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Questions Of The Day Transcript May 22 03

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Free Trade Agreements—United States

1. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations : Is he optimistic about New Zealand’s chances of securing a free trade agreement with the United States in the near future, particularly in light of United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick’s comment that: “There’s been some things done recently that would make (a free trade agreement) harder to carry”, and does he think this comment is a reference to the Prime Minister’s stance on Iraq; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): Ambassador Zoellick’s remarks were his own. I do not intend to act as his interpreter. New Zealand will continue to pursue its interest in a trade agreement with the United States. We have known that this would be a big challenge but we are prepared to put the effort in with the United States administration, Congress, and American business and agriculture groups.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister really believe that opposition from the United States farming lobbies on New Zealand lamb and dairy products exports is the real reason behind Mr Zoellick’s comments at this time, considering that Australia also has a strong lamb and dairy export industry but is, nevertheless, apparently on the brink of signing such an agreement?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Ambassador Zoellick’s comments, as prepared for delivery, contain no reference to New Zealand whatsoever. It is quite clear and it has always been clear that the main obstacle to New Zealand obtaining a free trade agreement with the United States would be the objections of United States farm interests to additional competition.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that the “things done recently” might include Helen Clark’s criticism of the Bush presidency, her statements aligning us with China and France, and the heavy playing in the US of the picture showing her cuddling up to Jacques Chirac at exactly the time he was public enemy No. 1 in the US?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am quite sure that Ambassador Zoellick would never have heard of most of the things on the Leader of the Opposition’s list of complaints.

Martin Gallagher: Were Ambassador Zoellick’s comments a rejection of New Zealand’s case for a trade agreement?

Hon JIM SUTTON: As I said before, Ambassador Zoellick’s comments are his own, and I will not interpret them for him. However, the New Zealand Government does not regard this as a rejection of New Zealand’s case for a free-trade agreement. We will continue to follow the advice of Ambassador Zoellick to work with the congress, the Senate, the administration, the business community, and farm groups in support of our case.

R Doug Woolerton: Is it not true that the American farming lobby has no intention of ever allowing New Zealand to have a free-trade agreement with America, particularly after the war with Iraq?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The fact of the matter is that New Zealand rural interests are working increasingly closely with United States farm interests in, for example, the processing and marketing of dairy products, where New Zealand technology has recently added significant value to the US industry. We support the initiatives taken by congressman Charles Stenham, who has recently facilitated a meeting between New Zealand, Australian, and United States sheep interests with a view to jointly promoting lamb markets in the United States for the benefit of all. We intend to keep working to ensure a partnership relationship develops here, which will not be inimical to a free-trade agreement in the future.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Minister stand by his statement of 10 May in the Dominion Post in response to questions on the Prime Minister’s criticism of the US invasion of Iraq, that “So far it hasn’t made any difference as far as I’m concerned.”, and does he now concede that the Prime Minister’s comments torpedoed any chance of a free-trade agreement between New Zealand and the US; if not, what was Ambassador Zoellick referring to when he said the United States was disappointed at recent actions by New Zealand?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government certainly does not accept that those recent remarks torpedoed any chance of a future free-trade agreement. All I can say is that I continue to have an excellent working relationship with Ambassador Zoellick, pursuing our common interest in trade negotiations, particularly in a multilateral arena.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister regard Robert Zoellick’s statement on 8 May that countries must cooperate with the United States on foreign policy and national security goals before they meet his criteria for a free-trade agreement as bribery and blackmail, and if the Minister does agree, does he also agree that it is more important for New Zealand to maintain an independent foreign policy stance than to succumb to America’s wishes to dominate the planet?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I do not share the member’s uncharitable interpretation of other people’s comments.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of Mr Zoellick’s comments, does the Minister not now consider it vital that the New Zealand Government should immediately seek to improve its diplomatic and political relationships with both Australia and the United States, and if he does think that way, what steps are to be taken?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government has consistently taken the view that these are two of New Zealand’s most important bilateral relationships, and does its best to develop those constructively. However, by doing that we do not forego the chance to express an independent view on foreign policy issues.

Hon Bill English: What does the Minister say to those rural and provincial communities who will miss out on $1 billion worth of trade, jobs, and opportunities, who believed him when he said on 5 May: “Not too long after Australia has completed an agreement, we will be there with a good chance of negotiating one ourselves.”?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I have no reason to change that view. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is the only warning. When I call a member, he or she gets to ask that question in silence.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister recall his statement of 1 April 2003, in response to being asked whether sending troops to Iraq would help to secure a free trade agreement: “I do not believe it would make any enduring difference.”; and if so, can he explain to the House what actions, lack of actions, or comments by the Government he now thinks have made that difference?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I certainly do not believe that any comments the New Zealand Government, or members thereof, have made about the Iraq war have made any enduring difference to the relationship. A healthy relationship allows the free and frank expression of views. We disagree from time to time with our friends on many subjects.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member did not really address the question, because he actually turned it on its head. The question the Hon Peter Dunne raised was really the same as my question. We both asked the Minister what things had New Zealand done that have caused this change. He got up and said that he does not think it was this statement and he does not think it was that statement. What does he think caused the change? That is the question Mr Dunne asked. We want to know what New Zealand has done that has caused us to lose our free trade agreement.

Mr SPEAKER: He did address the question.

