Questions Of The Day Transcript - 10th June 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
TUESDAY, 10 JUNE 2003
Questions for Oral Answer
2. Rail Network—Protection
3. United States—Prime Minister's Views
6. Te Mângai Pâho—Mâori Sportscasting International
7. Reports—United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
8. Mâori Development—Expenditure
9. Legislation—Guardianship and Care of Children
11. Petroleum Exploration—Canterbury Basin
12. Family Courts—Reviews
Questions for Oral
1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported comments on 25 March that New Zealand will not provide peacekeepers in Iraq unless the United States hands over control to the United Nations; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I stand by comments I actually made, rather than distorted reports. I have consistently said that New Zealand was prepared to help at the end of the conflict, provided there was appropriate multilateral cover; now there is, in the form of Resolution 1483.
Hon Bill English: Why did the New Zealand Government support UN Resolution 1483, which recognised that British and American defence forces as occupying powers with authority in Iraq and ensured that the United Nations would not be in charge, when the stated policy of the New Zealand Government was that the UN should be in charge, not the US?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The stated policy of the New Zealand Government has always been to see that there was a vital role for the UN. It was clear that that was a widespread international view. We worked with others to get a very good resolution—and it is a good resolution—and we have now been able to deploy in line with it.
David Benson-Pope: When did the Prime Minister first mention the possibility of sending engineers to assist with the reconstruction of Iraq?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I, and the Government generally, have consistently foreshadowed New Zealand’s involvement in the rebuilding of post-conflict Iraq. In respect of engineers, as far back as 6 February this year I was reported as saying that we would be joining an international effort for humanitarian aid, medical support, and the kind of work our army engineers could do.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall saying—as is reported in the Dominion Post by Tracey Watkins on 25 March—that New Zealand will not provide peacekeepers unless the United States hands over control to the United Nations; if so, does she agree that the United States has handed over control, or, alternatively, that New Zealand has changed its policy—which is it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member well knows, those words are not in quotation marks; they are an introduction to a Dominion Post article. They are not the words used.
Keith Locke: When the Government decided to provide additional aid to Iraq—about $12 million worth—why did it not decide to channel that aid through civilian agencies rather than to put our army people in a British military unit, when the British-American occupation of Iraq is increasingly hated by the Iraqi people?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government looked at a range of options whereby it could assist, and it determined that at this point, apart from the agriculture commitment—which the member commented on favourably earlier—the most appropriate and practical assistance with rebuilding could be offered by army engineers.
Ron Mark: In respect of the deployment of New Zealand troops to Iraq, what sort of risk analysis has been done on the likely situation that our troops may well find themselves in, given the existing situation inside Iraq, and has she already considered whether we might send in armed troops, if the situation deteriorates, to ensure that our engineers are well protected?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member may have heard the Chief of Defence Force commenting earlier today on that issue. He made it clear that the engineers would be able to protect themselves. They are not going in as combat troops, but as engineers. They are all army service people, and, as the member knows from his own extensive experience, they do go prepared to protect themselves.
Hon Peter Dunne: Was the decision to deploy New Zealand personnel made by the New Zealand Government in the form of an offer to the United States and the United Kingdom through the United Nations, or was it in response to an invitation from those States coming the other way for us to make assistance available?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: A number of processes have been at work here. Obviously, we have been very engaged with the UN in the shape of the resolution. We are also very mindful of the range of tasks that are to be done. When senior Government Ministers met on the afternoon of Monday, the 27th of last month to talk about the range of possibilities, we elected to approach the British Government, because when I had been in Britain a few weeks before it had been very keen to see us play a role, and we made it clear at that point that we would do so when there was appropriate authority, as we were sure there would be. In respect of the US, we knew what the range of things was that it was thinking of in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have had a continuing dialogue with it.
Hon Bill English: Given the Prime Minister’s rather startling claim that all reports of her policy up until today have been wrong, what words did she actually say that led to this reported comment: “New Zealand will not provide peacekeepers unless the United States hands over control to the United Nations.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member knows that those words were not used. They are intros and hyping up.
Hon Richard Prebble: I seek the leave of the House to table three comments from three senior members of the press gallery, Mr Colin Espiner, John Armstrong, and Tracey Watkins, in the Christchurch Press, the New Zealand Herald, and the Dominion Post, all of the 25th, and all completely contradicting what the Prime Minister has just told the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those three documents. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Bill English: Given that the Prime Minister did not answer the last question about what she actually said, and therefore what her policy actually was, is it because she cannot remember or because she is now going to rewrite history about the Government’s policy that New Zealand will not provide peacekeepers unless the US hands over control to the United Nations?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In case the member has not noticed, we have not provided peacekeepers. We have provided engineers.
Questions for Oral Answer
2. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What steps has the Government taken to protect the rail network of New Zealand and why have such steps been taken?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): Last Friday, the Government announced a joint plan for the restructuring and development of the New Zealand rail system. The proposal has real potential to enable rail to move more freight and people, reduce heavy truck traffic on roads, produce fuel-saving efficiencies, and deliver land transport in a way that involves less wear and tear on our environment. That promotes major benefits to New Zealand.
