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Questions Of The Day Transcript -24th July 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

THURSDAY, 24 JULY 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers:

1. Methamphetamine—Laboratories
2. Crime—Auckland
3. Food Standards—Genetic Engineering
4. Securities Trading—Law Review
5. Local Government—Treaty Obligations
6. Discrimination—United Nations Committee
7. Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Agricultural Levy
8. Young New Zealanders Challenge—Participation
9. Local Government—Advocacy
10. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Litter
11. Canterbury District Health Board—Mental Health Services
12. Mountain Biking—Promotion

Questions for Oral Answer
Methamphetamine—Laboratories

1. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: By what percentage did the number of methamphetamine laboratories found by police in the year 2002 exceed the number found in the year 1999?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Police have done a superb job in increasing the number of seizures of methamphetamine laboratories to 147 in the year 2002 from five seizures in 1999, which is an increase of 2,840 percent.

Dr Muriel Newman: With the Minister’s own figures suggesting a methamphetamine epidemic under his watch, with the Commissioner of Police linking the 30 percent jump in murders to methamphetamine, and with 15 methamphetamine crimes committed this month alone, why do we have to wait until next year to re-establish the dedicated police teams to deal with this problem, when the Minister organised the police deployment to the Solomons in a week?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There are already teams of police dealing with methamphetamine, hence the very good percentage of detection of more laboratories. We use crime squads and drug squads, and the police are doing a very good job with the help of the public. Methamphetamine is a curse on this land, and it takes the public to combat that. Of course, it takes some time to train scientists to be able to deal with the evidence.

Martin Gallagher: Could the Minister outline what specific action the Government has taken to combat the use of methamphetamine?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government has reclassified methamphetamine as a class A drug, meaning imprisonment for importing, manufacturing, and supplying methamphetamine. It has allocated $6.6 million over 4 years in this year’s Budget for the

can-lab clean-up teams, and increased the number of such teams. It has given police greater search and seizure powers without warrant where there is reasonable suspicion that the drug is present, and enabled police to work with the Customs Service to stop its import. The Government has also given the Customs Service more powers.

Hon Tony Ryall: When will the Government amend the Proceeds of Crime Act so that drug-dealing gangs will have to prove that their assets were gained legally or face confiscation of those assets?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government is currently working on that.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister remember the police request for an extra three—not two—full-time clandestine laboratory response units, as opposed to the two that this Government gave the police, and on what basis, given the 2,450 percent increase in laboratories discovered over the last 3 years, does he and his Government believe they know better than the police, and that this country needs only two such teams, as opposed to the three that the police asked for?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government looked at the evidence and as with all Government departments, they always ask for more than they think they will get. They received two, and I think they have done very, very well.

Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the control of methamphetamines—something everyone in this House is concerned about—is the Minister aware of the very clear evidence from the Netherlands that its policy of separating the market for hard drugs from the market for cannabis, by way of sensible cannabis law reform, has led to it having one of the lowest rates of hard drug addiction in the Western World and a rate far lower than the United States of America?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The New Zealand Police liaison officer in London has established a formal relationship with the Dutch synthetic drugs unit, so they are working closely, as they are with other police throughout the world.

Ron Mark: Noting that the House has already heard from the Minister that the two clean-up teams will be established in January next year, can the Minister confirm to the House that the people who are currently doing that work today are members of the special tactics group, and how does his recent decision to send a special tactics group off to the Solomons now impact on the overall ability of the police to deal with methamphetamine laboratory clean ups?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I cannot confirm that to the member. I believe that most of the people going to the Solomon Islands will not be front-line police, but they will be replaced. I can tell the House that the next intake of police at the college will have 100 members, rather than the 80 planned.

Dr Muriel Newman: How can anyone have confidence in a police Minister who has allowed a $400 million gang-controlled methamphetamine industry to develop under his nose, with dealers now using children as young as 11 to sell the drug to feed their addictions, when police have been telling him all along that they have not the resources to be able to deal with this problem?

Mr SPEAKER: I heard an interjection. That is the only warning. No interjections while questions are being asked.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not think anyone thinks the police are responsible for the growth of methamphetamine. Just as the gangs have always dealt with cannabis, etc.—it has been an ongoing problem—it is organised crime, but the police are cracking down on it and doing a good job. It is a pity that member does not recognise the good job the police are doing.

Ron Mark: I thank the Minister—organised crime. Can the Minister then please tell the House why, when the police were asking, in their Budget proposals for this year, for an extra 34 full-time officers to develop a unit dedicated to addressing counter-terrorism and organised crime—a unit that would boost the police’s investigative and intelligence capability, in order to deal with organised crime—his Government said “No”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have run a surplus over the last 12 months. It is very simple.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on the answer that the Minister gave. It did not address the question. The question was very clear about why the Government did not fund it, and the Minister gave an answer that in no way could be interpreted as addressing the question.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I agree with the member. Will the Minister please expand on the answer.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Because the Government had a surplus of money it could put money into that itself.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the Minister might like to repeat what he actually told the House. He said that because the Government has a surplus of money it could put some money in. We agree with that. However, the question he was asked was why the Government did not put in any money.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought what the Minister might have meant was because the police had a surplus, but I am not there to judge the quality of the answer.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government put the money in and the police ended up not spending all the money that they were given by a very good Government.