Hon Peter Dunne: If it is nothing that New Zealand has done, and if the issue is not one of opposition from the United States farm lobby, what steps does the Minister think New Zealand now needs to take to ensure that we are back on the list, in terms of the free trade agreement being negotiated at some point in the future?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am not aware that New Zealand has ever formally been on any such list, or indeed that any such list exists. All I can do is reiterate that we will continue to work with legislators, with the administration, with the business community, and with farm groups in the United States to advance our case for a mutually beneficial bilateral trade agreement.

Internal Affairs, Minister—Confidence

2. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Internal Affairs; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Peter Brown: Why has she put so much confidence in this Minister, when violent crime has increased massively since this Minister—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question related to the Minister of Internal Affairs. The member cannot switch portfolios because it is the same person.

Mr SPEAKER: That is absolutely correct. The member must now come to the Minister’s role as Minister of Internal Affairs. If he had not come to it, would he please do so.

Peter Brown: Has the Prime Minister noted that there is a direct correlation between the violent movies and films this Minister lets into the country with impunity, and the growing violent crime in society?


Peter Brown: Is it acceptable to the Prime Minister that a film is allowed into this country that displays a 10-minute rape scene, a man having his head bashed to pulp, and much more, noting that in this House we are not even allowed to use the word “rugger” spelt with a “b”; and, if it is not acceptable, will she insist the Minister does something about film censorship—or at least go and look at a film?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Unlike a famous former National Party predecessor, the Minister does not watch those kinds of films. Mr Graeme Lee used to invite his colleagues around to watch them, I understand, in the past. The Minister is unable to correct the Chief Censor of Film and Literature on these matters. That is a matter of legislation.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you would not mind, would you explain to the House, and particularly to the Opposition, how that answer from Dr Cullen was in any way relevant and necessary in respect of the question he was asked?

Mr SPEAKER: There is no need for that. The second part of the answer was perfectly relevant; the first part was not.

Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister not recognise that the Minister has performed dismally when it comes to such issues as leaky homes, Agent Orange, and film censorship, and that he has now created a fund that will rob local communities of returns from gambling?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The last point is completely untrue, as I stated in the Business Statement. That is completely untrue. On the issue of censorship—

Peter Brown: Going to!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: —oh, yes, yes—the Chief Censor is completely independent. It is not up to the Minister to decide what films that member, or any other member of this House, can watch.

Defence Force—New Ships

3. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Defence: What progress has there been made on the acquisition of new ships for the New Zealand Defence Force?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): I am pleased to advise the House that the request for proposals for the acquisitions of new naval vessels, matched to New Zealand’s wider security needs and known as Project Protector, is about to be released to six short-listed companies.

Tim Barnett: Will New Zealand industry be given an opportunity to be involved in this project?

Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, the Ministry of Defence and the Industrial Supplies Office are actively promoting the capabilities of New Zealand industry with the short-listed companies. As part of the tender response process, companies are required to report, in writing, on what they have done to afford opportunities for New Zealand industry involvement.

Simon Power: Can the Minister guarantee that all new vessels being built for the New Zealand navy will be built to a military engineering specification rather than a civilian commercial specification; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON: I can assure the member that the ships will meet the specifications as designed and arrived at by the agencies involved. The purpose is to ensure that we have the right vessels to do the job we require of them.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister, once again, try to explain to the House whether these vessels will be built to military specifications or civilian commercial specifications?

Hon MARK BURTON: I can explain to the member that the process by which the invitations—

Opposition Members: Just answer!

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will have an opportunity to answer, and I want him to do so.

Hon MARK BURTON: The vessel designs submitted by the six companies or groups that are being invited to do so are to meet set operational specifications. The companies are being invited to put forward the sorts of ships that will meet those requirements. On that basis we will make the judgment about which is the best tender.

Hon Roger SowryI raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Opposition took umbrage at the way the Minister started to answer the question, you insisted that the Opposition was quiet and gave the Minister a chance to answer. In fact, you directed the Minister to answer the question. The Minister has been asked twice whether the specifications are civilian or military. We know the process, but the Opposition is not interested in the process. It wants to know the specifications, and, at some stage, surely the Minister has to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to speak to the point of order?


Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. Whether it is satisfactory to the Opposition is not my concern.

Simon Power: Do those set operational specifications mean those specifications will be military or civilian?

Hon MARK BURTON: Those specifications mean that the vessels will be required to meet the needs of military and civilian functions, because the vessels are required to meet a wide range of defence and civilian capability.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think this is one of those questions where you would be justified in allowing Mr Mark and the National Party to ask some more questions, because that answer is a piece of nonsense. We all know what the Minister has been asked. A military ship is built to a different specification, so it has things that mean it will still be able to operate if it is hit; a civilian ship does not. There is really no reason that the Minister cannot tell us whether the specifications are military or civilian. Of course, a civilian ship can be used for military purposes. We all know that. That was not what the Minister was asked, and I do not understand why—[Interruption] I know that Mr Cunliffe is very proud of being rewarded and of being a Minister, but I do not think that is a reason for him to interject on a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, he should not. He will leave the Chamber, please.

