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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer Wednesday


Questions & Answers for Oral Answer Wednesday, 3 September 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers:

1. Pharmaceuticals—Dispensing

2. Mâori Television Service—Chief Executive

3. Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Environment, Minister

4. Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Prime Minister

5. Solomon Islands—Regional Assistance Mission

6. Immigration—Third World Diseases

7. Education—Export Initiative Risks

8. Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Contamination Reports

9. Business Law—Coordination with Australia

10. Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Document Disclosure

11. Ministerial Confidence—Health, Minister

12. Ministerial Confidence—Mâori Affairs, Minister

Pharmaceuticals—Dispensing

1. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What has been the reaction to changes to dispensing of pharmaceuticals?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The reaction has varied from consumers who are delighted by the changes, to pharmacists who are concerned about the loss of income, and to Opposition spokespeople on health, like Lynda Scott, who said on 1 July this year that 2,000 jobs would be lost if the proposal went ahead.

Steve Chadwick: Has she received any subsequent advice on changed attitudes towards the dispensing of pharmaceuticals?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. I have received a copy of a letter from Lynda Scott to Pharmac, dated 29 July this year, stating: “I think it is a sensible decision based on good clinical advice. The modification of your original proposal has gone down well, and shows the modified result must have been approved by a large percentage of the population.” I was delighted by the support from the National Party.

Dr Lynda Scott: What does she have to say to the 90 pharmacy fourth year students who are dejected and distressed because they cannot now get an intern placement to complete their pharmacy training, because under this Government’s stat dispensing proposal, pharmacists say it costs them more to dispense medicines for the Government than they receive, so they can no longer take on an intern?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Considerable work has been done with the Pharmaceutical Society to find placements for interns. However, the issue is not just about a change to stat dispensing, which that member wrote to Pharmac and supported, it is also about the fact that for the first time we have two schools graduating pharmacists this year, going from 100 to 170, so it does mean a lot more work has had to go into finding placements. I met with the Pharmaceutical Society this week, and I am very pleased with the progress that has been made.

Pita Paraone: Is the Minister aware of any pharmacists, particularly in the rural areas, who are now struggling to meet salary and other costs to remain in business because of the drop in income as a consequence of the new dispensing regime?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, because stat dispensing does not commence until 1 October, so they are continuing to receive the same income. However, the member will be interested to know that district health boards are working with pharmacists to ensure that we retain rural access, and the money they receive from the saving of stat dispensing will go back into providing pharmaceutical services.

Sue Kedgley: What will happen to the many pharmacy interns who are having great difficulty finding a placement, because pharmacies are saying they cannot afford to place interns after the introduction of bulk dispensing, and given that a placement is a requirement for completing their degree?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I answered that question to Lynda Scott, in that a considerable amount of work has been done with the Pharmaceutical Society, including looking at other places to place pharmacists, from district health boards into *Medsafe and Pharmac itself; and I am pleased with the progress that has been made.

Heather Roy: Can she guarantee that she stands by her repeated assurances that the cost of prescription medicines to the poorest patients in the country, all of those enrolled in Access primary healthcare organisations, will still drop from $15 to $3 on 1 October this year; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In the near future I will take to Cabinet a package of measures that includes the co-payment area and looks at reducing the cost to those over 65 years of age. It will mean a much better provision for many more New Zealanders, and I will announce a decision on that in the near future.

David Benson-Pope: In light of the positive responses following modification of the original proposal—responses like Lynda Scott’s—has the Minister received any further reports of changed attitudes towards the dispensing of pharmaceuticals?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I do happen to have another report dated 28 August from Lynda Scott, who said that pharmacists are reeling under what has happened to them due to Pharmac*. I am now dismayed at the change in the National Party’s approach to stat dispensing. I suggest that the House tunes in next month for the next episode in shifting National Party policy.

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the Pharmaceutical Society* magazine that states the society has grave concerns about the ability for community pharmacists to offer intern placements because of stat dispensing.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is objection. I want to say that the answer to the last question went too far. I think the Minister should restrain herself in future.

Pita Paraone: How will the reported savings from the new dispensing regime be spent?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The estimated saving of $132 million over a full year will go back to the district health boards. It can be spent on pharmaceutical services, paying for what pharmacists actually do, rather than paying them because of the amounts they dispense. That money can also go into projects like diabetes, primary *health-care, and a range of other activities that the district health boards wish to spend it on.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does she believe that her inept handling of the pharmaceutical issue is the reason that in the latest publication of the medical magazine 8 percent of general practitioners* voted for her as the preferred health Minister, compared to 43 percent for National’s Dr Lynda Scott, and is that the reason that 83 percent of general practitioners surveyed rate Labour’s performance as poor?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not think that is the reason. After all, we are talking about pharmacists and not general practitioners. However, I am aware that 86 pharmacists were surveyed for that poll, which is probably what the National Party would like to happen when opinion polls are done of those who support it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would anyone have confidence in her word that $132 million will go back to the industry as a result of the changes in respect of Pharmac, when the last two changes that brought significant cuts to the cost did not go back to the industry, and, in fact, led to people in this country getting second-class drugs in a claimed First-World health system?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot answer the member’s question, because I was not responsible for the last two changes to stat dispensing. Stat dispensing was removed in 1996 under the previous National Government when it brought in monthly dispensing. It did not happen under this Government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Not true.

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is absolutely true. If the member wants the information I can give it to him. In fact, I am sure that Lynda Scott will confirm that stat dispensing was removed in 1996 by a National Government.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a copy—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is the warning today. There will be no comments during points of order and no comments during the asking of questions. The next person will leave, and that is a promise.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the poll from Doctor* magazine headed “Great Scott, Lynda Ahead”.

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

Mâori Television Service—Chief Executive

2. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Was he correct yesterday in the House when he answered “yes” to the question, “Was the chairman of the Mâori Television Service factually correct when he said there was no confidentiality agreement binding Mr Fox?”, and what action has he taken to assure himself that the Mâori Television Service Board properly investigated the truth or otherwise of the complaint that led to the investigation into the “human resources issue”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): As I later clarified to the House yesterday, Mr *Walden did not seek an agreement. However, I am advised that there was a term in the agreement between the parties that confidentiality be maintained. Ministers do not have a copy of the document but they agreed with Mr Walden that he seek Mr Fox’s consent for that section of the agreement to be released.

Dr Muriel Newman: In light of Dr Cullen’s answer to a supplementary question to question No 8 on Tuesday, 26 August that the matter “could well be a police matter”, can he assure the House that his Government has checked that the *Mâori Television Service Board is not an accessory in *covering up a crime; and, if he has not checked, does that not make him an accessory as well?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There has just been a direct accusation of criminal offence on the part of the Minister—a direct accusation.

Hon Roger Sowry: It was not.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber. I said that the next person to interject would leave, so he leaves. That is a warning to everybody. I am hearing the point of order, and I have heard the comment from the Hon Trevor Mallard.

Hon Roger Sowry withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Mallard can make the statement as much as he likes, but that is not what was put to the Minister. The Minister was asked whether the Government, knowing that the matter might be criminal, has colluded in covering it up, and whether that does not also make it an accessory. That is a *straightforward question that I would expect the Opposition to be able to ask. One of the things we want to do is make sure that our Government is not colluding in covering up crimes.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought that the question—having listened to it and having sought advice—asked an opinion that is in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to challenge your ruling but, with respect, there has been some clear public information that suggests that the allegation that the Government is aiding and abetting in this case is serious. Secondly, the so-called and only potential complainant in this case has said that she is happy with the outcome. Now that being the case, there cannot be a crime in the way that is being alleged in the question. That is why I say the question is out of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: Far be it for me to question my learned colleague in the law, but he will be aware that just because a complainant in a criminal matter withdraws, it does not mean that no crime has been committed. Indeed, if she has received a payment to withdraw, there could, in fact, be a cover-up. If some of the rumours that are circulating regarding this matter are correct, there has been a crime.

Mr SPEAKER: The only thing that cannot be done is to accuse any member of this Parliament of a criminal offence. However, the point is that no charge relating to an offence has yet been laid. There is nothing in the question as it was originally asked that is out of order.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It seems to be speculation. My understanding of criminal collusion is that it is a matter between the parties and the board for the Government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why on earth, when the Minister was first asked this question, did he not give the answer that he just gave—in short, that the board and other parties were not in a position to inform him of the nature of it due to the confidentiality clause—and, more important, why has he left someone to hang out in the public eye, accused of serious misdemeanours when, if he knew the facts as he surely should have, it was thoroughly improper that the allegations that I have heard in this House, and that he has heard, were made in the first place?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am not as advanced as my learned colleague over there in the sense of serving time here, but, certainly, it is a matter for the board—and I stressed that at that time—and not for the Government.

Hon Tony Ryall: In respect of his answer to the primary question today, why did he give the exact opposite answer yesterday?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I did not.

Marc Alexander: Why is it that the Minister is personally able to interfere in what are actually commercial decisions regarding broadcasting platforms for the Mâori Television Service, for example, yet when we ask fundamental questions about its leadership and recent personnel departures it is “an operational matter for the board” for which the Minister conveniently has no responsibility?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The matters on platform are policy and agreement between the Government and the Mâori Television Service. Those other matters are operational matters—the board’s business.

Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that it suits him and this Government to have these allegations swirling around Mr Fox, with his Associate Minister Dr Cullen talking about the police and fuelling the fire, because Mr Derek Fox came within 600 votes of beating this Minister in his own electorate and if it were not for these allegations swirling around, he would clean him out at the next election?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. At least I had the strength to run for the seat and get voted in. The further matter, that of being scurrilous and spreading speculation, is a matter for voyeurs, not Ministers.

Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the question for oral answer from last Tuesday, in which Dr Cullen says that the issue could well be a police matter.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know you have ruled out behaviour that is not becoming of the House, but surely you do not wish to rule out applause, which rarely is given, when somebody scores a palpable hit.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not, and if I ever thought I was going to get to that stage I would be giving up this job.

Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Environment, Minister

3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: When she said in relation to the Environmental Risk Management Authority yesterday, “if there are issues to do with genetically modified organisms coming directly into our food chain as a result of any release … I would consider that probably a serious enough matter to do it for them.” did she mean that she will use her call in powers under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 to determine any applications to release food and feed crops or animals; if not, what did she mean?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Any decision to call in an application would be done on a case by case* basis.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: When she said in the New Zealand Herald on 28 August that if Monsanto* “comes down to New Zealand and says ‘we want to do a full release’ I don’t think they’ve got a hope in hell of being able to get that”, but that a conditional release of genetically modified pine trees “might go ahead because it ain’t food”, what clause in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act* does she think that the Environmental Risk Management Authority* might use to treat food differently from other releases?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The context of those quotes was a seminar to journalists in which the question asked of me was: “When is call-in likely to be used?”. I gave examples of when call-in might be used, and also of considerations that the authority might take when it took economic circumstances, or health circumstances, or environmental circumstances into its consideration, as it is required to do under the Hazardous Substances and Other Organisms Act.

David Parker: Are we likely to see applications for release of a GM crop or a GM herd bred for human consumption in the near future?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Not for many years, and if such an application were made, its first-time nature might well provoke a call-in response from the Minister.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did the Minister receive a memo from Dr Basil Walker, Chief Executive Officer of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, on 27 February 2001, marked “Urgent—in confidence”, on GM contaminated grain”, stating: “The interim protocol is based on a testing standard which, although very strict, will allow low levels of GM contamination. In essence, inadvertent releases at very low levels will be tolerated.”; if so, how can she possibly maintain the pretence that the Government had a zero tolerance approach?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: First of all, I want to say that that is right outside the line of the original question, but I will—

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister is objecting to the question, the proper procedure is to take a point of order and ask you to rule. You have allowed the question. It is her job to answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: I will do this job, Mr Hide, not you. I listened to the question. The Minister can make the comment she made. It was perfectly in order to make it. However, I do not want to be ruling out every single question that comes in. As far as this was concerned, it was wide, but the Minister can say that it is wide. I think she was going to say that she might not have that information with her. That is up to her to say.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Mr Speaker, you are exactly right, as usual. I was going to add the word “but” at the end of that. Having said that it was wide of the original question asked, if we are back to the argument of yesterday—and I am doing this completely from memory—I have not got that memorandum in front of me but I know exactly what is being referred to. It is the very old argument, which we have gone over many times in this House, of the confusion between tolerance of contamination and tolerance of the confidence of testing.

Hon Ken Shirley: Can the Minister further explain to the House how she and her Government can maintain a zero tolerance claim when that same briefing paper from Basil Walker, the head of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, dated 27 February, addressed to the Minister for the Environment and marked “Urgent—in confidence”, went on to add, after the words: “In essence, inadvertent releases at very low levels will be tolerated”, the words: “There is no way that this can be construed as simply a continuation of existing policy. It represents a shift in policy, which, in my opinion, will probably require legislative change to formalise.”; how does the Minister explain that?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Quite easily. I think the answer lies in the last part of that quote. This Government never made any legislative change to change any policy, because there was no change in policy. That is ministerial servants talking to each other, and not to us.

Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table the “Urgent—in confidence” memo.

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

Larry Baldock: Returning to the main question, does the Minister believe that the ministerial call-in power provides a better precautionary backstop than the continuation of the moratorium and a Luddite response that would leave us scientifically behind the rest of the world?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, I do. To continue the moratorium, as some members in this House would have us do, does not allow New Zealand to access any of the possible benefits that new technology might offer. It is a blunt approach. Implementing a case-by-case framework allows benefits to be assessed against costs and risks, and the inclusion of the ministerial call-in power allows closer scrutiny of applications with significant effects.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: If she really believes as she said in answer to a previous question that there will be no applications for release for years, then what would be the problem in maintaining a moratorium until there is more known internationally about the economic, environmental, and health effects of these organisms?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Quite simply because the moratorium is a very blunt instrument. This Government is going ahead with what the royal commission advised, which was to do things on a case-by-case basis and to proceed with caution. Case by case is cautious.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: If she intends to call in applications that are perhaps politically inconvenient, does that not contradict the assertion that the Environmental Risk Management Authority is an independent, quasi-judicial scientific authority and the decision should be left to it?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I know of no time when I have said that I would use a call-in power for a politically sensitive decision.

Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Prime Minister

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Did any of the Prime Minister’s staff have any communication with her or with Mary Anne Thompson about which “corngate” documents would not be publicly released; if so, what was the content of that communication?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I am advised there was not such communication.

Hon Bill English: Whether or not the Prime Minister was advised, can the Prime Minister herself tell us whether any of her staff had any communication with her about which “corngate” documents would not be publicly released?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The answer to that is, no they did not.

Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister going to take disciplinary action against Ruth Wilkie, who wrote a memo referring to discussions she had with Mary Anne Thompson and Mark Prebble that quoted the Prime Minister’s expressed wish, or did she make that up?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mary Anne Thompson has said that she did not have such a conversation with me. She did not have such a conversation with my staff.

Hon Bill English: Did her staff advise her that in fact it was not four documents that were withheld, it was 184 documents that were withheld, as set out in this schedule—that is, documents that were promised before the election, but not released before the election?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That has come to my attention only in the last day. In November I found out that Dr Prebble had not released the four documents relating to my own department. My understanding is that when Mr Price’s request came in, then there was a very detailed look around, and more documents came to light. They were for a great range of departments.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that that “detailed look” 12 months after the election uncovered this document from Michael Wintringham to every Government department chief executive with this quote from a public servant, and I quote from the email: “The appearance may be that these public servants who were at the press conference are no more than political puppets, especially since what they are now saying is different to what official papers at the time said.”; and can she tell this House that if that document had got out in the election campaign, it would have been bad, bad news for her?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My instruction was that all documents were to be released. As I recall, at the time Mr Wintringham* had a concern that civil servants were being drawn into the campaign. However, that was no reason for anyone to deliberately hold anything back; nothing should have been held back. I understand that officials went to very great lengths to assemble as much information as they could before Mr Carbon and other officials saw media on, I think, Thursday the 11th.

Hon Bill English: Given the Prime Minister’s commitment to total openness on this issue, is it not remarkable that a politically damaging email was in the hands of the top 30 civil servants in this country—being the chief executive of every Government department—on 12 July 2002, and that none of them thought to include it among the 1,800 pages that were released, and is it not equally remarkable that it has surfaced only now; and what action will the Prime Minister take about a civil service indulging in calculated deceit?

Mr SPEAKER: The first two questions can be answered.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is no person more frustrated than I am that all documents were not released instantly, but I will not have it said that there was calculated deceit by officials.

Hon Bill English: Given that this highly incriminating document was in the hands of every chief executive, and that the Prime Minister had directed that all documents should be released, how does she describe the behaviour that meant it was held back if it was not calculated deceit?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is not clear whether the member is accusing Mr Wintringham of calculated deceit; I most certainly would not accuse him or other senior civil servants of that. My understanding is that they made their very best endeavours to get all relevant information out. Clearly, not all information was released, but eventually it did all come out. For example, the information that the member has went to the Local Government and Environment Committee back in April, and I imagine that the Opposition has just got round to reading the file.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister prepared to admit that, were it not for the fact that those documents were withheld, she would have lost the last election, thereby belying the view of certain sycophantic reporters in this country that she is unbeatable?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not think that for a moment, given the absence of Opposition.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table a list of the 184 documents on “corngate” that were withheld prior to the 2002 election.

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

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table an email from Michael Wintringham, the State Services Commissioner*, to every chief of a Government department setting out the concerns of a civil servant about civil service behaviour.

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

Solomon Islands—Regional Assistance Mission

5. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What reports has he received on progress being made by the Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Progress has been reported on a number of fronts. Weapons handed in now number 3,580. The removal of corrupt and criminal elements from the Solomon Islands police force is currently under way, with seven officers having been arrested over the last 10 days. Action is also being taken to remove corrupt personnel from other departments. Finally, financial advisers in inline positions have begun work with the Solomon Islands Government to establish a credible budgetary process.

Tim Barnett: What role are New Zealand personnel playing in this process?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The New Zealand Police personnel have been active in four areas: the special response group, community policing, intelligence, and investigations. I want to pay particular tribute to two officers. Acting Superintendent Tony McLeod, who managed the successful arms amnesty, and acting Commissioner Tony Annandale,* who personally arrested the high-profile, allegedly corrupt Solomon Islands Superintendent of Police, James Kili*. The military personnel continue to provide essential transport, logistic, and engineering support. The infantry company that arrived last week is currently settling in and in due course will assist police operations if and when required.

Hon Peter Dunne: Now that Harold Keke* has been detained, what steps has the mission been able to take in terms of breaking up the remnants of his supporters and also their influence on affairs in the Solomons?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Not only was Harold Keke arrested but also a number of his lieutenants, some of whom have been charged with murder. There are now policing stations placed on the *Weathercoast. Work is continuing there, but it is not yet considered sufficiently stable to return the approximately 1,000 refugees who are in camps just outside Honiara.

Immigration—Third World Diseases

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: In her answers to yesterday’s oral question No 3, why did she say “As I understand it there is a screening for a disease like tuberculosis.” and “Whether the rules are different for refugees I do not know.”, in response to the matter raised about the number of tuberculosis and other Third World diseases within hospitals in the North Shore and Auckland region and how does she justify her confidence in her Minister of Health and Minister of Immigration?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The member asked a question without notice on this yesterday and he cannot expect detailed answers. I have confidence in both Ministers because they are both *hard-working and conscientious.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why after 24 hours can we not, in this House, expect some detailed answers to information already partially released in this House, and available to her Minister of Health; and how is it that the Minister of Immigration has let into this country thousands of immigrants each year since she has been there, without first checking them abroad but having the checks later done here when it is far too late; why is it that the Minister of Health does not know about this; and how can she tolerate—

Mr SPEAKER: That is four questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am getting to the finish of it.

Mr SPEAKER: Only two will be required to be answered.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, how can she tolerate—without laughing irresponsibly—a fact that has New Zealand now subject to significant Third World disease in our hospitals?

Mr SPEAKER: When members ask questions I allow them to ask two. But when there are four—and the last one is by far the longest—that is not really on. I am allowing it this time, Mr Peters, but I just want to say that those are the rules and members cannot ask questions in that way.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept that, but when we have Ministers’ responsibilities—

Mr SPEAKER: No, please be seated. I have made a ruling and I have been generous to the member, although I need not have been. I just want to say that any comment about answers and what have you, is not my job. My job is to make sure that questions are in order and answers are in order. Now, this question can be asked and the Prime Minister can comment, and I will ask her to do so.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Screening was introduced for quota refugees for tuberculosis in the 2002-03 year. It did not exist when the member was Deputy Prime Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would the Prime Minister make a statement that is totally refutable and untrue when she knows full well that there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came here with full certification from their countries of origin, including *X-rays and evidence like that there, having regard for the fact that her own Minister of Immigration admitted during the last campaign that people during her time were coming in without the required clearances in respect of disease, and without the correct TB X-rays and evidence of their state of health; why would she just make it up as she goes along?

Mr SPEAKER: The first two questions can be answered.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am advised that *offshore screening for quota refugees was introduced for the first time during 2002-03. There has been health screening for all other residence applicants for a long time.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not asking her about refugees alone; I am asking her about immigration, which last year was 72,500. Why is she seeking sanctuary in a small category, which even that has expanded by four times?

Mr SPEAKER: That was a direct answer to one of the questions the member asked.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table a document that shows that a poor woman—a New Zealander, of course—went to a hospital on the North Shore and was told that she would have to have her baby and be out of there within 2 hours.

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

Hon Annette King: What has that to do with it?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am seeking leave to table a document from the North Shore Times Advertiser* and she shouts out: “What has that to do with it?”. She is so dumb she does not understand why that woman was kicked out of the hospital early.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did interject, and I ask her to leave the Chamber. Objection has been taken to table that document.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No, it is all right. Sorry, it is my mistake.

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please just concentrate.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If we are to concentrate on the facts, how about asking the Minister to leave right now.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: She is still here.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. He should not overdo it or he will leave, too. I am not having that sort of nonsense.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You asked her to leave.

Mr SPEAKER: She has.

Annette King withdrew from the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: She has now, but not when you asked her to. Usually in this House people leave when you ask them to.

Mr SPEAKER: I judged the Minister was gathering her papers. She was doing that satisfactorily, and I judged she was doing as she was asked to.

Question No. 7 to Minister

BERNIE OGILVY (United Future): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I notice the Minister is not there. [Interruption] He will do.

Mr SPEAKER: There is a Minister. I warn the member, as he is a new member, that in future that would lead me to carry on with the next question. He must ask the question if he wants to.

Education—Export Initiative Risks

7. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement that the export education industry is “proving to have its risky and volatile sides.”; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education), on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes.

Bernie Ogilvy: Is he concerned that the impact of the downturn in the number of foreign fee-paying students will hit schools hard in the light of the recent study that showed that 40 percent of secondary schools are already unable to balance their books, and only do so if they rely excessively on locally raised funds, parental donations, and fee-paying students; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Schools are paid adequately through their operational budgets to run their schools. Many of them have decided to take on international students, and they need to be very careful about how many they take on for that reason.

Jill Pettis: What has been done to strengthen the quality of educational provision and pastoral care of those international students?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In order to continue the success of the export education industry in New Zealand it is essential that education is provided at a very high quality and that students leave New Zealand better off than when they came. The Government is actively working to foster a culture of continual improvement—something our own domestic students benefit from. We recently released a strengthened code of practice for the pastoral care of international students, which reinforces the safeguards in place for the welfare of international students. We are strengthening the powers of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority* to protect the quality of the educational environment.

Jim Peters: Does the Minister agree that focusing predominantly upon the growth of the export industry rather than upon the quality of the product, including the lack of adequate pastoral care, was really the issue and is still the issue with regard to the import of students?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, quality is the only thing that matters when we are talking about export education. People who put anything else first will come a cropper, so, as the member knows, we have focused very much on pastoral care through the code.

Bernie Ogilvy: In the light of the current volatility in the export education industry and the Minister’s concern that international students have positive experiences, what would he do to assist those students who may be left without an education, accommodation, or their fees, if the **Modern Age Institute of Learning closes down, since his ministry has already pocketed a levy of between $600 to $900 per student to promote pastoral care?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is working with the owners and others in the sector who are involved with the institute. They tell me that at the moment the exact shape of the organisation that will emerge will become clear in the next few days.

Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister confirm that the current *downturn in the export education industry will make it more difficult for tertiary institutions to hold to the Government’s fee-maxima policy without cutting staff or jeopardising quality; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No I cannot, because it appears that the major downturn in the number of students is in the English language area rather than throughout the tertiary education sector. For example, *Massey University is enjoying a lift in the number of overseas students at the present time. I cannot confirm what the member has just asked.

Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister concerned that the current volatility in the export-education industry is also related to the relative ease of acquiring student visas in other countries, such as Australia and Malta, where educational institutions can make bulk applications on students’ behalf, and is he working with the Minister of Immigration on this particular problem?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is an issue for all countries to properly smooth the way for students to get visas. I know from my own personal experience, speaking as the Minister responsible for the tertiary area, that I have been in China myself talking with officials from immigration and from the Chinese area to ensure that visas are available and operating smoothly so that the students can come here.

Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Contamination Reports

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Prime Minister: How does she reconcile her statement on National Radio on 11 July 2002 that “ERMA was in with MAF advising Ministers from the outset, and the advice we got was that there was no GE contamination.” with the statement by Dr Basil Walker, Head of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, on 12 July 2002 that “I should make it clear that at no stage have we said, categorically, there was no contamination.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I was referring to the advice Ministers had received, which was that there was no reliable evidence of contamination. Presumably, Dr Walker was making the point that unless one destroys every single seed one can never be 100 percent sure.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Minister for the Environment, in giving evidence to the select committee, said that there was a significant difference between saying there was no contamination and saying there was no evidence of contamination, does she now concede that what she said on National Radio was incorrect, and will she be re-examining her conscience?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do have the transcript from that particular *Morning Report where I said: “Firstly, I can state categorically that the tests confirmed there was no evidence that there was GE contamination.” I later went on to leave out the words “no evidence”, but I really think it is neither here nor there. As the member knows, unless we destroy every seed, we will never know. I note that on 11 July, and in other places where Dr Walker was interviewed, he said: “The conclusion we reached”—that is, the *Environmental Risk Management Authority—“was that there was no reasonable case for assuming that genetically modified contamination had occurred.” There was no evidence.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of her admission to the House today that her earlier claim that documents were not withheld was incorrect, and in view of her false claim on *National Radio on 11 July: “The advice we got was that there was no GE contamination”, will the Prime Minister retract her invitation to the Hon Nick Smith to examine his conscience—as requested by him—and, instead, look in the mirror and examine her own conscience?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Most certainly not. I have yet to be presented with any evidence that that corn was contaminated.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: In that same National Radio interview she said: “I am sitting here, Sean, looking at the sampling sheet that came back. There is no positive test revealed. Every inquiry we have made of officials confirms there were no positive tests”, how does that compare with the fact that there are 38 documents from different agencies referring to positive tests, and having gone through 1,800 pages of documents I cannot find the sampling sheet that she was referring to?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My advice is there was no credible evidence of positive tests. I well recall the slip of paper I was looking at where there were two columns, and one had to have presence proved in both to go on to run another test, as I recall, that there be conclusively a positive. There was never such conclusive evidence.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: With the advantage of hindsight, and after reading again the memos that were written at the time, will she now agree that the evidence from the corn tests, which included some positive and some negative indications, was inconclusive, rather than that it proved no contamination?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is not my understanding. My recollection is that we had to have a *line-up of positives. It was not just enough to have one indication; one had to have matching indications.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table 38 documents that refer to positive tests. I also seek leave to table the transcript, in which the Prime Minister said there were no positive tests.

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

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is unclear—Mr Mark Peck—I want to be clear as to whether I can table the document.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard an objection, quite clearly, twice. There was objection taken.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: In view of the case that this inquiry is hinging centrally on the nature of the testing that was done in Melbourne and the nature of those preliminary positive results from tests that were never quite completed, can the Prime Minister offer us any help at all in getting the seed company responsible and the testing laboratory to give evidence to the committee?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think the member asked me a similar question next week. I do not have the power to make them appear, at all.

Business Law—Coordination with Australia

9. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Commerce: What is she doing to progress business law coordination* with Australia?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): Last week I attended the *closer economic relations 20th anniversary joint ministerial forum in Sydney, which was also attended by Senator the Hon Helen Coonan, the Australian Minister for Revenue, and Assistant Treasurer. We issued a joint statement on business law coordination between Australia and New Zealand that highlighted an agreement to explore ways to improve the coordination of our competition regimes, preliminary agreement on detailed proposals for mutual recognition of securities offerings, measures to facilitate the efficient enforcement of trans-Tasman insolvencies, and an agreement to establish a joint working-group* to develop trans-Tasman accounting standards.

Mark Peck: How does that trans-Tasman work programme relate to the report that was issued by the Australia - New Zealand Business Council* at the closer economic relations ministerial forum?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Australia – New Zealand Business Council report that the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research* was commissioned to undertake is entitled “Stepping Towards a Borderless Market”. Given the focus on competition policy in that report, and its view that in a borderless market it would anticipate only one competition body and one set of rules, I am sure that the Australia – New Zealand Business Council will be pleased with the signal both Governments have given in that regard.

Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Document Disclosure

10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Noting her statements that she wanted full disclosure of all documents relating to GM-contaminated corn, will she and her office and department release all such information and communications, including emails, memoranda, and briefings, received or prepared by her, her office, and her department since 11 July 2002; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I am not aware of any fresh requests for such information. However, I do not see any reason it would not be complied with.

Hon Bill English: Could she reassure the House that all documents would be released, and why would the House believe that reassurance when 184 documents were held back prior to the election, even when she said on the Sky television* leaders debate: “People got a full account. Not only a full account, they are getting the whole bucket load of documents landed. This is a Government that is accountable, doesn’t cover things up.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is asking for an assurance that he obviously does not want to get. The reality is that a lot of the documents in his list of 184 relate to after 11 July, in any case.

Hon Bill English: Can the House take it that the assurance she has just given that all emails, memoranda, briefings, and communications received or prepared by her, her office, or her department on “corngate” since 11 July 2002, will be understood by Dr Mark Prebble, and that he will comply fully with the assurance and not hold back any documents according to phoney conventions?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would expect so. It is a mystery to me why the first instruction was not followed.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of her admission today that she now has new information surrounding the release of documentation, is she prepared to accept an invitation from the select committee to attend a select committee to assist it with its inquiry?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have made it clear, if the threshold for a Prime Minister being summoned to a select committee is that low, there would not be a policy issued before the Government where I would not be held accountable.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Noting the Prime Minister’s statements about full disclosure by the Government, and the current lack of full disclosure by private companies, does she believe it is adequate for the Government to rely, for its evidence of safety testing of any kind, on documents owned by those companies and passed on at their discretion?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is a matter for biosecurity officials. It is not something that I have the technical expertise to answer.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that among the 184 documents withheld prior to the election, 170 of which are dated 10 July or earlier, are 32 individual communications from or to her personal adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on this matter; and can she confirm that those 32 communications were withheld precisely to make sure that no one found out how much she knew about what had been going on?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I cannot confirm any such thing.

Hon Richard Prebble: Instead of telephoning news editors in the gallery yesterday and saying: “The Prime Minister is aggrieved they are telling lies about the Prime Minister”, would not a popular and competent Prime Minister have apologised for telling the country that all documents had been released prior to the election, and would not that popular and competent Prime Minister now *front up to a select committee?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have not said to anyone in the gallery: “I am aggrieved”, because I am not aggrieved. I am absolutely confident of what my involvement was, and it was so minimal that it would hardly register on the *Richter scale of involvement in any issue.

Rod Donald: Can we interpret Marian Hobbs’ earlier statement that there will not be genetically engineered crops in New Zealand for years, coupled with her statement that she would call in the first application for any such release, as a *Clayton’s extension of the moratorium?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No.

Ministerial Confidence—Health, Minister

11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Health; if so, why?

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

Ron Mark: How can she have confidence in her Minister of Health, given that in 2002 mentally ill patients drained police of 26,000 hours of reported time through responding to 6,175 reported incidents, and given the hundreds of mentally ill patients inappropriately serving prison sentences; and should not the Minister of Health be responsible for these people instead of leaving it to the unfortunate victims to find them, and the police, the courts, and the Department of Corrections to pick up the pieces?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What the Minister of Health can take pride in is having secured, in the Government’s first Budget, almost one-quarter of a billion dollars extra over 4 years to implement the mental health blueprint. She can also cite figures that show that in the years from 1970 right through to the year 2000, which is the period over which the deinstitutionalisation of mentally ill people occurred, the proportion of homicides committed by people with serious mental illness actually decreased. The services are better, but we can never rule out that a person with mental illness will not commit a crime, just as we cannot rule out that a person without mental illness will not commit a crime.

Ron Mark: If everything is so wonderful, and if all the plans are working so well, how is it that in the last few weeks we have had a young woman who is known to have mental health problems throw herself in front of a train in Porirua, a man wandering the Wellington motorway brandishing a replica firearm, an incident in Masterton that had the armed offenders hunting a man in relation to an axe-rage attack, and yet another incident in Northland, again involving a man who attacked the police with an axe?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: All those incidents are very sad and regrettable, but unless we detain every person with any diagnosed mental illness 24 hours a day, we cannot guarantee they will not happen.

Ministerial Confidence—Mâori Affairs, Minister

12. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Mâori Affairs; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I do because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Hon Richard Prebble: As the Prime Minister is personally responsible for the Government’s foreshore policy, would not a popular and competent Prime Minister go herself to the foreshore huis instead of sending an obviously sick man who we all know had no role in formulating the Government’s foreshore policy?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is incorrect. The Minister of Mâori Affairs has participated fully in the formulation of the Government proposal, and he and the other Ministers who have worked on the proposal with colleagues in the Mâori caucus will be taking it around the country.

Question No. 9 to Minister

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): I apologise for not doing this earlier, but I seek the leave of the House to table the joint statement on closer economic relations by the closer economic relations 20th anniversary ministerial forum and associated communiqués, as well as the Australia – New Zealand Business Council* report Stepping Towards a Borderless Market.

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

Question No. 11 to Minister

RON MARK (NZ First): I seek leave to table a statement from Mike Moore, former psychiatric social worker and Prime Minister, who stated: “We have closed down hospitals, now planning to rebuild similar wards inside prisons”—

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

RON MARK (NZ First): In respect of my question to the Prime Minister I seek leave to table a report in which the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, promises to take a hard line on accountability—all the way, to include the sacking of incompetent and bungling Ministers.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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