Thursday Questions/Answers For Oral Answer 4 Sept
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions to Ministers:
1. Ministerial Confidence—Prime Minister
2. Soy Infant Formula—Food Safety Authority
3. Agriculture—Agricultural Emissions Levy
4. Public Service—Political Neutrality
5. Immigration—Labour, Department Report
6. Climate Change—Kyoto Protocol
7. Agriculture—Agricultural Emissions Levy
8. Mâori Television Service—Reception Interference
9. Immigrants—Citizenship Birthright
10. Varroa Bee Mite—Research Funding
11. Public Service—Political Neutrality
12. Trial, Indonesia—Spiritual Leader Abu Bakar Bashir
Ministerial Confidence—Prime Minister
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Why does she continue to say that she has confidence in the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of Health when there are many examples of violent crime committed by immigrants and refugees together with the emergence of Third World diseases in New Zealand, and what has she done about this?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister continues to say that she has confidence in those Ministers, because she does.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In view of the fact that a Zimbabwean has been here for 2 years and has committed every sort of crime imaginable, including kidnapping, assault, attempted murder, and infecting women with HIV, and has cost this country a fortune already, does she think that that is an adequate response to the women of New Zealand, and the people of this country in particular, and when those women begin to lead miserable lives as a consequence of what they have contracted; and why should they not think that she as Prime Minister and the Minister of Immigration are primarily responsible and guilty for that?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is not the Government’s policy, of course, to comment on individual cases. Anyone who applies to come to this country has to meet health and character requirements. Generally, any immigration action to revoke a permit, or to remove or deport a person of the kind who has just been described, is triggered by a conviction. I hope that, in cases where it is necessary, that person goes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister so far removed from the ordinary circumstances of ordinary New Zealanders that she thinks that is an adequate answer, when there are women who will be leading miserable lives and will die early as a consequence of her Government’s neglect, where there are hospitals spilling over with Third World diseases—TB in particular—on the North Shore and in Auckland, where every sort of crime is being committed by all sorts of refugees and immigrants, and is that her idea of being a competent, able Minister and Prime Minister?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member well knows, the Prime Minister is very much in touch with New Zealanders. She spends a lot of time talking face to face with them. In this particular case the behaviour of that person, if proven to be correct, is abhorrent, and a conviction will ensure his departure from this country. I hope that comes quickly if that is the case.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What on earth is that person doing in this country, were it not for the fact that the Prime Minister runs a lax, loose, totally neglectful administration, and that she does not give a damn what happens to New Zealanders as a consequence?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is my observation that in the 4 years of this Government the tightening up of procedures to get in and out of this country has been greatly accelerated under the excellent leadership of Lianne Dalziel.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can she possibly make that statement when just last night on TV3 in one series of news items alone it was reported, first, that a Saudi Arabian was trying to get a licence to fly a plane in this country; second, a Zimbabwean was up on all sorts of charges, including rape, assault, knowingly infecting women with HIV, kidnapping, and stealing cars; and, third, a Kuwaiti who, having cost the country a damn fortune, gets on a plane and stops it by shouting there is a bomb on board, and does she think that is the way a Government runs a tight administration on immigration?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I repeat that in the 4 years of this Government those procedures have been tightened up greatly. Thank goodness we are here and not him.
Soy Infant Formula—Food Safety Authority
2. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Was Geoff Allen, from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, correct when he said on radio, in respect of soy infant formula that was tested for GM contamination, that “all soy formula were tested and all four were positive”?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister for Food Safety: Yes.
Sue Kedgley: If all four of the soy infant formulas on sale in New Zealand tested positive, are we correct in assuming that all four brands of soy listed on the Ministry of Health manufactured food database were contaminated with GM soy, namely, Karicare Soya 1, Karicare Starter Formula, Infasoy, and Infasoy Progress; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not familiar with the brands that the member refers to, but I can say that there are 20 GM organism products approved for release and consumption in this country and they are among the 20 that have been approved.