Hon David Cunliffe withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Richard Prebble: I am really interested in the answer. I suspect the Minister must know, and I think we should be allowed to ask some more questions; otherwise, we have wasted our time this afternoon.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister does not have to answer according to the questioner’s prescription; he has to address the question as he sees fit, and he did so.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Prior to the Easter break, I raised a point of order along these lines of Ministers not answering questions, and you gave us a ruling after Easter. Part of the ruling said that the question was that if the Minister did not give an answer, could that be considered as trifling with the Chair. Your answer was yes, and would it therefore allow more supplementary questions. Speaker’s ruling 128/4 contemplates that if a Minister is trifling with the Chair, further supplementary questions can be permitted. In this case, I would put to you that the Minister has not answered the question and therefore could be considered by you to be trifling with the Chair.

Mr SPEAKER: I always hear the member’s comments with care, because he does not often raise Points of Order

. On this occasion, I do not agree with him.

Beef—Canadian Imports

4. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Can the Minister reassure New Zealand consumers that no beef fat products imported from Canada have entered the food chain in New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Acting Minister for Food Safety): I am advised that New Zealand has imported approximately 100 tonnes of beef fat tallow oil and 250 tonnes of shortening over the last 18 months. I am further advised that a temporary hold on consignments of beef products from Canada will remain in place until further information is available from Canada.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that beef tallow and shortening are both used in cooking foods, such as fish and chips and hamburgers, and that it is totally unsatisfactory for consumers not to know where exactly it is used in the food chain; and does the Minister agree that the situation demonstrates the urgent need for traceability of food ingredients and country of origin labelling so that consumers know where their food comes from and can make up their own mind about whether they want to eat products that contain Canadian beef extracts?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We are very concerned about the products that New Zealand consumers take in. We have very good traceability systems in the country. I can confirm that the shortening is used in cooking and that the beef fat tallow oil is used in cosmetics and soap, and I am confident that if the member has used any of the cosmetics, she will not contact mad cow disease.

Dave Hereora: What action did the Government undertake when it was informed of the situation in Canada?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government was notified first thing yesterday morning. Officials from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Health, customs, and biosecurity met, and a temporary ban on beef imports was put in place. Imported product from Canada was traced, and I am confident that this was a timely and thorough response.

Barbara Stewart: Given the latest news from Canada, is the Minister reconsidering her opposition to the labelling of imported meats; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We do not consider that that is absolutely necessary at this stage. We have a number of other protocols and systems in place. Customs data can identify specific imports. We have an ability to contact those importers, and we have an ability to recall any products that we consider are of high risk, and, of course, publish any further information that is necessary.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that the Food Safety Authority does not actually know where 100 tonnes of beef fat tallow oil and 250 tonnes of shortening, which may contain beef fat, have in fact ended up in New Zealand; and how can she therefore claim that we have very good traceability systems in New Zealand or that we are in any position to recall products when we do not know where in fact they have ended up?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We do know where that went. We are assuming that it has been used. It is a very, very low-risk product. The Food Safety Authority does have the ability to trace any high-risk products. No such products have come into this country. We consider that there is no risk to New Zealand consumers or the New Zealand economy at this point.

Free Trade Agreements—United States

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Does he believe that the statement made by United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick in relation to New Zealand, that: “There’s been some things done recently that would make (a free trade agreement) harder to carry” to the United States House of Representatives, was a reference to the Prime Minister’s comments about the United States Presidency and the war in Iraq; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): As I said earlier, ambassador Zoellick’s remarks were his own, and I do not intend to interpret them. New Zealand will continue to pursue its interest in a trade agreement with the United States.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen a diplomatic cable, dated 21 January 2003, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Wellington to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Washington, stating: “New Zealand could suffer economic harm, particularly through investment diversion if the US and Australia proceed with a FT agreement without a similar agreement being negotiated between the US and New Zealand.”, and if he has seen that cable, does he believe the advice that Government officials gave him and the Prime Minister?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I do not recall the particular cable, but I do accept that a free-trade agreement between our two largest trading partners to which we are not a party would have some potential downside for New Zealand.

David Parker: Has the Minister had any reaction from Washington DC on this issue?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I draw members’ attention to comments today by the president of the US New Zealand business council, Fred Benson, for whom I have enormous respect. He is well connected with the US administration and the US business community, so his words carry a lot of weight. I was pleased to hear him say that he does not believe that the door is closed to a US – New Zealand trade agreement. His view was that we should press on and do our job to show the case being made by US business for a free-trade agreement. That seems to be pretty good advice for me, and I think that the Government will follow it.

Dail Jones: What reports has the Minister received from the Prime Minister, following the Prime Minister’s recent meeting in Europe with Mr Zoellick, with specific reference to the issues raised in this question about the statement: “There’s been some things done recently that would make (a free trade agreement) harder to carry”?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I have had no report of ambassador Zoellick saying any such thing to the Prime Minister.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is Parliament to interpret the Minister’s answers to the House today to mean that he—the Minister—and his officials have no idea what is meant by: “things done recently that would make (a free trade agreement) harder to carry”, or does he not care what those “things” are; if that is not the right interpretation, would he now tell us what he and his officials believe the things are that have been recently done that would make a free trade agreement harder to carry? What are they?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The correct interpretation of what I said was that I do not intend to interpret ambassador Zoellick’s words for him.

