Questions Of The Day Transcript May 21 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
WEDNESDAY, 21 MAY 2003
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Has the Minister of Finance kept her informed of taxation matters, and does he have her confidence?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Minister of Finance has the confidence of the Prime Minister. He is a hard-working, conscientious, and witty Minister, and he keeps her informed on policy issues through the Cabinet process.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, if that is remotely the case, why was it that the Prime Minister, in front of 500 Auckland business people last Friday, walked off the stage when she was asked, not once but twice, to explain why it was that certain Mâori enterprises receive a special tax cut, when the rest of business in this country do not; she could not explain it the first time, or the second time, or was she again informed but confused?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Given the fact I was not there, that question should be addressed to the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that answer is not satisfactory.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Prime Minister was at that meeting, but I personally was not. I imagine what the Prime Minister was saying about the tax relationships related to Mâori charities was that because of the fact of the arrangement of those charities and organisations there needs to be an arrangement for the low-income people who receive revenue from those organisations.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was of a mind to do this before the question was asked, but this Minister clearly does not know what he is talking about, and I ask now for leave for the question to be deferred.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Carry on with the supplementary question.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether I can help the House. I actually do know what happened and I am quite happy to—
Mr SPEAKER: Helpful though the member often is, on this occasion that is not a point of order.
Hon Bill English: Can I ask—
Mr SPEAKER: That is the only warning I will give. When a person has been called to ask a question, anyone else making any comment today will be leaving. I have called the Hon Bill English only.
Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister believe that the $200 million levy on power consumers is indeed a tax?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no. It is an insurance premium.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister through the Hon Paul Swain how he ended up answering that question, which was put down on the Order Paper with 4 hours’ notice, if he had no idea whatsoever what the issue of taxation was about, or the circumstances of the Prime Minister’s very ignominious departure at a huge meeting of the chamber of commerce last Friday at lunchtime; if he had no idea, why did he accept the job, or was he just one of those losers?
Mr SPEAKER: The last part is to be ignored. The first part can be answered.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: On behalf of the Prime Minister, given the nature of the question, there was, potentially, a wide range of issues, so I prepared a wide range of answers. If the member had wanted a specific question answered, he should have put it on the Order Paper.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister think it is satisfactory that the Prime Minister of New Zealand should speak to 500 business people at the chamber of commerce after the Budget and when asked, when the floor was opened up to questions, “As the Labour Government clearly favours lower taxes, because the Labour Government has lowered taxes for Mâori business, when are lower taxes going to be offered to all other businesses, and does this Labour Government believe in one law and one citizen for all?”, she is not up to the job, is unable to answer the question, and walks off in a huff?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am sure that the Prime Minister is up to the job.
Mark Peck: Will the Minister confirm that no Mâori taxpayer gets an advantage over and above any other taxpayer in New Zealand; will he confirm that it is simply that Mâori authorities are being taxed at the rate of 19c in the dollar and that the wash-up will be tidied up when there is a final reconciliation at the end of the tax year?
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member cannot authenticate that statement. It is not true.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot raise a point of order that is not one.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I do recall some advice along those lines.
2. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing to assist more New Zealanders into paid employment?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Government’s efforts have assisted a record number of people to move from unemployment into paid work. Unemployment now stands at 5 percent. There are under 100,000 people on the main unemployment benefit, and more New Zealanders working than ever before. That is the result of a focus on training, apprenticeships, youth transitions, partnerships with communities and business, and moving people into real jobs and real wages. It is a story of success.
Georgina Beyer: What reports has he seen on alternative approaches to Government’s welfare policy?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Alternative approaches often rely on such policies as the work-for-the-dole scheme, time-limited benefits, vouchers for the poor, and penalties targeted to low-income families. Those are policies that were prevalent during the 1990s and can be found in the previous National Government’s Code of Social and Family Responsibility, which was rejected by a public that did not want to go down the road of beneficiary bashing.
Hon Roger Sowry: In the light of the fact that the numbers of invalids and sickness beneficiaries have skyrocketed under Labour, and that the bill for those benefits is predicted to increase by $650 million by the time of the next election, when will the Minister tell us what his solutions are?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Budget figures demonstrate that $269 million less will be spent this financial year on working-age welfare than was forecast in 2001. When the National Party was in power, the working-age beneficiaries peaked at 410,000, and they are now at 345,000. That is a story of success.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about the fact that invalid and sickness beneficiary numbers are skyrocketing under Labour, and asked what his solutions were for that. In no way did the Minister come anywhere near addressing that question. He did not refer to sickness and invalid beneficiaries at all.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I listened to the Minister’s reply carefully, and he did address the question.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to know how you can determine that the Minister addressed a question on sickness and invalid beneficiaries when he got up and talked about a completely separate group of beneficiaries who are unemployed. On that basis, he could be able to get up and talk about any group of beneficiaries, regardless of what is asked.
