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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 17th June 2003

(uncorrected transcript--subject to correction and further editing)

TUESDAY, 17 JUNE 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer

Question No. 1 to Minister

ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We submitted this question to the Prime Minister because we believed that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is coordinating the Government’s sustainable development programme. We wonder how the Minister for the Environment can respond to such a wide-ranging question, and we ask whether we can assume that the Minister for the Environment will be in a position to answer all our questions, if this question No. 1 is referred to that Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The question was transferred on the ground that the Minister has some delegated authority, which was set out in delegations published.

Questions for Oral Answer

Development—Sustainable Development Programme

1. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: What steps has the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet taken to ensure that “Sustainable development must be at the core of all government policy.”, as announced in the Sustainable Development for New Zealand: Programme of Action, launched in January this year?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has informed all chief executives about the principles for policy and decision making in the sustainable development programme of action. It also leads a cross-Government coordinating group from 11 agencies that is currently focusing on energy, water, child and youth development, and sustainable cities in New Zealand.

Rod Donald: If sustainable development must be at the core of all Government policy, why is it not part of the purpose of the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Bill; and why are there no sustainable development criteria against which grants to be made by the new Crown entity are to be assessed?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As I understand, the member has written a Supplementary Order Paper to that bill. I understand that that Supplementary Order Paper is not needed, because there is a clear reference to sustainable economic development in clause 9(1)(a) of the bill.

David Parker: What reports has the Minister received on triple bottom-line reporting in New Zealand’s public sector?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Triple bottom-line reporting is one way of measuring and reporting on progress towards sustainability. The Ministry for the Environment’s recently released triple bottom-line report has received a special mention in the world-leading Global Reporting Initiative update for being a world first for a Government agency.

Rod Donald: Is she concerned that most Government departments, Crown entities, and State-owned enterprises have conceded, in answers to written questions, that they have not put in place triple bottom-line reporting criteria, despite the Minister stating that triple bottom-line reporting, as part of a whole-of-Government programme, defined a better way of measuring and reporting on progress towards sustainability, in March of this year?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I concede that this is not an instant turn-round, as the member is asking for. Rather, it is a gradual approach towards ensuring that all our policies programmes meet sustainable criteria.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: If sustainable development must be at the core of all Government policy, will she recommend to her colleague the Minister for Economic Development that all funding from Industry New Zealand should be subject to the recipient implementing state-of-the-art energy efficiency in its buildings, processes, and transport?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Energy efficiency, as well as sustainable energy supply and a commitment to increase renewable energy, is a part of the sustainable development programme.

Sue Kedgley: If sustainability must now be at the core of all Government policy, is the Government developing an alternative model of measuring growth that does not count as positive tobacco and alcohol sales, the costs of cleaning up pollution, road accidents and deaths, the accumulation of waste, and so forth?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The proactive focus of the sustainable energy programme run by the Government is on water allocation and water quality, energy, youth development, and sustainable cities. Further work in areas like health that are specific, as the member mentioned, will be taken up as we complete those programmes.

Questions for Oral Answer

Tranz Rail—Government Policy

2. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the Minister of Transport’s comments that the Government would not get into a bidding war if Toll upped its bid for Tranz Rail; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes, for the very good reason that he was repeating comments I had made earlier.

Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister, or any of his representatives, met with Toll Holdings since it upped its bid and will he, or any of his representatives, meet with Toll before the August shareholders meeting of Tranz Rail; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. A member of my office and a Treasury official met with Mr Little yesterday. I am really not clear whether there will be another meeting. It is also fair to say that they were not clear about some of the aspects of Toll’s bid.

Lynne Pillay: What are the Government’s objectives in the offer it has made to Tranz Rail?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We want to regain control of the track so we can enforce performance standards and operators, and so that we can secure rail as a vital piece of infrastructure in the national interest.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister believe it is at all possible that the following scenario—that the Government owns the tracks and Tranz Rail, Toll, and perhaps others, operate trains on them—could emerge, and if that is a possible scenario, will the Government do anything to assist that development?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Under the heads of agreement, the Government will own the track and Tranz Rail will operate the trains on it.

Dr Muriel Newman: How on earth can the Government pretend it is not in a bidding war with Toll when it has promised to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the rail network, and is that hostile approach, using the bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money, an example of how this Labour Government works in partnership with business?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand business, in general, has warmly welcomed the Government’s approach on this matter. About the only opposition of any significance that I have heard of has come from the National Party and ACT.

