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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 11th June 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

WEDNESDAY, 11 JUNE 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers:

1. Immigration—Qualifications
2. Te Mângai Pâho—Mâori Sportscasting International
3. Family Law—Confidence in Associate Minister
4. Prisoners—Deportation
5. Early Childhood Education—Participation
6. Capital and Coast District Health Board—Cardiac Deaths
7. Care of Children Bill—Participants
8. Offenders—Public Safety
9. Mâori Affairs, Minister—Responsibility
10. Earthquakes—Building Safety
11. Police—Ticket Quotas
12. Pharmac—Dispensing

Questions for Oral Answer
Immigration—Qualifications

1. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Immigration: Has she followed up on the correspondence tabled in the House yesterday by Dail Jones, who alleged the Minister turned a blind eye to fraudulent and improper activity?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Yes, I have. The individual concerned applied for residence on 5 August 1998. He had his qualifications approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in May 1999, and was approved residence in November 1999, all of which occurred under a National-led Government. The application was under the policy that applied at the time, when New Zealand First was a coalition partner. I stand by the reply I gave yesterday.

David Benson-Pope: What changes have occurred since she became Minister of Immigration that would reduce the likelihood of this occurring today?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am advised that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has increased the rigour of its evaluation. Changes since I became Minister, together with the increased pass mark, mean that the majority of the general skills applicants today have a job offer that is relevant to their qualifications or experience. The individual approved under the previous Government’s policy had no job offer at all.

Dail Jones: Given the information that has now been made available to the Minister, what action will she take now to review the evidence that has been made available to her by the writer of the correspondence, an employer who would claim that the immigrant’s “knowledge of basic bookkeeping and accountancy was inferior to a 16-year-old employee who had got out of school without even NCEA”, despite the so-called qualifications appearing to have a similar comparison to law and accountancy degrees from the University of Auckland, what is the Minister going to do to find out whether those qualifications, allegedly approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, were fraudulent; and what will the Minister do to act on that fraudulent information?

Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked three questions. The first two can be answered.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Unlike the member opposite, I have had my office contact the writer of the letter. He advises me that he has not raised concerns with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in respect of the particular qualifications. I remind the member that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority assessment was done in May 1999, and that there is not one jot of evidence to suggest any fraudulent or improper behaviour on the part of the individual. I think an apology is deserved.

Dail Jones: That being one example that I gave the Minister yesterday, and given her concern now for this dubious activity within the immigration system, when will she advise the House of the outcomes of her following up—and I quote and refer to—the Fernridge Institute of Training Ltd, the Ukrainian dairy workers, the Russian asylum-seeking waitress, the dog farm at Waiuku, the sale of New Zealand visas under a tree outside the office of the New Zealand Immigration Service at New Delhi, the Cambodian family scam run from Johnsonville, the Algerian terrorist, marriages of convenience, and four English language school certifications, to name a few?

Mr SPEAKER: That was too long. The member is to make comment on the first two of those.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I regret to inform the House that I believe that with almost every single one of those cases I will find there is not one jot of substance to the complaint.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister explain why, if she is trying to sheet home responsibility for an application received 7 days before the coalition with New Zealand First collapsed on 12 August 1998—

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Ha, ha!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —another nervous laugh as well—and secondly, does she remember how embarrassed she was on the Assignment programme when a series of allegations of fraudulent qualifications came before her, she appeared on the programme to say she knew nothing of it; I instantly showed her how embarrassing it was, whereupon she threw up her hands and said she would investigate it?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I was making the point that the policy under which this individual applied existed when that member was the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. In respect of allegations made on the Assignment programme there has been a referral to the police, and I have also raised the issue with the person who used my personal letter, which was the one I reacted to in horror to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board. An agreement has been reached that they have breached advertising standards in New Zealand.

Questions for Oral Answer
Te Mângai Pâho—Mâori Sportscasting International

2. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Following his reply to question for written answer No. 253 lodged on 13 February 2003, what is the total value of contracts Te Mângai Pâho let to Mâori Sportscasting International over the last 3 years through to 13 February, and does he stand by the answer he supplied on 19 February 2003?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of âaori Affairs): No. As I have indicated in my replacement answer to question for written answer No. 253, which I lodged today, the total value of contracts Te Mângai Pâho let to Mâori Sportscasting International over the last 3 years was $709,540.

Rodney Hide: Why has it taken this Minister so long to come down to this House to apologise for incorrect answers, when he accepted the apology of Te Puni Kôkiri head, Mr Leith Comer, on 30 May for having embarrassed him with incorrect answers; and when is he going to make a proper apology?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is likely to invite disorder if a member asks when a Minister can make an apology after the Minister has been denied leave precisely to do that.

Mr SPEAKER: Certainly the member has some validity in his point of order. However, the question was asked and can be answered, and the Minister can reply.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As I said yesterday in the House, I had instructed my officials to assess those parliamentary questions in the light of the external review report. I also said that my officials were also reviewing the other 200 parliamentary questions relevant to Te Mângai Pâho since 2003 and if it is found correct that those replies are required, and that is what I tried to do at the outset of the House. I want to thank that member, while I am on my feet, for the note he sent the review team, thanking them for a job well done.

Mahara Okeroa: Will the Minister provide corrected replies to parliamentary questions for written answer concerning Te Mângai Pâho if they are found to be incorrect?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. As I said in my statement in answer to the previous question, I have answered over 200 written questions on Te Mângai Pâho. I have already lodged corrections for a number of those answers—five today. As information comes to hand that any further answers are incorrect, I will immediately move to correct them.

Hon Murray McCully: Could I ask the Minister whether he could tell the House when—on what date—he discovered that his reply to question for written answer No. 253 was incorrect; and what steps he took at that time to correct his response?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The reply to No. 253 was given to me at a meeting where I myself and one of my staff members were with the board chair and chief executive on 20 February 2003.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be quite a stretch for anyone to accept that as an answer to the question just asked. It certainly did not address the question, which related to when the Minister was given an answer of an incorrect nature. If the Minister knew in fact that the answer was incorrect as far back as February, then I think he is in considerable difficulty.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister said that he was given an answer on 20 February. That is perfectly specific.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was, on what date did the Minister find out that the answer was wrong. The Minister’s answer said he found out on the day he received it. In which case, why did he submit it to this House?