Rod Donald: Has the Minister seen reports in Australia that claimed gains from a US - Australia free-trade agreement rely on heroic assumptions, such as the US abandoning all agricultural protection measures, and that without these there are no gains to Australia from a US - Australia free-trade agreement; if so, are claims of benefits to New Zealand from a free-trade agreement based on similarly fanciful assumptions?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I have no recollection of seeing the report the member refers to. I would say, however, there are potential upsides and downsides for New Zealand in this situation.

Hon Bill English: As the Minister is unwilling to interpret what Robert Zoellick said, can he give us the benefit of his huge experience as a trade negotiating Minister and tell us his opinion of whether Helen Clark’s remarks about the Gore presidency, her remarks about alignment with France and China, and her close relationship with Jacques Chirac, have made his job easier or harder?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am a persistent person, and I just get on with the job. I am confident that success will eventually attend our efforts.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact that the Minister may or may not be persistent—

Mr SPEAKER: No, he went further than that.

John Carter: Well, he did, and he said he would carry on with the job.

Mr SPEAKER: Confident—

John Carter: Confident—he was, but he did not answer the question put by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I am sorry.

Hon Richard Prebble: I think I can help.

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Richard Prebble.

Hon Richard Prebble: I think the member should listen more carefully. I think the member really did answer. There was no doubt about this answer.

Census—2006 Preparations

6. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Statistics: What progress has been made towards determining the content of the 2006 census?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Statistics): Decisions on census content are made by the Government Statistician. His autonomy is jealously guarded; so is his integrity. Recently Statistics New Zealand released its report Preliminary Views on Content for the 2006 Census. This document is the basis for further consultation and public submissions. Submissions on census content close on 27 June this year. A final decision on the proposed content will be released in October.

Dianne Yates: Does Statistics New Zealand’s release of its preliminary views on the census content mean that decisions on the content have been predetermined?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No, the contents will be determined only after the submission process is completed and the views arising from that process analysed. It is important to note that the content of the 2001 census did change from that proposed in Statistics New Zealand’s preliminary views. I encourage those interested in the census content to make a submission.


7. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What initiatives, if any, is he contemplating to deal with the increasing rate of Asian crime?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The police deal with criminals regardless of race or creed. In the past this Government has, and continues, to fund initiatives to fight all crime.

Ron Mark: Does one of the Minister’s initiatives include gagging the entire police force to stop them embarrassing the Prime Minister, as has been reported in today’s New Zealand Herald; a bizarre response would he not agree, given that by his own figures apprehension of people born in China for violent offences has leapt by a massive 297 percent?\

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The fact is that the apprehension rate of Asians per 10,000 Asian population fell from 117.7 in 1996 to 116.8 in 2001.

Georgina Beyer: What is the philosophy of the police in dealing with crime?

Mr SPEAKER: I do encourage esoteric questions, but that is a very, very wide one, indeed. The Minister may give a very brief comment.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police discharge their oath, and I quote: “Without favour or affection, malice, or ill will”. They are not interested in casting aspersions on groups of people in our community. It would be a pity if members of the House opposite did cast aspersions, because it would only stir up a climate of hate.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am going to take that as a direct shot at myself, which I deem to be offensive. I ask for your protection and my reason for requesting your protection from such aspersions—

Mr SPEAKER: If that was an implied personal reflection on the member, the Minister will withdraw and apologise.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It was not a personal aspersion at all.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That cannot possibly be the case when this Government and previous Ministers of Police have focused so on Mâori crime without one word of offence being raised. This issue needs to be dealt with as an issue, as opposed to turning into a personal attack by a Minister on an Opposition member.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has taken personal offence to it. I would now ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I withdraw and apologise.

Pansy Wong: Has the Minister consciously considered the practical and logical initiative of funding the Auckland police to implement the Auckland city district police Asian responsiveness strategic plan dated 26 October 2000?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am pleased to tell the member that the police are now helping fund a language telephone line surveying the Asian community about their needs. Police liaison officers are working with the community. There are talkback programmes and formal working relationships between the police and the Chinese programmes and organisations. Of course, the police also work with other groups to make sure that the Asian community are not victims of crime and are not singled out.

Dr Muriel Newman: Is the Minister concerned about being asked about Asian crime in the light of Statistics New Zealand figures showing Mâori conviction rates are double Pacific Island rates, five times European rates, and 10 times the other category, which includes Asians; that being so, what initiatives, if any, is he contemplating to deal with the increasing rate of Mâori crime?

Mr SPEAKER: That is outside the original question. The Minister may make a very brief comment in relation to the original question.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have many initiatives to fight crime wherever it occurs and whoever commits it.

Ron Mark: When police officers like Senior Constable Steve Lamb of Auckland, District Crime Manager Detective Inspector Kevin Baker, Detective Inspector Gavin Jones of Auckland, and Detective Sergeant Bob Kerr of Christchurch, are all reported as saying that immigrant crime is escalating disproportionately, and when his own figures out of his own office show the same thing, why does the Minister and the Prime Minister continue to tell this House that the increasing rate of immigrant crime is low?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Because it actually represents a very small number of people in the Asian community. In the rest of the community crime is overrepresented by four times what the Asian community has.

Ron Mark: What is the Minister doing to assist the New Zealand police force out there trying to keep our streets safe when its officers are required to deal with 300,000 people in New Zealand who do not speak English?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not think that the last statement is true.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unless the Government is about to deny its own figures, is the Minister now calling me a liar?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister is entitled to give his opinion, which was perfectly adequate.