Hon Roger Sowry: At the meeting that someone from his office had with Toll yesterday, was an apology conveyed on his behalf to Toll Holdings for his impertinent comments that Toll had “had their chance and blew it”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, nor did Toll further come the raw prawn with me, in relation to their version of previous events.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Government’s proposal for Tranz Rail potentially represent greater value to shareholders as a long-term strategy than the current share price, or even the price that Toll is offering?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that is fair comment. Indeed, the Toll chairman is quoted as saying that one of the reasons for upping its price was it was assuming that the Government would own the tracks and carry out the maintenance. We have had to point out to Toll that if its bid based is upon the assumption that it seems to have been—that there is already a $20 million a year subsidy—that subsidy does not exist and will not exist unless the Government’s bid is approved.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister of Finance as to whose understanding of commercial reality we should follow, his or the head of Toll’s—given that in 1993 his party did not oppose the sale, even though it was a complete bargain sale to friends of the Labour Party who had subscribed $1 million to its funds in the 1987 election?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can say very clearly that at the meeting held in my office it was made clear to Toll that it was on a collision course with the Government. I have a rather excessively large number of witnesses to that meeting.

Hon Roger Sowry: Does the Minister still believe that Toll is on a collision course with the Government, or was the meeting yesterday part of a patch-up process to enable the two parties to work together?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is fair to say that we still have some doubts about what course Toll is on, so it is hard now to tell whether it is a collision one.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Labour Party’s view be different if, for example, Toll was to put $1 million into its campaign account—as Fay Richwhite did in 1987?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, it would not. But all contributions are gratefully received.

Questions for Oral Answer

Students—School Decision-making

3. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister responsible for the Education Review OfficeEducation Review Office: Should students be involved in school decision-making; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister responsible for the Education Review Office): Yes. A recent report by the Education Review Office indicates that effective student participation in school decision-making contributes to better student motivation and learning, confidence and self-esteem; better school processes, including more successful implementation of school initiatives; improvement in student behaviour, and better relationships between students, teachers, parents, whânau, and the community. In short, student involvement in decision making benefits all those involved.

Mark Peck: How is the Government encouraging schools to promote student participation in decision making if it is so beneficial to schools and their communities?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Making student representation on secondary school boards of trustees mandatory was the first step—although I note it was opposed by members opposite. Secondly, I will be commending the Education Review Office report on the topic as containing useful examples of best practice in student participation and how it can be promoted. Thirdly, the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Youth Affairs will develop generic guidelines for schools, communities, and Government organisations on how to involve children and young people in their work.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Government is so interested in the rights of students, why has it adopted a draconian zoning policy that takes away from students the most fundamental decision—which school they go to? Surely, that is a far more important way for students to have a say in their education than one in 500 students being on a board of trustees?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Quite simply. This Government believes in the right of local people to go to local schools. The Opposition believes in the right of people being able to buy their way into schools by donations and old-boy arrangements.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will have heard the comments made by Mr Mallard. We are one of the Opposition parties, and we do not believe in the kind of corrupt practice beloved of the Labour Party.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I make it clear that my comments were referring to the ACT party and the National Party.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister say to this House that his policy somehow has got away from students from wealthy families being able to buy into properties, when every single real estate agent in Auckland knows that the Minister’s zoning policy has had a huge impact on house properties, and that his policy, as shown by the records and reports since it has been in place, has involved a higher price for people—and I go back to the original question and ask the Minister why will he not let students decide for themselves which school they go to?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In New Zealand there has never been a policy where students decide when there is a limit on places in schools. The policy in the past has been to let the schools decide on the basis of old-boy networks; and that is just not on.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister maintain that answer, given that, since his Government has been in office, the number of schools with zones that take away student choice has increased from 320 to nearly 600, and that even in communities like Gore—hardly communities that would be described as having huge growth difficulties—there are now school zones, and can the Minister not accept that that huge increase does take away choice for students and parents?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I make it quite clear that this Government believes in providing teachers and education services, and not in building massive extra size into schools when they are popular at a particular point in time. That is not efficient, and, on the basis of Gore, there is not a helluva lot that is desirable, as we see in this Parliament, that comes from that area. In fact, the local member, I understand, is under real threat.

Mr SPEAKER: That last comment was totally unnecessary and out of order.

Ron Mark: Given the expressions of concern about students not being able to choose which school they go to, or specifically being locked out of those schools, how does the Minister think the parents of those students feel when they see floods of foreign students coming in and buying their way into those very same schools, supposedly in the very manner that the Minister says he disagrees with?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is one of the issues that the Government is looking at, and I welcome representations from the member or his party. I have not received any yet.