Helen Duncan: What reports has the Minister seen supporting the Government rail deal announced on Friday?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There have been many supportive comments from a range of sources, including the Rail Freight Action Group, Local Government New Zealand, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council. The deal has the overwhelming support of New Zealanders, as was shown in a recent NBR poll.
Hon Roger Sowry: How does he reconcile the Government’s position with the statement made by the Minister of Finance that “Toll Holdings had their chance for a cooperative approach, and they essentially told us to go away and get lost.” with the comment made by Toll Holdings managing director, Paul Little, that “I’d like to think of it perhaps more of an opportunity now for Toll to work more closely with the Government.”, and how will these two positions advance the prospect of this deal working?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Easily, because that is what they said. But in the end, the Government does not see itself as a long-term holder, and will be entering into potential opportunities if this deal is accepted by the shareholders on 11 July.
Peter Brown: Why has the Minister chosen to act now, when a few weeks ago he could have bought the whole of Tranz Rail for 30c a share instead of 35 percent at 65c; is it because he has just become aware of the problems with our rail system, or is it simply another Government knee-jerk reaction?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, the Government has been aware of some of the issues around Tranz Rail for some time, as the member would also be aware if he reads the newspapers. The reality is that Tranz Rail requested us to be engaged in negotiations in May, and the decision started to be taken from that point, which led to the decision last Friday. The real point is that this was at Tranz Rail’s request, and we acted very decisively once the package had been put together.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that Government ownership of the tracks, as advocated by the Greens’ rail package 2 years ago, will help achieve integrated land transport, and can he comment on how it will assist in retaining the Napier-Gisborne line and advancing a spur line to the new port at Marsden Point?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I can confirm that, and of course the rail network is an important part of the New Zealand transport strategy that the Green Party and the Labour-led Government announced just before Christmas. The reality is that we have not been able to have a strategy without the rail network operating effectively. Of course, it now allows us to address the issue of the Napier-Gisborne line, and the Marsden spur line as well, to take into account the increase in freight that is likely to go along that line.
Larry Baldock: What can the Minister say to those who suggest that Tranz Rail should have been left to go into statutory management or receivership, so that the Government could have got the cheapest possible deal, and what would have been the economic impact of this on New Zealand’s economy?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Those who say that do not understand, firstly, the rail business and, secondly, that the economic impact of such a situation, where freight and people would stop being able to be moved in New Zealand, was incalculable. This is a good deal for New Zealand and I say to the National Party that it should hang its head in shame for the mess it created.
Hon Richard Prebble: How much work did the Government do before it committed the taxpayer to taking protection of the rail network; firstly, did it not know that rail is actually cash positive at the moment, so no receiver would have stopped running the railway for one minute, and, secondly, where did he get the figure of $100 million for the cost of upgrading rail—is he aware, for example, that on the West Coast line there are 300 bridges, and that most commentators think that the cost to the taxpayer will be many times greater—and will he resign if the figure turns out to be higher than he has publicly said?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may answer two.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Considerable work was done. I am not actually aware that there are 300 bridges; I know that there are quite a large number. But, as I say, the importance of this to the New Zealand economy is critical, and we are very pleased to have been able to take back involvement in this important part of the transport system’s infrastructure—in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders.
Questions for Oral
United States—Prime Minister's Views
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What was her reaction to reported comments made by a United States Government spokesman that personal attacks by her on President Bush had been “beyond the call” and that her remark about Al Gore had been the “coup de grace”, and did those comments influence her decisions about deploying New Zealand Defence Force personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Very restrained, and no.
Hon Bill English: In the light of the comment from Robert Zoellick that there had been “some things done recently that would make a free-trade agreement harder to carry to Congress”, does the Prime Minister believe that her announcement yesterday improves the prospects of New Zealand getting a free-trade agreement, or not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I am inclined to agree with are the words of the member himself. He said in the Listener a few weeks ago that wanting a free-trade agreement was “not anything like a good or sufficient reason for being involved”.
Jill Pettis: Can the Prime Minister advise the House of the factors that the Government considered before making the deployments?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There were two key factors. Firstly, the Government took into account that UN Resolution 1483 provided cover for the deployments, and, secondly, there was a need for Iraq to be rebuilt as quickly as possible and there is a need to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a failed State enabling terrorists to operate freely from it.
Hon Ken Shirley: If the Prime Minister is relying upon the single UN Resolution 1483 for her Government’s about-face on Iraq, how is it that none of the previous 17 UN resolutions, culminating in Resolution 1441—all of which were ignored by Saddam Hussein—were adequate in her judgment to justify military intervention?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member will be aware of the legal advice the Government received, which said that the only explicit authority for military intervention would have come from a fresh resolution. It was the New Zealand Government’s view that if there were to be military intervention, there should have been such a resolution.
Peter Brown: Will the Prime Minister tell us specifically whether she acknowledges that her rather naive comments about Bush and Gore did cause deep offence and that the sending of engineers to Iraq is an opportunity to rebuild that relationship between New Zealand and the United States of America; and is she not taking full advantage of the opportunity to rebuild a relationship or does she regard it as of so little importance?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is a very important relationship to us, and it is in good shape.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In reply to my question, the Prime Minister quoted a legal opinion. I request that the text of that be tabled.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The comments referred to a legal opinion; the Prime Minister did not quote from it.
