Questions And Answers For Oral Answer
TUESDAY, 5 AUGUST 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions to Ministers:
1. National Security—Security Risk Certificates
2. Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Security Risk
3. Foreshore and Seabed—Legislation
4. Employment—Government Initiatives
5. Local Government—Rates
6. Solomon Islands—Regional Assistance Mission
7. Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Immigration Service
10. Rail Services—Auckland
11. Sentencing Act—Parole
12. Literacy and Numeracy—Assessment Tools
National Security—Security Risk Certificates
1. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Immigration: Does the Minister stand by her statements in the House of 24 March 1999 that “I am frightened … that there will be people who will have a security risk certificate issued against them and they will not know why. They will be fighting windmills. They will be unable to defend themselves against specific charges because they will not be informed as to what those charges are.”?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): No. On 24 March 1999 I rose in the House, raised those concerns, having asked the Minister in the chair to take the call to explain how the part would work in practice. The Minister, the Hon Tuariki John Delamere, did not take the call. Now that I have seen how the process works in practice, with the protection of the inspector-general’s review, I am satisfied with the process.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister concede that Mr Zaoui, in terms of the security risk certificate taken out against him, is in exactly the same situation of not being able to see the evidence against him, and is that not precisely why the member, in a speech made in 1999, said: “I think this is an incredibly dangerous area for us to be moving into.”?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In this House I said at the same time that Labour members had struggled with Part 3, which became Part 4A, that we had great difficulty in accepting the changes that were put in place, but we were prepared to let them go. In the meantime we were prepared to look at having it implemented, and to review it once it has been in operation for a period of time. This is the first time the provisions have been used.
Keith Locke: Is the Minister taking steps to verify independently the evidence provided as part of the Security Intelligence Service certificate of risk against Mr Ahmed Zaoui in the light of the discredited, broad-ranging dossier provided by the Security Intelligence Service to the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, or does she agree with the Prime Minister that it is “a bit rough for the SIS to be somehow responsible for the quality of that information.”?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I refer the member to the statement put out by the Minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service—the Prime Minister—yesterday where it is made absolutely clear that no classified information was provided to the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, and that it was simply a compilation of publicly available materials, that it had no status, and was not used by the Director of Security in making the security risk certificate.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister not agree, in reading the very detailed report of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, that the dossier provided by the Security Intelligence Service to the authority was very detailed, had a lot of opinion, had a biographical chronology of Mr Zaoui, related to a lot of sources, and had a description of both the Armed Islamic Group and the Islamic Salvation Front, with a lot of opinions, and that it was not just a handful of press clippings thrown to the authority?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I refer that member to the answer I have just given—that is, the service, in accordance with the Official Information Act, provided unclassified information it held. Among the documents provided was a chronological background of Ahmed Zaoui, based entirely on open-source material. The document was simply that—a compilation of publicly available materials.
Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Security Risk
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Has she seen the report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security on whether Mr Zaoui is a national security risk, and what did she do, if anything, to ensure the Refugee Status Appeals Authority suspended its decision until such time as security measures were cleared up?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): There has not yet been a report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security on Mr Zaoui. The Director of Security has issued a security risk certificate. I have made a preliminary decision to rely on it. Mr Zaoui has exercised his right to have it reviewed by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. That review is occurring now. I have no power to suspend any Refugee Status Appeal Authority hearing or decision. In fact, the Immigration Act is explicit that that is the only immigration process that is not suspended when a security risk certificate is issued.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell the country how many countries with a significant or majority Muslim population are closer to Algeria than New Zealand is, and what criteria will she use to assess whether suspected terrorist Ahmed Zaoui is allowed to remain in New Zealand?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I cannot answer the first part of that question. As to the second part of the question relating to the process from here on in, it does not come back to me until the Inspector-General has reviewed whether the certificate was properly issued. At that point I have 3 days to make a final decision on whether I will rely on the security risk certificate.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Do the Minister and her colleagues not find it unusual that in all this world, with all those Muslim countries, if Mr Ahmed Zaoui is as innocent as some of her colleagues and apologists would have us believe, why on earth would he come all the way to the South Pole virtually, via New Zealand, to find sanctuary in a supposedly Christian country that is not Muslim?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have made this point abundantly clear on more than one occasion. It is not for the Minister of Immigration to determine matters of refugee status. My only interest in this matter is the question of New Zealand’s national security.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister telling us that the Government has no say whatsoever as to whether a suspected terrorist should come to this country—cost us probably in excess of $90,000 already—
John Key: More than that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —more than that, but at a bare minimum, which is about 20 cataract operations for ordinary New Zealanders who cannot get them—and whether he should stay here?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The individual concerned has been granted refugee status. There is a security risk certificate that has been made in respect of him. That is now the subject of a review. Once the review is complete, if the certificate is upheld, then I make a decision whether to rely on the security risk certificate. If I do, Mr Zaoui will be deported.
Foreshore and Seabed—Legislation
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is it still her intention, as she said last Thursday, to “give a further indication of Government thinking …” on the foreshore and seabed this week or will she confirm reports that she has now delayed releasing those plans until next week?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): As I said in the House last week, this is a complex issue, and I was not prepared to commit to a precise time line. The Government will put out its proposal for consultation as soon as possible.
Hon Bill English: If the Prime Minister was unwilling last week to commit to a time line, why did two of her Ministers say that the Government would outline its position this week, and why has there been a delay?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the member referred to the answer I gave him last week, he will see I said that like Mr Tamihere, I hoped it would be possible to give a further indication of Government thinking next week—which is now this week—but that given the complexities of the issues I was not prepared to commit to a precise time.
Dail Jones: What recent reports has the Prime Minister received from her officials about the views of the leader of the ACT party, Mr Prebble, the leader of the National Party, Mr English, and the leader of United Future, Mr Dunne—their views from 1988 to 1993 relating to this issue and to Mâori land and seashore issues generally?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have not received any reports from officials. I see the odd thing in the newspaper.
Hon Richard Prebble: Is it just a coincidence that the Government is planning to issue a report on land access issues to coincide with the Government’s response to Mâori claims for the foreshore and seabed, and is the House right to conclude that Labour is using this Mâori claim as a justification to seize private property rights; if that is wrong, will she give a public assurance to this House that no New Zealander, Mâori or non-Mâori, will lose any property rights without full compensation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know that conspiracy theories are always preferred to coincidence theories, but it so happens that the Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Rural Affairs has had a working party under John Acland working on this issue for quite some time. However, I do want to commend ACT and its leader at least for consistency on this issue. I note that the member who asked the question has already drawn attention to the fact that another party in this House seems very concerned to deal only with the issues as concern access on land that might be Mâori rather than in general.
Metiria Turei: Further to Mr Prebble’s question, will the Prime Minister commit to tabling the land access review and the seabed and foreshore consultation document at the same time so that the public can get a balanced view and understanding of the access issues, rather than the racially divisive rhetoric currently promoted by other political parties?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot say that the two will come out at exactly the same time, because I know the member for Aoraki, Jim Sutton, has already received a report, which he is getting printed and wants to release in due course. I would assume that some people, consistent with their belief in one standard of citizenship, will want exclusive Crown ownership of those areas for every part of the foreshore and seabed. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I want to hear this question. I am not going to be interrupting this House again or I will be asking members to leave. Questions will be heard in silence.
Hon Peter Dunne: Following her reported comments today lamenting the erosion of the Queen’s Chain, is it the Government’s intention in resolving the foreshore and seabed issue to bring together, if not at the same time then at an analogous time, legislation that gives New Zealanders comprehensive protection over all aspects of public access to lands that have traditionally been regarded as being in the public domain?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It may not exactly be an erosion of a right, but rather that we have tended to assume a lot of things in this country that may, in the final analysis, not have had a secure basis in law. My understanding—and I have not yet seen the report—is that the Land Access Reference Group suggests that the Queen’s Chain is far from complete. That is an issue that the Government should address.
Hon Bill English: Can the House take it that, with the Government’s emphasis in recent weeks on access, it is not going to deal with the issue of who owns our beaches?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What the Government has consistently said is that it does not want, over what has been traditionally regarded as part of the public domain, to see exclusive, private, fee-simple title created.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the Prime Minister’s proud boast that she is a leader that front-foots issues, why on earth is she not prepared to take the public of this country into her confidence, rather than having secret, covert meetings behind closed doors with some of her junior Mâori colleagues?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am always happy to meet all colleagues in this building and not in Courtenay Place.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, I should have been in a gay bar, where the Labour Party and half the press gallery would have been happy for me to be.
Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister accept that every day she delays taking action, more time and money is being wasted by claimants in the Mâori Land Court, who can, according to her own definition, never gain the private title that they seeking?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No. People are free to spend their money to explore their rights, but the Government is being very clear about the outcome it is seeking.
4. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What initiatives is the Government taking to assist more people to move into employment?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yesterday the Government announced a $104 million Jobs Jolt package to help address skills shortages and get more New Zealanders into work. The package is designed to address employers’ skill and labour shortages, and to ensure that groups such as the long-term unemployed, sole parents, young people, and mature job seekers are well placed and supported to take up new opportunities. The Jobs Jolt programme is designed to be largely self-funding, as it will reduce the number of people needing benefit support. That is good for both employers and job seekers.
Helen Duncan: What are the key features of the Jobs Jolt package?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Jobs Jolt package addresses both employer and job seeker needs. The package will ensure better matching between job seekers and particular labour shortages in areas such as hospitality, retail, and transport. The package will vary according to region, so that there can be a response at an individual level to the labour market in that area. For example, in more rural areas the emphasis will be on mobile employment services to take job-matching to the client, while in metropolitan areas the focus will be on areas such as internships to give job seekers work experience and entry-level training.
Katherine Rich: Why does the Minister not tell the House that none of his package is genuinely new, because Work and Income has always had the ability to stop benefits of people who choose to live in remote areas where there are no jobs and to undertake active case management and work testing for those in the 55 to 59-year age group, as well as being already actively involved in the Mayors Task Force for Jobs, information technology training, and special assistance for sole parents; and why does he not admit that the programme he has re-announced is a jobs joke, rather than a jobs jolt, which will do little to make major changes in reducing welfare numbers?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm for the member that little in this package is new. It is, in fact, an expansion of policies that have helped to lower the unemployment rate by 33 percent since we became the Government.
Barbara Stewart: How does the Minister reconcile his “move or lose the dole” scheme with the rights of those experienced and skilled people in the 55 to 59-year age group who have already contributed their labour and taxes and who face enormous barriers in re-entering the workforce?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: For people who are 55-plus years, the package means that now they are work-tested they also have access to work support, so that they can find a job. For people in remote areas, case managers will now be able to take those people, who have decided that they simply want to live in a remote area but not seek a job, and ask them to move.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the Minister’s announcement yesterday that people in the 55 to 59-year age group will be work-tested for the dole, why did he state, only in May, that: “The Government had no plans to introduce work testing for those over 55 years”; and is it not the case that his dramatic U-turn is being driven by an embarrassing rise in welfare numbers, including the number of those on a sickness benefit who now number more than 40,000 for the first time in New Zealand’s history?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The motivation for this package is that we are still enjoying about a 5 percent unemployment rate. We still have employers looking for labour, and we still have skill shortages. Therefore, this policy has been put in place to assist more people into work. In May, we were not yet ready to announce these kinds of policies, because we were not sure that the labour market would remain as robust as it has done. But, thankfully, it has, and now we can move on these policies.
Sue Bradford: Why is the Minister increasing sanctions on beneficiaries, when in 1998 he criticised the then-National Government by saying it was “spending time and money on dreaming up silly penalties for beneficiaries who do not do as they are told.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Because the National Party did spend a considerable amount of time dreaming up silly things to do, like work-for-the-dole, which has been proven to be a complete waste of time.
Judy Turner: In the light of the announcement that case managers will work more closely with sickness beneficiaries, does the Minister agree that the increasing number of people who transfer from the unemployment benefit to the sickness benefit suggests that more close scrutiny by case workers also needs to be directed at that particular category of beneficiaries?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The figures show that people go back and forth between different benefits, and, as I have said before, that is not for lifestyle reasons, as is often claimed by the member. Those measures ensure that we are able to more closely tailor support to sickness and invalid beneficiaries, as we have been saying we would do.
John Carter: If the Minister is serious about moving people into employment, is the Government changing its housing policy of building housing in remote, rural areas where there are no job opportunities, and capturing people into welfare dependency?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is a good question, because the member comes from Northland. That is exactly why we have not gone about simply building houses in the Northland area; rather, we have ensured that the regional development policies run by Mr Anderton and the social development policies run by myself are matched with housing policies.
Sue Bradford: Will the Minister require people who live in their ancestral papakâinga district, such as Northland, to leave their home and extended whânau as part of the Government’s changes to the remote areas policy?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No.
Judy Turner: As part of this package, will the Minister consider adopting a similar approach towards the sickness benefit as that used by the Accident Compensation Corporation in rehabilitating long-term claimants, in the light of the fact that the benefit is intended to be temporary, yet about 5,000 people have been on it for 5 years or more?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The sickness benefit is temporary. Before we demonise people on it, we should remember that most of them come off it because they die. What we are trying to do with this package is to take what we have always said would be a reasonable step forward, which is to ensure we tailor a package of policies round people who are on the sickness benefit, so that they may be able to return to part-time work, in particular, that fits their needs.