Pansy Wong: I seek the leave of the House to table the document, Auckland City District Police Asian Responsiveness Strategic Plan dated 26 October 2000.

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

Question No. 5 to Minister

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I seek leave to table a series of documents that relate to question No. 5—a diplomatic cable from Washington to Wellington dated 28 May 2002, Treasury Report of 6 November 2002 on the harm to the New Zealand economy if there is not a New Zealand – US free-trade agreement, and a diplomatic cable from Wellington to Washington dated 21 January 2003, which I quoted in a supplementary question.

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

Oil and Gas—Waitangi Tribunal

8. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National) to the Prime Minister: When the Hon Margaret Wilson, on her behalf, said yesterday that “the Government will consider the report and the recommendations from the tribunal”, does this mean that the Government may still accept a claim by Mâori for compensation regarding petroleum; if not, why did she make this statement?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Government will consider the tribunal’s report because it has implications for the settlement process beyond the specific issues of using petroleum as compensation in Taranaki. On the evidence and advice that I have I see no reason to change the position relating to compensation in respect of petroleum.

Hon Roger Sowry: When the Prime Minister said that the issue of contemporary claims “should be parked as an issue for another day”, and “we cannot deal with this at this time”, will she now, after 2½ years, deal with the issue and tell Mâori and the whole of New Zealand what Labour’s position is on contemporary claims for natural resources such as petroleum?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The report deals with petroleum and Crown minerals in historical context. It does not deal with it in a contemporary claim context. However, we are looking at the issue of contemporary claims at the moment.

Jill Pettis: Could the Minister please advise what are the other implications of the tribunal’s petroleum report?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The report has introduced the new notion of a treaty interest, the meaning and extent of which needs to be better understood. This notion appears to suggest that settlements agreed by claimants and the Crown should not be full and final, and could be revisited in certain circumstances.

Stephen Franks: What criteria are applied by the Government in assessing the national or public interest affected by treaty claims, whether contemporary or historical, and for how long have these principles been applied?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The principles have been applied in terms of, certainly, petroleum since 1937, but it is the Crown Minerals Act that contains the provision relating to the Crown use of Crown minerals. In other words this is also being incorporated in the Government’s Crown principles governing the negotiation of historical settlements. There is a section at page 94 stating quite clearly that natural resources are not available for general use in settlements in the way that cash or surplus lands are.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister stand by Michael Cullen’s statement in April that “it genuinely makes the treaty a living document when new applications or implications may rise as circumstances change”; if so, how is that consistent with the Government’s treaty settlement policy that all settlements are final and cannot be reviewed to take account of those new applications or implications such as petroleum resources?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes to the first question, and the answer to the second question is that the full and final settlement relates to the negotiation of the historical claims and grievances that have been recognised and incorporated in the deed and in legislation. So it relates to that. It is an agreed position. Within that is an acknowledgement that Crown minerals are not the subject of compensation in terms of cash or land.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s last answer mean that although it is the Government’s position that all settlements to date are full and final there is now an opportunity for that provision to be reviewed in what was described in the report as contemporary settlements; if so, what are the implications of that?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The tribunal’s report appears to argue not that contemporary issues should reopen historical settlements, but that historical settlements should be reopened for this matter relating to royalties for Crown minerals. So in other words that is why the Government needs to consider the tribunal’s report further because it appears to be relating to historical settlements that have already been settled with the agreement of both parties. So that is why the significance of this report is taking some time to work through.

Hon Roger Sowry: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Hon Margaret Wilson’s comments that the tribunal has seen fit “to extend the jurisprudence in this area by creating a new concept of treaty interest”, and if she does agree with those comments will the Government support the new concept of treaty interests; if so, how?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes. I agree with the Hon Margaret Wilson’s comments. That is precisely why we are, as a Government, taking time to consider the implication of that precise issue of what is meant by “treaty interest”.

Stephen Franks: I return to my previous supplementary question to the Prime Minister. I ask about the criteria as applied in the national or public interest generally, not just petroleum—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question is being foreshadowed by a long explanatory statement about the member’s previous question. He is there to ask a question, not explain what he meant the first time around.

Mr SPEAKER: I would like the member to come to the question. I am sure he can rephrase it.

Stephen Franks: What criteria or factors are applied in the national or public interest test generally; if claim settlements need not all be in the public interest, why not?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: My understanding is that the “national interest” means “in the interest of all sections of the community”, and it has been declared that Crown minerals are for the use of the whole community. Crown minerals have been distinguished with that criteria as an assessment of being in the national interest in terms of their use.

Hon Roger Sowry: Will the Prime Minister today rule out compensation for royalties, or for a share of ongoing royalties, being given by her Government to Mâori claimants; if not, why not?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it would be foolish to give an absolute assurance without an opportunity to consider the report totally and fully. Only a fool would do that, and this Government has no fools. However, as I have said, there is nothing that I have seen or been advised that would lead me to believe that royalties should be paid in this instance at all.

Stephen Franks: If national interest factors mean that an expropriation can be made without compensation to those contributing to the national interest, what factors allowed the Prime Minister to decide to ask that the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) include ancestral and cultural landscapes, effectively nationalising areas of land from their owners without compensation, in breach of article 2 of the treaty?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I fail to understand the direct relevance of that question to the subject matter of the original question.