Mr SPEAKER: If that was all the Minister did, I would have called him up. He did actually address the question.
Sue Bradford: What progress is the Government making on extending and improving the abatement regime, which has such a negative effect on people moving between benefits and work, and when does the Minister expect to be able to announce the shape of any likely reforms to the system, if there are any?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There has been excellent progress. The domestic purposes benefit reforms that we passed through the House late last year are now being implemented. We saw a major change in the abatement regime, whereby, for example, a person in a part-time job will retain up to $35 or $40 in his or her hand as a result of those changes. We will watch those changes closely during this year, and, as the Minister of Finance has signalled, if circumstances carry on as they currently are, with there being surpluses, we may be able to move on abatement across a wider range of beneficiaries.
Judy Turner: How does the Minister reconcile the paradox between the significant number of people who still remain on the unemployment benefit and claims of skill shortages around New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The paradox, as the member puts it, is simply one of often finding people in the wrong place with the wrong skills around the country. If we were to go to a place like Tasman-Marlborough today, we would find that the register dropped as low as 80 people over the summer period, because of the success of the seasonal worker programme. If we have the right skills, with people in the right place, we will get them employed.
Judy Turner: In the light of the fact that employment shortages and surpluses tend to be geographically concentrated, does the Minister then agree that it makes sense to encourage internal migration to reduce those disparities, and will he consider extending assistance to those who are prepared to move to take up work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do agree that it is an idea for people to shift, although it is not as easy as it sounds. For example, people are often tied into a community by the fact that they own a house, and the ability to shift is therefore always subject to those kinds of conditions. However, we already do offer relocation allowances. We often literally drive people from one town to another via a bus to ensure that they can take up a job, so we are doing those kinds of things already, and will do more.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that a form of compulsory training for the unemployed would be more effective than a compulsory work scheme, given that it focuses on getting people into real jobs rather than keeping them occupied, building an autobahn from Auckland to Wellington?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do. I seek leave to table Towards a Code of Social and Family Responsibility, which is the response to the report in 1998.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I seek leave to table the Work and Income report, The Evaluation on the Outcomes of the Impact of the Expanded Community Task Force and the Community Work Scheme.
Document laid on the Table of the House.
Oil and Gas Reserves—Nationalisation
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have the full support of her executive for her comments that “The 1937 nationalisation of oil and gas reserves took place in the public interest,”; if not, why not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister conscious of statements made by the Hon Tariana Turia that the Government’s stated position resulted in “a further loss of property right” and that “Mâori had been short-changed.”; if she is conscious of those statements, what action, if any, will she take in relation to them?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, on behalf of the Prime Minister: the Prime Minister is conscious of those statements, and, as she is reported as saying in the Dominion Post, Mâori MPs have a right to advocate for their people, but at the end of the day it is the Government that has the position, and it is that position that is to be supported.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I asking the stand-in Minister this—
Mr SPEAKER: Ask the Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Prime Minister, I presume.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, not the word “stand-in”, please. There is a proper term.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I can ask the acting Prime Minister this: given that in 1937 the Mâori people from that area backed the Labour Party in the Mâori seats, why would the Mâori members in her party now wish to go back on that support by their ancestors at that time?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Mâori people support their members, which is indicated by the fact that all the Mâori seats are held by Labour members, because the Labour Party was the only party that decided to redress historical grievances and to enable those to be settled.
Hon Richard Prebble: Can the acting Prime Minister tell the House whether there is one rule for all Cabinet Ministers, or is this Government being inconsistent, and there are different rules for Mâori Cabinet Ministers?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there is, of course, one rule for all Cabinet Ministers, and those rules are applied flexibly and with understanding of the position of the members.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister consider that the interests of Mâori are subservient to those of the oil and petroleum industry; if not, will she enter into a good-faith dialogue with Ngâti Ruahine to work through the recommendations proposed by the tribunal?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the whole process of nationalisation meant that all individual interests were subservient to the national interest, and in respect of the second part of the member’s question, the Government will consider the report and the recommendations from the tribunal.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the acting Prime Minister assure the House and the country that all New Zealanders will continue to be treated the same, under the spirit of that 1937 legislation, regardless of the outcome of today’s tribunal finding?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes.
Hon Bill English: What does the Prime Minister say to Mâori who believe that Labour raised their expectations with quotes like this from the Prime Minister in relation to Mâori mineral claims: “You couldn’t get anyone more sympathetic than me on these issues.”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am not certain what the honourable member was referring to or what context that statement was made in. However, the statement certainly rings true in terms of the record of this Government on the settling of grievances, and also the acknowledgment of social and economic deprivation through the provision of resources.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the acting Prime Minister tell us whether she thinks the tribunal’s about-to-be announced decision is wrong in law; if it is not, will she therefore change the law that gave the tribunal the right to make this decision, which in legal terms is correct?