Questions for Oral Answer
Crime—Auckland

2. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he firmly of the view that police resources in the Auckland district are sufficient to handle all facets of crime?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): No, because predicting where and when crime will occur, and the allocation of police resources to deal with it, is not an exact science and is always a matter of debate.

Ron Mark: Why was there no ability of Auckland police to respond to a request for assistance from a member of the public who followed a stolen vehicle containing offenders who, due to the lack of a police response, were able to go on to rob a petrol station and assault the attendant?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Sometimes the police make mistakes. They are human, and with over 1 million calls a year they do get it wrong sometimes. However, I am very proud of the New Zealand police because most times they get it right.

Georgina Beyer: Has the Minister seen any articles on Auckland crime recently?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. I have a copy of an article from the New Zealand Herald of 25 June headlined: “Auckland Police Undermanned and Overworked”. It is taken from an article written 100 years ago. There has probably never been a time when the media has reported it any differently.

Hon Tony Ryall: How does the Minister justify his statement that police in Auckland are well staffed in the light of the fact that last year fewer than one in 15 burglaries in Auckland was solved—the lowest rate of resolution on record, predating his often quoted article from the New Zealand Herald today?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The pan-Auckland area has some 2,039 police as of today, and 28 more of them will graduate today and will join the Auckland numbers. There are now only 60,000 burglaries a year compared with 96,000 burglaries when that member was a part of the Government.

Hon Richard Prebble: Could the Minister justify his belief that police resources in Auckland are satisfactory when we look at east Auckland and his own electorate, and, indeed, the electorate of Pakuranga, we see that sexual offences since the year 2000 have increased 71.9 percent, drug and antisocial offences are up 41 percent, violent offences are up 11 percent in the Minister’s electorate, and general crime in the east Auckland area is up 9 percent; is the Minister’s view to his constituents that that is satisfactory?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Even one sexual crime is not satisfactory. The member must know that it is not a resource problem. Last year the police in the Auckland area under-spent their allocation of money by some $5 million.

Ron Mark: What comments can the Minister of Police make in respect of the appalling claim that during the aforementioned offence I described police were detailed on traffic-related matters in the vicinity—indeed, the offenders drove past a large number of police carrying out their duties, and not one of them was despatched to assist the citizen calling for help?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: As I said earlier, the police made a mistake. They are human. It does happen. And I can say that that member is not always right himself.

Questions for Oral Answer
Food Standards—Genetic Engineering

3. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food SafetyFood Safety: What steps is she taking to ensure New Zealand and Australia are “aligned with the European Union on standards for genetically engineered food”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): When the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, as it was known then, put in place a food labelling standard for genetically modified (GM) food in the year 2000, it was one of the first of its kind in the world and as comprehensive as possible at that time. A review of the labelling standard was included in the 2000 decision, and that review is now under consideration.

Sue Kedgley: Now that the European Union has adopted a much more stringent GE labelling regime that will require the labelling of all genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, irrespective of whether there is DNA or protein of GM origin in the final product, will she commit to aligning New Zealand with these laws, particularly as she justified our existing weak labelling laws by saying that it was essential that Australia and New Zealand were aligned with the European Union on labelling standards?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I feel that the member did not listen to my answer. I said that when we brought in our labelling regime in the year 2000 it was the most comprehensive of its kind in the world. At that time, we put in place a review mechanism so that in the year 2003 it would be reviewed by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand. As I said in my first answer, that review is now under way and is to look at international comparisons to see what changes, if any, need to be made to our food labelling regime for GM food.

Nanaia Mahuta: What are the differences between the Australian and New Zealand standard and the newly proposed European standard?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The main difference is the threshold of 0.5 percent for unapproved GM material. The European Union standard is less strict than ours, which has a nil tolerance for food derived from an unapproved genetically modified organism. Another difference is the European Union labelling, which will be required if a food is derived from a GM crop. Labelling in New Zealand is based on the presence of GM material in the final food. In the European Union, standard labelling is required even if GM material is not detectable. We believe this will be extremely difficult to enforce.

Sue Kedgley: In the review by Foods Standards Australia New Zealand that she alluded to, will she, as Minister for Food Safety, and the Food Standards Agency, which has one of its objectives to promote accurate and meaningful labelling, be advocating for a European Union style of labelling, which requires all ingredients to be labelled, irrespective of whether they contain DNA, etc.?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I will wait to see what the review brings forth, because, as I just outlined in my answer to my colleague, some of the standards that the European Union has are less strict than New Zealand’s, and I am unsure whether the member is asking me to promote a standard that is less strict in some areas but more strict in others. I think we will wait to see the outcome of that review.

Sue Kedgley: As Minister for Food Safety, is she concerned that if there was a good safety issue that required the recall of all food derived from a particular GE commodity it would be virtually impossible to do that under our existing laws, which allow hundreds of GE ingredients to remain undeclared in food and do not require a strict traceability regime throughout the food chain; if not, why not.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I am not concerned, because any food that has GM in it in New Zealand has to be safe.

Questions for Oral Answer
Securities Trading—Law Review

4. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Commerce: What are the key features of the decisions that have been made as a result of the review of the securities trading law?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): The key features are strengthening the law relating to insider trading, introducing comprehensive prohibitions on market manipulation, increasing the range and size of penalties and remedies available for breaches of securities trading law, and strengthening the law relating to investment adviser disclosure.

Mark Peck: How does the proposed insider-trading regime strike the right balance between preventing behaviour that is damaging to the market on the one hand but still allowing the market to work efficiently on the other?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The new regime is broad enough to catch the type of behaviour that the public believes is insider trading, by expanding the definition of “insider” beyond those who have a fiduciary duty to the company. However, there are a number of exemptions to the regime that have been implemented to ensure that behaviour that is necessary for market efficiency is still allowed to occur. This includes, among others, exemptions for research and analysis, takeovers, underwriters, Chinese walls within companies, and transactions where the counter party to the transaction knows of the inside information.

John Key: Does the Minister intend to run training courses in the new legislation for Cabinet, given the Prime Minister’s love of share tipping, and the Minister of Finance’s likely breach of insider-trading rules in constructing the Toll Holdings deal; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not believe that the member heard my answer to the first supplementary question, which stated that there would be an explicit exemption in the rules for research and analysis particularly in the area of takeovers.

Questions for Oral Answer
Local Government—Treaty Obligations

5. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Local Government: How does he reconcile the two different versions of the “You and Your Council” pamphlets, one for Mâori that states: “The old Local Government Act didn’t include anything about Mâori or the Treaty of Waitangi. The new Act has a number of references to Mâori and a Treaty section explaining why there are Mâori provisions in the Act.”, while the other pamphlet says: “Local authorities do not have Treaty of Waitangi obligations under the Local Government Act (those responsibilities lie with the Crown)”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government)157CARTER, Hon CHRIS14:28:34Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): This matter was brought to my attention for the first time yesterday. Although there is nothing incorrect in either brochure I agree that they could be misconstrued. Yesterday I telephoned the Secretary for Local Government, and he assured me that no more copies of the current edition of the brochure would be distributed. A second edition will contain clear and consistent messages.

Gerry Brownlee: Who was the person who authorised the printing, and did this pamphlet ever come before the Minister’s office prior to it being printed and distributed?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: This brochure was put out by the Department of Internal Affairs. I was aware that publicity material was being prepared for the Local Government Act, but at no time were the different presentations of the treaty in both brochures brought to my attention until yesterday. As soon as I found out about that I acted on it.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Why did the Department of Internal Affairs distribute brochures on the new Act?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The department administers the new Local Government Act, and part of the department’s job is to explain what the Act says. The brochure was prepared to inform the public, including Mâori, about the new Act so that they could take full advantage of the new participatory and consultation processes that are now available.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that local bodies are now going to have to have regard to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and with the aspiration that local bodies from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island will all be acting in unison on this matter, could he explain what are these principles of the Treaty of Waitangi that local bodies are going to be paying regard to?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Local Government Act makes clear that the Crown, not local government, is the treaty partner. However, it requires local authorities to have processes in place to consult Mâori and to consider ways to foster Mâori capacity to participate in decision-making processes. There are no other obligations on councils or on Mâori.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to belabour the point, but I asked him what were the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi that local bodies are going to now have regard to. I would like an answer to the question. He made no attempt to address the question, which I have asked numerous Ministers, and now him.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister did address the question.

Hon Ken Shirley: What does the Minister say to the assertion that these new annual council pamphlets are a further example of the duplicity created by this Government’s policies, whereby one message is given to Mâori and a contradictory message is given to non-Mâori; and is that an example of this Government’s win-win scenarios?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I hope I have made it clear to this House that as soon as I became aware they could give a misconstrued message, I acted quickly to withdraw the pamphlets.

Stephen Franks: Which pamphlet is true, when Mâori already have the same opportunities as every other New Zealander to vote and to make submissions to council, yet section 81 of the Local Government Act states: “A local authority must establish and maintain processes to provide opportunities for Mâori to contribute to decision-making processes of the local authority.”; and do Mâori have special race rights or not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In fact both pamphlets are correct, in that they urge that councils engage with the Mâori community to participate in decision-making processes.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to be pedantic, but we have just had two questions granted to the ACT party.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I made a mistake, so I call the member now.

Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister is prepared to stand in this House and say both positions are correct, then what is going to be changed in these pamphlets; and if his senior officials are so confused they cannot write something clear, when it comes to this part of the Act, what does that say about the Act itself, and will he look to repeal that legislation as well?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I made clear in my initial answer, technically both pamphlets are correct but I recognise and accept there is a possibility that the message may be misconstrued, and that is why I pulled out both pamphlets. They will be re-released with a consistent and clear message.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given his particular responsibilities, could he tell us specifically whether he and his Government believe there should be a separate electoral system for Mâori?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: We believe that Mâori should participate in decision-making processes. Local authorities now have the flexibility to devise a variety of processes to do that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked him for a specific answer as to whether he and his Government believe—seeing he is Minister of Local Government—in a separate electoral system for Mâori. In that answer he made no attempt to address what is a very real question for New Zealanders today.

Mr SPEAKER: Does the Minister want to add to his answer?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am assuming that by “an electoral system’, the member means one that exists currently in New Zealand. I would say—and, I think, everyone in this House would accept—that Mâori would participate in a local body election in one territorial authority. They may use a variety of different processes to do that, but they would be participating in the one system.

Mr SPEAKER: The last words answered the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not asking about the participatory levels of Mâori in a franchise, whether it be nationwide or local. I am asking: does the Government believe in a separate electoral system for Mâori—yes or no—when it comes to local government?

Mr SPEAKER: Members cannot dictate the fall of the answer. The Minister is entitled to say what he believes as long as it is relevant, and the last words of his answer were strictly relevant to the question the member asked.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that is true, then does he or does he not believe? None of us knows. None on this side knows what the answer is. So how could he have answered the question? I asked him to address his answer to the specific question: does he believe, yes or no, in a separate electoral system for Mâori when it comes to local government? What is the answer?

Mr SPEAKER: I thought that the Minister gave an answer to that question. Whether it satisfies the member is something that is outside my control.

Gerry Brownlee: Did he see a draft of this pamphlet, or these pamphlets, prior to their being published?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I saw a mock-up of the brochure at a departmental weekly officials meeting. I did not scrutinise it closely. I certainly will next time.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting that the offending pamphlets have now been withdrawn from circulation, I seek leave of the House to table the copies we have.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 6 to Minister

14:37:10Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 6, Dianne Yates.

Lynne Pillay: Mr Speaker.

:Mr SPEAKER: I call Lynne Pillay on behalf of—

Lynne Pillay: My question is to the Minister of Women’s Affairs. [Interruption]

:Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. Dianne Yates is in the Chamber. She was down to ask the question. She must ask it. I am sorry. [Interruption] Mr Hide, you are about to leave the Chamber. You make too much noise, and that is a frequent occurrence. I have given a ruling. I am on my feet, and I will not have any nonsense, at all. Dianne Yates will please ask the question, since she is in the Chamber.

Questions for Oral Answer
Discrimination—United Nations Committee

6. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Women's Affairs: How was New Zealand’s report to the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women received when she presented it to the committee last week?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Women's Affairs): The committee acknowledged, and I would like to quote from its press release: “New Zealand’s impressive legislation for the advancement of women”. The committee chair praised New Zealand for having adopted a very sensitive approach to women’s human rights, and, again, I quote: “had a good chance of becoming a good practice example to many countries in the world.”

Nanaia Mahuta: What improvements have been made for New Zealand women since the Government’s last report to the UN committee in 1998?

Hon RUTH DYSON: We have introduced some significant measures over the past few years, including the introduction of paid parental leave, following serious concerns from the UN committee about the previous, National-led Government’s lack of action on this issue in the 1990s. We have established a pay equity task force, established an equal employment opportunities commissioner, and we have implemented the New Zealand family violence prevention strategy.

Dr Paul Hutchison168Dr Paul Hutchison: Given the extremely serious public health and human rights issues relating to the 6-week-old baby of the breast-feeding prostitute at Hawera, does her Government plan to take the advice of the United Nations committee that recommended overturning the Prostitution Reform Act; if not, how does she think that the United Nations would view a law that allows the spectre of a prostitute mother of a 6-week-old baby openly marketing her milk?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Although it is slightly presumptuous of me to assume the views of the committee, I imagine that they would be really unimpressed, as are the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians. The issue of the recent passing of the prostitution reform law was raised by two members of the 23-member committee, and I am very pleased to say that during the conversations I had with the committee, they understood fully that it was our clear understanding of our continued compliance with article 6 of the convention with the passing of that legislation.

Barbara Stewart: In the light of the Minister’s answer, does she agree with the view expressed at the United Nations women’s committee that the new prostitution laws are a rubber-stamping for the exploitation of women in New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No I do not agree with that view, and it was not the view of the committee. One member expressed that concern, and I certainly support her right to do so, and another member asked questions about the specifics of the legislation.

Larry Baldock: How does the Minister justify allowing the following pathetic paragraph to be included on page 51 of the New Zealand report, which says:

“The incidence of trafficking of women appears to have diminished in recent years. This is believed to have resulted from high-profile operations involving the police and New Zealand Immigration Service during the mid-1990s.”; has the Minister visited Auckland recently, and how can she allow that statement to be delivered?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there already. The Minister can answer two of them.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I hope that one of them is whether I have visited Auckland recently, because I can confirm that that is indeed the case. The reason I am able to confirm the information contained on page 51, in relation to trafficking, is that it is true.

Dr Paul Hutchison168Dr Paul Hutchison: Given the serious human rights and public health issues relating to the 6-week-old baby of the breastfeeding prostitute in Hawera, does she not think that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women would expect, at least, our Minister of Health and Minister for Social Development and Employment to intervene, and why has our Government done nothing to protect the baby?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As I indicated in answer to a previously asked and very similar question, I am not able to assume the response of the UN committee in relation to something that has not been directly raised with it.

Helen Duncan: Did the UN committee identify any issues requiring further attention?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, the United Nations committee certainly did. It acknowledged the positive gains but cautioned us against complacency and singled out several issues, such as pay inequity and remaining gender stereotypes, as needing ongoing attention.

Larry Baldock: Is the Minister aware of the comments by the committee on page 22 of the report, which state:

“The committee expresses concern that the Government of New Zealand did not provide sufficient data and information on prostitution, the Prostitutes Collective, and the treatment of sex workers who were in the country illegally.”; if so, what does the Government plan to do about that now?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I regret that I am not familiar with that particular phrase. The committee has not reported yet. The committee has issued a press statement, following our report to it. The formal report is not due for another few days yet, but I am happy to take up the matter further with the member when the report is presented

Larry Baldock: I seek the leave of the House to table page 22 of the report that was submitted to the UN committee, and pages 50 and 51.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Agricultural Levy

7. Hon DAVID CARTER (NZ National) to the Minister of Agriculture: Will he, or any of his Government colleagues on his behalf, attend the public meetings called by Federated Farmers to discuss the agricultural greenhouse gas emissions research levy at Masterton this evening, at Hamilton on Monday evening, and at Timaru next Friday; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Agriculture)22CULLEN, Hon Dr MICHAEL14:44:54Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Agriculture): My colleague Mr Sutton is overseas in the United States and Canada, as part of the build-up to the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in September, which takes priority over the Federated Farmers meetings.

Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was submitted around 10 o’clock this morning. It asks quite specifically whether he or any of his Government colleagues will attend the meeting. The answer that I have just been given half-answers the question by suggesting that Mr Sutton will be unavailable for the public meeting. As the issue is quite important, I wish to know whether any of his other Labour Party colleagues will attend those three public meetings.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is over to them.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said that was over to them and that ends his responsibility. He said that the Hon Jim Sutton would not attend.

Hon David Carter: How can the Minister claim that he wants genuine dialogue with farmers when he and his colleagues will not attend public meetings called to hear their concerns?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Whilst there has been a lot of air generated on this issue, I think it is fair to say that even Federated Farmers would regard the World Trade Organization ministerial round as more important than its particular meetings on the emissions levy.

Janet Mackey: For how long has it been proposed that New Zealand join the Kyoto Protocol?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The National Party Minister Simon Upton signed New Zealand up to the Kyoto Protocol with the agreement of Cabinet. Since then, the Government has reviewed the protocol and decided to ratify it, because climate change is a serious issue.

Mr SPEAKER: That was a long way outside the original question.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, is the Minister telling us that he views Federated Farmers with such contempt that he will not ensure that one Government member attends at least one of those meetings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of a senior Minister who has offered to meet with the Federated Farmers board on this issue and is yet to receive a response to that offer, and who has offered to attend meetings, provided, of course, that he has sufficient notice to reorganise his diary. Federated Farmers are showing a tendency to organise these meetings at short notice and then spring the invitations.

Gerrard Eckhoff: What briefing did the Minister of Agriculture give his Labour Party colleagues over the hostile reception he received at the Federated Farmers conference in Auckland recently, and is he asking the House to believe that that reception has no bearing on the failure of the Government—either Ministers or back-bench MPs—to front up to livestock farmers over the next week or so?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the members of the Labour Government caucus were well aware of the reception that the Minister received. I can assure the member that the timing of the World Trade Organization ministerial round and the preparations for it had nothing to do with the Federated Farmers meeting in New Zealand.

Hon David Carter: I ask the Minister of Agriculture, why did Government officials tell farmers at consultation meetings held last year that they were going to discuss the method of collecting the tax only, not whether there should be a tax; what sort of sham consultation process is that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: More than half our unit greenhouse gas emissions come from the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector will be exempt from the carbon tax specifically, although it will get flow-on effects from other carbon taxes. Instead, it will receive a very small levy for research purposes. It is the most favourably treated sector of any in the New Zealand economy on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague David Carter’s question was specifically about the issue of consultation—why was the only consultation on the issue how they collected the tax, rather than the tax. The Minister made absolutely no attempt to answer that, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, he did.

Shane Ardern: I ask the Minister of Agriculture, in the light of the Labour Government insistence on going ahead with this stupid tax, which has made New Zealand an international laughing-stock, will the Labour members opposite be prepared to put their money where their mouth is and make a financial contribution to my flatulence tax jar; yes or no?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, there is a risk the member may lift the lid of the jar and God knows what might come out, in that case.

Questions for Oral Answer
Young New Zealanders Challenge—Participation

8. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What is the Ministry of Youth Affairs doing to increase awareness and participation of Mâori and Pacific young people in the Young New Zealanders Challenge?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs): The Young New Zealanders Challenge is part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards system in New Zealand. A new position has been created in south Auckland for a person to work alongside the community to inform and encourage young people to participate in that programme.

Darren Hughes: How does funding for youth development programmes, like the one the Minister just referred to, currently compare with funding in previous years?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Spending on youth development programmes has increased by 20 percent, from $7.07 million in the last Budget introduced by the previous National Government, to $8.838 million in this year’s Budget.

Simon Power: Is the Minister concerned that 33.4 percent of Mâori and 24.8 percent of Pacific Islanders left school with no qualifications in 2001, and would he agree that the Ministry of Youth Affairs would be better to concentrate its efforts on encouraging young people to focus on the primary goal of education, rather than on secondary activities such as the Young New Zealanders Challenge?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The Minister is always concerned.

Craig McNair: In the face of the alarming child poverty, youth suicide, and youth crime statistics, is the Minister confident that the Government, which is sitting on a Budget surplus of $4 billion, is showing stickability, commitment, and reliability to our nation’s young people? [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought I asked the question of the Minister of Youth Affairs, but a member over here answered it—

Mr SPEAKER: I am listening to the Minister answering it; I am not listening to anyone else.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I am sorry. I have lost track of the question.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a sign to members that they are wasting time. I want the member now to re-ask the question.

Craig McNair: For the pleasure of Stephen Franks, here is my question again: in the face of the alarming child poverty, youth suicide, and youth crime statistics, is the Minister confident that the Government, which is sitting on a Budget surplus of $4 billion, is showing stickability, commitment, and reliability to our nation’s young people?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Yes, the Minister is confident.

Questions for Oral Answer
Local Government—Advocacy

9. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he stand by his statement in the House yesterday that “As Minister of Local Government it is my responsibility and indeed my privilege to act as an advocate for local government.”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): Yes.

Paul Adams: As part of the Minister’s role as advocate for local government, is he investigating alternative funding sources to alleviate growing financial pressure on local authorities, in line with the call from North Shore City Council’s Mayor, George Woods, for “action from both regional and central government in an all-out effort to find alternative solutions that are fair, workable, and lasting”; if so, what steps has he taken, to date?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can assure that member that we are working with the local government sector to identify upcoming infrastructure costs and whether additional funding tools are necessary.

Hon Mark Gosche40Hon Mark Gosche: What action has the Minister taken to improve the system of local government in New Zealand?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The new Local Government Act requires all councils to be more responsive and accountable to their communities. That has to be a very good thing.

Dr Wayne Mapp: When will the Government in fact complete the promised review just referred to, and promised last year, in respect of local politics in Auckland—given the huge increase in Auckland Regional Council rates, and also in the multiplicity of regional local government organisations in Auckland, which clearly is slowing things up in terms of fixing the roads?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can assure the member that the Government is working closely with all Auckland territorial authorities to address questions like transport.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister, as advocate for local government, make any formal representation to his Cabinet colleagues to ease the burden on ratepayers, who are currently paying in excess of $300 million a year into solving the problems of roading and transport; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Ultimately, the payment of funds to cover transport is borne by the New Zealand taxpayer. The Government is really conscious that, in many areas, the rating base is very weak, which is why funding for transport since 1999 has increased by 20 percent.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: As an advocate for local government, will the Minister support to his Cabinet colleagues the submission of Local Government New Zealand yesterday to the Education and Science Committee hearings on the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill, which insisted that local government must have a role in deciding whether genetically modified crops are released in their communities?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In the next week or so I will be attending the local government conference in Queenstown. I am sure I will be very happy to discuss that issue, along with many others, with local mayors and council chairs.

Paul Adams: As part of his role as advocate for local government, is the Minister prepared to meet territorial and regional Auckland mayors to help them find solutions to Auckland’s rates crisis; if so, when?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Just last week, upon returning from Australia, I met the Mayor of North Shore City and the Mayor of Waitakere City on Saturday morning over coffee, and we discussed that issue. I had lunch with Mayor Banks last week, as well, and continue to have close dialogue with Auckland mayors.

Larry Baldock: Noting the Minister’s admission yesterday that funding infrastructure is the primary cost facing local authorities, and also that part of his role is to be an advocate for local government, will he lobby the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Finance to increase the percentage of funding allocated by Transfund for local roads from the current maximum of 47 percent to a maximum of 89 percent; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I will continue to have dialogue with my colleagues the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Finance over funding for local government.

Larry Baldock: As part of the Minister’s role as an advocate for local government, has he sought any advice as to whether local government should be required to pay GST on rates remitted due to Local Government Act requirements, having been alerted to that issue in the House yesterday; if so, what was the advice he received?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I must confess that I have not yet sought any of that advice.

Questions for Oral Answer
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Litter

10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Education: Does he support the decision of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to give NCEA credits for picking up litter?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)), on behalf of the Minister of Education: There are no standards on the national qualifications framework requiring the picking up of litter.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister not just playing with words, given that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s spokesperson, Mr Bill Lennox said that picking up rubbish, and subsequent written activities to show group activity, did fit within the unit standard to obtain two credits; who is telling the truth—the Minister or Mr Lennox?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Both. There is an interpersonal communications unit that students can gain credits in. That unit requires people to do such things as identify team roles and responsibilities, and carry out routine functions to gain their credit. The kind of task that is chosen to do that is irrelevant as long as students can demonstrate those talents.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House exactly what specific skills are tested through the level-one unit standard, “Interpersonal Communications”, which assesses participation in a team or group to complete routine tasks?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes. People credited with that unit standard are able to identify team roles and responsibilities, gather ideas and information from other members, clarify their own and others’ points of view, and achieve consensus in reconciling differences. As long as the task used in the course of assessment is routine, and can be planned and executed by a team, the subject of the task is not highly relevant. I am sure the member can appreciate how useful the application of those fundamental team communications and consensus-building skills are, whether they are routine tasks such as picking up litter or trying to manage the Opposition.

Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister stand by the claim of the Minister of Education that the NCEA is “a triumph”, when an AC Nielson survey late last year showed that the more parents know about this new qualification, the less confidence they have in it; if so, can he tell us why he thinks it is a triumph?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I stand behind my colleague in saying it is a triumph. The reason I do that is that we are entering an extremely important era in relation to assessment in this country, which is now standards based, and which allows all students to demonstrate their ability in a wider range of subjects than traditionally. That has not in any way, however, changed the fact that the vast majority of students are doing languages, science, maths, social science, and technology subjects, just as they have always done.

Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister confirm that achievement standards are also available for attendance at school, and does he think that a better way of targeting truancy would be to make a national student database an absolute priority, rather than stating that only a pilot programme will be available by 2005, at the earliest?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: One thing that disturbs me is the way that people continue to trivialise standards-based assessment, which in itself does not mean that people gain credits just for attending school or picking up litter. They gain this for doing things that demonstrate new skills. I repeat that only 43,000 students took other specialist areas last year, and, for example, 590,921 took maths, as they always did. The difference is that we now have standards, rather than simplistic ranking.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to point out that the substance of that question was about truancy. I do not believe it was addressed in the response.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the member did address the question, but if the Minister wanted to comment any further about truancy, he could do so.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There is no achievement standard in the area of truancy, of course.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s surprising.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, it is not surprising, I tell Dr Smith. It is something that people like him would believe. I am finished with him; I will go back to the question. Yes, there would be an appropriate way to go about looking at truancy, which would be outside the qualifications framework. The member, I know, has raised some very interesting points in that area.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the article in the New Zealand Herald entitled “Picking up litter”.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Canterbury District Health Board—Mental Health Services

11. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: What concerns, if any, does she have about plans by the Canterbury District Health Board to contract out the entirety of its residential rehabilitation services for mentally ill people?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): My concern would be if there was any reduction in service or quality. The Canterbury District Health Board advises me that this is not the case. Residential rehabilitation is generally provided by non-governmental organisations and other community providers throughout New Zealand, so this is not a new concept.

Sue Bradford: Why is the Minister allowing the Canterbury District Health Board to repeat the same mistakes that have produced such disastrous results in the Waitemata District Health Board area; and has she alerted Canterbury police to prepare cells for mental health patients in anticipation of the changes?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In answer to the last part of the question—no, because the majority of patients who require rehabilitation residential care in Canterbury are already living within the community, and we have not seen them requiring police cells. This is a minority of people left who are within the hospital structures that are being moved to non-governmental organisation provision within the community. It is a change that has already happened in most parts of New Zealand, and, as I said, the majority of Canterbury people are already in the community.

Steve Chadwick: Does the Canterbury District Health Board currently fund non-governmental organisations to provide residential rehabilitation services?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, the bulk of these services are already provided by the non-governmental organisations sector. The decision to change the way the service is provided was made after extensive consultation with the patients and their families, caregivers, staff, and unions.