Question No. 7 to Minister

RON MARK (NZ First): I seek this opportunity, before the next question, to seek leave of the House to table a press release from the Minister of Ethnic Affairs announcing the setting up of a language line interpreting service designed to help 300,000 immigrants with no or limited English.

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

Question No. 5 to Minister

ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green): I seek leave to table a study by Ross Garnaut, Professor of Economics at the Australian National University, titled Australian Security and Free Trade with America, which concludes the claim games from US-Australian free trade—

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

Indonesia—Aceh Independence

9. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: What steps has she taken to seek an end to hostilities in Aceh, as the stated position of her Government is to see the Indonesian Government and the Aceh independence movement return to negotiations?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I have made clear that the New Zealand Government would like to see the parties return to mediation and negotiation. We believe that special autonomy remains a workable solution. These comments have been published in Indonesia and our embassy will be registering this position with the Indonesian Government.

Keith Locke: Will the Prime Minister be making direct representations to President Megawati Sukarnoputri to stop the military assault in Aceh so that we do not have a repeat of the East Timor tragedy, where New Zealand Governments for many years failed to fully meet their responsibilities to a suffering people?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We do seek a negotiated solution, but there is a difference between East Timor and Aceh. Aceh has been part of the State of Indonesia from its formation; East Timor was conquered by invasion by Indonesia.

Dr Wayne Mapp: In supporting the peaceful resolution of the dispute between the Aceh independence movement and Indonesia, is the Government committed to the territorial integrity of Indonesia—not just there, but elsewhere, including West Papua?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The West Papuan situation is similar to Aceh in that both have been part of Indonesia, but West Papuans seek a different relationship than the one they have at present. In both cases, the Government thinks that Indonesia should deal with its citizens on the basis of seeking negotiated solutions rather than military ones.

Keith Locke: Is the Prime Minister worried that Indonesian troops may violate human rights with impunity in Aceh because of the failure of Indonesia to bring to justice those commanders responsible for the atrocities in East Timor, and how will she be pressing Indonesia for adequate trials for those commanders?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government has made representations to Indonesia on both of those matters. Of course, we deplore any atrocities committed by Indonesian military in Aceh, but, equally, we deplore any atrocities committed by the Aceh independence movement against other citizens of Indonesia.

Question No. 10 to Minister

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Mâori Affairs. His office advised me at 10 past 2 that he was on his way to the House. I assume he is still on his way to the House, and I seek the leave of the House to postpone my question until after question 12.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. Please ask the question.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister is in the precincts of the House, surely there is an obligation on him to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I have just been informed by the whips that the Minister is on leave.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that there are two Associate Ministers of Mâori Affairs, could we have some indication as to who will be answering this question?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will find out when he asks the question.

Questions—Responsibility for Replies

10. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Does he accept full responsibility for his replies to questions in the House and for the actions of his officials; if not, why not?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Associate Minister of Maori Affairs), on behalf of the Minister of Maori Affairs: Yes.

Rodney Hide: In which case, has the Minister asked Te Mângai Pâho’s chief executive, Mr Trevor Moeke, for an explanation of the emails I tabled in the House on Tuesday; if so, what was the explanation?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The matters addressed by Mr Rodney Hide are subject to an independent investigation. Closure on that investigation will occur this week. A report will be provided to Te Mângai Pâho’s board next week, and it will also be made available to the Minister.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the difficulty that this House has, because the Minister answered a question on Tuesday in this way: “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.”

Hon Tariana Turia: He did.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How come it is OK for Ministers in this Government to interject in that way on a point of order, but it is not OK for anyone else?

Mr SPEAKER: I did not see who interjected. Had I done so, that person would have left.

Rodney Hide: It was Tariana Turia. Does that help you?

Mr SPEAKER: The member has indicated that. I, however, would like the member to carry on. Anyone who interjects will be asked to leave straight away. I have already done that today.

Rodney Hide: The report the Minister was talking about has been under way now for weeks and weeks. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the emails. The Minister said in this House that if the emails are supplied to him he will do something about it, he will look into it, and heads will roll—and now he is waving about some report. How can we have any confidence in, or accountability from, this Minister when, firstly, he will not give straight answers, and, secondly, he will not turn up?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a criticism of the Minister, which the member is perfectly entitled to voice, but it is not a point of order.

Mahara Okeroa: Does the Minister have confidence in his officials?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I want to correct a perception that the House might have incorrectly taken from previous answers. We have absolute confidence in the leadership of Te Puni Kôkiri and will await the outcome of the investigation report that I have just alerted the House to. All questions have been answered—

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member cannot correct his answers in a question. If he has given answers before that have given us a false impression, he should seek the leave of the House and make a personal explanation. When I listen to him, I do not know which question he is telling us was wrong and which one he is correcting. I think he should make a personal explanation and say: “The answer given on yesterday’s question No. 4, when I said so-and-so, is wrong, and what I should have said is such-and-such.”

Mr SPEAKER: That is not what the member said. I listened to the Minister very carefully. He said he wanted to correct a perception in case there had been any false impression given. That does not necessarily apply to any answer he has given.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Just to conclude, and to clarify the matter completely for the member, all questions are answered correctly, based on information available at the time. When further information subsequently arises, it is right that a member is alerted to the new information, and that is what has occurred.