Dave Hereora: Has the Minister seen comments that the GM labelling regime is woefully inadequate?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes, I have seen the comments made by the member asking the primary question, and I do not agree with them. Even though she has been told time and time again, the member continually fails to acknowledge that the current labelling regime introduced by Food Standards Australia New Zealand in 2000 was a world-first. She further fails to acknowledge that it is currently being reviewed. We have the best labelling regime in the world.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister confirm that it is not the possible GE contamination in soy infant formula that creates a documented risk, but the phytoestrogens in the soy itself, and given the recognition of that risk by the recent British Committee on Toxicity report, why is our Government not making those soy-based infant formulas prescription only rather than letting them be sold off supermarket shelves?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I cannot answer the technical aspects of the member’s question. However, I am surprised, being a former dairy farmer, that the organisations and businesses that promote soy the most are health food shops.
Sue Kedgley: Why does the Minister not know the names of the baby-food products that tested positive for GE, given that it was her agency that undertook the tests several weeks ago and she has only to pick up the phone to find them out; and given that taxpayers paid for the tests, why do we not have the right to know the results of tests that we have paid for?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: In regard to the names, like many other surveillance and audit samples taken every week by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority across many products, those tests are aimed at ensuring compliance with the law. Where compliance is confirmed, because GM organism presence is approved, as is the case in this situation, no further action is taken and the names of the products are therefore not reported to her.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister not have a moral, if not legal, obligation to tell consumers what foods GE has been found in, given the current consumer concern about GE foods and the fact that it has never been tested on babies or other humans or for its long-term health effects, and that credible scientific bodies such as the UK Royal Society have expressed severe reservations about the safety of GE infant food; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We have had 20 approved GM organisms in this country since 1998. I am not aware of any death or illness from the consumption of those products.
Agriculture—Agricultural Emissions Levy
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: : Does he stand by his description of farmers opposing the “livestock flatulence” levy as “whingers”; if not, will he apologise?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): The Government proposes a levy to fund research, not to tax flatulence, and I publicly withdrew the remark about whingers several weeks ago.
Hon Bill English: Now that the Minister is aware of the strength of farmer feeling on this flatulence research levy, is he ready to back down?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No.
Mark Peck: Has the Minister seen any reports of farming leaders acknowledging the value of the sector’s exemptions from emission charges?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have seen a statement from the former president of Federated Farmers, Alistair Polson, which says: “Farmers can take some comfort from the fact that the Government has rejected a flatulence tax on agricultural emissions.” That remark was made last year, when the Government’s preferred policy was announced in April 2002. That policy was confirmed in October, and applies today.
R Doug Woolerton: Will the Minister give an assurance to the House that he will retain the proposed methane research levy at $8.4 million per year?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government’s preferred option was, and is, that farmers will step forward with a sufficient research programme. If they do not, and so far they have not, then we reserve the right to put in a compulsory levy. If we were to do that, it would be capped at that level.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does he still stand by his claim that farmers should be grateful that the Government has not put a billion dollar levy on agriculture, to reflect its cost under the Kyoto Protocol, or does he now think, on reflection, that he would have been better to follow ACT’s advice and not sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol until the United States and China do so?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is unlikely that I will ever follow ACT’s advice on anything, at all.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While the Minister’s answer was probably accurate, in that he may never have the sense to follow ACT’s advice, that cannot possibly be a proper answer. I asked him whether he thought farmers should be grateful that he has not put a billion dollar levy on them. Why cannot he repeat that in front of the farmers?
Mr SPEAKER: The member should not have talked about ACT policy at the end of his question. That then gave the Minister the opportunity to answer in that way, which was within the Standing Orders.
Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister react to claims that the farming sector is being singled out by the imposition of this levy, and can he therefore advise the House, if that claim is not correct, what other industry sector groups are also going to face a research levy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The farming industry most certainly is being singled out in this way. Farming is responsible for half of our emissions, and they will be covered in total. The rest of our economy is responsible for the other half of our emissions, and very large sections of that other half of our emissions will face a carbon charge. So in that respect farmers are being treated favourably indeed.
Hon David Carter: Why did the Government promise to consult farmers on the flatulence tax, and then ignore 2,000 angry farmers on the steps of Parliament today?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government did consult with farmers, and we consulted extensively last year. At the end of that consultation the president of Federated Farmers said: “Farmers can take some comfort from the fact that the Government has rejected a flatulence tax on agriculture emissions”. We did that subsequent to consultation.