Mr SPEAKER: Right. I will ask the Hon Parekura Horomia if he would identify the answer.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I tried to say at the outset of this day, quite certainly, the review has brought about two parts: one, the forensic check-up on Mr Tame Te Rangi’s computer, and the other issues that have come out in the review. Those answers to that question are in the answers I have forwarded to the Clerk today.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked “on what date?”

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On what date he found the answer was wrong.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Shortly after.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister’s answer is that he found out that his answer he gave to this Parliament was wrong “shortly after”. Now, I struggle to understand when he found out the answer was wrong—shortly after what? Shortly after I had said to him it was wrong? Shortly after he delivered it to Parliament? Shortly after he received his report? What sort of answer it that from a Minister who has been caught misleading this Parliament?

Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister gave an answer, there can be further supplementaries. He addressed the question, he might not have satisfied the member with the answer, but then the member can carry on further.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I do not think we should challenge the credibility of the House to that extent. That is not an answer, with due respect, to say that “shortly after”, when he was asked when did he find out a particular event. It is not acceptable, and I think it lowers the standards of this House if we let that pass as an accepted answer.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There are a number of matters in here that are actually quite important ones. The first is that it is not a matter for members of this House to judge whether something is not acceptable. I have heard this phrase used rather frequently, over recent weeks: “We find this answer unacceptable”, “We find this unacceptable”. It is up to only you. You are the only person who can determine whether something in this House is acceptable. No other member of the House can make that judgment. Secondly, the important point is, was the question addressed? Not whether the answer given was one that members found satisfactory. The answer was “shortly after”. Members may now wish to ask the rather obvious question—shortly after what. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There will be no interjection during Points of Order
, and that is the last warning for one member.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If I was still in Opposition, I would be happy to give them some lessons on how to ask questions like that quickly, instead of spending all their time trying to get there by way of Points of Order
.

Hon Murray McCully: I think a possible explanation of this train of events is that the Minister may have misheard or misunderstood my supplementary question. I was going to ask whether the order of the House might best be served if I was to repeat the supplementary question and give him another opportunity to respond to it.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can ask a further supplementary question.

Hon Murray McCully: Can I seek leave for that course?

Mr SPEAKER: The member seeks leave. Is there any objection? There is. I just want to say that as far as the member is concerned, he is perfectly entitled to ask a supplementary question. I want to make one point. If I start ruling on how adequate an answer is, that goes right against every Speaker’s ruling that has occurred since I have been in this House. The Speaker is not required to judge the adequacy of the answer, the Speaker is required to judge whether the question has been addressed.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Opposition gets a certain number of questions in a day, and you keep a very strict tally on that. What Dr Cullen is asking for you to accede to by way of a ruling is that when a Minister is asked on what date did something happen, a response can be “shortly after”—

Hon Ken Shirley: Or “Green cheese”.

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Ken Shirley will leave the House. I am not having any interjections on Points of Order
.

Hon Ken Shirley: It was a valuable contribution.

Mr SPEAKER: It was not. The member will please leave.

Hon Ken Shirley: You can say “rhubarb”, “green cheese”, whatever you like.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please leave or he will be named.

Hon Ken Shirley withdrew from the Chamber.Withdrawal from Chamber

Hon Roger Sowry: The Opposition has a certain number of questions in a day, which you keep a very strict tally of, Mr Speaker. If a Minister is asked on what date something occurred, or on what date was he made aware of something, and the Minister says by way of answer, “shortly after”, and Dr Cullen’s view is that that is acceptable because the Opposition can then ask the obvious question “Shortly after what?”, then that is bringing the House into disrepute. Ministers are answering questions in a way that they know, for the information to be given, will cost the Opposition another question. I believe that at the end of the day you have a responsibility to uphold the rights of the minority in this House. Lots of questions ask on what day something occurred, and if Ministers answer “shortly after” or “just before”, those sorts of answers make this place a nonsense. I appeal to you, Mr Speaker, to think of the rights of the Opposition parties. This is our only forum in which to ask questions. If we are denied that right by that sort of tactic then there is no point in question time at all.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: What is really threatening to make this place a nonsense, and on which a number of members have received a lot of correspondence, is the continued raising of Points of Order
that merely repeat a matter raised in a previous point of order that has already been ruled on. I suggest that we have an endless waste of time in question time, well beyond what is reasonable, because members will not accept rulings that are given.

Ron Mark: In support of the concerns raised by the Hon Roger Sowry, I ask you, Mr Speaker, to look at Standing Order 372(1). That Standing Order states: “An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the gamesmanship that is going on here in a play on the simple ruling that you are not responsible for the quality of the answer—which might lead some even to conclude that the standard is that there is no standard—means that when one reflects on that Standing Order, surely one cannot support the line that has been suggested by the Leader of the House.

Stephen Franks: I wonder whether it might help, Mr Speaker, if you were able to indicate those occasions on which it would be possible to ask another supplementary question without affecting the availability of subsequent questions. I believe that that might be a straightforward way around this situation whereby you are not required to rule on the adequacy of the reply but it does enable you to give an indication when it appears that a reply may be trifling with the House.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a very valid point. I gave a full ruling on that matter some weeks ago and I have repeated it a few times subsequently. If I think there is a trifling with the House then I will certainly not count that as an allocation for a member’s question. All I would like to say to the Minister of Mâori Affairs is perhaps he may want to give just a little bit more extension to his original answer. It just might help a little, but it is up to the Minister whether he wishes to do so.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As I was about to say earlier on, the timings of a lot of these questions from the two members who have been leading the entry on what dates, when, and where, I well understood that I was to give the correct answers. We worked, talked, and discussed with on February earlier this year. Over a period of time there has been information that has not been correct, and I have lodged that correctly.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is there any sense in asking him whether “shortly after” is after 20 February, because it assumes that it is the date after 20 February, or is this sort of inverse racism the kind of thing the Prime Minister tolerates in her administration?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the second part of that question is out of order. The first part can be answered.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: If there was enough sense in that, it was after the 22nd.

Rodney Hide: Given that the Minister tells this House that he found out that his answers to this House—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt my colleague Rodney Hide, but after numerous Points of Order
, and a question as to when after 20 February the Minister learnt the truth—because that was his clear inference from his original answer, he said shortly after the 22nd—we are no wiser. With the greatest respect, my point to the Prime Minister is correct. It is my belief that that sort of behaviour is an acceptance of a performance that you would not expect from anybody else, and it is inverse racism of the very worst sort.