Mr SPEAKER: First of all, the member should have raised the issue immediately, but, secondly, and irrespective of that, the point made was that there was mention of a legal opinion. There was no quoting from it.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not disputing this in any way, but we have just heard from Mr Cullen, and if Helen Clark was relying on a legal opinion and is prepared to table it, I think it would be very helpful.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that the advice the Government got from the ministry was released under the Official Information Act. I do not have it with me in the House today.
Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister recall making the following statement: “At some future point when there is an issue New Zealand does need to raise with the US at the highest level, I think there is a reasonable chance of being able to place the phone call and get the phone picked up.”; and has she made that phone call with regard to obtaining a free-trade agreement for New Zealand?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am sure that at any such time if such a call is required it will be answered.
Questions for Oral
4. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: What initiatives is the Government taking to increase the supply of quality housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): In the 2003 Budget an additional $260 million was invested in social housing. That included some $100 million to provide another 318 State houses over the next 4 years, and to extend 80 homes to better suit large families. That is on top of nearly 3,000 State houses currently under way or planned. In addition, about $60 million over 4 years has been set aside to accelerate the modernisation of State housing.
Georgina Beyer: What is being done to encourage social housing partnerships with non-government groups?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In this year’s Budget $63 million was provided to encourage greater involvement in social housing by local government, the community sector, iwi, and church groups. Local government and third sector groups, with their strong community links, are in an excellent position to provide local solutions to local problems. I look forward to working cooperatively with these sectors to ensure that funding makes the maximum possible impact on the housing situation.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister confirm that the waiting list for Housing New Zealand houses increased by 1,500 to 11,627 in the 15 months up to 31 March 2003, and does that not demonstrate the need to review the lifetime tenancies that currently exist, or will he just keep on building new houses without ever investigating the need to sell some of the houses to long-term tenants?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm that there are more people seeking to get into State houses because of the income-related rents. I point out to the member that, of course, that relates to people who are in very urgent situations, and to people who are not in situations like that at all. The situation would be a lot easier if 11,500 houses had not been sold by the National Party. I say to the member that yes the Government is ensuring that people who do not need to be in a State house because their circumstances have changed are encouraged to move on to make room for others.
Pita Paraone: Will those initiatives be further enhanced by the Government allowing existing State house tenants to buy their homes and the Government using the proceeds from those sales to build further State houses, as some State houses are believed to be valued at in excess of $600,000?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, one of the problems that this Government faces is that the National Government sold 11,500 of them. We have a large waiting list. While this year we will be experimenting with encouraging people into homeownership through the mortgage insurance scheme, we are not selling houses at this time.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister give any indication of what percentage of the Budget allocation for third sector housing will actually go to not-for-profit or community-sector housing, as opposed to local government housing, and will groups like the Cooperative Housing Association of Aotearoa New Zealand be assisted further than they have been in the past in their bid to help with housing in very low socio-economic areas?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would hope that about 50:50 of the new money that has been allocated would go between local government and third sector groups. In relation to a specific organisation like the one that the member mentioned, I hope that they are able to work in a more relevant way for them and that they are able to build their houses, but I could not guarantee an individual provider getting money at this time.
Questions for Oral
5. DAIL JONES (NZ First), on behalf of Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is she satisfied that immigrants entering New Zealand have legitimate and sufficiently comparable qualifications for which they are granted entry upon?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I am largely satisfied because applicants are required to produce original or certified copies of their qualifications. Of course, however, there are occasions when fraud is involved and steps are taken to both identify and address those.
Dail Jones: Why is it then that we are hearing from employers and employment agencies who are exasperated with the time and money wasted hiring immigrants who claim to have a sufficient level of experience and qualifications to work in a particular occupation, only to find out that they are far from the desired standard for the job, and is this not a serious failure of the Immigration Service, which is allowing thousands of people into New Zealand each year, but with no guarantee they are suitable to settle in, work in, and contribute to New Zealand?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I lay the blame squarely at the foot of the Government that introduced a points system that took away the emphasis on qualified job offers being part of the application for residence.
Lynne Pillay: How is the Government addressing the risk of fraudulent documents being presented to support applications for residence?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The 2003 Budget provides for an additional $7.7 million spread over 4 years, which will strengthen the present immigration intelligence capability and provide more resources for the investigation and prosecution of immigration fraud.
Dail Jones: Despite all of that, why is it that the Minister continues to turn a blind eye to fraudulent and improper activity when it is plainly clear that something unscrupulous is going on in so far as overseas authorities misleading the New Zealand qualifications authorities concerned, for example, correspondence in regard to Indian universities that at the end of the day prove that the so-called qualified Indian immigrant has no qualifications whatsoever?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: If that member has evidence of fraud I suggest he brings it to the attention of someone who can do something about it. I signed a deportation order only yesterday for somebody who came into this country with fraudulent qualifications. He came in 1995. Who is to blame?