Mr SPEAKER: This is seeking a legal opinion, but the Hon Margaret Wilson can comment.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, we are still considering the tribunal’s report, which officially, I understand, may have just been released. But my understanding at the moment is that on the questions of law—I think that is what the member means—it is correct in acknowledging that the nationalisation was perfectly lawful. We will look at the recommendations in terms of the other matters raised, and, after we have had an opportunity to consider them, we will duly make a statement.
Hon Bill English: Given the Prime Minister’s earlier answer on collective responsibility, does she believe that the Hon Tariana Turia breached collective responsibility with her attacks on the Government position today; or does she believe the Minister did not breach it, and the Government will not worry about it, anyway?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I do not believe that the Minister has attacked the Government. She has expressed a view representing her constituents, and she has made that quite clear.
4. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Energy: Has the Government received any reports from Trans Power New Zealand Limited regarding a need to upgrade the electricity transmission lines that comprise the national grid?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Energy: Yes. Transpower’s business is the maintenance of the national grid, so it produces considerable information on investment requirements, such as its asset management plan.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister concerned that without an urgent upgrade to the transmission lines many regions could suffer electricity supply problems in the near future; if he is concerned, how would such an upgrade—estimated by some to cost as much as $1 billion—be paid for?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am concerned about that matter. One of the problems in the past is that the market system has not been able to sort out what investments should be made, and who should pay for them. The recently announced Electricity Commission will fix that.
Darren Hughes: How will the decisions announced yesterday about the Electricity Commission help investment in the national grid?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The commission will be responsible for establishing, as a high priority, a decision-making process in transmission pricing methodology that will enable necessary investment in the national grid to proceed. Under the current market arrangements, as I have said, there is no agreement in the industry about who is responsible for making those decisions about new transmission investments and who should pay. As I said, the Electricity Commission will fix it.
Gerry Brownlee: Given that the Government has sat by for 4 years and heard Transpower argue that it is not responsible for new transmission lines when there is new generation or new need, why does the Minister believe that this commission, without sufficient statutory authority to do so, will be able to make any difference at all?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, in fact, for a number of years the industry was calling for self-regulation, but that did not work. That is why, in the interests—
Hon Richard Prebble: They are Government SOEs.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, and in the interests of all New Zealanders being able to have hot showers, the announcements were made yesterday. The important thing is that there will be legislative arrangements to allow for the initiatives that were made yesterday to be implemented.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We know that today is a very unusual day. A lot of Ministers are not here and not able to answer their questions, so we are getting quite a number of transfers. But there is a point at which the Opposition’s right to question a Minister is completely abused, which is when a Minister who is answering a transferred question simply does not know what he is talking about. I would like to seek leave—
Mr SPEAKER: The member can seek leave, but, so far, he has not raised a point of order. He can now seek leave. What does he want to seek leave to do?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is on a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: Yes. I want to say to you that you can stand up and say I am not making a point of order, but the reality is that the Standing Orders require the House to behave always in an orderly fashion. They also require that the House is a place of relevance, and that, in question time, there is an opportunity for Opposition parties to put Ministers under some scrutiny.
I suggest that that concept of the Standing Orders becomes abused when we get a Minister who simply does not know what he is saying and has no idea of the question that is being asked of him. For him to answer a question—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. He has gone on for far too long. The member has made his point. I adjudge that the Minister did address the particular question, as he did the previous two. Does the member want to seek leave for something?
Gerry Brownlee: Yes, I do.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, please seek it now.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave for this question to be held over until the Minister of Energy can answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been sought for the question to be held over. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Ken Shirley: Did the Minister read the reports from Transpower to the Minister of Energy following both the 1999 and the 2002 general elections, and did the Minister of Energy ever read the report to the Minister of Energy, of June 2000, on the Inquiry into the Electricity Industry; if so, why on earth did he not heed the recommendations on what was required for Transpower, which could have averted the current crisis we are facing?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can say that the Minister most assuredly did read those reports, and the point—
Hon Richard Prebble: Did he understand them?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, he did understand them. He understands them better than that member, who says the solution is more market. He is the only person in New Zealand, virtually, who believes that somehow the market is going to solve the cold showers and blackouts in New Zealand. What the Minister announced yesterday was a comprehensive plan to get the problem of capacity resolved by setting aside some capacity. The vast majority of people now in New Zealand will be proud of the fact that we are finally resolving the problem. More market ain’t going to do it, and as long as the ACT party keep doing that, it will always be in Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave of the House to table the report to the Minister of Energy commissioned by the Minister on the Inquiry into the Electricity Industry of June 2000, with reference to the recommendation for transmission calling for more market.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen reports from Orion, the Christchurch lines company, that show it has managed to defer an $80 million transmission upgrade and postpone $100 million in other expenditure through cost-effective demand management, and what steps is he taking to ensure that Transpower takes a similar approach throughout the country?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am sure that the Minister has read those. Of course, demand management is an important aspect of Government energy policy. The problem is, though, it does not resolve the dry-year problem we are facing at the moment.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that one of the other major impediments to upgrading the national grid transmission lines is that under the Resource Management Act Transpower has to seek the consent of every local authority the lines run through, from one end of the country to the other, and an objection by just one of them can derail the whole process; if so, does he have plans to address this situation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am aware that there are some issues with the Resource Management Act. The Minister for the Environment is currently looking at a range of issues to do with this, but I think it is fair to say that even under the current arrangements there has been a lot of new generation that has been approved under the legislation that some people are criticising.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister stand by his answer to the Hon Ken Shirley today, when he said that the Government announcement yesterday had fixed the problem of blackouts and cold showers for New Zealand; and does that mean there will be no such thing and the crisis is all over this year?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: One of the things that New Zealanders have been asking for is a solution to the problem, and the Government is confident that the problem of capacity, particularly in dry years, and the inability to be able to plan for that, will be resolved by the announcements that were made by the Minister yesterday.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He may well have addressed the question by your ruling, but the question was specifically about this year, and we never got an answer. The public would like to know.
