the Prime Minister was impolite, which is her way.

Mr SPEAKER: I did look at one particular, very senior member who interjected, and that was a Government member.

David Benson-Pope: Can the Prime Minister please advise the House of the purpose of the announcements made by the Minister of Energy today?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I can. The measures were announced to bring some control into the energy market, and to see that, in future, New Zealand does not face electricity shortages whenever there is a particularly dry year. The market model we inherited has not achieved that.

Peter Brown: Noting that in the last 3 years the Government has had to plead with New Zealanders to save power, that the proposed industry governance board did not get any legs, that, on occasion, prices have gone through the roof, and that there has generally not been sufficient expansion of the generation capacity in this country, what has the Minister actually done that inspires the Prime Minister’s confidence—or is it simply a case of being the best of a bad bunch?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The litany the member has recited points to why there needed to be changes to the model, which the Minister has announced today.

Hon Richard Prebble: Would a conscientious and hardworking Prime Minister, who told Kim Hill on Face to Face that “I’m outraged it’s happening” and “I started pushing very hard for action on this in the second half of last year. I put Dr Cullen on the case. I am not satisfied at all that all of us have been put in this position.”, have replaced the Minister of Energy?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No—no more so than she would have prayed for rain. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There are people who are seeking a very early exit. I have called only the Hon Bill English.

Hon Bill English: Given that the Government has stood in the way of new generation over the last 4 years, why does the Prime Minister believe that the imposition of a tax on all electricity users will make it more likely that we will get new generation in the next 4 years?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The first part of that question cannot be substantiated. It is a sweeping generalisation, and it simply is not true. Secondly, the Government has taken steps to ensure that a market model can work. The present one does not.

Hon Richard Prebble: Given the Prime Minister’s assurances on television that she knew last year that the energy crisis would happen, that the Minister of Energy told us that his modelling showed it was not going to happen, and that the Prime Minister now thinks it is absolutely infuriating that we are in this position, why has she not replaced the Minister?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Nothing I have said today or before implies that I knew an energy crisis was about to happen. I knew no such thing. What I knew was that New Zealand was still at risk of dry years, because the problems had not been sufficiently addressed in the model, and the reason for bringing in a group of Ministers is that a number of minds are always better than one, regardless of who the one is.

Hon Bill English: If she is now so concerned about managing dry year risk, why did she not take action after the review of the 2001 electricity shortage, when any number of reviews and reports were made to her about steps that needed to be taken to avoid a crisis again?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the Minister of Energy advised the House last week, the thrust of officials’ advice was that the market had moved to correct the situation. I did not accept that, which is why we called for more advice.

Child Poverty—Budget

3. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Finance: What is his response to Child Poverty Action Group’s statement that “the poorest children in New Zealand, around 300,000 of them, do not even get a crumb” from last week’s Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): My response would be that the statement ignored a substantial number of initiatives, particularly in the health, education, and housing areas.

Sue Bradford: Why does the Government continue to discriminate against the children of unemployed, sickness, and invalid beneficiaries, and accident compensation claimants, by not extending the child tax credit to all families who find themselves in identical financial circumstances?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is working on a package of changes in this area that it hopes to be able to announce next year, depending upon resources. The possibility of restructuring family support into a single-tier payment is part of that. It would be essential, therefore, also to introduce other measures in the tax system that would preserve the balance when moving into employment from benefit.

Clayton Cosgrove: Could he reiterate the Government’s social spending priorities?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government identified—and I indicated in my speech—assistance to lower and middle income families as a priority for next year’s Budget if the fiscal position permits.

Katherine Rich: Further to the Child Poverty Action Group’s statement that “the poorest children in New Zealand do not even get a crumb from last week’s Budget”, can he explain what New Zealand’s poorest children hope to gain from the Government’s offer of $34 million to an overseas yacht race?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. It is presumably the same benefits that Mr McCully foresaw when he supported substantial funding for the America’s Cup bid—that is, an increased profile for New Zealand overseas, in terms of its reputation; increased employment in New Zealand for tourism; increased employment from a future America’s Cup race here; and increased employment from the business of producing materials for America’s Cup yachts here and overseas. We are talking about a business that produced getting on for a billion dollars for New Zealand.

Dail Jones: How can the Minister give these uncaring answers with regard to the 300,000 children mention in the report, bearing in mind that this Government has a surplus of $4 billion, and its Budget was remarkable only for the fact that he taxed old people’s sherry and port drinking?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I assure the member that some young people drink sherry and port as well. I can certainly assure members that my wife did, when she was a young person. On the question that the member properly raises, he, I am sure, is aware—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I did not mind one or two interjections, but the Minister is getting to the member’s question, and I want to hear the answer.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am perfectly willing to organise a seminar for the member on how accrual accounting works. If he thinks I have $4 billion spare cash he clearly does not understand how accounting works.

Sue Bradford: How can the Government claim it is family friendly, when the value of family support has declined by 60 percent since 1986, and this Budget, yet again, does nothing to address it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I accept the member’s assertion that this is a very high priority area, which is why, if there is sufficient headroom in next year’s Budget—and at the moment it looks to be around the $400 to $500 million mark—increases—

John Carter: Buying votes.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Oh, now the member is saying it is buying votes to provide assistance for low and middle income families, while his colleague was shedding crocodile tears only a few minutes ago.

Sue Bradford: I seek leave to table a post-Budget briefing paper from the Child Poverty Action Group.

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


4. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Associate Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to address the increase in the supply and use of methamphetamines?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): This coalition Government is taking a series of significant and urgent actions. The reclassification of methamphetamine as a Class A drug, is on track to be enforced by 30 May. The Ministerial Advisory Group on Drug Education is to meet this week to approve an action plan that includes 19 actions and recommendations for combating methamphetamine abuse. The objectives are to reduce supply and demand, and to limit the harm associated with this highly dangerous drug. The emphasis is on dealing with drug exploiters who are committing serious criminal offences by making and supplying the drug, while also having compassion and treatment facilities for the victims.