Hon Murray McCully: Given that the Minister has stated that all these matters will be sorted out by an independent external review, which he told the House on 1 May would be completed the following Monday or Tuesday, which he told the House yesterday would be available next week, and which he has just told the House will reach closure this week, can the Minister indicate which of these three answers is correct, or would he like to take the opportunity to provide a fourth?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The one I gave.

Rodney Hide: Why is it that in this Minister’s portfolios, thieves, liars, and fraudsters can so readily find employment at the taxpayers’ expense, and is this the standard that he and his associate Ministers are setting?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I was not aware that they were in the employ of the ACT party.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not an adequate answer. The member will give an answer to the question.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I await with trepidation or otherwise the response from the independent report.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It cannot be suggested that that addressed the question. He was asked a straight-out question about how thieves, liars, and fraudsters can be employed in his department, and he says he is waiting for a report.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It is a perfectly adequate response, because the question contains an assertion that is the subject of the inquiry.

Mr SPEAKER: That is absolutely correct.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a fresh point of order. We have been asking the Minister of Mâori Affairs for some time about the goings-on at Te Mângai Pâho. As a consequence of earlier questions, an investigation was called for by Treasury and Te Puni Kôkiri, which has been delayed and delayed and delayed. However, new material has come to light, prompting further questions to occupy this House’s time. The Minister’s consistent response is to say we should wait for the report, or that a report is being done on this. This House, and these Ministers, are held to account by Parliament. They cannot dodge answering a question or reply to a question simply, from this day on, by saying a report is coming.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It is common to ask for reports, and the member said one would be tabled shortly.

Hon John Tamihere: I seek leave of the House to table the financial review report of the Audit Office briefing to the Mâori Affairs Committee with regard to Te Mângai Pâho.

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

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to make sure that this is a previous report that has been tabled.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it is.

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

Hon Murray McCully: I seek leave to table the Minister of Mâori Affairs’ answer in Hansard of 1 May, and his answer in Hansard of yesterday, giving the two different answers.

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


11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Does she agree with Pharmac’s press release, on the change from 1-monthly to 3-monthly dispensing of medicines by pharmacists, that the proposal “has the full support of all district health boards”; if so, why?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Acting Minister of Health): Yes, I do agree with that statement. Pharmac’s understanding was confirmed in a press release by Graeme Edmond, speaking on behalf of all district health boards, when he said that a proposal to change the way some medicines are dispensed by pharmacies is being welcomed by all district health boards, and I foreshadow tabling that document. I am further aware that at least one district health board, the Nelson-Marlborough board, is making a submission on the proposal. I have been advised that this submission does not oppose the proposal, but, of course, they are most certainly entitled to make a submission.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is it true that district health board chief executives were told not to pass on the information to board members and pharmacists, as alleged by Pharmacy Guild representative, David Ross, yesterday, when the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board voted unanimously to oppose the proposal; and does that not make an absolute mockery of the role of district health boards and their members?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member may be very surprised to know that the acting chief executive of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has confirmed that, for once, the Marlborough Express was incorrect.

Steve Chadwick: What are the benefits of that Pharmac proposal for district health boards?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Pharmac is consulting on a proposal that would allow district health boards to invest an additional $35 million in improving health services.

Sue Kedgley: Has the Minister read a submission from the Kensington Pharmacy in Northland that says the change to 3-monthly dispensing of medicines would have catastrophic effects on the populations of Northland, and force the closure of a substantial number of pharmacies; and what will she do if Pharmac bulldozes ahead with its proposal and a substantial number of pharmacies in Northland and around New Zealand do close down?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is not a matter of ministerial responsibility. Pharmac makes the decision.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was: what would happen if pharmacies around New Zealand were to close down? That is the Minister of Health’s responsibility, not the responsibility of Pharmac.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I think the Minister could briefly comment on that point.

Hon RUTH DYSON: Actually it is not a Minister’s responsibility whether any individual pharmacy in any part of the country closes, but the member will be well aware that not just the Minister of Health but probably all members of this House are very concerned to ensure that all New Zealand citizens have high quality access to primary health services, including pharmacies.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Hon Ruth Dyson in her previous answer said that she was not responsible for Pharmac—

Hon Ruth Dyson: I did not say that.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yes, she did. I want to make it very plain—

Hon Ruth Dyson: I did not.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: —that she should have—Mr Speaker, I was kicked out twice for—

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I realise that. My problem with the Minister, who should not be interjecting on a point of order, is that it is her question and that is the reason I am allowing her to remain. As soon as her question is over she will leave. The member had better come to his point of order, because what he is claiming, I certainly do not recall, myself.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: My point of order is very simply that it is not possible for the Minister of Health to say that she is not responsible for Pharmac when it is very clearly the case that she is accountable in this House for Pharmac’s activities.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is now, I think, the fourth time today we have had a point of order that you have ruled is not a point of order. I have been listening at times to question time, and we are now having at least a dozen Points of Order

ruled out as simply not being Points of Order

. At what point do people who raise Points of Order

that are not relevant and are not Points of Order

actually suffer some kind of penalty?