Mr SPEAKER: No it is not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes it is.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will not argue with me when I am on my feet or he will not be here for very much longer. The member gave an answer to a question. I am not judging the quality of the answer.

Rodney Hide: Given that he found out his replies to questions in this House were incorrect “shortly after”, why did he tell the House in respect of those very questions yesterday in answer to question No. 6, “the advice given to me at the time was correct”, when clearly the advice he was given was incorrect, and he knew that it was incorrect because the Te Puni Kôkiri head apologised to him on 30 May for giving him incorrect advice?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I think the member has asked the question in answer to himself. That is correct. There were mistakes in the information to me. I received this on Monday, 9 June, which is a summary of all the correct answers, I hope, to date.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know where to go for advice. I honestly do not. Yesterday the Minister told us that the advice given to him at that time was correct. So, OK—

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That’s right!

Rodney Hide: So the advice was correct back then, but it is not correct now? Do you see the dilemma we get into, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER: I am not here to judge the quality of the answers. I am here to see that the question is addressed, and it was.

Hon Murray McCully: By his earlier response that he learnt that the answer supplied by him to question for written answer No. 253 was incorrect “shortly after”, and given that he yesterday told the House his answers were correct, does his answer mean he found out shortly after he gave his answer yesterday, or was he referring to some other date on which he found out that his answer to question for written answer No. 253 was wrong; if so, what was that date?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. In the sense of the response the mistakes made, and I corrected like I said, as I have lodged this morning as I was trying to explain at the beginning of this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In most Parliaments, and it used to include this one, this sort of question and answer session when the date was itemised would see a potential breach of privilege case. Now with what you have seen eventuate here there is no possibility of that because no answer has been given at all after about 20 minutes of questioning on the issue including a series of Points of Order
. Now whatever the requirements of the Minister may or may not be, there cannot be a circumstance where he can avoid an allegation of a breach of privilege because he has failed to give a certain specific date, now asked for about five times.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot talk about breach of privilege here in this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know that, and the Clerk knows I know that. I am saying that by this procedure and your failing to ensure that the Minister gives an answer to Parliament and this country he avoids what would be a potential regulatory mechanism against his non-performance. That is a new phenomenon in this Parliament, or any other Parliament for that matter—that is, when a person could be gravely implicated because a date is important, he fails to even give the date after numerous questions. That is what has crept into this Parliament. I want to know how that complies with any past Standing Orders or Speakers’ rulings.

Mr SPEAKER: As far as I am concerned the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings have not basically changed in this regard since I have been in this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Maybe it is just the way they are being interpreted.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not correct. I know that I interpret the Standing Orders in the same as my predecessors did. I have the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings there to guide me, and I have a very good Clerk of the House who can give me assistance. However, I accept what I say is my responsibility and no one else’s. The member can bring it up in the general debate or the debate on the Crown entities. It is a debating matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I can do all that, but I cannot seek a refuge somewhere else to get action because the critical item of information, the date, is being denied us. That is my very point. That was never envisaged in Speakers’ rulings or the Standing Orders in this or any other Parliament. I want to know how it is that we have got this far down the track, and though Mr McCully again specifically asked for the date as the third part of his answer, he is not given it. In my view That does not comply with the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: It does, because the Minister addressed it with an answer. The quality of the answer is nothing to do with me. That is for the House to judge.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you are correct, and I assume that you may be, my question is this: what is the date that Mr Horomia has given in this House? If he has not given that date when it was specifically asked for, and he did not say that he would refuse to answer the question, then he surely has not complied with the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: He has, and I judged—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is the date then?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. The Minister has complied with the Standing Orders. He gave a date, he then gave an answer to another question. That, of course, is open to debate.

Rodney Hide: On what date did the Minister of Mâori Affairs learn that his question No. 253, supplied to this House on 19 February concerning the number and value of contracts let by Te Mângai Pâho to Mâori Sportscasting International, was incorrect?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have the total summary here corrected completely, I hope, on 9 June. I am prepared to table this, in what I was to lead with, which has the information in it. I repeat again the summary after that member thanked the people for the rigour and the job well done in getting this summary together through the review. I have got it here.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was a simple one—that is, what date? Not once did the Minister indicate that date on what he—

Mr SPEAKER: I listened very carefully. The Minister said 9 June.

Rodney Hide: No, he didn’t.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said 9 June. I heard that date.

Rodney Hide: If he said that then he’s dead.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said 9 June. I heard him give a date.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The 9 June date relates to the date of the documentation that he was seeking to table. It is not the critical date that is being sought here. That date being sought is what date did the Minister learn that his information was incorrect.

Mr SPEAKER: I understood the Minister to say quite clearly that that was the date. That was what I understood him to say. If he did not, then perhaps he could indicate to the House whether what I understood was correct.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is what I said, and I have this document here that I am prepared to table.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is this House to take from you and the Minister of Mâori Affairs that he first learnt that question No. 253 was incorrect on 9 June 2003, yes or no?

Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Minister as to how he answers the question. I cannot put the answer into his mouth. I heard an answer. I heard a date given. I assumed that was it. I then asked the Minister whether he was correct. He gave an answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the date is 9 June, then how come it post-dates the explanation from Leith Comer, the head of his department, alerting him to the fact that he was incorrectly answering parliamentary questions?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is when it was confirmed on a whole lot of other issues, too—not just that question specifically.

Hon Murray McCully: Do I understand the Minister to now be telling the House that it is his belief that when Mr Comer, his chief executive, took responsibility for incorrect answers being given on behalf of the department to the Minister, which the Minister then gave the House, that Mr Comer was not telling the truth; if that is the case, what steps is he taking against Mr Comer as a result of his giving an untruthful explanation at that time?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Mr Comer did not have all the information at the time he made that statement.

Rodney Hide: Can the Minister of Mâori Affairs now confirm to this House that he first learnt that his reply to question No. 253, supplied to this House on 19 February this year, was on 9 June 2003?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is what I said.

Mr SPEAKER: Could the Minister repeat that, please. I did not finish calling him.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is what I said.

Mr SPEAKER: He confirms that.