Dail Jones: I seek the leave of the House to table a letter dated 22 May 2003 to Lindsay and Associates in regard to such a problem, with the attached New Zealand Qualifications Authority letter of 6 May, and a qualifications and assessment report of 6 May—two of them—for a person whose qualifications turned to dust.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Questions for Oral Answer
Te Mângai Pâho—Mâori Sportscasting International
6. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Following his reply to question for written answer No. 1451 (2003), during his 20 February meeting this year when he first learnt about a Te Mângai Pâho employee having sports trips paid by a company funded by Te Mângai Pâho, what facts were provided to him that left him “satisfied with the board chair and chief executive of Te Mângai Pâho assurances that the matter had been handled by Te Mângai Pâho” and what, if any, specific facts have changed?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): Facts provided by the chair and the chief executive at that time provided assurances that action had been taken to address the matter. An external review of these matters, which included a forensic examination of Mr Te Rangi’s computer, has brought additional information to light.
Rodney Hide: Has he compared the answers that he provided to Parliament about Te Mângai Paho’s performance with the facts laid out in the Treasury-led review; if so, why has he not apologised to Parliament and to the public of New Zealand for having so misled them?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The advice given to me at that time was correct. I will apologise if need be.
Mahara Okeroa: In the light of the external review reported to Te Mângai Pâho, is the Minister satisfied that the former chair and the chief executive acted decisively enough to address the conflict of interests?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. In reading the report I was disappointed that the management and the former board did not take decisive action to put an immediate stop to the conflict of interest when it was first brought to their attention.
Hon Murray McCully: Now that the Treasury report into Te Mângai Pâho makes it clear that in answers to parliamentary questions the Minister failed to mention six grants to Mâori Sportscasting International totalling $174,000, can he tell the House why he has taken no steps to correct those answers as required by the Standing Order?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Following the release of the Hide-McCully report Litany of Lies, I instructed my officials to assess those parliamentary questions in the light—
Mr SPEAKER: A comment was made—[Interruption]
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you are about to punish the Minister for quoting the title of the report prepared by Mr Hide and Mr McCully. It was their claim that there was a litany of lies.
Mr SPEAKER: In that case I will allow the answer. I apologise. I heard a word that was out of order, but since the word had been made by the members themselves, the word can be used.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I instructed my officials to assess those parliamentary questions in the light of the external review report. My officials are also reviewing the other 200 parliamentary questions relevant to Te Mângai Pâho since 2003, and if it is found that corrected replies are required then I will provide them.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is an important matter here about the process of parliamentary questions that Opposition MPs rely on for information. The Minister now seems to be saying that the Standing Order is no more of an obligation than that there is a third party report that checks the accuracy of the answers to written questions. For you to accept that as a standard would be a major shift in precisely the wrong direction. The Minister has an obligation under the Standing Order to correct the information as soon as he is aware it is wrong. That is a longstanding, century-old tradition of this Parliament. We will not sit here and listen to a Minister say he will correct the answers only if the Treasury and Audit report state they are wrong. He has officials. He has a department. He has a Standing Order that requires him to correct his answers now because he knows they are wrong.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no change in any policy. If anything is proven, and the Minister has found out that there is an incorrect answer, of course it is his responsibility to correct that as soon as he hears of that. However, how he does it is his concern, as long as he does it.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That standard is unacceptable to the Opposition. The fact is that the Minister knows some of those answers are wrong now. The information that a third party auditor will be getting is the information his officials are giving that auditor. If they can give it to Treasury and the Audit Office they can give it to the Minister. We must be able to rely on a Minister acting under the Standing Order in good faith, and if he knows the answers are wrong he will correct them as soon as possible. Otherwise we end up waiting for months while third parties are called in to check every written answer. That is unacceptable to this Parliament and is outside the spirit and the letter of the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: I agree with the member. If that is the case, it is, and I would not resile from that at all. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 142/3 made by my predecessor Mr Kidd: “It is incumbent on persons who mistakenly give wrong information to the House or a committee—whether as members or witnesses—to clear it up as soon as they realise their error. If full information is not in the member’s or witness’s hands when the error is appreciated the House or the committee should still be alerted to the error with a promise of a full explanation when all of the information is available.” Now I understood the Minister to say that when all the information is available he will correct any answer, and I hope he does it immediately he knows. As far as I am concerned the member rightly suggests that if it is proven that there is a wrong answer then it has to be corrected. There is no change at all in that, and I am certainly not changing any policy in relation to that.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank you for your ruling, but I think you should go slightly further. What we have here are answers given by the Minister that we all have to accept under the Standing Orders are correct. I am not raising a breach of privilege because I accept his assurance that that is what he thought was correct. We now have a Treasury report that came out at least 3 weeks ago, and when we read it we see that it contradicts answers given in the House. How do I know that is the case? I know that because two MPs—namely, Mr Hide and Mr McCully—have put out a press statement that points out the contradictions between written answers, oral answers and statements in the report. From your statement it appears to me that what should have happened today is that the Minister of Mâori Affairs should have risen in the House and said that it appeared that answers have been given that are incorrect. It may well be that he still does not know what the right answers are. At that point he should say that when he does know what the answers are he will let us know. However, he has told us that even though he does know that they are wrong, he is not prepared to admit that fact until the officials, the same officials who probably misled him before, have misled him again.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a valid point of order to this extent, but once there is a realisation that there are mistakes the Minister should say that there are mistakes. However, he has to be given an opportunity to get the correct answer, and that he will do. I agree with the member that once mistakes are admitted they should be announced as such and that the Minister will undertake investigation.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a matter on which I would like your considered ruling. At issue here is the test of what can reasonably be expected of the Minister. In the case of some of the information the Minister has had over 1 month on full salary, with an office of 13 people and a department of several hundred. We are talking here about a very small pool of potential information—that is, half-a-dozen grants to a named person for a specified task. It is not as if we are looking for a fishing expedition across the whole range of activities of Government. I suggest that the test of reasonableness in the mind of this Parliament when it passed that Standing Order—
David Benson-Pope: Ah!
