Questions And Answers for Oral Answer (Wednesday)
WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions to Ministers:
1. Rates—Auckland Regional Council
2. Homeownership—Government Initiatives
3. Immigration—Adverse Impacts
4. Foreshore and Seabed—Public Access
5. Foreshore and Seabed—Mâori Land Court Applications
6. Employment—Jobs Jolt
7. Crime—Police Resourcing
8. School Curriculum—Initiatives
9. Immigration Service—Minister's Inv
10. Conservation Week—Government Initiatives
11. Indonesia—Defence Force Assistance
12. Television New Zealand—Commercial Sponsorship of News
Rates—Auckland Regional Council
1. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: Following her advice yesterday that “Rates are one of the things that affect all of our choices about where we live” and that she regrets the choices that rate hikes have forced some Auckland ratepayers to make, what choices was she talking about for the Aucklanders who can’t afford to pay their rates that are due today?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues): Aucklanders living in Rodney or North Shore City and who believe they cannot afford to pay their rates should contact the Auckland Regional Council today. Their options include arranging to pay their rates in 10 instalments, and the Auckland Regional Council also has provision for people in extreme financial hardship to have their rates payments postponed.
DEBORAH CODDINGTON: What advice does she have for Mrs Janie Farquharson, who is an 88-year-old widow, and her blind 63-year-old son, now that the rates bill on her home of 64 years has hit $8,589 a year, up $1,400 from last year, and who has been told that if she cannot pay it she should move; and where exactly does the Minister think Mrs Farquharson should move to?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The regional council advised me that only 5 percent of Auckland residential ratepayers will pay more than $500 a year for regional council rates, including GST. I would suggest that anyone in a very highly priced property—and the estimate I have is that property with the rates quoted would probably be worth over $3 million—should ask family and financial and legal advisers how they can arrange their affairs so that they can pay the rates that are due.
David Parker: Did she suggest that Aucklanders should move out of Auckland?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: No, I have never proposed that. As a passionate Aucklander, born and bred in Auckland, I truly believe that Auckland is the best place in the world to live. However, one of the things that is causing problems for Aucklanders, and for people who want to work there, to have businesses there, and to live there is the lack of infrastructure, and that must be paid for.
Gerry Brownlee: Would she agree that even though there are no rail tracks to the North Shore, 88-year-old Mrs Farquharson and her 63-year-old blind son are subsiding, through their Auckland Regional Council rates, rail passengers at a rate of $9.30 per passenger movement; and does the Minister stand by her words yesterday that: “The rail network upgrade is affordable, sustainable, efficient, and friendly.”?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: My words were that that is what is we are working towards. We are also working towards a transport system that is integrated. Ratepayers, residents, and people in business throughout New Zealand will benefit from good transport including rail, roads, ferries, buses, and trains.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister tell the House how she sees herself as Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues? Does she see herself as the Minister who must advocate for imposing rate rises and what have you on Aucklanders, or does she see herself as I would see her, as the Minister who must fight for Aucklanders on the whole range of issues?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I take that compliment very sincerely. I do believe that Auckland has to have the infrastructure it needs to serve Auckland and New Zealand. The problems of infrastructure in Auckland are seen as a barrier to New Zealand’s present and future prosperity. We must find the way with taxpayers, ratepayers, and users so that we can afford the infrastructure that every New Zealander needs for the sort of future we are all working for.
Mike Ward: Is the Minister not concerned that the funding of the eminently sensible improvements to Auckland’s public transport system is to be done by the highly questionable shifting of the rates burden from the business sector and redirecting it to the poorer homeowners via a uniform annual charge, and has the Minister got any measures up her sleeve to address that issue?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: That is entirely a matter for political debate in Auckland. That is what the Local Government Act 2002 gives local authorities the power to debate. I understand that over 600 people of the 420,000-odd ratepayers did make submissions to the Auckland Regional Council. I hope that this is an indication that Aucklanders will get involved in what the real issues are, and it is a political debate.
Paul Adams: How can the Minister possibly reconcile her view expressed yesterday that Aucklanders and the rest of the country are now paying to meet the city’s transport needs through petrol tax, with the fact that only half of the tax collected actually goes towards roading? Given this, is she lobbying Cabinet for the percentage of funding allocated by Transfund for local roads to be increased from the present 27 percent maximum to 80 percent; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Any money taken out of the consolidated account that goes to things like health, education, and policing, has to be made up some other way. Right now we are not actually paying for the roads and the transport services we need. It is not a matter of finding money out of thin air; New Zealanders one way or another are going to have to pay.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister understand that one of the principal causes of infrastructural pressure in Auckland is that every year her Government is imposing the population of Rotorua upon it from abroad, hence driving up costs and rates; and what reports has she submitted to her Cabinet colleagues on that, if any report at all?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I understand that a significant proportion of the people coming to Auckland are in fact from the rest of New Zealand. If we do not provide good infrastructure across the whole of New Zealand, that pressure will go on. Excluding anyone is not the answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I pointed out to the Minister that she and her colleagues are imposing on Auckland the population of Rotorua every year from abroad, in addition to anyone from around the country. I am talking about immigration, which does not include somebody from Invercargill or Kaitaia. Would she please address my question.