Questions for Oral Answer
Family Law—Confidence in Associate Minister

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Associate Minister of Justice with delegated responsibility for family law?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister support her Minister’s changes to family law in clause 17 of the Care of Children Bill, which creates female fathers by declaring that a woman who is a parent in a same sex relationship will be known as the “father of the child”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My advice is that it does not have the effect that the member suggests. It is an issue of drafting succinctness. The member and his colleagues should take it up with the select committee if they have a better wording.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does she think it furthers United Future’s commitment to strengthen families to declare a lesbian mother’s partner a child’s father, and will it be the Families Commission’s—

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question may be of interest, but I respectfully suggest that the Prime Minister does not have any responsibility for what United Future’s position on this bill might be.

Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct. Perhaps Dr Newman could rephrase the question slightly so that it brings it within the Standing Orders.

Dr Muriel Newman: Did the Government have regard for United Future’s commitment to strengthen families by declaring a lesbian mother’s partner a child’s father, and will it be the job of the Families Commission to determine disputes over when a woman is defined as a dad and when a man is defined as a mum?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand it is widely recognised in this House that families come in many forms. I am advised that the aim of this bill is to give the same sex partner of a birth mother who has conceived using assisted human reproduction technology the same legal parental status as an opposite sex partner who is not the biological parent of the child. This is a matter of drafting detail, and if members wish to pursue that in the select committee they are free to do so.

Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Prime Minister confirm that United Future has advised the Minister responsible that there are significant areas of difference between us within this bill, and that discussions are continuing on these matters, as they have been for some months?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was very clearly an interjection from the Leader of the Opposition while this question was being asked. I suggest that there is only one appropriate remedial action given the warnings you have given. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That particular member is very close to leaving. However, I have not asked him to leave. I am just saying that he does not interject when I am on my feet. I heard an interjection. I did not see who it was. Did the Leader of the Opposition interject?

Hon Bill English: Yes, I did.

Mr SPEAKER: I want him to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Bill English: I withdraw and apologise.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know you struggle in this House with maintaining order—

Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the point of order.

Rodney Hide: It is about consistency. Three times you have been interrupted while you are on your feet and you have given a warning. Once Mr Ken Shirley, deputy leader of ACT, interjected on someone making a point of order—and we accept that was wrong—he was thrown out without warning. I just say that that is a signal that it is all right to interject on the Speaker of the House when he is on his feet but not on some member. I do not think that that is appropriate.

Mr SPEAKER: It was not, and I made a ruling there, and I stand by my ruling.

Ron Mark: I take this opportunity to apologise. I thought my “Nah, nah-nee nah” comment as a result of that was for myself and not actually meant as an interjection and was too loud.

Mr SPEAKER: The member should keep his comments to himself by not opening his mouth.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can I repeat the question I asked the Prime Minister, which was: will she confirm that discussions between her Minister and United Future are continuing on certain aspects of this bill, as they have been for some little while now?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that, and I am sure that, in respect of drafting, changes can be made at the select committee stage if that is the will of the committee.

Hon Bill English: Given the Prime Minister’s answer that the clause does not have the effect that I said it has—of creating female fathers—what alternative meaning could one give to a clause that says that where a woman is a parent in same-sex relationship she will be known as “father of the child”, which are words taken directly from the legislation; and why does the Prime Minister not for once stand up for a policy that she has approved even if she is embarrassed about it now?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is amazing how trivial the things are that some people will get their knickers in a knot about. It is simply amazing. I can advise the House the advice I have received is that the wording is a drafting technique that saves repeating about 32 words every time the matter is referred to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can we take it from the Prime Minister’s answer in respect of that clause that she agrees with same-sex parents?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no idea what the intent or effect of the question is.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is very clear what the intent of the question is, and I will state it again—because that was not an answer. Given the clause that Mr English has read out and her answer, is she prepared to tell the House and the country this: does she agree with the concept of same-sex parents? Yes or no?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Was that a point of order, or was meant to be another supplementary question?

Mr SPEAKER: No, it was not another supplementary question. It was a point of order, and I was about it rule it out.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled out my question?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On what grounds?

Mr SPEAKER: On the grounds that an answer—please be seated. I ruled out the second one as an attempt at a question. There was a question asked by the member and the Prime Minister addressed it in an answer. She certainly addressed that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She said she did not know what the question was about, and I believe that my question is as plain as daylight and as clear as anything. It is a principal issue of division in this House on this legislation, and she must surely understand what I am talking about. Does she or does she not agree with the concept—

Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the member to make his question a bit clearer than he did. I heard the question, and I heard the answer given. It addressed the question.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Only one member should stand and have a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I have it.

Mr SPEAKER: Now both members will sit down. When two members ask for a point of order, and I have not heard one from another person, that person usually gets precedence. The two members can sort it out. I will hear one of them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The difficulty I have is that I do not have eyes in the back of my head, although some think I have. In today’s New Zealand Herald, members will see what is being talked about—the concept of same-sex parents, where the new mother is the father, according to that legislation. I asked the Prime Minister whether she agrees with that, yes or no. She refuses to answer me. She refuses to give an answer, because she says that she does not understand the question. Somehow the New Zealand Herald and everybody else can understand the question and the issue. I am saying that she can and she is deliberately avoiding it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, there is no need for me to say it. It is just unfortunate. The Prime Minister gave an answer. I judged her to have addressed the question.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you clarify, for me in particular and the House in general, that what we now have is a new standard when answering questions. Am I now to see—

Mr SPEAKER: There is no new standard at all. I am following precedents and rulings given over many, many years.

Ron Mark: Mr Speaker, you have not let me finish.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, hurry up then, please.

Ron Mark: Is that right. Well, I will talk as fast as I can.

Mr SPEAKER: Points of Order
must be terse.

Ron Mark: My question is this: will we now have a barrage of answers from Ministers on every question where they say “I don’t understand the question.”, and are you going to accept that as an answer? I do not think so.

Mr SPEAKER: No, neither do I, and I will not be.

Ron Mark: Well, she just did that.

Mr SPEAKER: I said that I will not be. On all occasions I judge each issue by the supplementary question concerned.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Today’s New Zealand Herald has a very brief summation of the issue that is the subject of my question. It states in the fourth paragraph: “And a same-sex partner’s position will be regarded as being the same as that of an opposite-sex partner.” That is as clear as daylight. I asked the Prime Minister whether she agreed with that, yes or no, and she would not answer it. Frankly, this is the second time today that we have seen a display where there has been an attempt to defuse an attack or a direct line of questioning, and in this case the Prime Minster now pleads ignorance of the question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think this would have been easily answered some little time ago if it had been clear on the first point of order I raised. Mr Peters got to his feet on a point of order and appeared to ask another supplementary question. The point is that it is not for the Prime Minister to answer a question raised in a point of order. The point of order had to be ruled on. If the member wanted to ask another supplementary question, he could.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not interpret answers for MPs. Members do not get a second chance on a point of order. When the member raised the point of order he asked a question that was different from the original one that he asked. I could hear the actual question being asked. It was expanded on at some length. It was not the question that was originally asked. I invite the member to check Hansard. I will certainly show it to him.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister seen the New Zealand Herald article of Wednesday, 11 June—today—in the fourth paragraph, that refers to the words: “And a same-sex partner’s position will be regarded as being the same as that of an opposite-sex partner.”, and does she accept that is right?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, in respect to the guardianship of a child, which is what the bill is about.

Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 4. I call the Rt Hon Winston Peters. [Interruption]

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the member on his feet, but now we do have a matter of consistency. During an earlier point of order Mr Ken Shirley made an interjection. You have already ruled on interjections. You had called Mr Peters to ask his question. The Minister of Education made an interjection and should be asked to leave the House.

Mr SPEAKER: The member had not started the question. I am asking him to start it now.

Questions for Oral Answer
Prisoners—Deportation

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Are those who break the law and are imprisoned whilst on temporary visas automatically required to leave the country after their sentence; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): No. A temporary permit would have to be revoked or would have to expire before the individual could be removed. In all cases covered by section 7 of the Immigration Act, such permits would be automatically revoked. However, the revocation would trigger an appeal right to the Removal Review Authority.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister prepared to give us an assurance that criminals such as Ding Yan Zhao, an unlicensed Chinese student who took the life of an innocent 4-year-old girl while driving recklessly, a Hamilton student facing two murder charges, and also kidnapping and burglary charges, a Chinese student sentenced to 8 years’ jail for kidnapping a fellow student, and demanding a $1.25 million ransom from his parents in China, plus the Japanese Columbus Academy students who are being charged with kidnap, assault, and murder, are to be deported at the end of their sentence, and if not, why not—or can anybody do what they darned like in this country?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As was the case when that member was the Deputy Prime Minister, the temporary permit has to be revoked or expire first. Of course, in the case of a serious criminal offence, section 7 of the Immigration Act would apply. Those permits would be revoked or they would expire during the term, and they would be removed at the end of their sentence.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Is the Minister satisfied with the provision in the Immigration Act that allows the right of appeal when a person on a temporary permit has offended in New Zealand while on that temporary permit?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I am quite concerned about the fact that that is the law that I inherited, which is why I am reviewing the right of appeal for temporary permit-holders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: After 4 years in the job, how many people have been deported, because the law is unsatisfactory, who had been convicted of serious offences and upon completing their sentences have been deported from this country; how many has she caused to be deported?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not have the number of deportation orders that I have signed since I have been Minister, but I will certainly provide that information to the member. I should point out that in 1996-97 there were 329 total permit revocations, and 456 in 1997-98. We have revoked more permits in the 10 months to date than were revoked in the 2 years that that member was involved in a Government.

Questions for Oral Answer
Early Childhood Education—Participation

5. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Education: What steps has the Government taken in the last week to improve participation in early childhood education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Post-Budget announcements have meant that a further $1.6 million has been made available through the discretionary grant scheme, which means that 463 extra places for children will be provided in quality learning environments. This Government is committed to increasing participation in early childhood education, particularly by Mâori and Pacific Island children.

Jill Pettis: Are there separate funding pools for different types of services?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. Separate funding pools were set up in 1996 with the express purpose of increasing the participation of Mâori and Pacific Island children in early childhood education services. The fact that money goes to those services has been criticised as racist by the member for Nelson, which is an astounding claim, given the fact that he, as Minister in charge of a Budget, put money into them.

Metiria Turei: Rather than taking such a piecemeal approach to improving participation, will the Minister undertake a comprehensive review of the funding formula based on real costs, as envisaged by the Early Childhood Education Strategic Planning working-group?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Setting aside the gross inaccuracy of the first part of the question, yes.

Questions for Oral Answer
Capital and Coast District Health Board—Cardiac Deaths

6. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Will a formal inquiry be held into Capital and Coast District Health Board systems following the deaths of 43 year old John Russell and 63 year old Charles Ernest Phillips, who were admitted to Wellington Hospital for cardiac surgery and were subsequently sent home twice because of a shortage of intensive care beds; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): A decision to carry out an inquiry into an unexpected death is usually made by the coroner. This is the same inquiry mechanism that was available in 1998-99, when seven people died waiting for publicly funded cardiac procedures at Capital Coast Health under a National Government.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does she agree that these two men would be alive today if when their operations were cancelled for the second time, they were immediately transferred to a private hospital for their operations; and how many more deaths for ideological reasons can the people of Wellington expect, due to Capital and Coast District Health Board’s aversion to any private involvement in health care?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The last part of the question was answered by Capital and Coast District Health Board itself, when it said it had no aversion to sending patients to the private sector, and that comes from this Government’s protocols to the public sector that we have no problems with it using the private sector for public good. That has been made obvious on many occasions, although the member does not wish to hear that. In relation to the first part of her question, it is always unfortunate when somebody dies, but the member may not be aware that one of the people who died, died because the intensive care bed was taken by a patient who was returned from Wakefield, the private hospital, and therefore bumped the public patient out of the use of that facility.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain what progress has been made in increasing cardiac services?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to tell the House that considerable progress has been made in increasing the number of cardiac procedures under this Government. We said we would improve it, and we certainly have. In 1996-97 there were 3,090 cardiac procedures; in this last financial year, there were 4,975. That is a 61 percent increase in cardiac procedures under this Government.

Sue Kedgley: Will she be instigating a formal inquiry in response to the recent audit by Dr Chris Ellis, which found that only 20 percent of the 24,000 heart patients admitted to New Zealand hospitals each year with heart disease had undergone basic lifesaving investigative techniques such as heart scans, exercise techniques, or blood vessel X-rays, which may have saved their lives, and that there is, in fact, huge variation in cardiac facilities between New Zealand hospitals; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will not be undertaking an inquiry. The results of that study came from the work of Dr Chris Ellis and others. They were surprised at that result. They are not asking for an inquiry. They are asking to look at the result of their research to see how it could be improved.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does she think that the offer by Wellington Hospital’s general manager, John Coughlan, of an overnight stay in hospital and stress counselling as an answer to these two deaths is insulting, when what the patients need is surgery, not sympathy; and how many more patients will have to suffer ideological deaths before she will actually act like the Minister of Health and inquire into these systems?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The offer from Capital and Coast District Health Board is to ensure that any stress that is on the patient by being sent out of the hospital because it had to postpone an operation is helped through this process. No, it will not fix the problem. It does require more operations, and I am pleased to say that Capital Coast Health was doing 404 operations under a National Government, and Capital and Coast District Health Board is doing 996 under a Labour Government. I just point out to the member that we have a heading here: “Dying for more cardiac surgery”. What date was that? It was 1993, under a National Government, and the number of people who were dying was considerably higher than the number who die today. Thank goodness this Government has done something about it.