Hon Matt Robson: What moves has the Government already made to combat the problems of methamphetamines?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: We have already demonstrated our commitment to addressing methamphetamine use. We need to rehabilitate those who are on the drug, and show no tolerance for those who are manufacturing or selling it. This year’s Budget contains $6.6 million over 4 years for an additional two police teams to combat this problem. Last year the police located and closed 140 laboratories, and extra resources will make the police even more effective. The Budget also provided $2.55 million for a community action initiative, in six rural areas and nine urban centres, to reduce the incidence of drug misuse. These initiatives bring together local police and health and other agencies, to share intelligence and combat drug misuse in these communities.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that the police themselves estimate that one gang dealing in methamphetamines has accumulated assets in excess of $10 million, when will the Government demand that such criminals prove their assets were legally obtained, and if they cannot, those assets will be confiscated?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The confiscation of assets brought about by criminal activity is an issue that the Government has before it for consideration, and the ministerial committee is looking at it. This coalition, which has a ministerial committee on drugs and alcohol that meets regularly, has progressed this issue further and faster than any actions the present National Opposition ever took, ever considered, or ever adopted when in Government.

Dave Hereora: What has been done to combat the growing use of methamphetamine by Mâori?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Some Mâori communities are being severely affected by the abuse of methamphetamine. The coalition Government is willing and able to work in partnership with Mâori to combat this evil scourge. Some Mâori elders are now talking about putting a râhui or ban on methamphetamine, and I will give every support I can to their efforts. In the words of Te Rehia, the first Mâori to speak in this Parliament, in 1860: “In all our efforts, in all we have to do is focus on that which is good.”

He said that the power of good is greater than the power of evil, and when an evil issue arises, all we have to do is come together to face it and defeat it. Methamphetamine is an evil, and the people who manufacture and supply it are in an evil business, which has no place in New Zealand.

Ron Mark: Could the Minister tell the House then, if his Government is so serious about dealing with drug dealers and showing a no-tolerance approach to the methamphetamine problem, firstly, why has the Government refused to give any extra funding to allow schools to carry out drug testing for methamphetamine; and, secondly, why has the Government allowed 198 drug dealers to be released into the community under the deferred sentencing provision and on home detention?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The first information I received on schools wishing to drug test their pupils for methamphetamine was yesterday, when I read a report from Kaitaia College. I immediately made a statement that I supported the efforts of the school, but I also said that before such examinations or tests could be taken, a proper process has to be gone through in order to protect the rights of children at school and their parents. That is what I support, and I know that the Government in general supports that, as well.

Judy Turner: Will the reclassification of methamphetamines as a class A drug result in suppliers being put out of circulation for longer, given the stronger penalties involved; or does he agree with the Green members, who say that there is little real difference in the length of sentences handed down to people convicted of class A and class B drug offences?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: It is my view that the strong police action that has been taken to date, the reinforcement of police resources to take even stronger action, and the reclassification of methamphetamine as a class A drug, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, should actually focus the mind of anyone who thinks he or she will profit from this evil trade.

Electricity—Future Supply

5. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Will the energy industry changes signalled yesterday by the Prime Minister and announced today by relevant Ministers remove the risk of an electricity shortage in the event of a dry year in the future; if so, why?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): Today I announced that the electricity sector will be managed so that demand can be met in a one-in-60 dry year without the need for a national electricity conservation campaign. The necessary reserve generation capacity is likely to be accrued over the next 3 years.

Gerry Brownlee: If the solution to the dry-year electricity shortage is more generation, why does the Minister believe he can get reserve generation in 3 years, when a number of generation projects are currently held up by Resource Management Act issues, the Conservation Act, the unknown cost of Kyoto compliance, and a lack of long-term gas contracts—and any additional generation proposals will face the same problems?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In the course of the next 3 years, approximately 700 megawatts of ordinary generation will come to book, most of which is already consented. A further 150 megawatts, or thereabouts, will come on line in June 2004. It is a Contact proposal. That will begin, I suspect, the portfolio of reserve generation. The Resource Management Act is, of course, no impediment, as the member would assert it is.

H V Ross Robertson: Will the introduction of the one-in-60 dry-year standard cause power prices to rise; if so, why, and by how much?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, power prices will rise. Why? Because that is what an insurance premium is. By how much? By less than 0.5c a unit, or less than 80c a week, for an average household consumer.

Peter Brown: Noting that we have had 2 dry years in the last 3, by stipulating one-in-60, I ask whether the Minister is sure he has got it right.

Hon PETE HODGSON: That is a good question. The one-in-60 dry year risk profile was chosen from the Davidson commission into the 1992 electricity event and was put in place as a temporary measure, because it was thought then that the market would deliver surety beyond that when the market came into being. Today we say that, market or no market, we need that one-in-60. The advice is that one-in-60 would get us through without a public conservation campaign, as in 1992, 2001, and, so far, 2003.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the Government’s statement that the necessary portfolio for reserve generation will be built up within about 3 years, are we to conclude that the Government’s response will do nothing for the current crisis this year, or, indeed, very little for the next 2 years; and given that this Government has been in power for almost 4 years, why should the public not conclude that the Government has totally failed on the energy issue?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The reserve generation will be built up over the next 3 years, so it will begin to be built for next winter, some more the winter after, and some more the winter after that. In respect of this year, today’s announcements do not alter the winter security issue this year, at all. This year we get to save; this year we get to continue with the plans that have already been announced.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the new Electricity Commission be encouraged to contract with large power users to provide secure demand reductions as an alternative to new supply, and to be considered on an equal basis, as part of dry-year security?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, the demand side has been explicitly excluded in order that it can play its ordinary role, and useful role, during ordinary generation times—which is usually always.

Gordon Copeland: Will the Electricity Commission, in addition to the specific measures announced today on reserve generation, be asked to minimise dry-year risk, through the design of the overall generation mix—for example, hydro in high-rainfall areas, and wind?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The reserve generation will embrace a variety of fuels—not to overcome rain shortage, because all those fuels it will be using will overcome rain shortage—so that in the event that, for example as occurred in February, there is an outage at the Maui platform, non-gas reserve generation can be used as part of the mix.