Mr SPEAKER: I wonder whether the Minister could just touch on that point.
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I think that there are many reports, which Cabinet has seen, showing that immigration has, at worst, an equal effect economically, and at best brings prosperity to New Zealand.
Heather Roy: Does the Minister agree with her colleague the Hon Chris Carter that the new Local Government Act 2002 gave ratepayers like Mrs Farquharson and her son “more opportunity to have their say in what their local city, district, or regional councils do”, and that the new Act “makes it harder for councils to increase rates without good reason”; if so, why are Auckland ratepayers in revolt?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Yes, I do agree, and having rung the North Shore Citizens Advice Bureau, it tells me that no one has complained of an inability to pay his or her rates. The bureau has had inquiries about people wanting to join the rates revolt. However, that is a matter for Auckland. In the end this has been well advertised. The Auckland regional growth strategy stated that this infrastructure was necessary. The regional land transport strategy has been reviewed every 3 years and indicates that this transport infrastructure is necessary. Business has been calling on this, and Auckland has been calling for it. I am sorry that people are upset, but in the end this is a democratic decision that Auckland local authorities have met.
Gerry Brownlee: Given the Minister’s answer that business has been calling on the Government, the general population has been calling on the Government, and that the whole of the Auckland community has been calling on the Government for it do so something, will she now admit that all the Government has done is to invest in a rail system that is dilapidated and seriously lacking in its own infrastructure, and that the cost is simply being foisted on to ratepayers like Mrs Farquharson, and will be so for some years to come?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: We have had some complaints around New Zealand from people who are paying more through petrol tax to maintain transport services around New Zealand and to help Auckland deliver better services. We have to invest in the dilapidated railway system because right now that is all we have got. If we want a better one, then we will have to pay for it. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There are too many interjections. I do not want to forbid them all together as I am entitled to do.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister give us her opinion on whether she thinks it is fairer and more appropriate for Auckland ratepayers to pay for transport rather than using money that is collected on petrol tax and goes into the consolidated account?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Government has made vastly increased contributions to roads and to public transport in Auckland. For the first time we are making sure that Auckland gets its share of the Transfund capital funding. We are now putting nearly three times as much into public transport. We paid $80 million for rail access rights. The Government and the rest of New Zealand have made a huge contribution. Aucklanders have repeatedly said through their leaders that Auckland must help. I do not think it is fair that elderly people are forced to pay vastly more. It could have been stepped in in a more progressive way, but the regional council made a democratically arrived at decision. It is not for Parliament to start to attack that decision.
Rodney Hide: Has the Minister given any thought to improving her ability to listen to what Auckland ratepayers are saying, given that she has told this House that on the basis of one phone call to the North Shore Citizens Advice Bureau she has concluded that ratepayers do not have a problem with their rates, and has she also given thought to making rates fairer by capping the rate of increase that can occur in any one year?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The member could bring in a member’s bill to suggest that. I understand that Dr Brash ruled that out at a meeting on the North Shore last week, so I do not know how much support he would get. However, fundamentally, the level of rates determines the level of infrastructure. We are saying that that is a local decision that needs to be made democratically and locally. I suggest to the member who inquired that if he had been to the number of meetings that I have been to in Auckland and talked to the number of people whom I have talked to, then he would be aware—
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: The Minister didn’t see it in Rodney.
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: No, because I was at a Ministers’ meeting in Australia.
Mr SPEAKER: The answer was far too long.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am concerned that I was quoted as ruling out last week any change in capping of local authority rates. I did not suggest that I was opposed to that, at all.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s word will be accepted.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am following up, because the pattern has been broken by a point of order. Again, I think it was a bit unfortunate—the Minister’s hearing is very bad from that meeting. Also, I would like to point out that I have a member’s bill, and she will be given the opportunity to vote for some justice, for a change.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is just making a debating point.
Deborah Coddington: Does she have any sympathy for the plight of Mrs Farquharson, who told me this morning that the only way she would be leaving her family home of 64 years was feet first, and does this Minister stand by her advice, which despite her denials was given in this House yesterday, that people like Mrs Farquharson should pay up or move out?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: That is not what I said yesterday. I have deep sympathy for Mrs Farquharson. I too have a passion for my garden. Everybody makes decisions about where they live in terms of what they can afford. I feel really sorry for her. I feel sorry for a lot of my elderly neighbours in Ponsonby who are in very, very highly priced properties. They need good advice and they need to act on it. I am sorry there is nothing that this Parliament or this Government can do when we are addressing Auckland’s infrastructure needs, to deal with that.