Judith Collins: What work has the Ministry of Health done in response to the ring-fence protection project, which showed that mental health service delivery by the Canterbury District Health Board was short by 19 percent; and when will the people of Canterbury get the level of mental health services they need?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The South Island, and Canterbury in particular, has a much higher level of access to mental health service than they do in the area that the member herself lives in, in Auckland and the Midlands district. I am pleased to say that this Government brought in the ring fence of mental health money a year ago. We have had a review of that, found where there were some weaknesses in the ring fence. That has been rectified.

Heather Roy: Will the Minister be encouraging more contracting out of services, in line with the growing number of enlightened Governments all around the world, so that the best quality treatment is provided to patients at the best price?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree with the member that the best quality provision, particularly in residential rehabilitation is what we are trying to achieve in New Zealand. When we look at what has happened it has been very, very successful. District health boards are looking to provide the best service to meet the patients’ and their families’ needs.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware that such consultation as there was about this process was very late, very last minute, and totally inadequate from the point of view of the mental health workforce involved and of the patients, and that it is believed that the tangata whaiora involved are not aware that it will mean their moving into situations like small flats, instead of the kind of group residences in which they have been housed up until now?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The initial consultation was inadequate, but it led to new pay. The union and the Canterbury District Health Board have put together a joint implementation team to ensure that the transition arrangements are put in place for the patients moving into the community. That is now happening, and includes monitoring arrangements.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister believe that the Canterbury District Health Board has got its priorities right when it is cutting its mental health services to save $500,000, while at the same time, over the last two financial years, every single one of its 96 managers has received bonuses totalling $1.9 million?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Mental health services in Canterbury are not being cut. The payment of bonuses is not something that I am prepared to support. However, I am told by the board these are not bonus payments, but money that was withheld from salary and was paid only on performance.

Questions for Oral Answer
Mountain Biking—Promotion

12. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Conservation: What is being done to promote mountain biking on conservation land?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Lots! My department is working in partnership with mountain bikers to create exciting opportunities on conservation land. The Prime Minister and I recently opened a premier mountain bike route in the Kahurangi National Park. A host of routes are available in Otago, including the 150 kilometre - long Otago Central rail trail.

David Parker: Is mountain biking permitted in national parks?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Mountain biking is permitted in national parks, but only on formed roads. This rule is set by the national parks general policy and approved by the Conservation Authority. The public will be consulted on the issue when the policy is reviewed.

Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 6 to Minister

DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask for your clarification on a question that I did not want to ask. Speaker’s ruling 123/1 states: “If when a question is called the member in whose name it stands elects not to ask it, the member cannot be compelled to do so, and unless leave is sought and given to postpone it the question would disappear from the Order Paper.” I ask you whether that is still relevant or has it been superseded?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it is. If the member does not want to ask the question, the member does not have to, but no other member can ask it on that member’s behalf if the member is sitting in the Chamber. That was the difficulty we got into, and that is why I had to call Dianne Yates because Dianne Yates was in the Chamber. If she did not want to ask it at all—and perhaps I was a bit too quick in insisting that she ask it—certainly, no one else could ask it on her behalf.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your ruling is correct, and perhaps I was a bit remiss, too, because your ruling gave the impression to the member that she was required to ask the question, whereas, of course, if she had sat in her seat it could not be asked. However, the point raised is a more serious one. As members of Parliament we are entitled to assume that a question that is in Dianne Yates’ name is her question. I am left with the impression, as I am sure the House is, that the question, which we all realise involved prostitution, on which she took a strong view, was not written by her. In fact, I am left with the impression that the Government whips who are pro the bill gave this question, which is very embarrassing to a person who is the leading opponent of the bill, to her to ask and to humiliate her. I would like an assurance from her that this was her question.

Mr SPEAKER: This question was properly lodged in the way that whips lodge questions. I have just checked up, and it was properly lodged.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have no doubt that the question was properly lodged, but did Dianne Yates approve this question or did some other MP sign it without her approval? That is the question.

Mr SPEAKER: That is something that only Dianne Yates herself can comment on if she so wishes. If she wishes to comment on it, then she can. If she does not, then she does not have to. No member can demand that another member speak for himself or herself.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I guess what you are saying is, as usual, correct. It is not a Labour Party question, it is Dianne Yates’ question, and if she did not approve it and did not know about it before it went in, then that shows that the Government whips are abusing the process.

Mr SPEAKER: That might be the member’s spin on that particular thing, and he has made that point. However, nothing that I have said today is out of order with the rules of the House.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: This had better be a new matter this time.

RODNEY HIDE: It is, indeed. Is it your ruling or understanding of the Standing Orders that it is quite in order for an MP to put in an oral question in another member’s name without that member knowing?

Mr SPEAKER: With authority, yes. This question had the authority of the whips concerned because, of course, parties are allocated so many questions per day.

RODNEY HIDE: So it is possible to put a question in in another person’s name without that member knowing?

Mr SPEAKER: With the authority of the member in whose name the question was put. That is the point that I make.

End of Questions for Oral Answer


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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