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is I heard him say twice that he was confident the problems had been resolved. I would have thought that was addressing the question.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry; I would have given Mr Brown one.
Peter Brown: This is a very important question.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want a question?
Peter Brown: I want a point of order. I want to point out to the Minister that he has said something quite different today from what his Minister said yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please ask the question. He has the opportunity; he has not had a question yet.
Peter Brown: The Minister has told this House—
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member start with a question.
Peter Brown: I am not asking a question. I have a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is way of getting extra work.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure whether you can do anything about this—and I will try to put it more briefly than Mr Brownlee—but we do have a problem. We have an acting Minister, and we have to assume, do an exercise, that he knows everything the Minister knows, yet he is giving us answers that are contradictory. He has actually made an attack on me, saying that no one is asking for more market. I picked up the report and it actually says that part of the problem is that Transpower does not face effective competition. It is quite clear to me that the acting Minister—the Minister may have, but he clearly has not—has not read the report. I think that the Government should put this question and the next one to the Minister of Energy on to a day when the Minister of Energy has returned.
Mr SPEAKER: Let us put it this way: we put the question of leave of the House, and the leave was denied.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that the transmission lines supplying the West Coast are already running close to full capacity and will have to be upgraded before the region is left without electricity all together; and is he also aware that such an upgrade will mean electricity pylons will have to cross the Department of Conservation estate, whereas the region’s electricity needs could be serviced by the proposed Dobson hydro scheme, and the surplus exported on existing lines to the rest of the nation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am aware that there is transmission loss. This is just a by-product of the transmission system. Of course, what has to be weighed up are the long-term needs of energy versus some of the environmental implications, which the member has raised. The Government is actually currently addressing those kinds of issues.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer was very interesting but bore no resemblance to the question that was asked. The question was quite clear. It asked: did the Minister know that the West Coast line was near capacity—that has nothing to do with transmission loss—and did he also know that if the Dobson project went ahead it would not need to be upgraded. Instead, we were told an interesting scientific fact that there is energy loss every time it goes over a transmission line. That is not an answer. It is not even an attempt at an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not correct. He did address the question; he did not satisfy the member, but the answer is not going to always.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That may all sound well and good and fine, except that this House has been asked twice for leave to have a Minister, namely the Minister of Energy, answer questions that this Minister clearly cannot, and, both times, his colleagues have declined that request, which would sound to be reasonable and fair in that case. This Minister should have to sustain a whole lot of questions to determine whether he is fit to do the job, at all. Otherwise we are just wasting Parliament’s time. They were asked fairly: how about we put it off for the next time the Minister is here, and, both times, in their rabid fashion, they declined it.
Hon Mark Burton: The facts are simple. The members have asked the questions; the Minister has provided satisfactory answers. You have ruled—
Peter Brown: Look at the Hansard!
Mr SPEAKER: This is a point of order, not questions and answers.
Peter Brown: Well, we have to get something sensible.
Mr SPEAKER: That is Mr Brown’s final warning—or he will go. I said that during a point of order no one comments, and that includes him.
Hon Mark Burton: You have ruled, Mr Speaker, that the Minister has addressed the questions. There the matter must end. Members cannot relitigate your rulings.