Deborah Coddington: In the light of that answer, does she agree that one of the rate payment options that Mrs Farquharson has is to mortgage her house to the North Shore City Council, as Mrs Farquharson told me this morning the council has advised her to do, and what is it about her Government that expects retired great-grandmothers to re-mortgage their homes to pay these rates?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The regional council advised me that anyone paying the rates that are being quoted would have a property worth in excess of $3 million. I think that Mrs Farquharson and others like her have many more choices than some other people who live in Auckland north.
Heather Roy: I seek leave of the House to table a media statement by the Hon Chris Carter on 30 June 2003, which states that the Local Government Act 2002 will make it harder for councils to increase rates without good reason.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
2. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: What pilot initiatives is the Government supporting to assist more families to achieve homeownership?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): Last Friday the Government announced a 2-year trial initiative with Kiwibank to make homeownership easier for modest-income households. The $5.3 million trial will assist about 1,800 families into homeownership. This is a pilot, but it extends good opportunities to families to borrow outside the normal lending criteria. If it is successful, we will look at expanding the programme.
Georgina Beyer: Who will be assisted by the mortgage insurance trial?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The programme should attract first-home buyers on a modest income with little or no deposit, multiple-income households, such as extended-family households, second-chance buyers, such as those who have suffered a relationship breakdown, and State-house tenants paying a market rent who wish to buy a home. Housing New Zealand Corporation will be writing to market-rent tenants next week to gauge their level of interest in the programme.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How does the Minister explain the inconsistency of his housing policy, which bans State-house tenants from buying their homes but allows families with $100,000 of income to be able to get a subsidised or mortgage guaranteed loan, and why would the Minister not allow State tenants to buy their homes, recirculate that capital, and get the waiting list down?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We do not have many houses left to sell after the National Party sold 13,000 of them. But we now want to offer some of those people who are at a market rate level the opportunity to move out and buy a house, and then we can rent it to somebody else.
Pita Paraone: Does he think that giving people low-deposit home loans will make much difference to those really in need of housing, when in many urban areas where work is likely to be available, repayments will be prohibitive because of the high cost of purchase?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do think it will make a difference. What we are doing here is offering the opportunity to buy a house up to $280,000. People who come into the programme will have to, of course, have the ability to repay the loan.
Georgina Beyer: What has been the reaction to the mortgage insurance trial?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The reaction has been very, very good indeed. For example, the mortgage broker, Mike Pero, has said: “Good on them. It’s a positive move, and will certainly help those who couldn’t otherwise get a loan from the bank.” And perhaps another gauge is that 4,300 calls were made in one day to the Kiwibank when this programme was announced.
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What is the Government spending on managing any adverse impacts of immigration and has she received any reports from the Minister of Police about the costs of immigration he has to contemplate?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): The 2003-04 component of Vote Immigration allocated to managing the adverse impacts of immigration is $21 million—around 15 percent of the total allocation. I have not received any specific reports from the Minister of Police on effects that adverse impacts of immigration may have on Vote Police expenditure, although given that we have budgeted for increased removal activity where these are not voluntary departures, it will result in the use of police resources, as immigration officers do not have the power of arrest; nor do they have the power of strip search as some of our media seem to think.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Minister has raised the issue of the media, why was the report in the Sunday Star-Times of 5 August reciting that $54 million a year is the figure she gave in respect of managing the adverse effects, not $21 million as she just said, and does she not read newspapers such as the New Zealand Herald Weekend Herald. which sets out a police suggestion of a migrant back-up force in Auckland because they cannot cope with migrant crime?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I cannot understand why the Sunday Star-Times contained that particular figure, unless, and I assume, the reporter was referring to last year’s figures, which would then show it to be accurate. We have changed the way that we allocate expenditure around managing adverse impacts of immigration, which would have been quite clear to an individual. However, I do note, given the rest of the article, that as the article was written before I was interviewed, I am not surprised.