Heather Roy: Can the Minister undertake that Wakefield Hospital did not lose its contract for heart surgery in June 2001 because of Government ideology; and does she think that those deaths are worth the $1,000 extra per life she says, in answer to parliamentary questions, that it would cost to use the available theatres and surgeons at that private hospital?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can assure the member that the change in the contract from Wakefield Hospital back to Capital and Coast District Health Board’s Wellington Hospital was not as a result of this Minister or this Government.

Questions for Oral Answer
Care of Children Bill—Participants

7. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Is she satisfied that the Care of Children Bill safeguards the interests of those who want to play a part in a child’s life?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes, but the primary and overriding focus of the Care of Children Bill is that care arrangements for children must be in the best interests and welfare of those children.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that the proposed bill enables a biological father to be shut out of a relationship with his child, because a guardian may be appointed without his knowledge if he is unaware of his paternity?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, that can happen, and it can happen under the existing law. This law provides access for paternity orders in the Family Court, which will make them much easier to obtain.

Tim Barnett: How has the bill addressed concerns expressed by fathers who have faced difficulties establishing guardianship?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The bill improves the provision of automatic guardianship for biological fathers, and when they are not covered by the automatic rules they will be able to apply to the Family Court and be appointed guardians, unless it is contrary to the best interests of their children. So the presumption is in favour of guardianship for fathers.

Richard Worth: What safeguards has the Associate Minister put in the Care of Children Bill that will ensure that parents who seek parenting orders in respect of their children will not be edged out by the four other groups that can make competing applications?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: They are not competing applications because, with respect, all decisions in these areas have to take into account the best interests and welfare of each individual child. I believe that the intention of the legislation is to take into account those who might otherwise not be able to have ongoing contact with a child—for example, when a parent has died and the grandparents want to maintain ongoing contact with a child. It is right and proper that the best interests of the child are taken into account when decisions are made.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister not think that everyone’s interests would be best safeguarded by recognising basic biological facts; if not, how does it help people’s interests to have this House and the law declaring that contrary to biology, a woman can be a child’s dad, or does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister that this is a trivial issue?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Clause 17(2) of the bill is a drafting technique. The bill does not provide for a woman to be the father of a child, as has been—[Interruption] It might be helpful if I make it clear. The statement in clause 17(2) is a drafting technique that means we do not have to repeat 35 separate words every time the expression “father of a child” appears in the bill. It is a minor, technical drafting matter and I am sure that the select committee will look at it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to read clause 17(2), so the House can be clear.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. I am now going to be enforcing very strictly the rule that questions are to be heard in silence.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that this bill will be truly effective only if the Family Court is adequately resourced so that all cases are heard in a timely manner; if so, what steps is she taking to ensure that the Family Court can meet the demands of this new legislation?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: When the Budget was announced, in respect of the Family Court there was a contingency with regard to the implementation of this legislation. There is also work happening on the part of the Law Commission in respect of the status of courts, and that will require additional resourcing as well. I am happy to give the member the undertaking she seeks.

Judy Turner: How can the bill protect the interests of biological parents when it does not compel the disclosure of the identity of both parents; given that situation, will the Minister support mandatory disclosure, with suppression orders when appropriate?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The difficulty that we are confronted with, I guess, in the real world today is that not everybody is aware who the father of the child is—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is quite unacceptable yahoo-ish behaviour. I want to say to members that as far as I am concerned I want to hear the Minister’s answers. She is entitled to give an answer, too, and she is then entitled to be questioned on the answer. That is why we have supplementary questions.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister recognise the discrepancy when guardianship is not subject to a minimum time period, in terms of a relationship with the custodial parent, yet the Property (Relationships) Act defines a significant relationship as of at least 3 years; or does she think that the division of furniture is a more important decision than the welfare of a child?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I understand the point that the member is making, and I am aware this is a concern that has been raised within United Future. There has to be some consideration given to what this bill can and cannot achieve. It cannot change people’s behaviour. What I hope comes out of this legislation is that parents will understand that the best interests of their children are served by setting aside their own interests and putting the kids first.

Questions for Oral Answer
Offenders—Public Safety

8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his reported comments “Public safety is one of the key issues people expect from the Corrections Department and from me”?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: Yes. That is why this Government has dramatically increased the length of sentences for the worst and highest-risk offenders, and why this Government has introduced and passed legislation requiring the Parole Board to give paramount consideration in its decision making to public safety.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Government consider those convicted of manslaughter, raping a girl aged 16, aggravated robbery, threatening to kill, and assaulting a child with a firearm, all of whom qualified for home detention, not a threat to public safety? What does this Government consider to be a threat, therefore, to public safety?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are two forms of home detention. At the back end, serious offenders will do their last 3 months before release in home detention. At the front end, in order to be eligible for home detention, the requirement under law is that the sentence imposed on the offender is 2 years or less. Therefore a judge has already made a decision that that individual is not likely to constitute a high risk.

Martin Gallagher: What has the Government done to improve the management of offenders in the community?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Government has done many things in that field, but let me highlight just one of them. In the Budget, the then Acting Minister of Corrections announced that there would be a 22 percent increase in the number of probation officers, which is critical so that they can properly fulfil their role. Just as important, she announced an 80 percent increase in the level of training, so that those people responsible for supervision have the skills to do so.

Stephen Franks: Does the Minister consider the privacy interests of paroled paedophiles outweighs the rights of parents who want to protect their children safely; if not, why does his department supply these perverts with false identities and secrete them into communities innocent of any knowledge of them, and then block police from showing photographs of them?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Where the police consider that an individual released from prison constitutes a risk to the community, they will do as they did in Palmerston North, and advise relevant persons of the presence of that individual in the community. As a broader principle, however, if the member or any other member of the House is interested in minimising the risk of reoffending, the last thing they should do is to hound that person away from a safe environment, away from a support group, make them transient, and drive them underground—whereas, every expert that has commented on this matter in recent weeks has said that is the very way in which to maximise the risk of reoffending and make things worse for potential victims.