Mr SPEAKER: I will answer that immediately. Some members genuinely do have Points of Order

and I listen to them very seriously. I know, however, that there are Points of Order

raised because they are political. I have raised them myself before I became Speaker. Yes, I did—

Hon Richard Prebble: Oh, very rarely.

Mr SPEAKER: Very rarely, Mr Prebble, I agree with you. I just urge members that they should be genuine Points of Order

and I take the spirit of the House that we make them so, but I warn people that we have to make sure that a point of order is a point of order.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister concerned about the ethical and legal implications of the timing of Pharmac’s announcement, coming as it has after contracts with the district health boards have been concluded?


Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister stand by her statement in the House on 7 May that “A doctor can decide that they”—pharmaceuticals—“be dispensed every day, every week, or every month.”; and, if she does stand by that statement, will pharmacists be paid a dispensing fee for every time they dispense a medication according to the doctor’s orders?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In answer to the first part of the question, I say “Yes”, and in answer to the second part, I say “No”.

Judy Turner: Can the Minister inform the House whether Pharmac’s consultation process has yielded a favourable response to the proposal from pharmacists; if not, do they have any recourse for their objection?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am not aware of the result of the submissions. The submission time has not closed yet, but that information will be made available, I am sure, by Pharmac at the appropriate time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table a statement by Mr Damien O’Connor, the Associate Minister of Health, expressing his strong opposition to the Pharmac proposals in respect of stack-dispensing.

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

Hon Ruth Dyson: As foreshadowed in the answer to the question, I seek leave to table the statement by Graeme Edmond on behalf of all district health boards, welcoming the proposal.

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

Hon Ruth Dyson withdrew from the Chamber.

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a press release from Pharmac stating that it is consulting on a proposal that has the full support of all district health boards.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not clear. Was the Hon Ruth Dyson asked to withdraw from the Chamber at the end of her question time—

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and she has.

Rodney Hide: My understanding was that one could only be asked to leave immediately—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is wrong. I have authority as Chair to do that. I thought it was important, because she was answering questions and members of the Opposition wanted to keep asking her questions. I judged that she should answer.

Ag/Hort Human Capability Strategy—Government Support

12. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki), on behalf of CLAYTON COSGROVE (NZ Labour—Waimakariri), to the Associate Minister of Agriculture: What support is the Government giving the agriculture and horticulture industries in developing an Ag/Hort Human Capability Strategy?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Agriculture): The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has facilitated the establishment of a pan-industry governance group and working group to oversee agricultural and horticultural industry responses to labour-skill needs. Five hundred thousand dollars of sustainable farming fund money has also been allocated to support the initial implementation of the strategy.

Darren Hughes: What is the scope of that strategy?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The scope of the strategy includes on-farm and near-farm human capability. That means the objective is to improve the recruitment, retention, and skills of farm labourers, farm managers, and farmers, as well as the services they rely on, such as shearers, rural professionals, and researchers.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister conscious of his own remarks yesterday in the Budget debate and his subsequent press release, when he said: “More than 80 percent of primary products grown here are exported. Getting into overseas markets at fair levels is hugely important for our farmers.”, and does he think that the Minister of Agriculture’s own comments in January this year, when he accused the United States of “arm twisting nations into backing a war with Iraq” are helpful for trade access?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: New Zealand does rely on trade. That is why the Government committed about $17 million extra to facilitate trade negotiations in the next few years.

Questions to Members

Immigration—English Language

1. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: Will the committee sit during the upcoming adjournment in order to hear petitions waiting for a hearing, including that of Kenneth Wang, concerning the Government immigration changes; if not, why not?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee): The committee is not planning to sit during the forthcoming adjournment, because it is making good progress with all of the work before it at present.

Hon Richard Prebble: Given that this petition has been waiting for over 6 months and that he as chairman could schedule the committee to meet on every single day of the recess from 9 in the morning until 10 at night, does he not think that his committee should actually start doing its job, rather than bringing the committee and Parliament into disrepute by his failure to hear this petition?

Hon PETER DUNNE: At the start of this Parliament there were 46 petitions before the committee. A number of those have been dealt with. We are working through them in the order in which they were received by the committee. Many of the petitions we have dealt with were before the committee long before this Parliament was even elected.

Immigration—English Language

2. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: Will the committee either set down the petition of Kenneth Wang and others regarding the imposition of English language tests or seek to refer the petition to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee or any other committee so that it can be heard?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future): The committee will be setting down a time at some point in the future to hear this petition, in line with the answer I gave to the previous question. It has no intention of referring it to any other committee, and I am not aware of any other committee that is seeking to have it referred to it.

Hon Richard Prebble: So the House is to understand that the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has decided not to refer this petition to any other committee; that there is a 2-week adjournment coming up and it has not even scheduled a single hearing; and how can the committee possibly justify its cavalier attitude towards this and other petitions?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The House is to understand no such thing. The House is to understand the facts, which are that the committee is dealing with its business in an orderly way, in the order in which it is received. The committee is not going to oblige the ACT party’s political stunt by advancing this petition just to suit Mr Wang’s opportunity.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer was out of order. He is not in charge of the ACT party, and indeed it is news to me that committees have decided to schedule priority to petitions in the order they are received. No other committee does that. What we actually have is a lazy committee and a United Future party that goes out and says it is defending ethnic communities, but then does nothing and will not meet even during the adjournments.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made a good point, but it is not a point of order.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

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