Lynne Pillay: Can the Minister advise whether adverse consequences of immigration include the risk of people presenting false documentation, and whether the increased budget is intended to improve both verification and enforcement action?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, the total budget has been designed to improve the Immigration Service’s ability to verify documents, although that is now not in the adverse impact section of the vote, and also to take appropriate investigations to ensure enforcement where false documents have been presented. Criminal charges are, of course, laid by the police, and it is not just the Immigration Service that is susceptible to document fraud. An Assignment programme last year referred to a scam that related to false Inland Revenue Department certificates being obtained for education purposes. I am advised that the police investigation that was already under way has now resulted in four successful prosecutions of the people involved, two of whom have already been deported from New Zealand after serving prison sentences.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister capable of doing some simple calculations: a report elicited under the Official Information Act from her department shows that 44 percent of the $124 million of the immigration budget is spent on the consequences of immigration flows on infrastructure, laws, and policies, and how does $21 million become 44 percent of $124 million, which is a global figure, which is all in her document; and, second, why is she paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to detain asylum seekers every week, by way of a weekly allowance, when poor old Joe Bloggs burglar from New Zealand does not get a cent?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I explained, 2002-03 was the first year of outcome-based accounting in Vote Immigration. When the service was allocating activities to sub-outcomes, all risk management activities such as application verification within the visa and permits management output class were counted in the activities undertaken to minimise adverse impacts of immigration. That no longer occurs, because risk management is now considered an integrated part of interaction with customers. As to the second question—and it was clear from the article that, obviously, I was interviewed after it was written—the $3 a day allowance is paid for toiletries and for the necessities of life. If that member thinks that we would keep somebody in detention without enabling him or her to buy toothpaste, toothbrush, and soap, for goodness’ sake, I do not think that anyone would accept that that was a fair and reasonable situation. That is not a new allowance paid. It was simply allocated from a different budget, as is clear from the article.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave of the House to table a simple supermarket account that shows that if one is buying a toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap, it will not cost one anything like $21 a week.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Foreshore and Seabed—Public Access
4. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister for Land Information: What proportion of New Zealand’s foreshore is either in private hands or subject to other restrictions on public access?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Land Information): Based on initial advice drawn from the work done by Land Information New Zealand so far, I can tell the member that there is public access as of right to approximately two-thirds of the New Zealand coast through roads and reserves. Public access over the remaining one-third is potentially restricted due to private ownership or other restrictions.
Metiria Turei: What proportion of the remaining one-third of land described by the Minister that is not open to public access, but suffers restricted access, is held in Mâori customary title?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I have not received any definitive advice on that issue, but I can tell the member that based on the information I have seen thus far, it is clear that less than 10 percent of the land in question is held by Mâori.
Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting solutions to that issue, and is he planning to adopt or incorporate those ideas into Government policy?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Yes, I have seen a range of ideas and suggestions, including suggestions from the Hon Bill English to legislate for public ownership of private property, through to suggestions from Dr Wayne Mapp, who states that “Obviously pre-existing freehold title must be protected by law like mine.”—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Both Mr Mapp and Mr English are clearly on the public record as saying that it is the public foreshore and seabed for which title should be confirmed by legislation. The member is deliberately misleading the House as to their statements, which are clearly on the public record. It is not for a Minister of the Government to say what might be the policy, but I would be happy to table the statements from both Mr English and Mr Mapp.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot say that anyone is deliberately misleading the House. He will stand and withdraw that comment.
Opposition Member: Why?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I stand and withdraw. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot say that anyone is deliberately misleading the House. That is a suggestion that a person is telling a lie and that has been ruled out as long as I have been in this House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am still on my feet. Secondly, I want the Minister to answer the question that he was asked.
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The Government has indicated that it will more than likely follow the suggestion made by Dr Wayne Mapp, as opposed to the suggestion of his leader.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by his statement to the New Zealand Herald that: “significant chunks of the foreshore”—not the Queen’s chain, the foreshore—“has private ownership title” and that we are talking thousands and not hundreds of kilometres of private title to the foreshore? If he does stand by that, when will he deliver the proof to back up that claim?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Given the preliminary work done, and given the fact that it is a hugely complex issue, I stand by those statements.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports from his Mâori colleagues in the Labour Party caucus, namely the Mâori colleagues who promised the Mâori people the earth, the seabed, and the foreshore before the election, and will now see them have these Mâori people losing their riparian rights, which they have owned for a thousand years; and what sort of representation is that?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Given this Minister’s commitment to upholding the property rights of Mâori, will he rule out being a member of any Cabinet that moves to legislate away the private property rights of all New Zealanders; if not, why not?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The member can rest assured that if any Government can fix this one, we will.
Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of that last answer, can the Minister indicate what steps he is taking to ensure that all New Zealanders will continue to have access and freedom to go and use the facilities of the foreshore and seabed?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: This is an issue that is deeply felt by Kiwis, and we want to get it right. We have already said that the existing rights of Kiwis to take their babies down to have a barbie at the beach will be safeguarded.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does he reconcile his statement to the New Zealand Herald that Mâori could get some type of title to the foreshore, with the statement made by Margaret Wilson and Helen Clark 4 weeks ago that the Government would legislate for Crown ownership of the foreshore? Which statement represents Government policy?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: As a Government and as a Cabinet we can reconcile these matters. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have just been reflecting on that, too. Could the Minister expand on that just a little, please?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: There are work plans and work streams under way, and the Government will make announcements in due course. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked how statements could be reconciled. I presume that he addressed that question when he said there were plans under way to do so. That perfectly addressed that question.