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that any member is entitled to seek leave, and they have, and the leave has been denied. That is also entitled to be done.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to point out to this House that this is a serious situation that the country is in. The Minister of Transport, in all sincerity, has given an answer today but it is totally in conflict with what the Minister of Energy said yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter of opinion, and it is not a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you clarify this for us. Does a Minister answering a question in the House speak for the Government?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, he does. He has a range of information given to him, on behalf of the Minister’s office, and of course the Government has to stand by the answers given. The member, I think, was well aware of that fact.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister aware that economic growth has continued in Christchurch, while peak electricity demand has stayed constant, thanks to demand management efforts by Orion, and that in its own words “prices are lower and resource use is more efficient”; and what is he doing to encourage a similar energy-efficiency culture on the West Coast?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am certainly aware of economic growth in that particular part of the country. I am not particularly aware of the correlation the member raises, but I am aware of the point she is making about energy efficiency and economic growth. The Government, as the member knows, has a comprehensive plan for economic efficiency.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I waited until the end of the question because I did not want to disrupt it. You have given a very clear ruling about members not being able to use computers, PCs, or electronic gadgetry in the House. I ask if you would also revisit the issue of knitting, because the member for Hamilton East, Dianne Yates, sits and knits during question time. I think that we have come to the stage where that does bring the House into disrepute. If members are not allowed to sit in the Chamber and use a computer as part of their work, they are not allowed to access any research they have on a computer because they cannot have a computer in the Chamber, then I think for a Government member to sit in the Chamber and knit does bring the place into disrepute.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised two issues. The first issue concerns laptops in the Chamber. Of course they are permitted, provided they are battery powered and remain silent, except for a beep when turning them off. There has never been any objection to that. I have the ruling here, which the member can have. Secondly, as far as knitting is concerned, I have made a ruling that any Minister in the chair cannot knit but at other times I have not ruled that out.
RON MARK (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for clarifying that. Can I just have confirmation. One of my hobbies is restoring an Austin A35, and I have a carburettor that needs working on. Is it OK if I bring it into the Chamber and work on it?
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is taking the time out of the House on something that is irrelevant. I have said that if it is silent, yes.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you might want to reconsider that, because I am not sure whether repairing a carburettor would be silent, but it would be messy. I am asking if you could reconsider your ruling on knitting—I am not asking for a ruling now—because I think that, particularly during question time, at a time of a lot of importance and when the gallery is full, for the member for Hamilton East, Dianne Yates, to sit there and knit brings the House into disrepute.
Mr SPEAKER: Put it this way. I would be very happy for any member of the House to write to me about that matter, or any other matter, and it will get immediate consideration. As far as Mr Mark is concerned, I am not an engineer and I do not quite know what he meant but if he is reasonable and fair, then of course we will allow his request.
Te Mângai Pâho—Mâori Sportscasting International
5. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Since receiving from me the emails between Te Mângai Pâho’s Mr Tame Te Rangi and Mâori Sportscasting International, what action has he taken, and does he now accept that Mr Te Rangi accepted “payment for services”?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I sought information from the chief executive of Te Puni Kôkiri on the origins and authenticity of the email. The board will be reporting within the next few days.
Rodney Hide: Is he aware that a former Mâori Sportscasting International employee has told Te Puni Kôkiri and Treasury that he saw an email last year from Mr Tame Te Rangi to Mr Hemana Waaka stipulating that for a weekend Mr Te Rangi wanted a rental car, all his meals paid for, accommodation taken care of, and $500 cash, and could he explain to the public of New Zealand why he has not called in the police to investigate that case of bribery and corruption?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The first three parts of that member’s question I read in the email he gave to me yesterday. There was no reference to the $500 cash. I can assure the member that the board is about to report independently on the matter.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we have a difficulty in that the Minister did not address my question. What he did then was to address my primary question. I asked him whether he was aware that a former employee had spoken of another email to both Te Puni Kôkiri and Treasury. I have not had an answer to that. He has not addressed it.
Mr SPEAKER: Another email?
Rodney Hide: That’s right.
Mr SPEAKER: Was the Minister aware of another email?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.
Mahara Okeroa: When will the external review be completed on Te Mângai Pâho?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I understand that the review is nearing conclusion and the board of Te Mângai Pâho will be provided with a copy of the report early next week.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister explain how Te Mângai Pâho came to fund Mr Hemana Waaka’s two companies to the tune of $613,000 in one year, while Mr Waaka was already employed full time as cultural adviser at the Department of Corrections, and can he assure the House that Te Mângai Pâho was not influenced by Mr Waaka’s claims that he had friends in high places in the form of the Hon Dover Samuels and the Hon John Tamihere?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I cannot assure the member of that. However, I can remind him again that the independent investigation into the activities of Te Mângai Pâho staff is nearing conclusion. Appropriate action will be taken when the report is received.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister remember the very scurrilous attack led by the Labour Party on one Tukoroirangi Morgan in respect of a pair of underpants he bought with his own money, in contrast to this case that demonstrates significant misuse and abuse of public funds; and is it not fair to ask that he, not being aware of it even today, should resign?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am more than aware of the attack on Mr Morgan. I have no intention whatsoever to resign, as those people who developed Ka Awatea at that time did not do what we are doing now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a fact that those who developed Ka Awatea were never involved in corruption or misuse of public funds. In fact, it was an inspiration for Mâoridom. However, my point is this.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, what is the point?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That answer has nothing to do with the question whatsoever.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister did address the question. In fact, he gave a direct answer.
Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that Te Mângai Pâho has kept funding Mr Hemana Waaka’s two companies, when Mr Waaka himself had been suspended from his job at the Department of Corrections, after being arrested and charged for declaring there was a bomb in his colleague’s bag when boarding an aircraft at Auckland airport the very day after September 11, and that Mr Waaka himself wrote to Mr Tame Te Rangi and to Mr John Tamihere thanking them for their character references, believing it to be their intervention that saved him from being convicted?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I acknowledge some of the points made by that member. A full Treasury-led investigation into the overall matter is nearing conclusion. As Minister I will await the report before final conclusions.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave of the House to table a New Zealand Herald article dated 14 September.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table an article in the New Zealand Herald. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from Mr Hemana Waaka to, amongst others, Mr John Tamihere and Tame Te Rangi, dated 29 April 2002, thanking them for their character references.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rural Communities—Government Policy
6. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Rural Affairs: What steps is he taking to ensure that Government policy takes into account the views of rural communities?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Rural Affairs): I am sure that my Cabinet colleagues and Government agencies consult with rural communities as part of the normal process of policy development. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry provides advice to other departments and to Government on the likely impact of policy decisions on rural communities.
Ian Ewen-Street: Will the Minister respect the views of the 80 percent of farmers who do not want to grow genetically engineered organisms on their farms, and the 50 percent of farmers who want the moratorium extended beyond October as identified by the findings of the recent Lincoln University study; if not, why not?
Hon JIM SUTTON: Through the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification inquiry, the Government had the most extensive consultation process possible with all New Zealanders and, indeed, people from outside New Zealand. The outcome of that investigation was to proceed with the use of the technology, but with caution. We prefer that considered advice to that of ad hoc responses to polls that can too easily be manipulated to produce misleading figures.
David Parker: What recent feedback has the Government had from rural community representatives on some of its Budget initiatives?
Hon JIM SUTTON: Following the Budget last week the Government received extremely positive reporting on, among other things, our increased spending on biosecurity and trade development. It is fair to say that rural New Zealand thinks it has the best Government it has had for a very long time.
Shane Ardern: In the light of that answer, what is the Minister’s view on the closure of six Taranaki rural schools with rolls of up to 80 children, an undecided number of schools in Otago and Wairarapa, the slashing of isolation funding for rural schools, and further reviews under way resulting in more closures of rural schools with a proven high academic outcome and proven sustainable roll numbers?
Hon JIM SUTTON: Rural communities are always consulted when the Ministry of Education recommends that schools be closed. We always treat local views with respect, and they do frequently result in considerable changes in policy. The Labour Government policy, of course, is aimed at achieving the best education outcomes possible for all New Zealand children.
Hon Brian Donnelly: What are the views of rural communities towards the adequacy of the formula for targeted isolation funding for rural schools, and can the Minister explain how the Government has taken regard of these views?
Hon JIM SUTTON: It has been my observation and my experience from responses to the changes that those who gain from the changes think that they are good, and those who lose from the changes think that they are not very good.
Ian Ewen-Street: Why does the Minister not respect the views of rural communities in New Zealand as his counterparts have in the state Governments of Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia, which have listened to their rural communities and extended the moratoria on genetically engineered crops by 3 years?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I have already answered the member’s question on genetic modification, but I can assure him that the overwhelming weight of evidence given by representatives of rural communities to the Government through all the sources and routes available to them has been in support of the careful proceeding with genetic modification technology.
Farming—Sustainable Farming Fund
7. JANET MACKEY (NZ Labour—East Coast) to the Minister for Rural Affairs: What reports has he received on the Government’s decision to extend the Sustainable Farming Fund for another 3 years?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Rural Affairs): The response to the announcement that the Sustainable Farming Fund was to be extended has been overwhelmingly positive. Applications have already been received for the next round, and those applications close on 6 June.
Janet Mackey: What has the Sustainable Farming Fund achieved so far?
Hon JIM SUTTON: In the last 3 years, 184 projects have been provided with grant support from the fund. An independent evaluation of the fund has demonstrated that the fund is achieving its intended purpose of supporting community-driven projects aimed at improving financial and environmental performance of land-based sectors.
Treaty of Waitangi—Oil and Gas Nationalisation
8. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Under what circumstances does she consider that the national interest should override rights under the Treaty of Waitangi, and does she agree with the Prime Minister’s reported rejection of a treaty claim in respect of oil and gas on the grounds that: “The Crown considers it [nationalisation] still to be in the public interest”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): I consider that the national interest, by definition, includes the interests of all members of our community including the treaty partners and, yes, I agree with the Prime Minister’s reported statement.
Stephen Franks: If there is a new principle of the treaty that claims are not valid if they are not in the public interest, why not apply it immediately to claims for native plants and animals, foreshore and riverbed, radio spectrum, taniwha under the motorway, and partnership veto powers of elected local governments; and if the public interest is not the overriding new principle, what treaty principle is the Prime Minister using?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I was not aware that there was a new principle. The Prime Minister was, in fact, articulating that there is a national interest that overrides all other considerations.