Hon Bill English: The Government senior whip might think it is joke, but we regard is as a serious issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please come to the point.
Hon Bill English: I suggest that the test of reasonableness that this Parliament had in mind when it supported that Standing Order was that when the Minister was aware of information that was different than that that he had given the House or to an MP through written answers, he would correct it. The standard that the Minister has suggested that he have one 1, 2, or 3 months, or until a report is issued by a third party, we simply believe that standard is far, far too low. He knows the information now, and he should correct it now. That is the reasonable expectation that can be applied to this Standing Order.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked me for a considered ruling. That is a fair request, and I will give him one.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have already said that I will give a considered ruling.
Rodney Hide: I want to add to what you might consider. I understand that the Speaker’s ruling is “as soon as possible”. We have a situation here where a report has been produced, it has been accepted as correct by the Government. Te Puni Kôkiri chief executive officer has apologised publicly for misleading the Minister, who then misled the House. So he has accepted that the information he supplied to the Minister was incorrect. He has gone on the public record as saying that the information was false, but in this House we are in the difficult situation that the answers still stand.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has virtually just repeated what other people have said. I will give a considered ruling on this matter.
Rodney Hide: Why has the Minister not called on the police to investigate Te Mângai Pâhu spending given that Mâori Sportscasting International paid for Mr Tame Te Rangi to fly to Rotorua for games over Labour weekend 2001, while Te Mângai Pâho paid him to drive his own car to Rotorua and back during that same weekend, or is it a case that his Government is simply too politically correct to have the police investigate what would appear to be an obvious fraud?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is certainly in order.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As that members knows, we have a review and I have moved swiftly to put Mr Gardiner in to ensure that things are tidied up. I also tell that member that out of 229 contracts let over the last 3 years, three have fallen over. In addition, in the case of Tame Te Rangi there are a whole lot of issues around that.
Rodney Hide: What action was taken by Te Puni Kôkiri and Te Mângai Pâho over Mr Hamana Waka’s business partner, Mr Sam Rahui’s email to a worker that explained that he could not get paid because, “We are still running on empty because Mr Waka still has his hands in the till”, or are there two standards of accountability in this country—one for Mâori and one for everyone else?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I answered that question earlier when that member brought up the email. In the case of the partner it is an operational matter and I do not know the detail as well as he does. He seems to be better informed than I am.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave of the House to table an email dated 2 October 2002 that explains that Mr Waka still has his hands in the till.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Murray McCully: Given that the Minister’s chief executive officer has publicly admitted to the media that answers supplied to his organisation and to the Minister, and supplied by the Minister to the House, had been incorrect, why will the Minister not correct those statements and apologise as required by the Standing Order?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Along with the review that I have enacted, it is important that we get the response right.
Questions for Oral Answer
Reports—United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
7. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports on the quality of life of New Zealand children has he been informed are to be presented to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child this week?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): My colleague the Minister of Youth Affairs and I have been informed that a report prepared by Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa is to be presented to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child this week. The Government has provided grants of $17,875 as a contribution towards development and travel costs for those presenting the report in New York.
Sue Bradford: Given the Government’s support for the mission to Geneva, does the Minister stand by the Government’s vision to end child poverty as expressed by the 2002 “agenda for children”; if so, why did he take no steps in the Budget to allocate any further funding to alleviate child poverty?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In the Budget I would list such things as significant investment in health, in decent affordable housing, in early childhood education, in new jobs, in the establishment of the Families Commission, and, finally, a whole range of policies that are working through the benefit system that will be of use to those children.
Dianne Yates: What progress has the Government made in responding to recommendations of the United Nations Commission on the Rights of the Child?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: New Zealand is to present its next periodic report on compliance with the UN convention in September this year. The report will address specific items such as Action to Implement a World Fit for Children outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly special session on children, current New Zealand reservations to the United National Committee on the Rights of the Child, and previous recommendations to the UN committee. The report also provides an opportunity to highlight such areas as education, health, housing, employment, and social services, where New Zealand has acted to improve the circumstances of children and their families.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: In the light of the statement made by Alison Blaiklock, chairperson of Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa that: “The Agenda for Children came out a year ago, but the Budget did not contain the investment to actually implement this agenda.”, can he explain why the Budget did not contain anything to address child poverty but $34 million for a yacht race, and in what way is that consistent with his and the Prime Minister’s involvement with the Hîkoi of Hope, or is this just another “Mahareyism”—doing one thing in Opposition and the opposite in Government?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Agenda for Children is a document that was produced and then sent to departments. They have been making bids through their budget round, for their particular areas of health, education, and so on; and Mrs Blaiklock knows that. That is the way in which this matter will be implemented.
Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister explain his reservation about implementing the recommendations contained in the UN report, particularly the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, and amending the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act to include all those aged under 18 years, given that these recommendations have been highlighted on previous occasions?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are no reservations around those issues. The Government has mapped out a programme of work in relation to, say, section 59, which I fully endorse and have argued for—that is, we need to have an education programme in this country in terms of alternatives to physical discipline. I think it would be premature to act now to change the legislation, but somewhere down the track, no longer than a couple of years once that programme is in place, I think would be the right time to move.
Hon Matt Robson: What has the Government done to address issues raised in the Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa report?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We have worked closely with our Progressive coalition partner—in particular, Mr Matt Robson—on these issues, and between us we have been able to advance issues in the area of health, including low cost for children and young people; providing decent and affordable housing; education through early childhood to tertiary education; 123,000 new jobs.
We have worked with United Future to establish the Families Commission, supported by the Progressives. We have a good record.
Sue Bradford: What steps is the Government taking to improve the incomes of families who live in poverty, thereby helping to redeem New Zealand’s international reputation as a great place to bring up children?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We have done a range of things. I point to the lifting of the minimum wage, both for youth and adults. I look at the rising wage for people who are in jobs; and, of course, 123,000 more of them are in jobs over the last little while, because of the Government’s policies. I point to the expansion of the use of the special benefit, which means that something like 32,000 people, compared with 7,000 when we came into power, are now receiving an extra $40 a week. I point to things like income-related rents—the Speaker wants me to wind up, so I will.
Questions for Oral
8. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What has been the total expenditure on capacity building, capacity assessment, and local level solutions grants by Te Puni Kôkiri since the commencement of the programme formerly known as Closing the Gaps, and now referred to as reducing inequalities, and how has this contributed towards building what he has referred to as “the strategy, structure, systems, and skills of whânau, hapû, iwi, Mâori organisations, and Mâori communities, to control and develop their own developing, and to achieve their own objectives”?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I am advised that between 1 July 2000 and 21 May 2003, $6 million has been spent on capacity assessment, $17 million on capacity building, and $5 million on local level solutions. This has contributed directly to Mâori developing their own initiatives to achieve their own objectives.
Hon Murray McCully: Can he explain how a capacity building grant made to K__ T__ skate club, in his own electorate, for the purchase of sausages, speed cream, holographic stickers, and something called Monkey Nuts, as well as giving the club a koha and paying a facilitation fee, is likely to result in the building of Mâori capacity?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I can assure that person that I did not indulge in the Monkey Nuts or the sausages, and I was not aware that that is what the grant was for. But can I say there are specific cases—and there have been 2,800 initiatives—that have been funded through this process; and there are a whole lot of good examples.
Dave Hereora: What are some key achievements for this Government in terms of whânau, hapû, iwi, and Mâori development?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There have been many achievements. Since 1999 there has been a reduction in the rate of Mâori unemployment from 18 percent to 10.5 percent; an 18 percent increase in participation of Mâori in early childhood; an increase in Mâori teachers; a major reduction in the suspension of Mâori students from school, and this is accelerating faster than non-Mâori students; and improvements to access by Mâori to better housing and health care. The list goes on and on. However, when the member opposite was in Government he did nothing.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the money for Mâori capacity building was first appropriated through the 1999 Budget as a $15 million sop to Tau Henare and his Mauri Pacific lot, and that when Labour took office not only was the money untouched but no decisions had been made on how that money was to be spent?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, I cannot.
Hon Murray McCully: Could the Minister tell the House how funding a trip to the South Island for kûia and kaumâtua, with the objective of providing “a range of mentally and socially stimulating activities with recreational therapeutic benefits for the elderly”, could possibly qualify for a capacity assessment grant, and how this has contributed to building Mâori capacity?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am unaware of that, but I am more than certain that I will come back with the information. [Interruption] There have been 2,800 grants made.
Hon Murray McCully: I seek leave of the House to table two documents, both having been released by the office of the Minister of Mâori Affairs under the Official Information Act, containing the relevant grants.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Questions for Oral
Legislation—Guardianship and Care of Children
9. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What steps is the Government taking to address concerns about the need to modernise the legislative framework for the guardianship and care of children?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice): Today I have tabled the Care of Children Bill, which repeals the Guardianship Act and removes the inappropriate language of “custody” and “access” orders, referring instead to “parenting” orders covering day-to-day care and contact, and will shift the focus from parental “rights” to parental “responsibilities”.
Tim Barnett: Does the legislation provide for shared parenting arrangements?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As the words “shared parenting” imply, such arrangements must be by agreement. They cannot be imposed. I am confident that the win-lose mentality around custody and access will diminish once this law is passed, as it provides for both parents having ongoing guardianship responsibilities, regardless of which parent the child is living with.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting the injustice of parents having to fight for years for custody of their own children when there is no question of neglect or abuse, the injustice of the Government providing legal aid for persons stopping parents who are responsible from having access to their own children, and the injustice of parents having to pay child support, and taxpayers have to pay for the domestic purposes benefit for a person when parents are both able and capable of caring for their children, what is in this bill to strengthen the rights of responsible parents to raise their own children?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I should point out to the member that not one of the three examples that he has used is covered by my delegation as Associate Minister of Justice. They all relate to different portfolios.