Metiria Turei: Has the Minister seen any reports that suggest that the introduction of a concept of stewardship, which is similar to the Mâori customary practice of kaitiakitanga, could assist with the active protection of the conservation values of the foreshore for the benefit of both the environment and the New Zealand public?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Could the Minister advise the House which statement is correct: his statement yesterday that Mâori could get some type of title to the foreshore, or the statement made by Margaret Wilson and Helen Clark 4 weeks ago that the Government would legislate to ensure that title remained with the Crown?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: In all matters I would prefer the advice of the Prime Minister.
Metiria Turei: Has the Minister seen any reports that highlight the need to deal with public access to the foreshore over both private land and Mâori customary land at the same time and equally, rather than treating Mâori ownership as a lesser right than the rights of private owners?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I have not seen any reports that opine in that way.
Dr Wayne Mapp: I seek leave to table two documents, one by the leader of the National Party, Mr Bill English, and one by myself. Both those documents will show an identical position on the issue of Crown ownership—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That raises a very interesting situation. We have a statement made by a Minister, which is now on the record, that claims that two members of the National Party, the Hon Bill English and Dr Wayne Mapp, made a statement that appears, according to the documentation that Mr Mapp has, to be quite inaccurate. Mr Mapp sought leave to table the documents so that it could be corrected, and leave has been refused. How do we now get around the situation of correcting those statements? It is very clear that Mr Mapp was talking about exclusive ownership by the Crown.
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Mapp’s statement to this House must be accepted by every member, as must that of anybody else. Any member has the right to reject leave to table, but no one has the right to object to what any member said. I clearly heard what Dr Mapp said. He is entitled to say that, and I take his word on it.
Foreshore and Seabed—Mâori Land Court Applications
5. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Associate Minister for Courts: How many applications for title to the foreshore and seabed are before the Mâori Land Court and what is the total length of coastline being sought?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts), on behalf of the Associate Minister for Courts: I am advised that there are 35 applications for foreshore and seabed before the Mâori Land Court. It has not been possible in the time available to determine the total length of the coastline that those applications relate to. I will provide that information to the member as soon as it becomes available.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the number of claims has increased from 19 to 34 in just 4 days, will this Minister give a categorical assurance to the House that those claims will not result in the issuing of exclusive title to the foreshore or seabed; if so, does he agree that the claimants are wasting their time for claiming such exclusive title?
Hon RICK BARKER: In response to the three questions, I firstly make the point that there is no mystery in the change, at all. The original question asked by Dr Nick Smith was the number of claims that have been lodged by the registry since 19 June 2003. The subsequent question was all claims, which includes claims that had been lodged before that. There is no spooking about this, at all. Secondly, I am not going to make any comment on the nature of the claims. People have a right to lodge a claim before any court in this country on any matter they deem fit. They do not have a right to get the decision they wish.
Tim Barnett: Is the Minister concerned at the number of applications for foreshore and seabed that are before the Mâori Land Court?
Hon RICK BARKER: No, I do not have any concerns about the number of claims. This Government upholds the right of all New Zealanders to have access to justice and have their disputes resolved before the appropriate court.
Stephen Franks: In the light of the answer to the last question, when the Prime Minister bluntly told Mâori that the Government would not satisfy claims upheld for oil and gas, and a month or so later said much the same thing on the seabed and foreshore issue, but has since started to fudge on the second issue only, why the difference; and will the Minister repeat the Attorney-General’s assurance that there will not be privilege created over seabed and foreshore based on ethnic inheritance?
Hon RICK BARKER: On the comments of the Prime Minister, I suggest that the member direct those questions to the Prime Minister. I repeat, for his information, that the Prime Minister answer yesterday that this is a complex issue and the Government’s views will be put out for consultation very shortly.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister advise the House as to what there is to stop the Mâori Land Court, in any one of those 34 claims, frin issuing exclusive title; if he is not able to advise us as to there being anything to stop that, how can the Government continue to guarantee public access to all those areas?
Hon RICK BARKER: The answer to that is very clear. Yesterday the Prime Minister outlined to Parliament that the Government will be putting forward its proposals very shortly in a comprehensive document, and the proposals will be resolved. The member can rest assured about that. I suggest he takes a little time and waits. All will be revealed.
6. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What advice, if any, has he received which led him to claim that the recently announced Jobs Jolt initiatives will help employers facing skill shortages?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): In late 2002 I requested advice from officials on proven initiatives to assist labour and skill shortages identified by employers and industry sectors. The initiatives chosen for Jobs Jolt result from that advice, and from information gained in our many discussions with employers, industry groups, and unions.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister therefore concerned that attempts by recruitment agencies in Wellington to find out the details and extent of skill shortages in this region, from Work and Income, the Department of Labour, and his own ministerial office, have been unsuccessful; if so, what does that mean for the success of the Jobs Jolt programme?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If the member can tell me the name of the firm I will give it the World Wide Web address where it can get all that information.
Russell Fairbrother: How will Jobs Jolt assist with the national skills shortage?
Hon Member: The National skills shortage?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Working with a lower-case “n”, I say that Jobs Jolt aims to increase the supply of labour, including skilled labour, and to provide opportunities for job seekers who now face the barriers of getting into the labour market. In the example of mature job seekers who are highly skilled and experienced, Jobs Jolt will enable those people to be matched with job opportunities and skill shortages. In addition that will be supported by information for employers to address the areas in which they know they have shortages, so they can get workers.
Katherine Rich: With regard to the Minister’s earlier comments about his Jobs Jolt programme, can he tell the House which section of his third-way manual contains references to removing a work-test exemption for those nearing retirement, and can he explain why, if he did want to talk tough on welfare, it would not have been more useful to concentrate on the group most worrying to people—the under-25s?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The package does concentrate on the group of under-25s. We are work-testing people over 55 years of age, and not over 50 as the member claimed last night. She does not know that people are work-tested from the age of 50 to 55 years at present, so we are introducing a test here for those aged 55-plus, among a range of things. I think it is chapter 13 of the third-way manual.
Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister give any assurance to our highly skilled, experienced, and willing-to-work people in the 55 to 59-year age group that they will not be subject to any further discrimination and humiliation for having to move away from their communities and families because employers in their own areas are not prepared to hire them; and can he give them an assurance that work in other regions will not result in exploitation—like that experienced by the Ukrainian farm workers down south who were supposedly filling skill shortages?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes.
Sue Bradford: What consultation, if any, took place with beneficiary groups or the Mayors Task Force for Jobs on the changes to the work-testing and sanctions regime announced in the Jobs Jolt programme?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No specific consultation on those two matters has taken place, but, as I have said before, we have beneficiary advocates in twice a year, for example, to talk about every aspect of the benefit system, and no other Government has done that. We talk frequently with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs on all aspects of our policy.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree with the view that the Jobs Jolt initiative comprises a “lurch to the right by the Government on welfare policy”; if so, is it not about time?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I know the member would be very encouraging if he were to move to the right, but on this occasion we are developing a well-balanced package.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister inform the House of what no-go areas for beneficiaries have already been drawn up, so that people can make sensible decisions if they are thinking of shifting in the near future; and what impact does he think designating no-go areas will have on business and property prices in those districts?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Ministry of Social Development department Work and Income has what is called a remote area policy, which is what I think the member is referring to. I am obviously willing to give that to the member, or to any other member of the House who would like to have it. Members should remember that what we are talking about here is an attempt to ensure that people who shift from areas where there are jobs to areas where there are no jobs are encouraged to go to areas where they can get jobs.
Judy Turner: In the light of the focus in the Jobs Jolt package on discouraging unemployed people from moving into regions with few available jobs, what specific initiatives are being considered to make it easier for those already living in such areas to be made aware of jobs in other regions with labour shortages, and, if necessary, to provide more assistance for their relocation?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Job seekers in that situation would simply need to ask their case managers to advise them of job opportunities elsewhere, and, if there were suitable job opportunities, money would be available to help them relocate.
Gordon Copeland: In the light of the fact that 43 percent of businesses are having difficulty in finding skilled staff, how specifically does the Government intend to engage and communicate with the business community to find out where its labour needs lie?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We do a number of things. For example, on Friday I will be in Auckland talking at a skills and labour shortage forum. We are doing 13 of those large forums around the country. The Department of Labour has a range of survey techniques. The quarterly survey of business opinion is just out, with more information, and the Ministry of Social Development surveys around regions for skills shortages. I could go on, but the time is short.
7. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he satisfied that sufficient front-line police staff are available to combat crime in New Zealand?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am generally pleased, because we have provided so many more staff under a Labour-led Government. In fact, since September 1999 we have achieved a 10 percent increase in staff and we now have more police than ever before. We are paying police more than before, and we can contrast that with the fact that on 19 March 1998 police marched on Parliament for fairer pay, when the Treasurer was Winston Peters.
Mr SPEAKER: The last part of that question is not acceptable.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not hear what he said, or the way he said it. Could he perhaps repeat it?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I heard what he said quite clearly. The last part of the answer was not necessary to render the answer acceptable.