Gerry Brownlee: Given the Minister has told the House today that much of the reserve capacity that will be developed over the next 3 years has already been consented to, and therefore a proper investment decision on the range of projects has already been made by those developing that generation, why is there a need to tax New Zealanders up to $200 million a year by means of this half-cent levy on each unit they consume?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member, I think, has misheard me. Let me say the generation he refers to is not reserve generation, but substantially ordinary generation.

Gerry Brownlee: Read your Hansard.

Hon PETE HODGSON: You said “Today”. The reserve generation—

Gerry Brownlee: Read your Hansard of today.

Mr SPEAKER: Please carry on with the answer.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The reserve generation—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think it is acceptable for a Minister to give an answer to a supplementary question, about four questions ago, and then when put on the spot by having to explain a reasonably substantial tax, simply do so by saying: “Well, the member didn’t understand what I said.” I am very clear about what he said. The Hansard will show it. He should stand by what he said, just minutes after he said it.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter of debate.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The reason there needs to be a price increase up to half a cent a unit, or up to 80c a week for the average household, is that that is the price of the insurance premium.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he think it appropriate for a Minister in charge of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act and the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, to tell New Zealanders, in his press release today, that with this increase in generation capacity they will never have to save power again?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The important thing for this Government to achieve is to ensure that, whilst conservation campaigns hopefully become a thing of the past—except perhaps once every 200 years, or similar—energy efficiency campaigns remain unmolested.

Gerry Brownlee: Why would any generators choose to invest in more generation capacity for normal year use, when they know that the Energy Commission will be collecting $200 million a year in levies on consumers—a tax on consumers—in order to purchase the capacity they are proposing to invest in?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I invite the member to read carefully what the Government’s plans are. The whole idea is to ring-fence part of the generation so that it does not compete with ordinary generation, in order that the latter will be well built.

Drought—Farmer Support, Lower North Island

6. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Agriculture: What is the Government doing to support farmers in the lower North Island affected by drought?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture): The Government has agreed to match community contributions, but to $11,000, to fund lower North Island rural coordinators. The Government has also approved the provision of rural assistance special-needs grants to farmers in affected areas.

Jill Pettis: How are the funds for rural coordinators planned to be spent?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Family Support Trust, Manawatu-Rangitikei Federated Farmers, and Rural Women New Zealand have developed the Farmers Helping Farmers project. Farmers can ring 0508 DROUGHT to seek support and advice from the trust or obtain help with locating sources of feed. Seminars have been organised to help farmers deal with financial, feeding, and animal welfare issues. Similar programmes of support are being provided in Tararua, Wairarapa, and Taranaki.

Hon David Carter: Why is the rural assistance available for only 3 months—that is, until the end of August—and does the Minister seriously think the effects of drought are that short lived?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Funding is provided until the end of August this time. If there is still a problem and a need, consideration to further funding will be given.

R Doug Woolerton: Why has the Minister taken this long to act, in such a pathetic way?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The first application was received from Federated Farmers on 4 April. The situation was analysed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and I approved the funds on 11 April.

Children in Care—Prostitution

7. KATHERINE RICH (NZ National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Will she confirm that girls under the care and protection of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services have been working as prostitutes, and why is its investigation not complete after 11 days?

Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): No, I cannot confirm that. The department is working in close cooperation with the police to identify all the young people reportedly involved, and to ensure that they are kept safe while the joint Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and police investigation is undertaken and completed.

Katherine Rich: When allegations were made as early as 8 May that girls under the care of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services were prostituting themselves on Christchurch streets, how can the Associate Minister be confident that appropriate actions have been taken, when as late as 17 May the South Island manager of the department is quoted in the Christchurch Press as saying: “I don’t know whether they are in our custody or care. Will someone find out, and quick.”?

Hon RICK BARKER: My advice from the department is that people did act immediately, and the doubt remains as to who is actually involved. The identity of all of these young people is not absolutely known to the department or to the police. An investigation is being undertaken, and as soon as the facts are ascertained, the police will act on them.

Lynne Pillay: What action has been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people allegedly involved in the sex industry?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services advise that the moment its staff were advised of this matter they acted. They worked closely with the police to identify the young people allegedly involved, to ensure that those people were closely supervised and placed in secure care, as appropriate. While the joint investigation by the police and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is being completed, it would be unwise to jump to conclusions.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister satisfied that Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has the resources to investigate allegations such as those in a timely manner, or does he support his Government’s view that the maintenance of a large Budget surplus is more important than our young people’s welfare?

Hon RICK BARKER: I can assure the member that this Government takes its responsibilities very seriously. I am able to advise that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has a significant increase in its budget baseline for 2003. That is $93 million higher than it was in the year 2000.

Sue Bradford: In the light of the recent revelations about young people in Christchurch working as prostitutes while in the care of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services supposedly, can the Minister advise what is happening in Auckland and south Auckland, and is the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services looking closely at the situation there to ensure that the same thing is not happening?

Hon RICK BARKER: I do not have any specific advice on that matter. However, I can assure the member that the moment any allegation of that sort comes to the attention of the department, it acts upon it immediately.

Dr Muriel Newman: Why is it that the department and the Minister do not appear to know what has been widely reported in the media and is this not just another example of Government failure?

Hon RICK BARKER: I reject that entirely. The paper is about speculation. The police are conducting an investigation, and when they have conducted their investigation, we will know with some certainty what has happened. Speculation in the paper is not always reliable.

Katherine Rich: In the light of the Commissioner for Children’s statement regarding the failure of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to respond to his notification that “My letter has done sweet bugger all, and all of these dozen or so girls”—

Mr SPEAKER: That phrase is not permitted in this House. I know that it was used. That does not make it right in this House. I would like the member to rephrase her question without the use of the word, which I do not agree with.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This House spent some time this afternoon recalling the occasion of Sir Edmund Hillary’s triumph on Mount Everest, and I would just ask you to reflect for a few moments about the words he broadcast to the world on that day.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and they were never repeated in this Parliament.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is as good a time as any to raise it and I am a bit sympathetic to the ruling you are making about language changes. If I understood the question correctly, and maybe I could be corrected, if the Commissioner for Children is saying that, and it is in general use, and if it appears on advertisements for motorcars on television every night, I think that the phrase “bugger off” must be now within common parlance.