Questions for Oral Answer

Carbine Group—Government Contracts

4. KATHERINE RICH (NZ National) to the Minister of Mâori AffairsMâori Affairs: Does he stand by his answer to question for written answer No. 5043 where he stated that “I am advised that the Carbine Group have not been selected and no contract has been entered into.”; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): Yes.

Katherine Rich: In the light of a letter dated 2 April 2002 from the Mâori Television Service to the Carbine Group, which states: “I am pleased to advise that the board of directors of Mâori Television Service have accepted Carbine’s broadcast solution”, which makes it clear that the Minister’s response just 1 month later was incorrect, will he now correct that response?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I warn members that I am not going to tolerate interjections from anyone while questions are being asked.

Mahara Okeroa: Was any independent advice given to the Mâori Television Service about whether there was a contract with the Carbine Group?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. Independent advice was provided by Ernst and Young in May 2002. That company concluded that no binding commitments had been entered into by the Mâori Television Service with the Carbine Group.

Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that the Mâori Television Service board had signed off the Carbine Group’s broadcast solution before Mr John Davy confirmed the deal in writing on 2 April 2002, and how come he, as Minister, and his officials in their oversight role, did not know about this when signing off parliamentary questions to this House?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No contract was entered into with the Carbine Group.

Katherine Rich: Which part of the following quote does the Minister not understand, and I read from the letter from the Mâori Television Service to the Carbine—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There might be an implied ironic comment there, and I would like the member to ask a question, and I invite her to do so.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have warned this side of the House not to interject. Sitting on your right is the Hon Trevor Mallard, who interjected sharply, not through a point of order but by way of interjection, and you did nothing.

Mr SPEAKER: I have not finished what I was doing. The Minister of Education will now leave the Chamber.

The Hon Trevor Mallard withdrew from the Chamber.Withdrawal from Chamber

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain his earlier answers in the light of the fact that there is a letter from the Mâori Television Service to the Carbine Group, reading as follows: “I am pleased to advise that the board of directors of Mâori Television Service have accepted Carbine’s broadcast solution.”; and what does the Minister not understand about that?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I understand it quite clearly. There was no contract entered by Mâori Television Service with the Carbine Group.

Mahara Okeroa: Given that Te Puni Kôkiri was acting for the Mâori Television Service during its establishment period, did Te Puni Kôkiri ever draft a contract between the Maori Television Service and the Carbine Group?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, why did his letter not say such a thing, rather than make it clear to all and sundry dealing on the face of that letter that a party had been chosen, and in all respects a contract would have been decided upon; why did he not say “subject to a satisfactory contract”, when he advised this House?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister cannot be expected to explain why Mr Davy did not do certain things. Mr Davy is a convicted fraudster, and I understand he has since left the country.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: He is the Minister of Mâori Affairs. His job is to explain how it was that correspondence got into the public domain that clearly indicated that a selection had been made. The days of passing the buck to every civil servant rather than the Minister are over.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I will ask the Minister to comment.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have consulted the minutes of the board meetings of the Mâori Television Service. The board clearly favoured the Carbine proposal at an early stage, but in the end no contract was entered into nor was any decision taken without the approval at that time of the chief executive officer of Te Puni Kôkiri.

Katherine Rich: I seek leave to table the document from the Mâori Television Service to the Carbine group.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Immigration, Minister—Confidence

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she still have confidence in the Minister of Immigration; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister when can she finally get in contact with her job so that people like Jin Ao and Miss Tang Ying, who were brought to the attention of the New Zealand Immigration Service, and who were involved with the company Student Compass producing and selling false English-language test certificates, are still here on student permits whilst currently engaged in further business enterprises; if the Minister is hard-working and conscientious when will she eradicate from immigration these hundreds and hundreds of cases of fraudulent, improper, and inappropriate activities?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the member has specific cases of wrongdoing he should refer them to the appropriate authorities.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What on earth is the Prime Minister doing keeping the Minister of Immigration in her job if it is all of a sudden my job and my colleagues’ job to inform the department as to the mess that is doing on, in the same way as on the Assignment programme when she looked so embarrassed when she alleged that there was no fraud and had to face a whole computer dialogue of it going on; when will she start doing her job and she act like a Prime Minister? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon David Carter will leave the Chamber. I said there would be no interjections during question time. The member will now restate the question.