Ron Mark: If the Minister is so confident, can he tell the House, if there are adequate police on the streets at night patrolling in order to deter and/or catch criminals, how is it then that a business situated a few metres from his own electorate office was recently ram-raided for the second time in 3 years, causing over $20,000 worth of damage; and is it simply, as the locals are saying, because there is no one out there to catch these people?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police use an intelligence-led theory now, whereby staff are placed where they think they are needed. Crimes do happen, and police do investigate them.
Martin Gallagher: Could the Minister emphasise for the benefit of this House what strategies the police are developing to prioritise crime response?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Police districts are implementing intelligence-driven police responses. Priorities are crimes in progress, crimes against the person, and crimes with wider public implications.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that police currently spend around 300,000 hours a year on cannabis offences, which is the equivalent of about 150 sworn front-line officers, and if he cannot confirm that, how many hours do they spend on cannabis offences?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I cannot give the member the exact number, but they are spending sufficient time to make sure that those who are breaking the law in using cannabis are caught.
Ron Mark: Given the priorities he has stated, and the work that he is doing, can the Minister tell the House how many of the 51 burglaries reported between 23 and 29 June in his own electorate have been cleared; if he cannot answer, is it simply because of his blatant disregard for the safety and security of the people who live in his own electorate, and who put him in this House to do the job he is meant to be doing?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can tell that member that the Counties-Manukau police are doing very well. They arrested a 33-year-old chap the other day who had committed several burglaries. I think the member will find that the police are now resolving more crime than ever before, which is better than the rate of 29 percent from a decade ago.
Dr Muriel Newman: How can New Zealanders have any confidence in him as Minister of Police when police officers up and down the country are saying that he is the worst Minister in living memory, and what is his response to suggestions that the best thing he could do for fighting crime in New Zealand is to resign?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: When people make up things like that, they are dissatisfied in the job, but I do not know many police like that, because they have just got a pay rise, which they will get for the next 3 years. This Government has given the police pay rises without the need for them to march on Parliament. They think I am a very good Minister.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a fax from Mr Craig Maxwell, a gentleman up in Manurewa, in which he expresses his concern about—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table an article that specifies the number of burglaries that have been committed in the Manurewa electorate between 23 and 29 June.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I seek leave to table an article from the Evening Post dated 19 March 1998, when police marched on Parliament because they were dissatisfied.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the proof of the police training numbers from 1998, which were the biggest in this country’s history when we in New Zealand First were in Government, and when I was the Treasurer.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
8. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Education: Is he aware of any new initiatives to promote teamwork, leadership and hard work as part of the school curriculum; if so, what?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes. Tomorrow I will be launching the Hillary Challenge, which is an interactive, online social studies programme for students in years 5 to 10. The Hillary Challenge retraces Sir Edmund’s quest to Mount Everest, and encourages students to learn the skills and values he has demonstrated throughout his life—teamwork, leadership, hard work, and his love of adventure.
Mark Peck: Why is it important to encourage the development of those skills within the school context?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Those skills are vital for unleashing the creative potential of tomorrow’s leaders.
Immigration Service—Minister's Involvement
9. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Immigration: Why did she tell the House, in relation to the New Zealand Immigration Service memorandum stating that there was an agreement to “lie in unison”, “I would have had to be a party to such an agreement”, and what steps are being taken to have an independent body fully investigate her involvement in this matter?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I was simply referring to the fact that the commentary included in the media log stated that, “All the others caved in”. I was the only person who spoke publicly about the matter, so I made the assumption that I would have had to be included. I am awaiting the outcome of the investigations being undertaken by the Secretary of Labour—which will be publicly released—before considering whether any further steps should be taken.
Hon Murray McCully: Given that the “we agreed to lie in unison” memo was apparently circulated to the entire senior management team at the Immigration Service without challenge, what does the Minister think that tells us about the culture in that organisation, and can she tell us whether any member of her staff received, or was aware of, that memorandum?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I would say it suggests that not many people in the Immigration Service read the media log, and, no, I am not aware of anyone in my office being on the receiving end of the media log.
Hon Murray McCully: Has it crossed the Minister’s mind that a department whose spokesperson tells the Ombudsman that a memorandum he wrote does not exist, and his general manager could not remember a memo asserting an agreement to “lie in unison” and now cannot remember when he briefed the Minister about giving details of the Tampa refugees to the police, who in turn cannot now remember when she was briefed on the matter, would seem to be a department that is prone to outbreaks of amnesia in unison, and could the Minister tell us how she explains this sad state of affairs?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am sure that not everybody who received the media log actually read them. Having read the commentary that Mr Ian Smith sent out on 20 December, it would suggest to him that not many people in the Immigration Service were interested in reading his throwaway lines.