Marc Alexander: In the light of today’s revelation that the victims of a paedophile, who has been out of prison for 2 years, were not informed of his release, will the recent announcement to apply extended periods of supervision to those convicted before the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act be complemented by an effort to contact their victims to ask whether they wish to be included on the notification register; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I presume that the case the member refers to is that on the front page of the Dominion Post today. If the member reads that article he will see that this person was convicted 10 years ago. At that time there was no legal requirement on any Government agency to ensure that the family was registered on the victim notification system. This man was released at two-thirds of his sentence, because the old law, tolerated for too long, said that he had to be. Today the laws have changed in both of those areas. The man, if he was a risk, would have done his full prison sentence; secondly, there is now a legal obligation on the police to notify people eligible for the victim notification register, and the inspector of police commenting on this said that unfortunately the system of informing victims of their rights, in those days, was not as consistent as it should have been, but that has now changed.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would the Minister expect this House to believe him, when a former probation officer, Glen Goodman, is quoted in the New Zealand Herald on 19 May—he helped set up the home detention in the Nelson region and worked for the service for 16 years—as saying that he was disgusted at how the Government was deceiving the public, and, further, that its credibility as a system was being undermined by short-sighted goals based around savings? Who should we believe: this Minister or someone who knows Mr Goodman?

Hon PHIL GOFF: That individual, who served most of his time under the previous Government—including the one that that member was Deputy Prime Minister in—may be making his judgment on the past. It is certainly not a judgment that is relevant to today.

Mr SPEAKER: Are we still carrying on with supplementaries? ACT has finished its questions for today.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You said earlier, Mr Speaker, and I have considered the matter and I want to raise it as a point of order, that you had the ability to grant an extra question when you felt that a Minister was trifling with the House in his replies. We have had a situation whereby the Minister of Mâori Affairs has walked into this House knowing full well that the date on which he learnt that his answers were incorrect was 9 June. It took three questions from the ACT party, and probably six or seven questions in total from Opposition parties, to get that date from the Minister through a succession of questions. What that did was burn up the allocation of parties on this side for question time that you oversee. Now the ACT party has burnt up three questions simply to get a date. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to consider granting the ACT party an extra two questions—or at least one—to compensate for having to burn them up in that way.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member can seek leave, and I presume he is doing that—

Rodney Hide: No, I am not.

Mr SPEAKER: No—well I am not granting it.

Marc Alexander: Is the availability of treatment programmes a primary consideration in deciding where to incarcerate convicted sex offenders; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If it is deemed that a sex offender in prison would benefit from a course such as Kia Marama or Te Piriti, then that offender will be transferred to a prison that can make those services available. Those are the most intensive courses. Other courses that would help prevent a person from reoffending are available, but people who need the assistance most would be referred to one of those two prisons in Christchurch and Auckland for such treatment.

Stephen Franks: I seek leave for another supplementary question on the primary question.

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Franks seeks leave. Is there any objection? There is.

Marc Alexander: Why has the Government waited this long to introduce legislation to strengthen supervision of convicted paedophiles not covered by the sentencing and parole reform legislation, when following the disaster surrounding Barry Allan Ryder’s reoffending on parole last year, authorities knew that a paedophile with a similar history would also be eligible for release this year?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The work that needs to be done to ensure that a period of extended supervision is effective and fair is not done overnight. I have had my officials working on that for the best part of 18 months. We are now at the point where that is close to decision making by Cabinet, it will be introduced, and it will be introduced approximately 2 years after it was introduced in the United Kingdom, which has been one of the frontrunners in this area.

Questions for Oral Answer
Mâori Affairs, Minister—Responsibility

9. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Does he take full responsibility for answers to parliamentary questions and Official Information Act 1982 responses signed by him; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): Yes, but, like all Ministers in all Governments, I am reliant on the accuracy of the information provided to me to answer parliamentary questions and the appropriateness of material provided for Official Information Act releases.

Hon Murray McCully: In the light of the Dominion Post article headed “Te Puni Kokiri boss apologises” of 31 May of this year, which quotes his chief executive as saying of the Minister: “He has asked for an explanation and I have been in front of him and accepted the fact that some of the information that we have given him was not correct.”; does he still stand by his answer to a supplementary question today that he was first told the answers were incorrect a week later?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: In part, yes. Can I put it into chronological order so that we can tidy this up. On 18 February I lodged an answer to question 253. On 10 April I received an apology from Mr Comer for an incorrect answer to parliamentary questions regarding Mâori Sportscasting. It was about the wânanga attendees. Members should note that 253 was not part of that apology. It was not known that 253 was incorrect. The corrected question was pq2261.

Mark Peck: What actions has the Minister taken to improve the quality of information he receives in answers to parliamentary questions?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have discussed that directly with the chief executive of Te Puni Kôkiri, and I intend to ensure that the servicing of the Minister’s office is strengthened.

Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister recall responding to a question from myself yesterday regarding a capacity-assessment grant for a South Island minibus tour for a group of kuia and kaumâtua with the statement: “I am unaware of that.”, and can he reconcile that statement with the fact that the detailed files in relation to that trip were released under cover of a letter signed “P T Horomia, Minister of Mâori Affairs”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am made aware of it now and I apologise for that.

Questions for Oral Answer
Earthquakes—Building Safety

10. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Commerce: Has she received any advice on the John Scarry open letter, which raised concerns about structural design construction issues and building performance in the event of an earthquake?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): Yes, I have now received interim reports from the Building Industry Authority and the Institution of Professional Engineers in respect of their analyses of the concerns raised, and I am able to report that neither body has identified any specific building that may pose a significant or immediate risk in the event of an earthquake.

Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister been advised whether the Building Industry Authority intends to take any further action in the light of that report; if so, what advice has she received?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As a result of the technical report commissioned from independent consultants, the Building Industry Authority will coordinate and, where necessary, fund ongoing research and investigations on earthquake design and best practice, and will be providing advice to territorial authorities and the industry. This is in line with the Government’s decision that the regulator will operate in a proactive manner when matters of concern are raised.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I seek leave to table both the Building Industry Authority report and the Institution of Professional Engineers letter to me.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Police—Ticket Quotas

11. Hon TONY RYALL (NZ National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by his statement that “Police do not have a quota of tickets they’re supposed to give out every hour. There is no such quota.”; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes, because it is true.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does he stand by his statement that there are no quotas on tickets to be given out every hour in the light of the fact that every police officer, but the commissioner, is on the record saying that there are quotas?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have not changed my mind since I answered the primary question.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a document that confirms that road deaths have gone down over the period the Minister talks about, but show that there has been an increase in excess of 1,400 injuries on the road despite the quota ticketing system.

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

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a document that shows that one of the greater factors contributing to the reduction of road deaths has been improved accident and emergency services, improved fire service, improved St John Ambulance service, and vehicle safety improvements.

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

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a number of news reports, one headed “South’s quota seven tickets a day”, another headed “Government lifts traffic ticket quota”, and a third report stating that the highway police pay is linked to ticket quota.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There appears to be objection.

Questions for Oral Answer
Pharmac—Dispensing

12. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does she stand by her statement of 7 May 2003, with regard to Pharmac’s proposal to move to 3-monthly dispensing, that “The decision as to whether a medication is dispensed for 3 months, 4 days or 1 month can be made by the doctor.”; if so, will a doctor’s decision affect how much patients must pay for their medicine?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes, a doctor can determine the period of supply for which a medicine is to be prescribed and dispensed. Under Pharmac’s proposed changes to the close control rules, the number of medicines that can be dispensed more frequently would be restricted. I have been advised that there have been a lot of submissions regarding this aspect of the proposal, and Pharmac is currently considering this feedback before any decisions are made.

Sue Kedgley: Is it not true that under the present Pharmac proposal patients will lose their subsidy and have to pay much more for their drugs if their doctor decides for clinical reasons that a drug on the 3-monthly Pharmac schedule—such as warfarin sodium, which is not on close control but could be dangerous to supply on 3-month lots—should be dispensed on a 1-monthly basis by their doctor?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is correct if the close control protocols that Pharmac put in its proposal were followed through, because the close control was on anti-psychotics, antidepressants, antibiotics, and class B control drugs. That particular part of Pharmac’s proposal, as I said, has received many submissions, which are now being examined by Pharmac before any final decision is made.

Janet Mackey: How many submissions has Pharmac received on its proposal to make changes to the monthly dispensing of commonly used medicines?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have been advised that Pharmac has received 2,500 submissions, and it is currently analysing them. As I said, there was a lot of comment on the proposed changes to close control rules, and this feedback focused on whether the proposals were too restrictive and whether a more flexible system needs to be considered. Those proposals are now being considered by Pharmac.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister stand by the answer of the Acting Minister of Health on 22 May, who agreed with the Pharmac statement that the change from 1 monthly to 3 monthly dispensing has the full support of all district health boards; if so, how does she reconcile that with the minutes of the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board meeting of 20 May that carried the motion: “That the board make a submission to Pharmac noting their considerable misgivings about the stat dispensing as proposed, including that there has been inadequate information and time for meaningful advice to be given, that the board prefers to develop local solutions and that there is potential for waste and safety issues to arise.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I do stand by my associate’s answer. I have the press release here from Graham Edmonds in which he states that all district health boards accept the proposal. However, that did not stop boards themselves from making submissions to Pharmac. In fact, their submissions were welcomed.

Sue Kedgley: Has the Minister seen the confidential strategy document that Pharmac sent to chief executive officers and chairs of district health boards, which shows quite clearly that the recently completely 4-week consultation was a sham as Pharmac had made up its mind to switch to 3-monthly dispensing before it had even begun to consult, and does she agree that this document calls into question the credibility and legality of the consultation process; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I have not seen the document, and, no, Pharmac has not made a decision on stat dispensing. Pharmac went out to consultation and increased the consultation period. It has now changed. Pharmac received 2,500 submissions. It will now examine those submissions and make its decision in the light of those submissions.

Dr Lynda Scott: What is the cost of the communication strategy that Pharmac has developed for the volume initiative with a communications company; how much has that cost us?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not have that figure with me. I am not aware of that figure. I will certainly be happy to provide that figure when I get it. I imagine that it would be a comparable figure to when Pharmac changed from stat dispensing to monthly dispensing. However, I will ask what it is because I do not know what it is.

Sue Kedgley: What will the Minister’s Government do if Pharmac proceeds with its proposal, and, as the Pharmacy Guild predicts, hundreds of small rural and suburban pharmacies around New Zealand close as a result?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Pharmac has given an undertaking to pharmacists and the community that it will listen to the consultation and to the submissions, and I expect that it will do that. However, the decision to move to stat dispensing is a change to the pharmaceutical schedule, which is in the domain of Pharmac. The decision to change from stat dispensing to monthly dispensing was made by the four regional health authorities and Pharmac in 1996, not the Minister of Health. I expect that this time Pharmac will make this decision itself, taking account of those issues. In terms of closure of pharmacies, the Government would obviously have to consider how we would provide pharmacy services if they did close.

Mike Ward: Is the Minister concerned that Pharmac’s 3-monthly dispensing proposal will lead to rest homes becoming targets for criminals in search of large quantities of prescription drugs held on behalf of residents; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If that was the case, I would be concerned. However, I would also be concerned if rest homes do not hold all their pharmaceuticals under a very secure environment. If the member is telling me that he knows that they are not, then I would like to know where that is happening.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act she is entitled to issue any instructions to Pharmac, and why, therefore, is she leaving a decision that will have a huge impact on the entire pharmacy sector and, indeed, on the whole primary health sector simply to Pharmac, and why is she, given its impact on the sector, not intervening but trying to avoid responsibility for this far-reaching decision?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am certainly not avoiding a decision if I thought it was one that I ought to make. However, I look at the precedent set when it changed from 3-monthly dispensing under a National Government to monthly dispensing. It was decided then that it was appropriate for Pharmac to make the decision. I have looked at the idea and the concept. I also take account of the many, many letters that I have received, and which Roger Sowry, Bill English, and Jenny Shipley received, from members of the public around the need to have their subscriptions filled every month when they are perfectly able to pick them up 3 monthly.

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a document from the draft minutes from the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board opposing the stat dispensing.

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

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table the press release from Graham Edmonds, who is managing this issue on behalf of district health boards.

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

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table the confidential document outlining the Pharmac strategy confidential to chief executive officers, chairs, and Pharmac.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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