Hon David Carter withdrew from the Chamber.Withdrawal from Chamber

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Prime Minister think that it is all of a sudden my job or my colleagues’ job to tell the Minister of Immigration about the mess that is going on in her portfolio, and, as with the Assignment programme, have to have the very undignified sight of a Minister claiming that no fraud was going on and having it produced by the Assignment programme right in front of her face from numerous advertisements of fraud in the Auckland area when it comes to qualifications; when will the Prime Minister get this Minister to do her job properly?

Mr SPEAKER: There are two questions already.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is the responsibility of every citizen to report wrongdoing to appropriate authorities, and it will be investigated.

Questions for Oral Answer

Roading—Auckland

6. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government adopt United Future’s suggestion made on 19 December 2002 and repeated on 4 June 2003, to make up the shortfall in the level of funding available for fixing Auckland’s road congestion by using Government borrowing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No decisions have been taken about alternative further forms of funding, but the costs of the whole economy of Auckland’s roading congestion are recognised and we are exploring options to address the problem.

Gordon Copeland: Is one reason that the financing of Auckland’s roading is a high priority for Government because Auckland’s traffic congestion is estimated to be costing the economy $1 billion per annum, and would the gains from reducing this congestion provide an economic payback on any Government borrowing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly the answer to the first part of the question is yes. I would be somewhat dubious about tying borrowing to general returns in the economy as opposed to specific funding strengths.

Clayton Cosgrove: What are the fiscal implications of borrowing to support investment in Auckland’s roading system.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, the Government’s debt position is sufficiently robust that we could borrow, but also maintain our target of keeping gross debt below 30 percent of gross domestic product.

Dr Don Brash: Why would the Government even contemplate borrowing to fund high-yielding infrastructure projects while at the same time it is planning to invest billions of dollars in low-yielding shares and bonds in overseas markets?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member’s lack of faith in the long-term future of capitalism continues to astound me.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Dr Brash has asked a question that has exercised in a positive way the minds of most economists in this country and people who handle retirement funds. It is a fair and reasonable question, and because the Minister cannot answer it, that is no reason he should denigrate someone’s understanding of capitalism, of which he has not a very good grasp, obviously.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Hon Dr Cullen could add a sentence or two.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I could refer the member to many sources indicating that roughly over the last 80 years the yield on equities has outperformed the yield on bonds by about 7 percent per annum on average.

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister give some assurance to the residents and businesses of Tauranga that in the light of the economic significance of the Port of Tauranga, the Government is also working to allow for creative solutions to the $450 million strategic roading network funding shortfall there?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Despite the absence, as she is overseas, of the Hon Margaret Wilson, the issues in Tauranga remain close to the Government’s heart.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister really think that building John Banks’ wish list of new motorways in Auckland will fix congestion despite Infrastructure Auckland’s advice that even finding and spending all that shortfall over 10 years will see congestion 50 percent worse on the isthmus and 10 to 20 percent worse in the west and the south; if so why does he believe that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think, if I could put the counterfactual, that if we were to close half the present roads the member’s logic would suggest that congestion would decrease.

Peter Brown: Noting the Minister’s earlier answer, where he referred to a specified level of debt, can I take it that he is telling this House he prefers borrowing to be kept at a specified level rather than to address our roading problems?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Government is required to set targets for such matters as debt, and sticking to those targets once specified is very important in terms of credibility.

Gordon Copeland: Will the Government consider allocating the 18.5c per litre, currently collected on petrol and diverted straight into the consolidated account, to road-related expenditure to service any borrowings that might be undertaken, and other measures, given that a huge investment in roading is required right throughout New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. All the studies that have been done—and further work is going to be released before too long—show that the Government is not recovering the full economic cost of roading in New Zealand. There is not a case to be made for reducing the amount of money that is used out of that excise duty for other purposes.