Conservation Week—Government Initiatives
10. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Conservation: What initiatives has the Government taken to mark Conservation Week?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): On Sunday I opened the latest major addition to our public conservation lands—4,000 hectares of north Canterbury high country, described in the Christchruch Press as “a slice of heaven”. The purchase of this area has protected the habitat of threatened native wildlife and opened up this exciting area for public recreation.
David Benson-Pope: What priority, if any, has been given during this week to the protection of New Zealand’s historic heritage?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Historic heritage is a theme of this year’s Conservation Week. My department and the Historic Places Trust are holding over 170 public events celebrating our historic heritage. The Department of Conservation is the custodian of more than 12,000 heritage sites, half of which are archaeological sites. Extra funding in this year’s Budget will enable them to protect our heritage better, and some of the key sites are being showcased this week.
Shane Ardern: As it is Conservation Week, does the Minister celebrate our continual growth in biosecurity by giving New Zealand residence to yet another alien invader, such as the scoliid wasp, as was announced by his department today, if the Minister is celebrating that new intrusion, what is he going to do about it; if he is not, why not?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can assure that member that as Minister of Conservation I am very concerned about biosecurity. The Department of Conservation works actively with the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and other agencies to address that question.
Indonesia—Defence Force Assistance
11. SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Defence: Does the composition of the New Zealand Defence Force and their current commitment to deployments allow them to offer assistance to Indonesia in the aftermath of yesterday’s bombing in Jakarta; if not, why not?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): Yes.
Simon Power: Does he agree, in light of the bombing yesterday in Jakarta, with the statement made by the Prime Minister that New Zealand exists in “an exceptionally benign strategic environment”; if so, why?
Hon MARK BURTON: The environment in which we exist is clearly one that is ever changing. That is why this Government has a constant rolling response to that. That is why we committed many millions of dollars to the security of New Zealand.
Darren Hughes: On the issue of deployments by the New Zealand Defence Force, what recent reports has he seen?
Hon MARK BURTON: Although our Defence Force is currently engaged at the highest operational tempo over two generations, the New Zealand Defence Force continues to receive international accolades such as the Australian meritorious unit citation, recently received by our RNZAF 3 Squadron, which was also named international helicopter squadron of the year for its outstanding achievements in East Timor. It is unfortunate that Opposition members cannot share in celebrating and congratulating our people on a job well done.
Gordon Copeland: Has the Minister received or does he expect to receive any request for assistance from the Indonesian government; if so, what kind of assistance would he expect that to include?
Hon MARK BURTON: No and no.
Simon Power: Is the Minister currently taking any action to ensure the New Zealand’s defence forces are up to scratch for deployment in the event of such threats to the safety of New Zealanders in the Asia-Pacific region, or will he simply continue with the Government’s existing policy, described by former Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Carey Adamson, as “penny-pinching” and “conducted on the run”?
Hon MARK BURTON: Time does not permit me to give a fulsome answer, but I may later. Let me say that unlike that member’s party, which was in Government for 9 years, this Government has a defence policy framework, a force structure framework, and a long-term development plan to put in place the acquisitions that for 9-long years, as the member’s own colleague said, they did not do in Government.
Television New Zealand—Commercial Sponsorship of News
12. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Does he have any concerns about Television New Zealand Limited considering commercial sponsorship of One News, especially in light of Television New Zealand Limited’s charter obligation to provide independent, impartial, and in-depth news and current affairs?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): No. By law I am prevented from having any involvement with TVNZ’s gathering or presentation of news and current affairs. TVNZ has advised me that there are no plans for commercial sponsorship of One News.
Sue Kedgley: Is he aware of any stories critical of Mitsubishi Motors that have aired on the Holmes show since Mitsubishi began to sponsor it, and does he agree that conflict of interest issues that call into question the independence and impartiality of news and current affairs are inevitable when corporates sponsor news and current affairs; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I am not, though I would have to confess that I do not watch the Holmes show every single night of the week, and, yes, I do agree that corporate sponsorship is inappropriate in news.
H V Ross Robertson: Is Television New Zealand using any charter funding for news and current affairs programmes?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am aware that Television New Zealand news uses no charter money for news and current affairs. That is something that they fully agree with themselves—they want to maintain complete impartiality.
Sue Kedgley: Given the Minister’s statement that he agrees that there are conflict of interest issues and that it is inappropriate for corporates to sponsor news, does he agree that this also pertains to current affairs, which the charter says must be equally independent and impartial, and will he be calling for a review of all sponsorships of current affairs in TVNZ?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not aware of any sponsorship in those areas. I am aware people advertise during that period of time, but that is quite different.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction