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Questions and Answers For Thursday


Questions and Answers For Thursday

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Thursday, 14 August 2003 QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS:

1. School Leavers—Teenagers' Options

2. Violent Offenders—Public Safety

3. New Zealand Superannuation Fund—Investment Strategy

4. Tertiary Education—Low Income Earners

5. Foreshore and Seabed—Government Decision

6. BIZ Portal Website—Response

7. Iraq—Defence Force Unit

8. Tariffs—Review

9. Violent Offenders—Strategic Business Plan

10. Television New Zealand—Kaihautu Position

11. Immigration—Crime

12. Methamphetamine—Border Control

School Leavers—Teenagers' Options

1. PETER BROWN (Senior Whip—NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What options are presently available for teenagers deciding to leave school without having obtained work?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, he did advise me that his answer was a little longer than usual.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): We have a very wide range of options. We have a youth employment, education, and training partnership with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs, and a range of specific initiatives including Gateway, Modern Apprenticeships, industry training, training opportunities, and, from the last Budget alone, specialist youth employment services worth $5.4 million over 4 years. In question No. 4 today I will mention something else. Finally, people under 18 years of age who are not supported by their families can receive the independent youth benefit while they complete school and find work.

Peter Brown: Noting that answer, is he aware—and, if so, is he at all concerned—that, according to the coordinator of the Wellington Downtown Community Ministry project for street people, many unemployed teenagers are turning to prostitution, rather than going on the dole?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have heard that. If there are individual cases the member would like to bring to my attention, I ask him to do that, because he will know that, under the recent Prostitution Reform Act, under-18-year-olds are specifically prohibited from working in the sex industry.

Georgina Beyer: What have been the results of initiatives to engage young people in education training or employment?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The latest household labour force survey reports that the fall in unemployment was driven largely by the 15 to 24-year-old age group. This is backed up by information showing a lift in tertiary education participation, declines in the number of young people receiving an independent youth benefit, and, since 1999, a 39 percent drop in the number of people on the unemployment benefit in the 18 to 24-year-old age group.

Katherine Rich: Can he confirm that last week’s re-announcement of $1.5 million over 3 years to help young people move from school to work was something Work and Income New Zealand was already doing, and is approximately one-quarter of what Work and Income New Zealand spends in 1 day?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think the money the member is referring to is the $1.5 million that goes to the Mayors Task Force for Jobs and is focused on youth. It is new money.

Nandor Tanczos: What options are available for teenagers forced to leave school because they have been expelled for experimental use of cannabis outside of school grounds, school time, and school uniform?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If the member has a particular case he would like to bring up, he should do so. I think that the main place to which people would go would be to youth training programmes, which are outside the school but provide them with a skill base for getting a job.

Peter Brown: In the light of those answers, has the Minister’s department noticed any reduction at all in the number of those claiming unemployment benefits since prostitution was made legal?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is too soon to tell.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister tell the House what monitoring processes he has in place to determine whether young people are turning to prostitution instead of claiming the dole?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Particularly through the Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Ministry of Social Development we have a range of programmes to track the well-being of young people, and those would be the best places we could go for information. But I say to the member that the bill was passed only a little while ago, so doing anything that might require research, with that length of time, would be pretty hard.

Violent Offenders—Public Safety

2. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied that his department is doing enough to keep violent offenders secure and away from the public?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Yes, but we can always do better.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that it is common practice for prisoners to be transported on commercial passenger planes unrestrained and accompanied by one plain-clothes police officer, yet, under the Privacy Act, an airline cannot let other passengers know, on request, whether there will be any prisoners on the flight?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot confirm that, but if the member is keen to take the matter up with me, then I am happy to provide him with an answer.

Martin Gallagher: What has the Government done to keep the public safe from violent offenders?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Under the Sentencing Act, violent offenders are now being locked up for longer, and—

Gerry Brownlee: Rubbish!

Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is true. Under the Sentencing Act violent offenders are being locked up for longer, and under the Parole Act the Parole Board must give priority to public safety before deciding to release an inmate. This is good work from this Government.

Brian Connell: In the light of the Minister’s answers to Mr Alexander’s question, has the Minister considered using experienced and highly regarded prison officers like Doug Smith and Tony Bird, former members of the “goon squad”, to escort prisoners around the country, as those guys would do anything for a chance to dress up and have a free beer; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, because it is not appropriate.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister consider that one of his greatest successes in terms of keeping the public safe from offenders—from known violent offenders and rapists—was the inability of his department to know where Mr Mike Carroll was when on the loose in Christchurch and when, supposedly, his staff had Mr Carroll fully secure and fully under observation at all times, as the Minister assured us?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have had many successes in my life, but I would not count that as one of them.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister assure the public that the safety of their air travel is not being compromised by prisoners on board the same plane, when in May last year a transferring prisoner overpowered his police escort, threatened to “f up the flight”, and had to be subdued by cabin crew and a passenger?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can give an assurance about that. Obviously, prisoners need to be escorted around the country and need to go by plane. Of course, any concern about public safety needs to be investigated, and I am happy to provide further information for that member if he so wishes.

Stephen Franks: If the Minister finds, after investigation, that handcuffs are not used because of concern about the feelings and self-esteem of prisoners, will he undertake to reverse that policy and ensure that handcuffs are worn to ensure safety; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am happy to have a look at it. The reality, of course, is that the police or escorting officers will determine the level of security that is required. I am assured that obviously the safety of the public is of priority concern. But, as I said, I will investigate the matter and get back to the member in due course.

Brian Connell: Would the Minister like to withdraw the comments he made in a recent speech, where he congratulated the Department of Correctionson “achieving the results you do”, in the light of the 32 prison escapes since June of last year, and the outcome of the Law and Order Committee into the infamous goon squad; if not, does this mean he is congratulating the department on these inadequacies?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Certainly not. The latest figures show that current escapes per 1,000 inmates were fewer than one in the last year that we counted them. Under National, it was around seven. So I think the department is doing pretty well.

Katherine Rich: Why is there a policy not to handcuff prisoners on aircraft, when a prisoner was handcuffed during childbirth?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The inmate was not handcuffed during childbirth.

Katherine Rich: She was in labour.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: She was not handcuffed during childbirth. I have had considerable correspondence with that member on this issue. The facts have been pointed out to her. The inmate was not handcuffed during childbirth.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister deny that prisoners transferred on domestic flights often have convictions for violent crime, and in some cases have a record of escaping from custody?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I cannot confirm or deny that. But the issue of security for the public when travelling on public transport such as that must be a priority and I will investigate it further.

Marc Alexander: Why are thousands of dollars spent on transferring convicts to other prisons, when the victims of crime have to fund their own transport to court hearings and Parole Board meetings that are often some distance from where they reside, and what does this say about this Government’s view on the balance between victims’ and offenders’ rights?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: On the issue of victims, of course we can all do better. But I hope the member will concede that this Government has done a lot for victims’ rights by enshrining them in legislation, which is the first time it has been done. As far as transporting prisoners around the country is concerned, sometimes that is a requirement for muster arrangements, which are determined by the Department of Corrections.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the next question I want to point out to Ministers the reason I call them is that that enables the time to be taken for their microphones to be turned on so that the hundreds of thousands of people listening are able to hear.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table a newspaper article, so that the Minister replying to question No. 1 will know what I was referring to.

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

New Zealand Superannuation Fund—Investment Strategy

3. Dr DON BRASH (NZ National) to the Minister of Finance: In light of today’s announcement of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund’s investment strategy, does he believe that the Treasury’s original assumption of an overall long-term annual return of 9.4 percent on the fund is realistic; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes.

Dr Don Brash: Given that Treasury itself has acknowledged that there is no realistic way of judging the long-term outlook, that the expected rate of return has recently been revised down from that first proposed, and that the similarly structured Government Superannuation Fund has lost considerable sums on its investments over the last 2 years, why does the Government not simply retire some of its $35 billion of Crown debt, as any prudent homeowner with a mortgage would do?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The statement on the Government Superannuation Fund is incorrect, but the original question related to the superannuation fund’s investment strategy. The estimates by the guardians are extremely close to the original Treasury estimates, despite the fact there is a somewhat different mix of investments within the portfolio.

Peter Brown: What is the Minister’s attitude to investing some of this money in New Zealand’s infrastructure, such as roading and transport areas?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is a matter for the guardians to determine the asset allocation policy. This will never be a fund that is at the whim of any Minister of Finance to use as a slush fund for things like silly “think big” projects.

Rod Donald: Can the Minister confirm that the guardians have established an ethical investment strategy that includes investing in anything that is legal, which could include such enterprises as armaments manufacturers, cigarette companies, alcohol companies, casinos, and even brothels; if that is the case, is he happy with such an investment strategy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member’s summary of the approach taken by the board is, in fact, not a fair one on ethical investment. In any case, at the end of the day it is up to the board of guardians to interpret their statutory responsibilities and to carry them out. I repeat, one of the main purposes of the way the fund is structured is to stop Ministers of Finance determining how the fund should be invested.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister believe the investment of a mere one-fifth of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund in New Zealand could be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the future of the New Zealand economy, and therefore become a self-fulfilling prophecy by denying local companies access to capital; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The guardians are determined to invest 7.5 percent in New Zealand equities. The New Zealand equity market is 0.2 percent of the world total, so they are weighting New Zealand 40 times its world average.

Dr Don Brash: If the Minister is so confident that the fund will, over the long term, generate a much higher rate of return than the cost of the Government’s debt, why does he not borrow another $100 billion, or so, invest it in overseas sharemarkets, and use the income generated to cut everybody’s tax burden?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think we have at last flushed out the member’s economic policy; it is to borrow for tax cuts, which is what I have said the National Party’s policy always has been.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister have concerns that the almost four-fifths allocated off shore carry an additional level of risk, given that New Zealand is the highest indebted country in the OECD, with resultant large annual outflows for interest and dividends; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Strictly speaking, in terms of when the fund comes to be realised, I think it is fair to say that appreciation of the New Zealand dollar is more of a worry than depreciation.

Tertiary Education—Low Income Earners

4. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill), on behalf of DAVE HEREORA (NZ Labour), to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What is the Government doing to improve the participation of low-income people in tertiary education and to retain these students in New Zealand once they have graduated?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Minister of Health and I have today announced that around 500 low-income students will be eligible next year for a new bonded scholarship scheme. Step-up scholarships are being piloted in 2004 for students studying for degrees in human and animal health subjects. Students who receive a scholarship will pay a flat fee of $2,000 per year, regardless of the tuition fee for the course they have chosen. The scholarship pays the remainder. The Government has committed just under $16 million to this initiative.

Mark Peck: What will this mean for students who receive the scholarship?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The individual value of the scholarship will depend on the course being undertaken. The scholarships are awarded for the full duration of the degree programme, subject to satisfactory academic progress. To give some examples: students studying medicine can expect to save around $43,000; nursing students can expect to save around $5,500; veterinary students about $20,000; midwifery students around $5,500; and dentistry students $36,000.

Craig McNair: What does the Minister think of an education system that motivates businessman Scott Gilmour to establish a trust to support 36 pupils at Wesley Primary School through their education and to eventually pay their fees to attend a tertiary education course, and an education system that has slipped so far that in this case education is not a right for our children, but a charitable service provided by the wealthy to the less fortunate?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We have an outstanding education system in this country, but I certainly welcome the philanthropy demonstrated in that question.

Nandor Tanczos: Will this scholarship be available for people wishing to study complementary medicines accepted by orthodox health professionals as effective treatments, such as acupuncture and osteopathy; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Not for the purposes of this pilot.

Hon Annette King: Has the Minister seen any response to today’s announcement; if so, what is that response?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Nurses Organisation has welcomed the scholarships as “a step towards addressing the causes of our nursing shortage”. The New Zealand Medical Association has said: “This will do much to reduce the stress from the burden of debt for some medical students.” Massey University has welcomed this as “a strategic move to provide generous scholarships for bright students studying human and animal health”. Overall, we are seen as a listening and responsive Government.

Foreshore and Seabed—Government Decision

5. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Prime Minister: When Hon Dr Michael Cullen said on her behalf “those on the extremes” would be disappointed with the Government’s decision on the seabed and foreshore, did this include New Zealanders who believe the Crown should have exclusive title over the foreshore and the seabed to be “on the extremes”; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Those who will be disappointed include those who want to assert private exclusive ownership of the seabed and foreshore, as well as those who seek to play the race card and are hell-bent on this issue being about winners and losers.

Gerry Brownlee: In the light of that answer, is it not extreme for the Prime Minister of New Zealand to be unable to answer whether she believes that the Crown should have exclusive title to the foreshore and seabed, when most Kiwis are quite clear that that is what the case should be?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister is never extreme. She is a hard-working and conscientious Prime Minister.

Rodney Hide: When the Hon Dr Michael Cullen said that “those on the extremes” would be disappointed, was he including in that the views of the Hon Tariana Turia, or does this Government think that her views are not extreme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Hon Tariana Turia and the rest of the Labour Party’s Mâori caucus committee have made a very strong input into the announcements to be made next week. Indeed, I can say very clearly that they have clearly asserted right throughout the importance to Mâori of customary rights being respected.

Dr Muriel Newman: Is it extreme to promise that the Crown should legislate for equal access to the beaches and seabed without distinction or privilege on the basis of race or ethnic inheritance; if so, does she consider that the Hon Margaret Wilson, who said that to the House on Tuesday, 24 June, is an extremist?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Hon Margaret Wilson is certainly not an extremist.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister’s statement that “no one is going to get any new exclusive ownership to the foreshore and seabed” mean that she will ensure that the Crown has exclusive title to the foreshore and seabed; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It means that no one will have new exclusive title to the seabed and foreshore.

Gerry Brownlee: Does that mean that the Prime Minister is now saying that the Crown has exclusive title to the seabed and foreshore, and will continue to have it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will have to wait until Monday.

BIZ Portal Website—Response

6. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister for Small Business: What has been the response to the launch of the BIZ Portal website earlier this month?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Small Business): The BIZ Portal website went live on 8 July. The feedback has been extraordinarily positive across the country. I have been advised that the BIZ Portal site has been awarded the Net Guide site of the month award in the most recent edition due out this week.

David Parker: How has the business sector reacted to the launch of the BIZ Portal?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The establishment of a one-stop business portal was a key recommendation of the Ministerial Panel on Business Compliance Costs, ably put together and led by the Hon Paul Swain. The business people on the panel have provided very positive feedback, including the chair of the panel, Alan Dunn, Managing Director of McDonald’s Restaurants of New Zealand. McDonald’s Restaurants of New Zealand employs over 6,000 Kiwis and is the country’s largest first-time employer. It includes a collection of more than 140 restaurants—

Gerry Brownlee: What about the others?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: It is Gerry Brownlee’s favourite eatery. The majority of McDonald’s are operated by 49 small business owners nationwide. Unlike the Opposition, we do not think that sitting around tables sipping champagne and eating caviar is the right way to meet with businesses.

Iraq—Defence Force Unit

7. SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Defence: Can he assure the House and the New Zealand public that the New Zealand Defence Force unit deployed to Iraq will have sufficient support and defensive capability to defend itself in the event of hostile action; if so, why?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Minister of Defence: Our defence personnel are well trained, and they will be appropriately equipped and armed for self-defence. However, I note that the situation in Basra has worsened recently. The Ministry of Defence is monitoring this to ensure that the New Zealand defence forces can undertake the tasks for which they are deployed.

Simon Power: Can the Minister assure the House that, in the 2 months between the decision to deploy in principle and the actual decision to deploy engineers announced recently, adequate work was carried out to ensure the safety of New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving in Iraq; if so, why?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes. I need to stress that this is a team of engineers, and they are there on that deployment alone. If they are not safe, then of course they will leave.

Tim Barnett: Will our planned deployment to Iraq proceed regardless of any changes in the security situation in southern Iraq?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, it will not. We understand, of course, that this a team of engineers who are being sent to Iraq. The prevailing conditions are such that they are able to be there, but should that affect their ability to do their work as engineers, as the Minister of Defence said on Monday, “there is no point in them being there”.

Ron Mark: Why is the Minister deploying 61 young New Zealanders into Basra or Shaibah, an area where British soldiers are now suffering increasing casualties, without 50-calibre machine guns; is it because, as I suspect, the army has not been able to train enough of them to be competent with the weapon, or is it because, as we read in the paper, the Government thinks tactics such as not looking like a Brit or an American, or running away when one gets caught up in a firefight are the best forms of defence?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No to the last plethora of questions, but, going back to the earlier question, can I say that the Minister of Defence has already said that if the situation is such that those troops are not safe, there is no point in their being there.

Sue Kedgley: Can he assure the House and the New Zealand public that the New Zealand Defence Force unit deployed to Iraq has sufficient support and protective capability to protect itself from the risks posed by depleted uranium and other contaminants; if so, how?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My understanding is yes to all those questions. We can be sure that the best possible protection is available to those troops.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm, as reported, that the approach of the New Zealand Defence Force and personnel in Iraq will be to try to not look American, drive around in hired civilian vehicles with large kiwis painted on them, and try to get away as quickly as possible if fired upon; if so, does he not think that a stronger force with real defensive capability would have been more appropriate in such a hostile environment?

Hon Steve Maharey: Yes to the first three questions. It sounds quite sensible to run away if fired at. Can I say that these troops are there under Resolution 1483 to help with the reconstruction of Iraq. If they are there and safe, they will do their job, and if they are not, they will leave.

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the beginning of the Minister’s answer, I lost the gist of what he was saying. I asked whether he could confirm those reported comments, and given the way the Minister responded and the way members on this side of the House interjected, I wonder whether he could repeat the first part of his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Just briefly.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I did think that the member had his tongue in his cheek when he asked the first three questions, and I simply replied that I personally thought it sounded like common sense to have a kiwi on the side. It sounds like good advertising to me.

Tariffs—Review

8. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Commerce: How is the tariff review she is due to present to Cabinet this month taking into account the comments of the Acting Minister of Commerce, Hon Trevor Mallard, on 11 May 2000 that “it is senseless for New Zealand to attempt to lead the world into a tariff-free playing field, without ensuring that other countries reciprocate”?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): The terms of reference for the review incorporated four matters that the review was to have regard to. These included encouraging reciprocity by New Zealand’s trading partners with regard to the lowering of tariffs. This issue is being taken into account. I should, though, point out to the member, given the way his question was framed, that I am not expecting to report to Cabinet by the end of this month.

Rod Donald: Will the Minister now extend the current tariff freeze for a further 5 years in the light of the United States Government’s statements yesterday that it has dropped its push for zero tariffs; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No. I am due to report to Cabinet, so Cabinet can make a decision on the future of the tariff environment in New Zealand.

Mark Peck: Why did the Government freeze tariffs in 2000, and why is it important that a decision be taken this year rather than waiting until 2005?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Government recognised the need for a period of stability, which is why we froze tariffs for 5 years, until 2005. However, it is now important that we make decisions so that businesses can plan for the post-2005 tariff environment.