Sue Bradford: Why can Work and Income not provide full job assistance to job seekers aged 55 to 59 without applying the full force of a sanctions regime on people who are already highly motivated to seek work, and what research, if any, has the Minister done on the impacts of sanctions regimes on older workers like these?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In essence, a person who is 55-plus is simply on the unemployment benefit. We think it has been a mistake in the past to treat such people in a different way to other people. They will now be treated the same way. In addition, we will be putting policies in place that are geared to mature workers. For example, we will be helping to overcome the fact that many employers do not see mature workers as their preferred choice. We want to change those attitudes.
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the Dominion Post article from 2 May, entitled: “Maharey plays down work tests”.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that newspaper article. Is there any objection? There is.
5. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Local Government: Has he given consideration to capping the increase in rates that a council can impose in any one year; if so, what does he see as the advantages of such an approach?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): No, I have not given that idea any consideration. However, the member’s bill on that issue will be given due consideration by the Labour caucus, as is the case with all members’ bills.
Rodney Hide: Is the Minister prepared to hear from the public by at least supporting my bill going to the select committee; if he is not prepared to support its referral to a select committee, why is he not prepared to hear from the public?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can assure the member that I do regularly hear from the public—not least of all on rating issues.
Jim Peters: Has Mr Hide or any other member made written comment to the Hon Mr Carter’s ministry seeking an urgent review of the council’s processes for striking rates in the year 2003-04 under the Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government (Rating) Act; if not, why not?
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Whether I have written to the Minister might be very interesting, but he cannot explain whether I have written.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the member might like to rephrase the question so that it involves the Minister’s responsibility. He can say: “Has the Minister received it”, or something like that.
Jim Peters: Has the Minister received any written comment regarding a review of the council’s processes in striking rates for the 2003-04 year under Local Government Act 2002 and the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002; if not, why not a review?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: To reiterate what I said earlier, I have received a number of letters and emails requesting a review of rates from a number of territorial authorities.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was: “Has the Minister received any written”—
Rodney Hide: Oh, you are going to help your brother out.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: And you too, sunshine.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hide, you will please leave the Chamber. I am not having any interjection on points of order.
Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Minister was asked whether his ministry had received any correspondence on two critical pieces of local government legislation from Mr Hide, and we are still waiting to know what the answer is—yes or no.
Hon Richard Prebble: It would greatly help the House if the younger brother would listen to the older brother, because in fact if you look at the question that was approved, Mr Hide’s name was not mentioned in the second question. Indeed, if the Minister wants to know what Mr Hide and the ACT party think, all that he has to do is read the Hansard, where we predicted that most of these things would happen.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say that the member did not listen to the second question and Mr Prebble is exactly correct.
Nanaia Mahuta: Who is accountable for local authority rates increases, and does that accountability includes public participation?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Local authorities are accountable to their own communities for the activities they undertake, the costs of those activities, and the level of rates required to fund them. All of those matters are required to be explicitly identified in council planning documents, which are subject to formal public consultation requirements.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister asked his officials to assess how much of the considerable rate rise across the country can be attributed to the impositions upon local authorities that come from the policies of Helen Clark’s Government; if not, why not?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: My officials are constantly scoping out costs to local authorities. We are, of course, very aware that the primary cost to local authorities is infrastructure costs, and no Government has delivered more to local government in funding on infrastructure than this Government.
Paul Adams: Does the Minister agree that if instead of capping rates, which sounds a lot like the Muldoon price and wage freezes that never worked, the Auckland Regional Council revenue was paid by all Aucklanders over the age of 18 years then the cost would be only $2 per week each, instead of individual property owners facing rate increases of several hundred percent?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I do feel that it is a simplistic response to rate rises to suggest a process of just capping them. It would, of course, remove the ability of local communities to fund important projects. Actually, it would appear that ACT members are becoming advocates for central control.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the last sentence is out of order.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is worse than that. We have a situation where a member has put down a question on notice and is now unable to ask supplementary questions because you have thrown him out. The Government has now decided to take free hits at the ACT party. The member should be required to—
Hon Annette King: Ha!
Hon Richard Prebble: We now see that the Minister is allowed to laugh and make points of order, but I guess the rules are different for Labour members. She should be thrown out, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the rules are not different for Labour members. The member is perfectly correct that the member was asked to leave. That was for nothing to do with the question or answer session. It was through disobeying the rule about interjecting on points of order, and every member knows that. As far as taking potshots at ACT is concerned, first of all, the last sentence was out of order, and I have ruled it out of order. Secondly, the member is probably the most experienced member in the House ensuring that that will not occur, and it will not.
Hon Ken Shirley: Is it fair in the Minister’s mind that ratepayers face an average rate increase in the order of 34 percent—yes or no—and if he thinks that it is fair could he explain why; if not, what will he do about it?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: In reply to that question I repeat the reply I gave last week on this subject. Local authorities set their own rates, and they are accountable for them.
Solomon Islands—Regional Assistance Mission
6. JILL PETTIS (Junior Whip—NZ Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What progress is being made by the regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): The regional assistance mission has been successfully deployed and has received an enthusiastic welcome and overwhelming support from Solomon Islanders. The deployment has had the immediate effect of curbing the previous intimidation, extortion, and violence by armed gunmen in Honiara. However, it is still early days, and tougher challenges lie ahead in recovering weapons and curbing corruption.
Jill Pettis: What are the priorities of the regional assistance mission, and what steps is it taking towards achieving those priorities?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The first priority is to restore the rule of law, followed by measures to restore the economy and good governance. The recovery of weapons has started with a 21-day amnesty, but backed by credible sanctions. Reform of the police force, strengthening the judicial system, and completion of the Rove prison are the next steps.
Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Immigration Service
7. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Immigration: When will the inquiry into the New Zealand Immigration Service’s handling of information on the Zaoui case be completed and to whom will the report be made?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): The chief executive of the Department of Labour has advised that he will provide a full report to me by the end of the month. I understand that he will also report to the State Services Commissioner. I have had a discussion with him and he also advised that if it transpires that he can report earlier, then he will.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister recall answering an assertion by myself last Thursday that the Secretary of Labour reported to her, and was therefore the wrong person to conduct the inquiry, by saying: “That is not correct. The Secretary of Labour is accountable to the Minister of Labour in that regard.”; if so, how does she reconcile that statement with this purchase agreement signed between herself as Minister of Immigration and the Secretary of Labour on 23 May 2002, which states: “The chief executive is accountable to the Minister of Immigration for delivery of the outputs and results specified in this agreement to the quantity, quality, and time specified.”?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The assertion the member made related to bonuses and salary levels. I think I recall him saying that at the time. It is true that he is accountable to me in respect of Vote Immigration, but in terms of the wider responsibility on Vote Labour and all of the assessments in terms of accountability for his performance lie with the Minister of Labour.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister recall signing a purchase agreement with the Secretary of Labour on 23 May last year, which states that the purpose of the document is to allow the Minister of Immigration to determine which outputs to purchase, what performance measures to have, whether those outputs have been delivered, and to hold the Secretary of Labour accountable for that delivery; if so, can she tell the House why we should have any confidence in an inquiry being conducted by someone who reports to her in this way, when she herself was so closely involved in these events?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I recall signing the purchase agreement. I recall that at the time the Secretary of Labour was John Chetwin, which is why James Buwalda is a very good person to conduct the review.
Heather Roy: What confidence can the public of New Zealand have in her, given that she has signed this purchase agreement, and when will she admit that a full, independent public inquiry is necessary, or is she still reluctant because such an inquiry might find that she was party to the reported unison of lies?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have not ruled out any inquiry following on from this, but I want to know the facts of the situation. I approached the general manager of the Immigration Service and asked him to take some steps to investigate what had occurred after the member the Hon Murray McCully had released information to the media about an Official Information Act request. It was a secondary issue to the other matter that the member raises. I am prepared to wait until I have that report before I make a judgment on it.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister recall saying to the House last Thursday: “I have fully accepted that the comments that were included in the media log that was put together by the media adviser in the Immigration Service were not reflective of an agreement to lie, because I would have had to be a party to such an agreement, and I was not.”, and can she now tell the House, if that is the conclusion, why the Department of Labour is bothering with an inquiry?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The comments that I made in relation to that matter was that the comment recorded in the media log said that people had broken this so-called agreement. As I was the only person who spoke on the matter, I would have had to be a party to such an agreement. There was no agreement to lie.
Hon Murray McCully: Since the Minister has just confirmed that she recalls saying in the House: “I was the only person who spoke about the matter. It must refer to me, and therefore I could be a party to such an agreement only if one existed. No such agreement existed.”, could she tell the House, since she has already pronounced herself to be innocent, does she seriously expect her own officials to find her guilty?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have asked for this matter to be investigated in respect of the question of the Official Information Act matter, where the member brought that matter to public attention by giving it to the news media. That was the matter that I raised with the general manager of the Immigration Service. The Secretary of Labour in fact took the matter off the hands of the general manager of the Immigration Service. I have not instructed the Secretary of Labour in respect of this inquiry. It is one that that he is conducting himself, and he has broadened it to cover that very issue.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister not understand that by signing this agreement, as Minister of Immigration, with the chief executive of the Department of Labour—which holds the chief executive of the department accountable to her for his and the performance of his officials—that she has created a situation where somebody who reports to her is being asked to investigate whether there has been wrongdoing in the form of an agreement to lie in unison, in which she herself is implicated?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I just made it absolutely clear that I did not ask the Secretary of Labour to undertake this inquiry. I am prepared to wait for the outcome of the inquiry, then determine whether further inquiries need to be undertaken.
Hon Murray McCully: I seek leave of the House to table the output agreement for Vote Immigration, 2002-03.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that agreement. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the briefing paper of August last year to Minister Dalziel on the issues of immigration, which came from the Department of Labour, which proves, surely, that they are the department responsible to her.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I could not understand what Mr Peters was asking for leave to table.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been denied.
Hon Richard Prebble: Maybe other people deny it because they deny everything the honourable member says, but I do not. I like to do it on the merits.
Mr SPEAKER: I will let the member repeat it very briefly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the briefing paper to the Minister of Immigration, of August last year, after the election, which was prepared by the Department of Labour, which surely proves the connection between her and the department.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: How many applications for residency are currently under consideration?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): My advice is that there are 27,461 applications currently under consideration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Do the 27,000 applications include amongst its number two pallets full of files that went missing between Wellington, Shanghai, and Beijing in the last 2 weeks, which contained some 700 files of applications for business category and residence, and included confidential material such as birth certificates, certificates, passports, and bank details?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not know, because I am not aware of the matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why were two pallets containing 700 files, with confidential material such as birth certificates, passports, and bank details, being sent to Shanghai and Beijing from this country for processing as to the suitability of the applicants to become New Zealand residents, why is this processing taking place in China rather than being processed in New Zealand by New Zealanders, and what happened to the missing files?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not aware of the matter that the member is raising. I am aware that a decision has been taken to shift some files from the business branch in order to have them dealt with in a particular area that has capacity to deal with that work because there is a significant backlog.
9. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Does the Government intend to change the legal status of cannabis this parliamentary term, or to introduce legislation to change the current law to come into force next term?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): No.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of police reports that show that cannabis suppliers and users are branching out into methamphetamines; if so, will he categorically rule out the decriminalisation of cannabis since it is clearly a gateway drug?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I can categorically rule out any legal change to the status of cannabis, and I can do so because that was part of the agreement for confidence and supply between the Labour - Progressive Coalition Government and the United Future parliamentary caucus. That states explicitly that the Government will not introduce legislation to change the legal status of cannabis and will implement a comprehensive drug strategy, etc. I can say, of course, in answer to the other part of the question, that we have moved strongly on the question of methamphetamine, both on the busting of labs and on reclassifying the drug to give greater search powers.
Tim Barnett: What response will the Government be making to the report of the Health Committee on its inquiry into health strategies relating to cannabis use?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Health Committee, as I understand it, is currently considering an inquiry into health strategies relating to cannabis use. That committee has not yet reported, but when it does, the Government in the normal way will consider its recommendations carefully and decide what response it should make. As part of that process the Government will not be considering any change to the legal status of cannabis.
Richard Worth: In the light of his answer to the primary question, is this a clear signal to the Green Party that it is no longer needed by the Labour Party during this parliamentary term, nor the next, because of the committed relationship that United Future and the present Government enjoy?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No.
Craig McNair: Does the written agreement between the Labour-Progressive Government and United Future, which gives the Government supply and confidence, stop any member of the Labour Government from bringing a member’s bill to decriminalise the use of cannabis, or is that document, as we suspect, not worth the paper it is written on?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The document relates to the Government. No party in this House, under the Standing Orders, as I understand it, can stop an individual member from bringing in a member’s bill.
Nandor Tanczos: What scope is there for the Government to address the very real concern that the current law is not working and that a fresh approach is needed, as expressed by the Hon Peter Dunne, on behalf of the United Future party, in his submission to the Health Committee inquiry into cannabis, in the light of the Government’s commitment?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have no doubt this House and individuals within it will continue to search for ways in which to minimise the damage being done by drugs, including cannabis, and to try to find a solution so that the laws relating to drug use are observed by the wider population. One has to change the way people think, as well as simply change the legislation.