Dail Jones: Why does this modern approach include the granting of a parental order, currently called a custody order, to the homosexual or lesbian partner of one parent of a child, making it even more difficult for the other heterosexual parent of the child and bringing three parents into the court case, as envisaged by clause 43(1)(c) of the bill; and has the United Future party indicated its support for this bill increasing the rights of homosexuals and lesbians?
Mr SPEAKER: The United Future party can speak for itself. The Minister can answer the first two parts of the question.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: What the bill is attempting to address are some anomalies that have existed in respect of discriminatory provisions in the existing law. These are clarified in the law. Both parents will be permitted to jointly appoint a new partner as an additional guardian, and the sex of the partner that is so appointed will be irrelevant.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want you to reflect on the answer that was provided by the Minister in response to my question. She said that it was outside her responsibilities to answer for any part of the questions I raised about parents having custody of their own children, about parents being able to have rights, as responsible parents, for the raising of their own children. The Minister’s response was that she did not have responsibility for any of that, yet she has responsibility for a bill, tabled in her name, that covers all those very issues today. I think that I am deserving of a reasonable answer to the question I raised.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is her answer, and she is entitled to stand by it.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A member has to give an answer—
Mr SPEAKER: The member did.
Gerry Brownlee: —and it must be given consistently in the public good. How can it be in the public good for a Minister to table a bill that deals with the very responsibilities that Dr Smith questioned on, then give an answer saying: “I’m not responsible for these things.”? We have to have some standards, surely.
Mr SPEAKER: We do, and the Minister is entitled to say that she has no responsibility for a particular area, and that is the end of the matter.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: But she does have responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has given an answer, and that answer stands until it is proven that a mistake has been made.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the Minister’s name we have a Care of Children Bill. What is in that bill goes to the core of the issues that I raised in my original question. For the Minister to say that she has no responsibility for what the bill says in that regard, or for my question—which asked what is in the Care for Children Bill to strengthen the rights of responsible parents to raise their own children—is not acceptable. I do not think it is acceptable for the Minister to say that she has no responsibility for those things even though they are in the bill.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There were three issues that the member raised. He raised the issue of delays in the Family Court. He raised issues relating to child support, and he raised the issue of eligibility for the domestic purposes benefit. I correctly pointed out that none of those three aspects of the law is covered in this delegation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to re-ask my question so that I might have an answer, because those issues are important.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is reasonable. I presume that there is no objection. He can do so.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting the injustice of parents having to fight for years for the custody of their own children when there is no question of neglect or abuse, what is in the Care of Children Bill to strengthen the rights of responsible parents to be able to raise their own children?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: This legislation is getting away from the language of parents having rights. Parents have responsibilities towards their children.
for Oral Answer
10. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Can he give an assurance that parole conditions for convicted paedophiles are sufficient to protect the community and help them to seek treatment?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): It is not possible to give an absolute assurance that offenders will not reoffend. However, I can give an assurance that under the Parole Act the New Zealand Parole Board is required to give paramount consideration to protecting public safety. In addition, the Parole Board can set conditions for any release, including appropriate treatment.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that the real issue is the Parole Board is not ensuring that offenders meet the conditions imposed, such as a recent Auckland case when a paedophile was released to his family home, where a young teenager lived and his victim often visited, to be supported by his mentally unstable mother and two family members who also had child sex convictions, when this is direct contravention of one of his parole conditions, not to mention any notion of common sense?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The member is asking about the Parole Board’s actions. It is, of course, an independent agency and it sets the conditions according to the circumstances of the case.
Martin Gallagher: Is the Government considering any changes to the law in relation to the monitoring of child sex offenders?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. The Minister of Justice has announced that the Government will be introducing an extended supervision regime to apply to those child sex offenders who might not be sentenced to preventive detention. The new proposal would see those offenders subject to up to 10 years of supervision after their release from prison.
Ron Mark: Does it not concern this Minister that we now have in this country a situation where people who display sexual deviancies as a result of their mental or intellectual disabilities are put in the community as normal people, are then found to be offenders, are prosecuted and convicted, then end up in his jails as his responsibility?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, that is of concern, and that is one of the issues I intend to address.
Marc Alexander: How can the Minister give an assurance that paedophiles will undergo treatment when programmes like Safe have refused to treat a number of offenders because they have been released into situations that put them at risk of reoffending, such as, for example, the man who was paroled to live in a house opposite the park where he molested his victim?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Parole Board set those conditions, and then they are looked into and overseen by the probation service.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister guarantee that supervision of offenders will not be progressively eased, as occurred in the case of Barry Alan Ryder, when from July last year he was left alone for short periods, allowing him to reoffend in December and ruin a few more young lives?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That person was on parole, as the member knows. There was a severe degree of supervision—24 hours. It was relaxed, as the member rightly says, and, of course, these are the issues that we are trying to address now, looking particularly at extended supervision regimes.