Rod Donald: As part of the review, has the Minister visited and talked with clothing workers in places like Lower Hutt and Levin about the effect that even the threat of tariff cuts is having on their job security; and why will she not rule out any move to zero tariffs right now to give those businesses the security they need to keep those jobs safe?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I said to the member, the question of encouraging reciprocity was only one of four matters. The other three related to the promoting of the development of prosperous and internationally competitive industries, encouraging regional development and reducing economic disparity, abiding by New Zealand’s international commitments, and actively participating in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations. I am not prepared to make any statement in respect of our commitment to go to zero.

Sue Bradford: Is cutting tariffs and forcing clothing workers out of jobs this Government’s real Jobs Jolt, and is she concerned that these redundant workers will then be forced to relocate to get the unemployment benefit if they are unlucky enough to live somewhere that the Ministry of Social Development deems to be a no-go area for employment?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I think it is very important that the member takes into account all the matters that I have just raised. I have met with the unions that represent the textiles, footwear, and clothing sector. The point has been made more than once that we already have one of the lowest tariff regimes in the world, and that the final shift ultimately to zero, which will happen at some point in the future, will not make a significant difference. There have already been closures associated with the rush that was implemented by the previous Government. That is not the indication that sits with the final phase-out of tariffs.

Rod Donald: Is the Minister asking for a new analysis to be carried out after the Infometrics report commissioned as part of the tariff review was found to be flawed, because it simply assumed that the trade balance would be unaffected by cuts in tariffs, when we all know that in the real world reductions in tariffs result in an increase in imports?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: My reading of that report indicated there was not a suggestion that there would be a reduction in the numbers of people employed in the textiles, clothing, and footwear sector, but that there would be a reduction in the increase in employment in that sector.

Violent Offenders—Strategic Business Plan

9. BRIAN CONNELL (NZ National—Rakaia) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he believe that his department can provide “safe, secure and humane management of offenders” as outlined in its recent strategic business plan?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Yes.

Brian Connell: Is the Minister aware that Judge Colgan—in an Employment Court case involving a former emergency response unit member, better known as the “goon squad” in the Department of Corrections—said with regard to phase four of the operation build-up carried out on the night of 19 December 2000 that it was arguably unlawful; if so, what has the Minister done about this, and is this what he means in the department’s recruitment catchphrase, “Have you considered a career in crime?”

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the last part of question, no. But I am sure that the member is aware that there were two reports. The first report into various allegations concentrated more on things like procedural issues, like exhibit handling, expenses, management, and the like. In the end, when the second report came out and when all the other allegations came to the fore, the department made an assessment on those and decided that many of them were without foundation. It is important to note that the officers were given various disciplinary procedures, including final warnings.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: How does New Zealand compare with other jurisdictions in the safe, secure, and humane management of offenders?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: New Zealand compares very favourably with like jurisdictions on all the key indicators, including low rates of assaults, escapes, suicides, and costs per inmate. I am also advised that these statistics have continued to improve in recent years.

Ron Mark: Will the Minister lend his total support to a select committee inquiry into the operations of the emergency response unit in Christchurch Prison, and, in doing that, also enable the select committee, if it chooses to do so, to interview inmates and prison officers so that the real truth about what happened in Canterbury’s prisons may be known to the public?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I would hope that before the select committee even considers such things it would investigate very thoroughly the two very comprehensive reports that have been done on this matter. As the member will know, there were two. Many of the allegations that have been brought to light in public through the media have not been substantiated.

Brian Connell: Does the Minister’s comments made in a speech earlier this month where he congratulated the Department of Corrections on “achieving the results you do”, include Paul Monk, Paul Rushton, Anthony Bird, Doug Smith, and Mike Kelly who were all involved, or linked to the infamous goon squad, which achieved results including dressing up in military uniforms, conducting top very, very, secret meetings in Dunedin, running up $480 bar tabs, and indecent exposure in a public place, and is that a viable path to promotion within the department?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there; two may be commented on.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I most certainly stand by the comments I made earlier last month. I tell that member that corrections officers in New Zealand do an extraordinarily good job in very difficult circumstances. I would expect members on the other side of the House to provide them with some support in the House, instead of bagging people like them who do a difficult job all the time.