Mr SPEAKER: The member might think that; I do not, and I have a different point of view. I have a respect for the English language that indicates that there is not a need to have to use that sort of phrase in this House. I am sure the member can rephrase the question, and I invite her to do so.

Katherine Rich: In the light of the Commissioner for Children’s statement regarding the failure of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to respond to his notification that his letter has done not much, and of those dozen or so girls, who knows which of them may have got some sexually transmitted diseases while the investigation takes place, and will he give this House the assurance that those girls are safe and that they will not spend another night on the streets?

Hon RICK BARKER: I am aware of the comments made by the commissioner. He is entitled to that opinion. However, it is not the advice I have. The advice I have is that the moment the issue was raised, the department acted, and I am also assured that the children who are supposed to be in the care of the department are still in its care, and, I am advised, in a safe place.

Sentencing—Public Expectations

8. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does he have any concerns that sentencing of offenders is presently not meeting public expectations; if not, why?

Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister of Justice) , on behalf of the Minister of Justice: As with any significant new legislation, the Government continues to monitor trends under the Sentencing Act to ensure that implementation accurately reflects Parliament’s intention.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister then assure the House that Ding Yan Zhao, an unlicensed Auckland student whose speeding sports car ploughed into a Rangiriri petrol station in February, killing preschooler and critically injuring her father, has not been given a deferred sentence, and that he will not get home detention?

Hon RICK BARKER: It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any decision made by a judge. The executive and the judicial arms of Government must be seen to operate independently of each other.

Tim Barnett: Is the Minister satisfied that the Government’s intent in passing the Sentencing Act last year has made the difference in sentencing by the courts?

Hon RICK BARKER: Yes. A key role of the reform of the sentencing legislation was to impose tougher penalties on those who commit the worst offences. Sentences for the worst offences have been longer under the new law. Minimum non-parole periods of up to 33 years for the worst murders have been imposed. In my lifetime I have never witnessed such tough sentences.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree or disagree that Parole Board decisions that concern the provision of home detention for those given deferred sentences would be better expedited by the discretion of the presiding judge, and what does the Minister intend to do to ensure that public safety will not be compromised?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Hon Phil Goff has raised the issue of parole conditions being placed on people where there are deferred sentences. It has been a longstanding part of our law that judges have the discretion to defer sentences. The concern has been raised that conditions may not be imposed upon this. Parties have been asked whether they would consider amendments being made to the Act by way of a Statutes Amendment Bill so that the judges do have the power to impose parole conditions on suspended sentences. I regret to advise that three parties, National, ACT, and New Zealand First, have declined support for this measure.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister recall advising the House that the responsibility for determining whether a serious offender should be given a deferred sentence and/or home detention rest with judges and the probation service in particular; if so, can he tell the House what steps he has taken to ensure that the probation service make decisions that are reflective of the views of members of the public as indicated in the referendum in 1999?

Hon RICK BARKER: The probation service is part of the Department of Corrections. I do not have a delegation on that matter. If the member wishes to put down a question to the Minister of Corrections I am sure it will be answered.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the Minister standing in for the Minister of Justice may have misled the House in his answer to the question about the position of ACT on the proposal. I ask that the Minister refer to see whether he needs to correct that position.

Hon RICK BARKER: That was my advice, but I will check it immediately.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In order that the Minister not be embarrassed, I advise that he has inadvertently misled the House on the position of New Zealand First, and he has a letter to that very effect. I ask that he be invited to come back to correct his statement

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has indicated that he will do that.

Supreme Court—Tikanga Mâori

9. RICHARD WORTH (NZ National—Epsom) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What is her response to the New Zealand Bar Association’s comment, in relation to the proposed convention that at least one member of the Supreme Court is well versed in tikanga Mâori, that such a convention would be “dangerous”?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice): I have noted that the proposal for this convention was made by the expert ministerial advisory group, which included the Bar Association.

Richard Worth: Is the Minister saying that the convention will be maintained or abandoned?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The convention is a proposal from the ministerial advisory group.

Russell Fairbrother: What else did the expert ministerial advisory group say about Supreme Court appointments?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The expert ministerial advisory group said that the starting point for appointment was legal qualifications and experience, and that individual judicial appointments to the Supreme Court should be based on excellent legal skills, legal acumen, and personal integrity.

Dail Jones: In view of the fact that tikanga Mâori is something that is particular to Mâori and various parts of Mâoridom in New Zealand, what discussions has she had with the seven Labour Mâori members of Parliament regarding their attitudes to the inclusion of tikanga Mâori in the bill, bearing in mind that the Mâori submitters to the bill say that it is incapable of being given effect to because of the various differing types of tikanga Mâori; or have the views of those seven Labour Mâori members changed as a result of their appointments to various ministerial and other positions giving them houses, LTDs, credit cards, and select committee chairmanship?

Mr SPEAKER: The question was too long.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not aware of any conversations between the Minister and individual members of the Government Mâori caucus. The point that has to be made is that the recommendation that came through from the advisory group was there should be a convention that at least one member of the court should be well versed in tikanga Mâori, making it likely that at least one member of the court will be of Mâori ancestry. It does not propose that there be a Mâori member of the Supreme Court.

Stephen Franks: Is the Minister aware of the Law Society’s concern that the other four judges might feel that they are supposed to kowtow to the chosen one’s version of tikanga Mâori; and if that view is wrong, why did the Minister support the recommendation for one specialised appointment in the first place when the Minister did not support other recommendations of the advisory committee?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Having looked at the submissions of the Law Society and the Bar Association where those issues were raised, I think they put it somewhat more eloquently than having to kowtow. In fact, they suggested that the most important thing in respect of the Supreme Court was that the court as a whole had a knowledge and understanding of tikanga Mâori.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that it is particularly important that at least one judge has some expertise in tikanga Mâori, given that that is one of the grounds to appeal to the Supreme Court, in the bill?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It is important to realise that the recommendation came through and has been supported with regard to the submissions that have been made thus far, in the sense that there is a desire to have a wider knowledge within the whole of the Supreme Court on issues relating to tikanga Mâori.

Murray Smith: Given the Government’s budgetary commitment of $6.5 million towards education on the treaty, and given the Minister’s last answer, will the Government commit itself to ensuring that all judges are provided ongoing education, with a goal to them all being well versed in tikanga Mâori; if so, what active steps will the Government take to achieve this?

Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of the original question. The Minister may comment briefly.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I think the member has mistaken the role of the Associate Minister of Justice with regard to the Supreme Court Bill and her role as the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

Richard Worth: How does the Associate Minister define tikanga Mâori for the purposes of her proposed appointment convention when there is no authoritative pan-Mâori view on what constitutes tikanga Mâori?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I think I should quote from the document to which the member is referring. This is what the Bar Association actually said, and it did not say that there should be any appointment based on race, as was reported in the paper: “Recognition of the importance of tikanga Mâori would be better achieved if it were depersonalised so that the attributes of the court in the collective sense are required to reflect a sufficient understanding of tikanga Mâori to enable the court to deal expertly with all such issues. It may well be that expertise is, from time to time, personified in one particular member of the court.”

Richard Worth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a wholly non-responsive answer to the question. The Minister was asked: how does the Minister define tikanga Mâori for various purposes? That was not an answer to that question on any way.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might care to comment on that particular matter.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It is not my position or my role to define tikanga Mâori in response to that particular matter. The point I made is that under the Supreme Court proposals, there is a bill that is before a select committee at the moment—the member is a member of that select committee and has, presumably, explored those issues with the people who have made submissions on it—and there is also a series of proposals relating to some suggested conventions.

Land Transport (Street and Unauthorised Drag Racing) Amendment Act 2003—Enforcement

10. MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Police: What reports has he received on the enforcement of the Land Transport (Street and Unauthorised Drag Racing) Amendment Act 2003?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Several police operations have seen 86 boy racer cars impounded nationally, with last weekend’s splits in Auckland resulting in 17 cars being impounded, 23 defective vehicles being ordered off the road, one stolen car recovered, 42 traffic notices issued, one arrest for pouring diesel on the road, and 133 infringement notices issued.

Martin Gallagher: Has the Minister heard somewhat curious claims that the legislation is “so broad it gives police the power to pick up anyone they don’t like and threaten them”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, the legislation targets people who break the law, intimidate people, pour diesel on the road, and drive dangerously. Counties-Manukau police inspector Dave Simpson put it best put when he said: “These people take over the roads, and the aim is to reclaim those roads on behalf of the people”. That is something this Government really agrees with.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree with Judge Edward Ryan that police already had sufficient powers to confiscate vehicles from boy racers before that legislation was passed; and what proportion of the offences caught in the weekend crackdown in Auckland were against learner and restricted licence provisions, rather than against breaches of the boy racer legislation?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are delighted with the new legislation because it is curing a problem. I have had people contact the police saying that they can now sleep in their homes over the weekend without having to put up with the noise, and that has to be good for ordinary New Zealanders.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have previously invited Ministers to have another look at how they answer questions. I put it to you that that answer did not even begin to address the question put to the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed that question.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister have any concerns about a report in the Dominion Post this morning that stated that no cars had been confiscated in the Wellington area by police, unlike Auckland, where there has been quite heavy policing of boy racers; could that possibly be because we are still under-staffed and the police simply do not have the people on the ground to continue to clean up the mess ?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I want to tell the member that the Wellington mayoral forum formally congratulated the Wellington police on “the excellent work done on progressing solutions to the issue of boy racers.” They have the numbers, they are getting the results, and I think everyone should be supporting them.

Te Mângai Pâho—Chief Executive

11. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Is he confident that Te Mângai Pâho’s Chief Executive, Mr Trevor Moeke, is providing him with well founded and accurate advice for his replies to written questions; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I am advised by my officials that every effort is made to ensure information provided for written questions is accurate and timely.

Rodney Hide: How, then, does the Minister square his reply to question for written answer No. 257, in which he stated: “I am advised by my officials that there have been no payments of cash by Mâori Sportscasting International to any employees of Te Mângai Pâho”, with an email dated 15 October 2001 from Mâori Sportscasting International to Te Mângai Pâho’s radio manager, Mr Tame Te Rangi, which states: “Your payment for services will be placed into account this day. Hemana will have with him on his arrival the petrol vouchers/cash/copies of commentators’ instructions.”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It would appear from what the member is saying that I have not been provided with the full information. I would encourage the member to provide me with that information, as I suggested, so that I can get to the bottom of any discrepancies. I assure him that I will do something about it.

Mahara Okeroa: How many written questions concerning Te Mângai Pâho has the Minister of Mâori Affairs responded to since 17 February 2003?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have responded to over 100 written questions from Mr Hide and to 200 from other members. That has cost the taxpayer a lot of resources and a lot of time.

Katherine Rich: Who are the officials who advised the Minister that no cash payments had been made; have they now told him that they have misled him, especially since they have released the smoking gun emails under the Official Information Act?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I remind the member that there is a plethora of emails roaming around the public service. As I said to the other member, I would encourage the member to provide me with the information so that I can get to the bottom of any discrepancies.

Rodney Hide: Why should New Zealanders have any faith in the Minister, when, under his stewardship, officials are openly looting taxpayers’ money and then lying to him about it?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Unfounded innuendo and allegations like that need to be substantiated. Again, I say to that member, supply me with the information, and I will do something about it.

Katherine Rich: Noting that the Minister’s answer to written question No. 257 was wrong, how many other answers to written questions are wrong?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am aware that two answers were wrong. Of the 300-odd questions asked of me, we replied immediately, and in a correct manner.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the emails where Mr Tame Te Rangi says—

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

Rodney Hide: I also seek leave to table question No. 257, where the Minister says he was advised there were no cash payments.

Mr SPEAKER: Is that the question to the written answer?

Rodney Hide: Yes.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have an issue of some significance with this Minister. If members go through the questions I have asked—and there have been over 100—they will see many replies that the Minister had to subsequently admit were false. He has said that his earlier reply was incorrect, because officials had advised him incorrectly. It seems to me that it cannot be a case where Opposition MPs have to keep asking questions and questions in order to get a correct answer. It is up to the Minister to provide correct answers. When a Minister becomes aware that not just one, but several, replies were false, he or she should come down to this House and explain why.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is perfectly correct when he says “when a Minister becomes aware”—that is the key issue. If the Minister becomes aware, he then has to do something about it, because that is covered under our Standing Orders. I suggest to the member that that is the key issue.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure that you quite grasped the point that Mr Hide is making. I do not recall this situation arising before. What Mr Hide is saying is that what we had here today was a situation where the Minister said, “The answer I have given appears to be wrong. I will investigate.” He is also saying that the Minister has given answers to written questions, given on notice. The answer has been printed, it has been drawn to the Minister’s attention that it cannot be right, and he has then amended the answer. I am not sure that that is the right procedure. If a Minister has given an answer, that answer should stand. If it is wrong, I think the Minister should come down to the House, make a personal explanation, and seek the leave of the House to amend the written answer that has been published. I am surprised that Ministers can give written answers, have it drawn to their attention that the answers cannot be right, and then decide to have another go at it. That does not seem to be right. What possible regard can Parliament give to answers to written questions, which are given on notice, if Ministers can give any old answer they like, and, when it is pointed out that their answer cannot be right, then simply seek to amend it?

Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 142/3. If a Minister becomes aware of an incorrect answer in answering a subsequent question, it is quite proper to correct it. That happens all the time. However, the member has raised an interesting point, and I will certainly have a look at it.

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is important to make it clear that, when he rose, the member started by saying he had been advised. He provided the House with the best information that he had.

Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct, but that does not get over Speaker’s ruling 142/3. I will have a look at this particular issue.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The statement made by the Deputy Leader of the House cannot be allowed to stand. I know that the idea of the Westminster process of ministerial responsibility is being eroded, but we are now being told that Ministers have no responsibility for any answer they give. That cannot be correct. The Minister has a duty to make sure that the answer is correct. If he knows he has been giving material that is wrong, then I would have thought he would be far more careful about coming to this House, and giving a cavalier answer to see how much the Opposition has found out.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that was not what the Minister actually ended up saying. My original Speaker’s ruling stands, as does the Speaker’s ruling I referred to. I will look at the issue that the member has raised.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask for you to advise the House on this issue. An allusion was made to how many parliamentary questions I have raised with the Minister, and the reason I have made so many is that the answers are so often wrong.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Rodney Hide: The point of order is this—and this is what I was trying to come to—

Mr SPEAKER: Please come to it, then.

Rodney Hide: The Minister’s own officials released an email that contradicts his answers to parliamentary questions. He then came down to this House and said he knows nothing of it. What are we as Opposition MPs supposed to do? Do we have to do every piece of work for the Minister? Surely to heaven, if officials are writing, and getting cash from the very people they are giving the money to, and putting that cash into their accounts, that Minister should be fronting up to the House to offer some explanation.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; it is a debating issue. The member is perfectly entitled to make statements or anything he wishes to make about it, but it has nothing to do with the order of this House.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the course of the Minister’s answer today, he told the House that there were two wrong answers—

Simon Power: No, two out of 300.

Gerry Brownlee: So we now know that he knows there is another wrong answer in there somewhere. Rather than just saying, “There are two wrong answers, and I will fix it later, or I will do something to try to amend things later.”—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have said there are to be no interjections during points of order. The Minister will leave, please.

Hon Lianne Dalziel withdrew from the Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister is able, in his address to the House, to say that he is aware of two wrong answers—it has already been made clear to the House where the first one was—would it not be appropriate for him to tell us right now what he clearly knows to be an incorrect answer?

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that corrected answers to written questions are commonplace. The Minister said he had already corrected these particular answers. I take his word when he says that.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you are in an interesting situation. A question has been put down on notice and a Minister has given an answer that is transparently not correct, which I think he has conceded, given that it is contradicted by the email. It would appear to me that this is one of those cases where you, in the Chair, should allow more questions to be asked without them taking up the Opposition’s quota, because the Opposition has put down a question with notice. We should have had a proper reply. Basically, we have lost two questions because the Minister has not answered properly, and I want to suggest to you that Rodney Hide should be allowed to ask at least one more question, and I think Katherine Rich should be allowed at least to ask one more question. We should find out what this Minister really does know about this matter.

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hide still has a question left that he can ask.

Rodney Hide: Have the Minister’s officials advised him of an email from Te Mângai Pâho’s radio manager, Mr Tame Te Rangi, dated 17 October 2001 and written to Hemana Waaka, of Mâori Sportscasting, which was released to me last week under the Official Information Act, and which says, amongst other things: “Thanks for the advance. I’m surprised at the choice of words! When can I expect the balance?”, and would we not expect officials to bring that to his attention if he were in any way a Minister taking responsibility for the money he is dishing out?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I get thousands of documents. Can I assure that member that I have not been shown the email, and I again repeat that if members supply me with the information, I will talk to the officials.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have some real concerns about just where ministerial responsibility is going. We now regularly have the answer, first from the Prime Minister and now from this Minister, that they see thousands of documents, with the implication that they are therefore not responsible for their answers in the House about any of those documents. We experienced that last week when the Opposition produced a document proving the Prime Minister was not correct in her answers. Now we also have a growing trend towards the view that Ministers are not responsible for their answers unless officials give them all the advice. The difficulty is that we cannot tell, as an Opposition, whether the Minister was given the advice and then misled the House, or whether the Minister was not actually given the advice in the first place. From Parliament’s point of view, it makes no difference what the officials’ behaviour was—the Minister is the only one we can hold responsible. I suggest that part of the standard of accountability that needs to be reinforced in question time is that Ministers are responsible for the actions of the Government, because if they are going to keep saying that it is the officials, as the Prime Minister does and as this Minister is now doing, we will have to devise some way of allowing the Opposition to question officials. Otherwise, we can use up dozens of questions—and almost certainly have—getting information from Ministers that either they are hiding or, in the last instance, blaming the officials for not providing to them.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to say that if members have concerns about Ministers, they are at liberty to attack them politically in this House and outside it. It is part of our democratic system. Whether the officials are to blame is a matter that can be argued over. It is nothing the Speaker can judge. Of course, officials are responsible for the answers they give to select committees when they are up before them at that time.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I now raise a matter I raised with you earlier, but in a slightly different form. I do so under Speaker’s ruling 129/6, which allows for further questions. The ACT party now has no further questions. One of the reasons we have ministerial question time is to ensure that there is no corruption in this country. Now we have a situation where an official, who we have been assured by the Minister has received no money, is saying in an email that not only has he received it and is thanking the person for it, but also is asking when he is going to get the balance. I say that is a question that goes to the heart of the integrity of our system, and I believe, under Speaker’s ruling 129/6, that is a point where the Minister’s reply is completely unsatisfactory. The ruling states: “…the Speaker will call the Minister to order and may permit further supplementary questions…”. I think we have had a completely uncooperative Minister and I believe that Mr Hide and Katherine Rich should be able to ask more questions. The Minister should get a very strong message today that it is not satisfactory on an issue as important as this just to come along and say he is relying on the Opposition to tell him what is going on in his own department.

Hon Mark Burton: The matter is clear. The Minister provided an answer to the question. New information was introduced. The Minister has given his clear undertaking that he—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I said that anyone making a noise was going to go, and I ask Mr Nick Smith to leave the Chamber. I am not having interruptions in points of order.

Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Mark Burton: The Minister clearly indicated that he was—

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise an issue regarding your request to our colleague to leave the Chamber and calling his name out when you did so. When you have disciplined Government members, including a Minister leaving the Chamber, you have refrained from using their names. As you well know, whether a member’s name is used does make quite a difference with people listening on the radio. I would just ask you to be consistent in using names on both sides of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought I mentioned the Hon Lianne Dalziel.

Hon Mark Burton: When the Minister said he was made aware of the existence of a document, which he made clear to the House he had not known about, his word must be accepted. All members are honourable members. The Minister has undertaken to look into the matter; I think the matter must rest there.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way: I am left with a situation in which an answer has been given, so I will adjudicate by allowing Mr Rodney Hide to ask one more supplementary question.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In dealing with an issue I raised just prior to this discussion, you pointed out that officials are responsible for giving answers to select committees.


Hon Bill English: Now, last week or the week before in this Chamber, we had a debate on a Privileges Committee report, in which it was pointed out to yourself that that process can be effective only if Parliament has the strong back-up of the Privileges Committee in dealing with officials who do not answer truthfully at select committee hearings. That committee is now becoming the place of last resort for Opposition parties to establish what has actually happened, given that Ministers do not take responsibility. A case in point is the application you have in front of you right now to the Privileges Committee. On past track records, that case could take from 12 to 15 months to be heard and completed, and, clearly, that leaves the Opposition well out of time to enforce the accountability owed. So, given that you made the remark on the issue of Ministers saying that officials were responsible for withholding documents, and that you said the Opposition can question those officials in front of select committees, we are looking for your reassurance that the Privileges Committee will act expeditiously when it finds that officials did not answer truthfully at select committees.

Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker is not the judge of the performance of Ministers, members, or officials. I deal with matters of order, and not with officials’ answers at estimates or committee meetings, in that way. Of course, as far as I am concerned, the Privileges Committee, being a very senior committee, will judge its proceedings as it sees fit, and all parties are represented on it.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I agree with everything you have said, but it did not cover the principal issue I raised, which is that the speed of action of the Privileges Committee is critical to the integrity of the process. That is something the Speaker does control, as a matter of order, and I am seeking your reassurance that if we are to accept answers in the House that officials are responsible for withholding papers—and we accept the responsibility of questioning officials at select committees—then we have your support that the Privileges Committee will act expeditiously on complaints about officials who do not answer questions at select committees.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot direct select committees to meet at particular times and places, but, concerning the issue raised by the member, obviously I would hope that the Privileges Committee, which is an important committee, would deal with things expeditiously.

Rodney Hide: Has the Minister of Mâori Affairs set a standard for his officials that they immediately advise him of an email that contradicts his answers in this House—and in this case shows that a private company is putting cash into a civil servant’s account that is funding that private company, before that email is released under the Official Information Act—and, if he has set such a standard, why will heads not roll?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Can I assure that member that, as I said before, if he supplies me with the information and there is truth in it, then heads will roll.

Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 12.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled that the Opposition cannot continue questioning this Minister at the time.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not. I gave the member an extra question. I would ask the member to be accurate.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, if I heard it right, you just called question 12, which means we do not have the opportunity to question this Minister further.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I gave Mr Hide an extra question. I said that.

Gerry Brownlee: That is fine.

Mr SPEAKER: I did. I call question No. 12—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I am getting tired; there are too many points of order at question time.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, with all due respect, if the performance from Government Ministers were slightly better and slightly more respectful of this House, there might not be so many references to the Standing Orders and attempts by the Opposition to uphold them. That—

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I am here to judge issues about the Standing Orders. As far as I am concerned, there are too many claims of points of order that are not points of order. Some are legitimate points of order, and I always listen to them very carefully, but some of them are not. I think we are at the stage when we have a limited time for questions, and that limited time has been well and truly exceeded today.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One of the requirements for a Minister is to answer questions, if his answers can be given consistent with the public good. I would ask you how it can be consistent with the public good for a Minister to stand in the Chamber and say: “Give me the information, which I supplied to you, and then I will take some action.” That is the effect of what Mr Horomia is doing today. He is effectively saying: “I supplied you with information about this matter, so I know about it, but I am not going to take any action until you give it back to me.” If that answer is consistent with the public good, then I think we are in severe trouble.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not as I recall it happening, and that, I rule.

Screen Production Industry Task Force—International Competency

12. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: Does he stand by his statement in the report of the Screen Production Industry Task Force that: “The Government is committed to creating an environment where the Screen Production Industry can grow and flourish in the international marketplace.”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Yes.

Paul Adams: Can we take it that Cloud 9’s decision to move to Australia was a logical response to the Minister’s call for the screen production industry to grow and flourish in the international marketplace; and is that move what he had in mind?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Screen Production Industry Taskforce has reported to the Government. The Government is considering its recommendations, which are wide and varied. It has provided $110 million in the Budget for responding to the recommendations of the various task forces, so the Government is taking it seriously. There will from time to time, in this case Cloud 9, be a difference with one of our other State agencies, such as Television New Zealand. I have done my best to resolve those matters, in so far as Ministers can. But Ministers are prevented, quite properly, from ordering broadcasters, or any other State-owned enterprise, to do anything in particular that the Ministers might want, and I accept that is entirely proper. So in this case, Cloud 9 has made its decision. However, Mr Thompson has indicated that he still has business interests here he wants to pursue. He is a permanent resident of New Zealand, and he intends to stay here with his family. We just have to assume that these are irreconcilable differences between Cloud 9 and Television New Zealand, and accept it.

David Parker: What are the objectives of the Screen Production Industry Taskforce?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The coalition Government is committed to working in partnership with the film and television industry, and one of its specific goals is to double the turnover of at least 10 New Zealand – based companies over the next 5 years. The task force has delivered its report, as I have said. Ministers are now considering its recommendations, and I am sure that the Government will give a positive response to this particular task force, among others, and that the industry will be satisfied with that and has a strong future in this country.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with the screen production industry’s task force report that television producers would have much more incentive to market their programmes and concepts internationally if they were able to retain and exploit their intellectual property rights; and, given his commitment to creating this apt environment where the production industry will grow and flourish, and so forth, will he intervene to help producers in their dispute with TVNZ, which is trying to erode producers’ revenue from the sales of their own programmes?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Anyone who knows my style in Government knows that I have already intervened about as much as I possibly could and as much as the Act would allow. There is a review of intellectual property protection recommended in the task force. The Government knows what that recommendation is. It is considering it at the moment, and it will give its response to the industry in a very short time.

Paul Adams: Why did the Minister dole out $1.5 million to a multinational corporation to set up a call centre, yet Cloud 9, which has never received any money from New Zealand On Air, simply wants the Government to stop TVNZ from contracting only to production companies headed by former employees, because getting Government programmes on the State broadcaster is essential to attracting foreign investment?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: One of the criteria for a strategic initiatives grant is that the development—in this case something like 400 jobs over the next 5 years and $200 million in export earnings—would not take place unless that grant was given. I tell the House that Cloud 9 has never asked for any funding, whatever. It has asked for a relationship with Television New Zealand, which it deems it has not been able to bring into effect. Government Ministers have done their best to mediate in that matter in so far as they can, and they have been unable to do so. Cloud 9 has made its decision, and the agencies responsible will have their own explanations of that, which the Opposition is invited to pursue.

Paul Adams: Why is it that after Parliament explicitly implemented a charter requiring TVNZ to promote and support independent production houses exactly like Cloud 9, TVNZ has been allowed to commit such a blatant breach of its charter; and will the Minister take this matter up with the Minister of Broadcasting and the Minister for State Owned Enterprises?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: If the member looks at the Television New Zealand legislation, he will see that members must not intervene in programming matters, and the Ministers in this Government have obeyed that requirement exactly. In terms of the charter, the charter does say that there needs to be a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate and encourage those interests whenever it is able to do so. I take the point that New Zealand – produced television and film production is part of that responsibility. The Government will have to consider, as the immediate period follows, how that charter is being implemented and do the best it can with it.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister’s answer is too long.

Question No. 8 to Minister

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): I seek leave to table a letter dated 14 May, with the signature of Dail Jones, addressed to the Hon Phil Goff concerning a Statutes Amendment Bill, in which, he says: “We do not support your suggestion of a remand on bail”, which confirms my —

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite him to read it all—

Mr SPEAKER: Just a moment. Is there any objection?

Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was just going to support Mr Jones, in the sense that the Minister has taken a small extract from the letter, and it may well be that New Zealand First does not support the mechanism of a Statutes Amendment Bill.

Mr SPEAKER: That will be seen if the letter is tabled. The member will be able to judge that.

Hon ROGER SOWRY: To get accuracy, particularly for people who are listening, I think the member should read the whole letter.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member has read out the information accurately, I seek the leave of the House to table the document. Has the member read the letter out accurately?

Hon Rick Barker: It’s an accurate reflection, yes.

Mr SPEAKER: He said yes.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister not only said he wanted to table the letter; he then said it substantiated the answer he had given in the House. He is a new Minister and it is his first question, so does he really want to make it a breach of privilege matter?

Mr SPEAKER: No, in fact he should not have said that. The member has said he wants to table a letter.

DAIL JONES (Junior Whip—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. New Zealand First supported an amendment to the Statutes Amendment Bill in question. The Minister has given a totally wrong impression. We support an amendment that makes sure that people stay in prison while the matter is being considered and that they not released out into the public, which is what the Labour Party wants—a Labour Party that is soft on law and order. We supported an amendment to the bill—

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot make that comment. The member has asked for leave to table a document. Is there any objection?

PETER BROWN (Senior Whip—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just before you put that leave you suggested that the member should read this accurately. I am suggesting to you that he should read it fully, because to leave chunks out is distorting the accuracy.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 113/5, which states: “In seeking leave to table a document members should not only succinctly describe what is in the document but also sufficiently describe the nature of the document to inform members.” Members will be able to examine the document, if it is tabled. Is there any objection to that letter being tabled?

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

Question No. 10 to Minister

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Mâori Affairs asked to see the evidence of the email that was released under the Official Information Act. I took it across to him, and as I gave it to him he called out across the front bench that I was a liar.

Mr SPEAKER: This is a matter that happened during question time. The member should have raised it immediately.

RODNEY HIDE: It happened during the last question. You have ruled before that one waits until the question is over.

Mr SPEAKER: My ruling was when the particular question was over.

RODNEY HIDE: It happened during question 12.

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister whether he made an unparliamentary comment, in which case I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Parekura Horomia: I withdraw and apologise. I did say that.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

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