Questions for Oral Answer

Breast Cancer—Radiotherapy Waiting Times

7. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Why are women with breast cancer still suffering delays of 12 weeks or more in Christchurch and Wellington to access radiotherapy when a new worldwide study clearly shows that patients waiting more than 8 weeks for radiotherapy have significantly higher local recurrence rates?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am advised that in recent months no patients in Wellington have waited more than 12 weeks for radiotherapy. In Christchurch there are nine patients who are waiting more than 12 weeks, and they are booked to start next week. Another nine are required to wait before receiving radiotherapy because they are undergoing other treatment as required by clinicians.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why is it that Australia can offer New Zealand patients needing breast cancer or prostate cancer radiotherapy a wait of only 4 to 6 weeks while in New Zealand women have to risk losing their lives or at the very least losing their breast because of this Minister’s inability to solve the waiting time problem, despite saying, in 1998, that: “It is unbelievable that people may have to travel to Australia for what should be relatively routine treatment, which is supposed to be a core service.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I stand by the comments I made in 1988 that the member has just read out. I have to say that this Government has made huge progress in providing radiation therapy in New Zealand. For example, when I did become the Minister of Health, 16 radiotherapists were being trained each year. Thirty-eight are now being trained—[Interruption] They take 3 years to train, for the member who is baying over there. The first of those 38 graduates will come out at the end of this year. Perhaps at last some real progress will be made. That is something that that party was warned about in 1996, and did nothing.

Steve Chadwick: Is the time that patients are required to wait for cancer treatment improving?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. I am advised that overall there has been an improvement in the waiting times for radiotherapy in New Zealand at all cancer centres. They have all made a huge effort to recruit staff. It has had to be overseas, because we have not trained enough of our own. They have streamlined their processes and they are using the option of treatment in Australia in the meantime so that women and men get appropriate treatment in a timely fashion.

Pita Paraone: What is the point of women obtaining mammograms and undergoing surgery where needed, when the essential radiotherapy they require is not made readily available, and thus negating both the mammogram and surgery?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Radiotherapy for women requiring treatment is available in New Zealand and we are improving on the time that they receive access to it. Mammography is a screening programme to help ensure that women have the best possible approach and advice to ensure that if they do have a problem it is caught at an early stage.

Heather Roy: Given that the Ministry of Health’s radiation treatment booking priorities recommend radiotherapy treatment within 4 weeks, why is she not intervening to ensure that patients are given the option of having treatment in Australia, in line with those guidelines, which is much earlier than the current 12-week wait patients in Wellington must endure?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member misunderstands the categories for waiting. In fact, people who require urgent treatment for radiotherapy do not have to wait 12 weeks. The New Zealand cancer treatment working-party put in place the four different categories. People who are waiting 12 weeks for treatment have had to have chemotherapy or other treatment first. This Government has not stopped people from going to Australia. In fact, it has ensured that people can have access to treatment in Australia, until it has enough trained workforce to provide treatment in New Zealand.

Dr Lynda Scott: What is her response to constituent Margaret Morris, who writes: “The delay of 14 to 15 weeks in Wellington is unacceptable. I reiterate my confoundment and despair with the health system which is Third World. I am sorry I am not a famous person, or even a boat, in which case more money would have been made readily available for staff and equipment.”, and when will she, as the Minister, stop blaming National and face the fact that it is the Labour Government that is failing absolutely miserably to deliver an adequate health system to New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The person who wrote to that member is incorrect. We are providing a very good health service in New Zealand and nobody in Wellington is having to wait longer than 12 weeks for cancer treatment. If that member and her party are so interested in cancer treatment, why did they take no notice of the reports they received in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, telling them that if they did not train more radiation therapists we would have a crisis in New Zealand. We have had to deal with that, and, fortunately, we have made some real progress.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why has she failed for 4 years to find a long-term solution to the radiation therapy waiting problem, and why is $16,000 per patient still being spent to send patients to Australia, rather than develop a public-private partnership in New Zealand that would see new equipment costs shared and that equipment utilised much more effectively?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This member has raised that issue before, and it shows a high level of naivety. There might be a private provider with a piece of machinery. Who operates it? Do we get the cleaner to operate it, or do we get a trained staff member to operate it? How can it be operated unless we have trained the people to do it? New Zealand was training 16 people a year. We could not even replace the people who were leaving. It has taken us 3 years to train the 38 people we will get at the end of this year. Why did that not start in 1996, when the previous Government was told?

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology called “Does delay in starting treatment affect the outcomes of radiotherapy?—a systemic review”.

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

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a letter from Margaret Morris talking about her view that the health system in New Zealand is failing miserably.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Schools—Curriculum

8. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Associate Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to ensure that the New Zealand curriculum continues to meet the needs of New Zealand students?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister of Education): Yesterday I released a curriculum stocktake report, which contains the findings of a detailed 3-year study into the effectiveness of the New Zealand curriculum. The stocktake has reassured us that the New Zealand curriculum has a sound structure and measures up to all international standards.