Television New Zealand—Kaihautu Position

10. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What is the salary band of Television New Zealand Ltd’s new position of kaihautû, and have there been any employment grievances from other persons who believed they had been offered the position of Kaihautu?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): They are operational matters for which I have no legal responsibility. However, in accordance with section 211 of the Companies Act, each annual report of Television New Zealand Ltd will state such information if it is relevant.

Deborah Coddington: Can he deny media rumours that the new kaihautû, Hone Edwards, is paid more than $180,000, and, as Minister, is he concerned that under the charter the kaihautû—already dubbed “cultural safety officer”—is paid more than investigative journalists whose job it is to report the facts; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I cannot confirm those media rumours, as the member puts it, and I remind her that they are operational matters for which I have no legal responsibility. However, the information, of course, is made publicly available by Television New Zealand at the appropriate time.

H V Ross Robertson: Does the Minister have any responsibility for the recruitment of staff at Television New Zealand?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No. Such personnel matters are the responsibility of the management of the company. Section 128 of the Companies Act provides that the business and affairs of a company must be managed by, or under the direction or supervision of, the board of the company, not by its shareholders—something I imagine everybody in the House already knows.

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister see the contradiction in appointing a kaihautû at a rumoured remuneration of more than $180,000, when at the same time Television New Zealand is cutting costs, reducing the news budget by 10 percent, making staff redundant, and cancelling high-quality current affairs and drama programmes?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I try to avoid listening to unfounded rumours, and no.

Heather Roy: Can he deny that two tangata whenua have been paid out by Television New Zealand because of a cultural misunderstanding that they believed that Ian Fraser had offered them the job; if not, does he, as Minister, have any concerns over just how Television New Zealand is spending taxpayers’ dollars?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have no knowledge of those unfounded rumours.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister answer whether any of the $12 million allocated by the Government for the fulfilment of chartered programming was used to pay for the appointment of the kaihautû; if so, what programmes were cut in order to make such a politically correct appointment?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, that money was not used to hire this new member of staff.

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister assure the House that the agreement worked out between Television New Zealand and any of the unsuccessful applicants did not involve any payment, financial settlement, commitment, undertaking, or promise from Television New Zealand to engage or commission them to undertake any forms of consultancy, or the Brian Edwards option of producing their own programme; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am aware through media reports of only one person who has complained about the process—and that person is not a Television New Zealand staff member. That is the only complaint I am aware of.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister believe that the appointment of a cultural safety officer at Television New Zealand is going a bit far simply to protect the Minister of Mâori Affairs, and is it not just another reason for New Zealanders to switch to TV3, where the staff are all paid to get, and to report, the news rather than to censor it?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I know of no cultural safety officer employed by Television New Zealand.

Stephen Franks: In the light of the Minister’s apparent lack of interest in the kaihautû appointment, if people flock to private broadcasters for news they feel is uncensored by any cultural safety officer, will he promise that the Government will not force private broadcasters to appoint their own; if not, how will he ensure that people stay watching State broadcasting’s PC news?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I hope they watch Television New Zealand because it is interesting; I hope they will go and do that. No one has forced anybody to do anything; this was a choice made by Television New Zealand itself. Of course, I am interested in those kinds of appointments, and, consistent with that, I point out that no one is going to force TV3 to do anything either.

Deborah Coddington: What obligations does Television New Zealand have under the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As an organisation that is relatively autonomous under its own legislation, Television New Zealand has to make choices about how it will deal with the Treaty of Waitangi, just as all other organisations of that kind do.

Immigration—Crime

11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he considering any initiatives to assist in combating immigrant crime; if so, what?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Police are proactive in developing initiatives to counter crime among New Zealand’s changing and diverse population.

Ron Mark: How can the Minister continue to ignore that further resourcing to combat immigrant crime is required, when, on one hand, the Auckland police have reached the point of requesting a force of volunteer reserves to back them up in their struggle to fight crime among Auckland’s immigrant communities, and, on the other hand, the Chinese Government is now expressing its grave concerns at the high level of Chinese crime in New Zealand?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Because the police are taking a number of actions. The Commissioner of Police is visiting Bangkok this week, where he will discuss this matter with others, including fellow commissioners. Several initiatives are also under way at a national level. The Auckland Asian crime unit recently outlined trends in the development of Asian crime at a District Court judges conference, and an Asian organised crime investigation course is being held at the Royal New Zealand Police College this very month. There are many initiatives. Police are working with local communities, and they are trying to recruit more people from across the spectrum so that the problems can be dealt with.

Mahara Okeroa: What success have police had in clearing crime in recent years?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The office of the commissioner announced today that resolution rates for crime in the 2002-03 year are 43.7 percent—the best in over 20 years. We can compare that with the rates for 1991-92 under National, when resolution rates hit a low of 29.8 percent. I am happy, and I think people should be congratulating the police.

Brian Connell: Is it not a fact that one cannot do enough to combat immigrant crime, or any other serious crime, for that matter, because the police simply do not have enough police officers, as acknowledged by Commissioner Robertson to the Minister of Police dated 14 November 2002?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police now have the highest number of police, both trained sworn officers and non-sworn officers. Of course, we note that, when that party was in power, it tried to cut police numbers by 540. They failed. This Government has put the money in, and I think we should be saying “Well done” to the New Zealand Police.

Ron Mark: Why has this Government been content to ignore the fact that the continual mass influx of people from a completely different culture causes problems for the police by way of the language and cultural barrier and brings with it criminogenic traits of those particular cultures, evidenced by the fact that in 1 year, total recorded apprehensions for persons of Asian ethnicity for kidnapping offences have increased by over 700 percent?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government is giving the police the resources so they can do their job without a racial bent, and I am disturbed that some people seem to think that racial bents are the way to police New Zealand. They are not.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Once again, I seek your protection. I take absolute offence to the insinuations by that Minister that continuing to ask questions on immigrant crime is different to asking questions about Mâori crime. That man should brought back to answering questions without racist slur. The Minister should deal with the issue.

Mr SPEAKER: The member should please contain himself. I rule in the member’s favour. The member took offence. The Minister will withdraw and apologise.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What language is it permissible to use in this House for people who describe other people as having “criminogenetic” traits determined by their racial background?

Ron Mark: That member deliberately misinterpreted the word that I took from the corrections handbook, which continually refers to “criminogenic”, not “genetic”, traits. It is in the Minister of Corrections’ own handbook. The member should refer to it.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter of—

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

Mr SPEAKER: The member should be seated. I am on my feet. That is a matter of taste, and that is how I rule.

Methamphetamine—Border Control

12. MOANA MACKEY (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Customs: What impact is the increasing abuse of pure methamphetamine, commonly known as “P”, having at the New Zealand border?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): The New Zealand Customs Service has reported a dramatic increase of seizures of crystal methamphetamine and massive increases in quantities of substances of precursor substances suspected to be used for the manufacture of methamphetamine. In the 7 months of this year, over 530,000 tablets, or the powdered equivalent of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, have been seized by the Customs Service at the border. This compares with just 250,000 for the whole of 2002.

Moana Mackey: Is the New Zealand Customs Service working in conjunction with the police on this problem?

Hon RICK BARKER: Most certainly. The New Zealand Customs Service regularly reports to the police on its interceptions of precursor substances, and both agencies follow up on its inquiries in a joint capacity. This process is consistent with the principles outlined in the Government’s Methamphetamine Action Plan. That is absolutely necessary, as the effective police campaign dries up local supplies of precursors. Together, Customs and the police are making a sizeable dent in both the local and imported supplies of the precursor substances.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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