Judy Turner: In the light of the Minister’s answer to Mr McNair’s question, has he considered what the Government’s response to a member’s bill for decriminalising cannabis would be, if such a bill were introduced to the House in this term, given the Government’s decision to vote as a party on the smoke-free legislation?
Hon PHIL GOFF: As I recall, all legislation relating to drugs and alcohol in this House, apart from things like classifying methamphetamine, has usually been a conscience vote.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with the view: “It would be much safer and less expensive to the community to have speed pills prescribed by doctors in a health promotion context, as proposed by the Mild Greens.”?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I totally disagree with the sentiments behind that statement.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this under a Standing Order about authentication. Did I hear the member say there is such a thing as “mild Greens” or was it Wild Greens?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. That is an interpolation that is not normally part of business.
10. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: Is she satisfied that Aucklanders are getting a good deal from the proposal to expand rail services in the city?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues): Yes.
Gerry Brownlee: Does she accept that the future and present $100 million a year subsidy and the $1,500 million price tag for the Auckland rail project can only lead to very substantial future rate rises for Aucklanders; if not, how does she think the project will be funded?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: There are good estimates showing that Auckland and New Zealand are paying over $800 million a year for congestion that Auckland has already experienced. I believe that the solution to Auckland’s transport problems is as Sir Dove-Myer Robinson said in 1974:
“a mix of roading, cars, buses, and railways, which the Government and Auckland must meet the cost of”.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be a wide stretch of the imagination for anyone to suggest that answer addresses the question. I asked of the Minister for Auckland issues a specific question whether Aucklanders are getting good value, and I mentioned a $100 million a year subsidy from ratepayers and a $1.5 billion price tag for capital costs, and was told that the rest of New Zealand is paying $800 million to deal with their congestion. I want to know about Auckland, and whether she thinks this proposal is a good deal for the people she is supposed to represent.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard the Minister’s answer, and I thought she addressed the question.
Lynne Pillay: How is the Government working to ensure that the costs of the expanded rail services in Auckland will be matched by benefits to Auckland and to New Zealand?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Minister of Finance is working with a group of central government and local government representatives and officials who are looking at ways to ensure that the rail-network upgrade is affordable, sustainable, efficient, and user-friendly, and helping to ensure better freight and passenger services for all Aucklanders and for New Zealand’s economic benefit.
Dail Jones: Does the Minister accept that the present situation being experienced in Auckland by elderly ratepayers on the North Shore and west Auckland, and young ratepayers, homeowners, and such like, is totally unfair to them all, and the best thing the Minister can do is to get the Government to cough up $27 million from the National Roads Fund and pay that to the Auckland Regional Council for roading, bus, and rail purposes?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Unfortunately, Auckland and New Zealand are paying for the failure of past National Governments to fund Auckland’s needs properly. For the first time ever Auckland is getting its fair share of Transfund funding in both public transport and roading. That is the only solution. Elderly ratepayers can apply for rates rebates and that is also being reviewed. The regional council is looking at the issue. I do not necessarily agree with the way it has brought in its rates. [Interruption] However, I say to it that when the rest of the country is paying more in petrol tax for Auckland’s transport solutions, it is a pretty poor show when Auckland is not prepared to meet some of the costs as well.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought the amount of interjection was absolutely excessive. In fact, some of it was quite churlish. Occasional interjection is reasonable, but not that amount.
Deborah Coddington: Could she explain how it can be a good deal that an 88-year-old widow on the North Shore, Mrs Janie Farquharson, is forced to pay a combined annual rates bill of $8,500, more than $2,000 of which goes on expanding rail services that she will never get to use?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: It is up to the Auckland Regional Council to levy its rates. However, at some stage every New Zealand property owner has to make a choice about where he or she lives. Rates are one of the things that affect all of our choices about where we live. However, the infrastructure of Auckland and New Zealand cannot be funded on the basis of people on fixed incomes who are often in more expensive properties. I regret the choices that people like the lady Deborah Coddington quoted are forced to make. Unfortunately, it is the same for the taxpayer, the family, and the single parent next door to her.
Gerry Brownlee: In the light of that answer, is the Minister telling Aucklanders that all the Government has done for them to solve their transport problems is to inflict higher rates for a rail system that most of them will never use, and to tell them that if they do not like it, they should move out?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I am saying to Aucklanders that the Government has increased the subsidy for public transport from about $20 million 3 years ago to over $60 million. We have, for the first time, put $556 million more into the State highway network development in Auckland, which is 33.3 percent of the total expenditure. We have also increased the total amount going into land transport, so that the rest of New Zealand does not suffer while Auckland’s infrastructure needs are met. It is a problem. However, I have to say to this House that I have had far more complaints about the state of Auckland’s transport infrastructure than I have had about the rates. I recognise that rates are always painful.
11. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Justice: Will he amend section 86 of the Sentencing Act 2002 that stops judges setting non-parole periods for most cases after the Court of Appeal in a rape sentencing case last week said “We can foresee this subject being a fertile source of difficulty for some time to come, both for sentencing judges and on appeal.” or is it Government policy for judges not to be able to set non-parole periods when they believe justice demands it?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The effect of the judgment last week was not to stop judges setting minimum non-parole periods, as the member claims. The effect of the judgment was to confirm the Court of Appeal’s decision in last year’s Brown case that minimum non-parole periods can be imposed in cases of such seriousness that eligibility for release after serving one-third of a sentence would represent “insufficient denunciation, punishment, and deterrence”. This accurately reflects the intent of section 86. Nevertheless, the court has invited Parliament to consider revisiting the wording of section 86 to put this interpretation beyond doubt. I will be considering that invitation.
Stephen Franks: Do I take the Minister to be saying that it is not the effect of this judgment that the ordinary rapist, sentenced to 8 years, under this judgment will serve 2 years 8 months, or that to achieve the actual sentence served for the average rapist over the past few years, of 5 years, the judges will now have to sentence for 15 years?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is no such thing, and the judgment rejects the concept of an ordinary rapist or a standard term. What it shows is that those who commit the worst offences will now serve the whole of their term, and the judge will probably set the minimum two-thirds, but the Parole Board then will not release, because under today’s legislation it is under no compunction to release at two-thirds, as it was under the former legislation.
Martin Gallagher: What did the Court of Appeal say about the use of minimum non-parole periods in the Brown case?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Court of Appeal reaffirmed its earlier decision in the Brown case last year—a case in which a much longer than minimum period of non-parole was set—and said it was appropriate to set minimum non-parole periods when one-third would represent insufficient denunciation, punishment, and deterrence. The court has now reinforced its own earlier interpretation of this section.
Richard Worth: When will the Minister move to deal with criticism of his much-vaunted sentencing and parole legislation by senior judges who variously described it as being “inept”, “a source of difficulty for some time to come”, and “something like Hampton Court maze”; or is the answer “never”?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I note in passing that the judge who made the comment about the Hampton Court maze had made that same comment about the previous legislation; it seems to be a favourite phrase. Can I also refer the member to Justice Priestley, whom I think he knows personally, who said: “The Sentencing Act 2002 is in most areas a huge improvement on the mishmash of law that applied to sentencing prior to 1 July. It greatly assists the courts.”
Hon Tony Ryall: Table the rest of it.
Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member wants the other quote I am happy to give it to him. He said: “The application of the section 8(c) and (d) principles must inevitably pull sentencing levels up.” That is very clear.
Stephen Franks: I, in effect, repeat the previous question: if the Minister is going to patch up this inept legislation when will that be, and will it be more than a simple statement that a judge can fix a non-parole period when the interests of justice, denunciation, and accountability require it?
Hon PHIL GOFF: First of all, I reject the description used by the member. This is legislation that has resulted in longer sentences for the worst offences; it has resulted in the Parole Board being instructed not to release people if they constitute a risk. This legislation, like any major piece of legislation, will be subject to review. We need time to see the legislation settle in before any decision is made. That was the advice given by the member’s former trade union, the Law Society, and the Criminal Bar Association.
Literacy and Numeracy—Assessment Tools
12. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on the effectiveness of assessment tools in literacy and numeracy learning?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The Astle assessment tools that were introduced to schools just 13 weeks ago have won a Computerworld excellence award for the use of IT in education. This is testament to the excellence of its design and its potential to impact positively on literacy and numeracy learning in our schools. I congratulate both the team at Auckland University and the Ministry of Education involved in their design.
Mark Peck: Does the Minister have confidence that this tool will be of use in practice as well as in theory?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. Perhaps an even greater indication of the usefulness of the tool than its recent award win is that just 13 weeks after its introduction to schools I am advised that 90 percent of schools have it and have voluntarily opted to use it. This is a fantastic start for a very good tool.
End of Questions for Oral Answer