Dave Hereora: Do the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations in respect of petroleum mean that existing treaty settlements will need to be reopened?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No. Firstly, while the Government does respect the role of the Waitangi Tribunal, its recommendations are not binding on the Crown. Secondly, the settlement of historical claims is final and comprehensive, and this has been agreed to by iwi and is reflected in the settlement legislation.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm or otherwise a statement that she has just made that it is now Government policy that if the Government decides something is in the national interest, or perhaps in its own political interest, it will override the treaty?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, the reference for this debate is relating to, of course, the nationalisation of petroleum, so all the comments have been made in that context.
Waste Management—Waste Strategy
9. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: What progress has been made towards implementing the New Zealand waste strategy?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Very good progress has been made. Most councils have adopted the strategy. We are working with the private sector to help meet the strategy’s targets, and last month we launched the Reduce Your Rubbish campaign, aimed at encouraging individual people to reduce waste.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What evidence has the Minister seen indicating that the targets in the New Zealand waste strategy are being met?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The 2002 landfill review and audit shows that over 200 substandard landfills have been closed and that remaining landfills will be closed or upgraded in order to reduce their harmful effects. That indicates we are making excellent progress towards achieving our goal of closing or upgrading landfills by 2010.
Ian Ewen-Street: Given the statement by Barry Carbon, the chief executive officer of the Ministry for the Environment, to the Local Government and Environment Committee that the two quantifiable targets only in the waste strategy—the targets that relate to the recycling of organic waste and access of the population to recycling services—were unlikely to be met, does the Minister think that that represents good progress?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The member referred to the introduction of kerbside recycling as a target. As that was introduced in Dunedin last month, 90 percent of the population now has access to community recycling. I think we are well on the way to reaching the targets set out in the New Zealand waste strategy of 95 percent accessibility by December 2005.
Question No. 10 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): Given the difficulties the House had with question No. 4, I appeal to the better judgment of Government members and seek leave for this question to be held over to the next day in which the Minister of Energy will be able to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Please ask the question.
10. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Does yesterday’s announcement that electricity consumers may soon pay a levy to fund reserve generation, which would be made available at a higher price to flatten out price spikes in dry years, mean consumers will pay twice for that reserve electricity; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Energy: No. The Electricity Commission levy will recover the cost of securing reserve capacity, minus the revenue from any electricity sold from the reserve generation.
Gerry Brownlee: How can the Minister of Energy say no, when consumers will be paying some $200 million of extra tax levied for reserve generation, and the Minister’s statements yesterday made it very clear that, should that reserve capacity be required, the electricity produced from it would be made available in dry years at a much higher price?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the Minister pointed out yesterday, one of the problems is trying to get generators to produce capacity for the dry years, because nobody wants to take the risk when it may well rain. Therefore, the problem is capacity in a dry year. What the measures announced yesterday are about is ensuring there is an insurance premium so that when those dry years occur, we have the ability to bring that on stream. It is really interesting to know that the Consumers Institute, representing consumers, is cautiously optimistic about the plan.
H V Ross Robertson: Why is the Government confident that the cost of securing adequate reserve generation will be less than half a cent per unit on the price of electricity?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The cost is low because the reserve generation portfolio will comprise relatively low capital cost plant, plus heavily depreciated old plant. The fuel, though costly, will be rarely used.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that the Minister of Energy stated yesterday that the announcement he made would have no impact whatsoever on this year, and that New Zealanders must continue to save; noting that, and noting that we are also short of generation capacity, will the Minister tell us whether the Government is considering any initiative, financial or otherwise, that will encourage the development of increased generation capacity, in order that New Zealanders can have an abundance of power, and thereby reduce the likelihood of calling on that reserve capacity?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am aware of the comment made yesterday. This is designed to fix the problem in the long term. Of course, in the immediate term, people in New Zealand are still required to save and the 10 percent target for New Zealanders is still a live target. As far as incentives etc. in the future are concerned, there have already been a number of announcements from the Minister; for example, encouraging wind power.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why is the Government refusing to allow the levy to purchase contractually guaranteed, specific demand reductions, as well as an increase in capacity, and what analysis has been done to show which would be cheaper for the country?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: This is a specific targeted measure for dry-year capacity. That is the issue, and, as the member knows, there are a number of other initiatives aimed at energy efficiency. However, this is specifically targeted at dry-year problems.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister stands by his statements to the House yesterday that he expects some 700 megawatts of normal generation to come on stream in the next 3 years, and that there will be additional reserve generation during the same period of time, how will he differentiate between normal generation and reserve generation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That will be the job of the Electricity Commission.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you tell us what our remedy is now that we have conflicting answers from the Minister in questions 4 and 10?
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say to the member is that if he cares to write to me about the matter, there is a perfect way in which he can do so. I will then give it very careful consideration.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue at hand is whether this country is still in the grip of an electricity crisis. In question 4 the Minister said, “No, it is all over. We’ve fixed it.”