David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister please detail some of the key recommendations of the curriculum stocktake report?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: One of the report’s recommendations is that schools offer second language instruction for all students in years 7 to 10—that is, the old Form 1 to Form 4. This new second language initiative would strengthen a student’s understanding of English grammar, and extend students’ knowledge of other languages and the values that those languages express.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the latest international study on literacy levels shows that New Zealand, which once ranked first, in fact ranks 13th or the second-bottom of all English-speaking countries, when is this Government going to put in place a proper assessment policy that ensures we can measure the level of achievement within the curriculum?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have a slight difficulty here. Although I am responsible for the curriculum part of the curriculum assessment and the professional development pedagogical part of delivering what students learn, I cannot answer that precise question on the assessment. I ask the member to refer it to the full Minister of Education.

Stephen Franks: Will the Minister undertake that requiring a second language in the curriculum does not mean compulsory Mâori language classes for the thousands of children in schools that cannot offer more than Mâori, and what assurance can she give that this is not more than a disguise for sneaking in mandatory Mâori for those hundreds of thousands of children?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Quite simply, I can assure the member on this degree. At present we have curriculum statements for the following languages: German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Samoan, Korean, French, Cook Islands Mâori, and of course te reo Mâori. We also have curriculum statements in draft form for Nuiean, Tokelauan, Tongan, and te reo Mâori as a second language instead of as a primary language. This is a genuine, second-language policy.

Opposition Member: Answer the question.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I did.

Questions for Oral Answer

Te Mângai Pâho—Mâori Sportscasting International

9. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Did the contract with Mâori Sportscasting International for coverage of the New Zealand Mâori rugby tour of Australia specify a replacement commentator for Mr Tame Te Rangi, and was the New Zealand Mâori versus Australia game in Perth on 15 June 2002 broadcast by Mâori Sportscasting International as specified in the contract?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): The contract between Te Mângai Pâho and Mâori Sportscasting International did not specify a replacement commentator for Mr Te Rangi. Te Mângai Pâho has been advised by Sky television that a broadcast did take place.

Rodney Hide: How come this Minister or his officials do not realise that following the $18,000 grant approval on 30 May 2002, Mr Hemana Waaka flew business class the very next day to Brisbane, where he picked up his brother D J Waaka to replace Mr Tame Te Rangi for a 3-week jaunt around Australia, and that Mr Waaka and his brother, after flying from Brisbane to Perth business class, and staying in Perth for a nice week, did not even commentate and broadcast the game between Australia and the New Zealand Mâori, because “they couldn’t be bothered”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have heard that allegation. Any breach of the contract is for Mr Gardiner to follow up on.

H V Ross Robertson: Is the Minister satisfied that the interim chair, Mr Wira Gardiner, is taking decisive action surrounding Te Mângai Pâho?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, most certainly.

Katherine Rich: Will the Minister now call for an immediate and comprehensive review and audit of every Te Mângai Pâho funding decision for the last 3 years, given that both the chairman and chief executive officer knew that Mr Tame Te Rangi had recommended the $18,000 funding for his trip 3 days before Mr Waaka and Mr Te Rangi were scheduled to depart, yet still approved the funding 1 day before Mr Waaka was due to depart, having declined Mr Te Rangi leave, or does this Minister think that kickbacks, last-minute approvals for funding, money spent on 3-week holidays in Australia, and contracts that are not even fulfilled, let alone monitored, are acceptable?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly not. That is not acceptable. But can I assure that member that I have tried to fix it up and I will fix it up. That is the role, and, if the member did not understand, a review is being undertaken by Mr Gardiner.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister brought to his attention his responsibilities, which are to have found out himself some time during the last 12 months of this very serious breach what was going on, and to undertake his responsibilities as a Minister of Mâori Affairs in any responsible Cabinet; or has she told him that he could have second or third class standards because he is Mâori?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As a member of the tangata whenua, can I say quite clearly that Ministers rely on quality information and advice.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister a very particular question, which was whether the Prime Minister had brought to his attention over the last 12 months his responsibility as a Minister of Mâori Affairs in respect of this breach, which has been alive for 12 months now, or whether she had told him he could follow second or third class standards because he is a Mâori. None of those questions was answered. I do not know what the tangata whenua has to do with it. I know what that means here—we all do. I will explain what it means. Referring to the fact that someone is tangata whenua—that is, of the land—has no bearing on this issue whatsoever, because this is of the airwaves. I want the Minister to answer my question.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am more than aware of my responsibilities, and I am not a second class citizen in this country.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister find it peculiar that in spite of Te Mângai Pâho funding, no Mâori language broadcast of the rugby match in Perth on 15 June actually occurred, and not a single person complained or even noticed the omission at the time; what does this tell the Minister?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, and Mr Gardiner is investigating it.

Rodney Hide: Can the Minister explain to this House and to the public of New Zealand why, under his administration, Te Mângai Pâho funded two Mâori sportscasters, namely, Mâori Sportscasting International and Ruia Mai, for $18,000 each to travel to Australia and broadcast the very same games in Mâori; if this Minister cannot explain that, has he given any consideration to resigning in favour of someone who can explain?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Mr Gardiner is working on that matter, and I have not given any consideration to resigning.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister talked to the Minister about the image this creates for Mâori, particularly young Mâori, in this country, when a Minister she has appointed, and in whom she expresses confidence, performs this way in the House—to the extent that not one grave breach but now two have been disclosed on this one contract alone about the issue of the broadcast from Perth—and 12 months later has him saying that some other person, namely, Wira Gardiner, will do his job for him?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I spoke to the young leadership group in the town hall yesterday, and those people were very happy with me—like most of the people I talk to. I try to model myself on the elder statesman of Mâori in this House, and to follow the way he performs. Mr Gardiner worked with him and for him.

Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister’s utter reliance at question time on the work and findings of Mr Wira Gardiner, is not the clear message to Mâori at the next election to vote National in order to get a Minister of Mâori Affairs who can come to do the business in Parliament that people expect of any Minister of Mâori Affairs, rather than the rhubarb that this Minister dishes up day after day?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly, I tell that member by way of invitation to come with me on the road to visit Mâori at marae and in community groups and to see what he has to say in front of them, and to read some of the faxes from Mâori people that I have in support of my performance.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept that challenge to go to every marae that Parekura Horomia—

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that is not a point of order.

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

Rodney Hide: Do you want to come too, Winston?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no. I have been there. I would like, in all fairness, to table the E9 following the 2002 election, which show the level of Mâori support that the National Party has.

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

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table four documents, which I will go through in turn.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, go through them very briefly, please.

Rodney Hide: The first is the itinerary around Australia for Mr Waaka and Mr Te Rangi.

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

Rodney Hide: The second document is some pages from the Treasury-led report explaining how Mr Tame Te Rangi was supposed to go—

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

Rodney Hide: The third document is the list from the web of the hotels they stayed at on their 3-week trip.

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

Rodney Hide: And the fourth document is the Minister of Mâori Affairs’ original answer to written question No. 619—I will give the number because there has been some confusion over these questions—in which the Minister states that—

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Welfare—Initiatives

10. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What initiatives has he taken to implement a new approach to welfare?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): This Government is, in particular, committed to building the capacity of communities to solve problems for themselves. Yesterday I announced grants from the Social Entrepreneur Fund to 51 community leaders who are working with their communities to introduce a range of policies. Jim Moriarty, for example, is working in youth prisons, Jan Bieringa here in Wellington is working on issues to do with the digital divide , and a number of other projects are under way that will make a great difference to communities around this country.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What other partnership approaches to welfare are being pursued by Government?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Alongside social entrepreneurs, the Government is championing a number of partnership initiatives in welfare and employment that strengthen communities in solving problems for themselves. For example, we fund community, Mâori, and Pacific organisations to place people in sustainable, open employment. We partner with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs—57 of those mayors—to ensure young people have employment and training opportunities. We directly fund community programmes such as the Stronger Community Action Fund, and we work with community-based organisations to build employment in social service capacity.

Katherine Rich: Since he is into his fourth year as Minister, is it not desperate to now start talking about new approaches to welfare, and is the Minister’s getting himself asked patsy questions about his welfare initiatives just indicative of Labour’s worry that it is weak on welfare issues, so it had better scurry about and look as though it is doing something?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Putting aside the invitation to answer in kind, I say no. We have been releasing new policy around partnerships with communities since the first year we came in. We released our overall framework for policy in 2001, which we have been implementing. Far from scurrying around, we are ahead of that player in every sense of the word.

Sue Bradford: As part of the Government’s current review of welfare, is research being undertaken into the potential of a universal basic income as one possible way out of the current costly and inequitable three-tier benefit system?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No. It is not Government policy to introduce what is known as the “UBI”, or the universal basic income. However, we have made it clear that we are interested in simplifying the benefit system to get rid of all the complexities and allow staff to focus on helping people, rather than always processing entitlements.