Marc Alexander: Will the Government consider the compulsory naming of convicted paedophiles on their release, rather than having to ask their permission, so that the finger of suspicion is not pointed at innocent citizens who move into the district at the same time?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I had considered that, but if the member wants to put it down as a separate question I am prepared to answer it.
Marc Alexander: What faith does the Minister have in the effectiveness of treatment programmes and supervision for paedophiles when last year Kevin Arthur Thompson was convicted of indecently assaulting a 6-year-old child despite supervision and completion of the Kia Marama treatment programme?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I indicated at the start, there can be no absolute assurances that offenders will not reoffend. However, I am advised that the Kia Marama programme has a very high success rate with young sex offenders in particular.
Questions for Oral
Petroleum Exploration—Canterbury Basin
11. CLAYTON COSGROVE (NZ Labour—Waimakariri) to the Associate Minister of Energy: What bids has he received for the Canterbury Basin petroleum exploration blocks?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): The Government has received quality bids from four explorers in the latest permit bidding round. The area covered by those applications equates to approximately 18,000 square kilometres of between 7,000 square kilometres of offshore area up for tender. The bidders are drawn from New Zealand, Australian, and North American based petroleum companies.
Clayton Cosgrove: What other opportunities are there for petroleum exploration this year for both international and local investors?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN28Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I recently announced a bidding round over 17 blocks in offshore Taranaki, north Taranaki, and onshore in Taranaki. The offshore area is situated amongst the most promising exploration theatre in New Zealand for large oil and gas accumulations. Currently, the deep-water Taranaki basin bidding round is also open for tender.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm to the House that five licences were up for grabs in the Canterbury Basin, that he has received bids on only two of them, and the reason that the onshore licences have not been bid on is that explorers find the minefield of the Resource Management Act is just too difficult to contemplate taking up those licences?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN28Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Certainly, the member has put an interesting twist on that. However, I will say that the most promising areas have been bid for, and we were not at all disappointed with that result. Secondly, it is not the issue of the resource consents and so on that is the problem at all. It is simply the fact that New Zealand has a regime that is well understood by the oil industry, and I think it is acting accordingly. We have a very promising future ahead, and I am doing my very best to ensure that that happens. I would hope for some encouragement, rather than discouragement, from the member opposite.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he think that all this interest is because the Government has just allocated $21 million to oil and gas exploration by geological and nuclear sciences as a direct subsidy to the petroleum industry, and why has the Government not provided at least the same sum to renewable energy industries so that wind, solar, and biomass can compete without penalty with fossil fuels?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN28Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: First, I would note the support from the Greens Party and from Ms Fitzsimons herself for continuing gas and oil exploration. As she has rightly said, it would be useful to have such finds as we move away from fossil fuels to renewable resources. But to answer the point made by her, I point out that the Government has, indeed, a significant programme of encouraging renewable resources as well. I think that both of those things are possible to do at the same time. In the short term we certainly need gas.
Questions for Oral Answer
12. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Does she intend to review the secrecy provisions of the Family Court system; if not, why not?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes. Today I introduced the Care of Children Bill that will permit wider reporting of guardianship proceedings in the Family Courts so long as identifying information about the parties and children involved is not disclosed. The Law Commission is also reviewing that matter and released the second discussion document late last year called Seeking Solutions: Options for Change to the New Zealand Court System, which has raised this very issue.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister confirm whether she intends to open up New Zealand’s Family Court properly, whereas when Australia opened up its Family Court it had a massive decrease in litigation; mediation was seen to be a better and more cost-effective option, and there was a dramatic fall-off in false allegations—all extremely positive outcomes to families and children, and where is the drawback in properly opening up the Family Court?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The provision within the guardianship bill relates to all courts. It does not relate just to Family Court proceedings. An important balance has to be sought to be met in respect of the interests of privacy, and taking into account that often children are involved.
Russell Fairbrother: Why are the proceedings of the Family Court held in private?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Many Family Court proceedings involve highly personal issues. The Law Commission discussion document makes the point that many family matters involve highly personal or embarrassing facts. Therefore, the parties have a high privacy interest that is presumed to outweigh any public interest in openness. Children and young persons are particularly vulnerable, and the effect of publicity can be especially harmful. Balanced against that are issues and concerns around public confidence in the courts, which is why the Law Commission is reviewing this matter.
Richard Worth: Can the Associate Minister of Justice explain why the Solicitor-General wrote to Nelson MP Nick Smith threatening a contempt of court prosecution for breaching the secrecy of the Family Court, when no such letter was sent to National Radio TV3, or the Principal Family Court Judge, all of whom have also commented specifically on the case raised by Dr Smith, and why is a member of the Opposition being singled out?
Mr SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the Minister’s admission that her Government’s changes in her new bill are simply Clayton’s changes, how can she justify the Family Court’s obsession with wielding its power in absolute secrecy, and destroying public confidence in the court in order to hide its preferential treatment of mothers, its bias against fathers, and the incompetence of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, and does she realise that that obsessive secrecy serves only to protect judges, court workers, and lawyers, and not the unfortunate children and their families who come into the clutches of the court?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The whole thrust of the Care of Children Bill is to ensure that the rights, welfare, and interests of children are placed at the head of all decision making. It is the children’s rights and interests that matter under that bill.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)