Hon Paul Swain: I did not say that.
Gerry Brownlee: I tell the Minister to read his Hansard. Then in question 10, in answer to Peter Brown, he said exactly the opposite. It may be in the country’s interest if the Minister were given a moment to clarify the matter.
Mr SPEAKER: No. That is a debating issue, and there is a Budget debate coming up very shortly.
Crime—Asian New Zealanders
11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does he agree with the comments of the Prime Minister made in respect to an oral question last week: “I can say that for Asian New Zealanders the rate of crime is actually rather low.”?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister is able to say that, how does he account for Senior Constable Steve Lamb being hauled over the coals in Auckland as we speak, because he said he would be far too busy to answer normal calls because of theft, fraud, fighting, assault, intimidation, vehicle crashes, disorder, domestics, stabbings, and a sideline of extortion and weapon-carrying on behalf of Asian students in Auckland, and one kidnapping a week, as reported in today’s and last week’s New Zealand Herald; how does he account for that when he gets up and repeats the Prime Minister’s bland line that Asian crime is not up at all?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I had been advised that Senior Constable Lamb has stated to the office of the commissioner that, on average, he has attended fewer than one incident a week so far this year where the offender, the victim, or the witness has been identified as Asian.
Ron Mark: When collating crime statistics by ethnicity, why does the Minister target Mâori, Indians, and Negroes, whilst lumping all other races together under such broad group headings as “Asiatic”, “Caucasian”, “Pacific Islander”, “Others”, “Unknown”, and “Null Ethnicity”, and how can he justify his focus on Mâori, Indians, and Negroes, when Mâori apprehensions have increased by only 3.3 percent, and Asiatic apprehensions—to use his own figures—have increased by a massive 77 percent?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I advise the member that those are the terms the police have been using for a long while. I believe that the term “Negro” is not in common usage nowadays by any group other than the police, and I hope it changes shortly.
Martin Gallagher: Is it possible that Asian people in New Zealand do not report all the crimes committed against them?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, and there are many reasons for that, including a lack of knowledge about the New Zealand system of policing, which may be quite different to what they have experienced in their country of birth. Sometimes there will be a concern about having their own activities investigated, as the member opposite will know himself.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that the Minister gets up and gives those assurances when he knows full well from his own statistics—if they are properly collated and analysed—that, for example, in dishonesty crime, Asian crime is up 200 percent, compared with Caucasian crime at 4.8 percent, Mâori crime at 5.4 percent, and Pacific Islander crime at 0.5 percent, and, on the question of extortion-type crimes and kidnapping, the Asian level of criminality is up 760 percent—why would he want to fry those facts?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The facts are that the Asian population is 6.6 percent of New Zealand’s total population, and it commits 2.1 percent of the crime. I am concerned that the member is attempting to cast aspersions on a generally law-abiding community, when their offending represents half the percentage of the population.
12. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Does he have any concerns regarding the Government’s relationship with Mâori, given that Whanganui River Trust Board chairman Archie Taiaroa said yesterday that Mâori were losing confidence in their MPs and “Mâori are saying, ‘Where are the politicians?’ I know our people are wanting them to come out and start talking.”; if not, why not?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): There are approximately 15 Mâori MPs in the House at the moment. This Government has a good relationship with Mâori, and, as with all relationships, we must keep working to ensure that the relationship is strong and beneficial to all involved.
Hon Roger Sowry: Does he support the Government’s stated position that the nationalisation of oil and gas reserves took place in the public interest, and does he believe that this position provides the “best benefit for Mâoridom”; if not, why not?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: In the sense of the historical redress claims related to petroleum, those things have work going on. The framework for contemporary settlements is a continued issue that we are working on as a Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked a very specific question, and no doubt it was for his Mâori seat colleagues, as well. He was asked what his position was, and he did not in any way address that issue. It is a highly political question, I know, but he is bound to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked a specific question. I would like him now to address that question.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, and we are considering the details in the report that has just been presented.
Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister think that MPs should be vociferous in advocating on behalf of their electorates?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: On behalf of all the Mâori members seated in this House today, I say that they have to be vociferous, and they are hard-working, conscientious members.
Stephen Franks: Is it fair to summarise the debate that there may have been between hard-working, vociferous members, as being whether the Prime Minister is right to state a principle that means “That was then, this is now; this is embarrassing, so let’s move on.”?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. Can I repeat that we have a proud record of relationships to historical redress. The contemporary issues are things we, as a Government, are working on at this stage.
Hon Roger Sowry: Given his earlier answer, why did he refuse to appear on Linda Clark’s radio programme this morning, regarding the petroleum claim, and does he believe that his Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs, Tariana Turia, should have broken ranks against the Prime Minister; if so, why?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have a well-set diary over a long period of time, and Minister Turia did not break ranks.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)