Judy Turner: What initiatives has he developed to reconcile the paradox between the desperate skills shortages facing industries such as agriculture, forestry, horticulture, building, and other trades and the fact that there is still a significant number of unemployed, or does he agree with his colleague Damien O’Connor that the biggest problem finding workers for the agriculture industry is due to the perception that it is long hours and hard work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think the agriculture industry itself agrees with Damien O’Connor that one of the problems it has is the image of the industry, and it is working hard to do that. If I were to identify some of the things we have been doing lately, I would identify the Tertiary Education Commission, the review of the Industry Training Strategy that has now been implemented, Modern Apprenticeships, the Gateway programme, the commitment to 250,000 people in training by the year 2005, $85 million in this Budget, and so on.

Judy Turner: What initiatives is he considering to stop fruit growers resorting to employing illegal immigrants to harvest their crops, since the lack of pickers has already cost Kerifresh half a million dollars in lost export orders, yet, according to the technical manager, the work is 8.5 hours of working steadily away and it just does not suit a lot of people that get referred to it by Work and Income New Zealand?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The immigration issues are ones that we work on closely with the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, but I point to the real success that we have had with seasonal workers in areas like the Hawkes Bay and the Marlborough-Tasman and Nelson areas. To take the latter one, over the Christmas period the register dropped to 80 people, simply because of the success in getting people on to orchards right throughout that region—and they worked very successfully.

Judy Turner: Will he commit to a reassessment of the way in which Work and Income New Zealand promotes employment opportunities, when the department’s job bank classifies vacancies by geographical location rather than skills required, making it difficult for those actively seeking work in one region to be aware of opportunities in another?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think that is a very good idea, and I am willing to work with the member on it.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of criticisms that the Modern Apprenticeship scheme focuses on the above-average students at the expense of those with a lower record of academic achievement who have to complete costly pre-apprenticeship courses to gain entrance and are, arguably, most likely to benefit from the scheme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have heard that, but do not regard it as a criticism. The Modern Apprenticeship programme is a prestige programme; people who want to get in it should take pre-employment programmes so that they can step themselves up and cope with the work.

Questions for Oral Answer

Memorial—Sir Peter Blake

11. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister for Sport and Recreation: What does the Government regard as the most appropriate memorial to sailor Sir Peter Blake?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister for Sport and Recreation: New Zealanders will have different views about how best to remember Sir Peter. He himself donated NZL32 to Te Papa for display. The Blake family have expressed a variety of views, and Te Papa will hold a conference call over the next 36 hours to establish their views. It does, however, appear that differences relate to design details, not to the principle of showing the boat in Auckland.

Keith Locke: How can a glass mausoleum on the Auckland waterfront, as supported by the Minister, be a more appropriate memorial to Sir Peter Blake than a wonderful new island reserve—Kaikoura Island—which was supported by 72 percent of New Zealanders in a poll reported on Television One last night?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The fact remains the boat is the matter that is identified with Sir Peter—it was his great success in winning the America’s Cup. He wanted Black Magic on display so that all New Zealanders could see the yacht that first brought the cup to New Zealand. I do not believe that all New Zealanders would easily find their way to an island in the Hauraki Gulf, compared with finding their way to the boat in the viaduct area.

Mark Gosche40Mark Gosche: Can the Minister explain how this proposal came about?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The proposal was developed by a group of people including Te Papa, the National Maritime Museum, the Auckland City Council, and Sir Peter’s close friend, Ross Blackman. Pippa, Lady Blake welcomed the proposed exhibition in glue water Black Magic, saying it was a fitting tribute to Peter’s life and works.

Questions for Oral Answer

Statistics New Zealand—Computer Software Sales

12. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Statistics: What success has Statistics New Zealand had in selling software licences for internally developed systems to international statistical agencies?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Statistics): In recent years Statistics New Zealand earned $804,000 in software licences through sales of internally developed systems to statistical agencies in Ireland, South Africa, and Fiji. It was also sold a licence for its balance of payments system to the Central Bank of Estonia.

Darren Hughes: What non-financial benefits are derived from licensing software to and exchanging software with agencies in other countries?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Exchanging data-processing techniques with other statistical agencies helps Statistics New Zealand access techniques that enhance its operational capacity. It gives me great pleasure to be part of a Government that can take pride in Government agencies’ success in developing IT systems, rather than finding them a source of controversy and embarrassment.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript--subject to correction and further editing)


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