Mark Peck: Why are agricultural greenhouse gases included in the Kyoto Protocol?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Agricultural emissions are included in the protocol, because Governments during the 1990s insisted that they should be—particularly the National Government of New Zealand in 1997. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have asked only one member to ask a question—one person only. That is the only warning today.
Hon Peter Dunne: Do I take it from the Minister’s answers that the Government is considering, not now a flatulence tax but a research levy, that it is the Government’s view that this levy will be paid by all farmers, and that the Minister is ruling out any prospect of that $8.4 million being funded from other sources?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Not at all. If the funding can come from other sources, and one hopes that it might yet, then we will not need to impose such a tax to the extent that it does.
Hon David Carter: If or when the Government does back down on the flatulence tax, who will ultimately pay this so-called voluntary levy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: There is no back-down. If there is anything going on, it is a back-up. What is happening is that the Primary Industries Council has resumed its discussions with the Government on how it may be that both parties can agree that the levy becomes unnecessary. Those negotiations have barely begun. I hope they work. It is far too early to know.
Public Service—Political Neutrality
4. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of State Services: What conventions preserve the political neutrality of the public service?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Minister of State Services: The New Zealand public service has a long and proud tradition of public political neutrality. The Public Service Act of 1912 established the convention that the public service should be free of political interference or patronage. That convention has evolved over time, but remains very relevant today.
David Benson-Pope: How does the politicisation of the public service by the naming and attacking of public servants compromise this convention?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There is an important responsibility placed on members of Parliament not to attack public servants. Public servants cannot respond because that would jeopardise their political neutrality. By attacking public servants, politicians also compromise their ability to work with those individuals one day, if they are in Government—but, of course, in the case of the National Party that will never happen, so it does not matter.
Hon Bill English: What advice would the Minister have for Government Ministers who regularly attacked civil servants such as Christine Rankin, Kit Richards, and, in this last week, the Prime Minister attacking Mark Prebble?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would take the advice of the State Services Commissioner, who said: “Trust in Government is a precious commodity. Once it is lost it is hard to recover. That is why tough and legitimate scrutiny by Parliament of the actions of our public institutions is justified.” But it is not justified to attack 35 public servants who run our State services, as that man did yesterday.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked this Minister, who has a life of blameless excellence and is probably as modest as the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that cannot be part of a point of order. He will come to the point of order.
Hon Bill English: I asked this Minister a direct question: what advice would he have for Ministers who attack civil servants? Then I named three. He did not answer that question, at all. He just read out a blurb from the State Services Commissioner.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister did address that in the last part of his answer. I heard him.
David Benson-Pope: To what extent does a convention that was established nearly 100 years ago still apply?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I noted earlier, the convention of a non-political public service was introduced by the Public Service Act in 1912. Conventions develop and evolve over time, but it is still relevant today. I believe that the following undertaking by a former State Services Minister, Simon Upton, is equally applicable. He said: “I feel compelled to offer an apology to you on behalf of some of my fellow parliamentarians who have little knowledge or regard for their civic responsibilities or current constitutional conventions.” The apology, like the convention, would apply to Mr English’s behaviour yesterday.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister think that superficial, saccharine, hypocritical verbiage satisfies this Parliament when it comes to addressing the following very serious comment from a civil servant: “The appearance may be that the public servants are no more than political puppets, especially since what they are now saying is different to what officials’ papers at the time said.”; why does he think that the kind of answer he has given the House would suffice to address such a serious question on the integrity of the public service?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In fact, those quotes go to the essence of this matter. The matter is one of a public servant writing to Michael Wintringham, the State Services Commissioner, to ask a question about a process, and Mr Wintringham writing back. The attributing of those comments to Mr Wintringham by Mr English is what has led to the integrity of public servants being drawn into question. That is why he is wrong and should resign.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the view of the Secretary of Labour, who, in investigating the “lying in unison” episode, came to the conclusion that civil servants had broken the law over the Official Information Act, but has made no comment about that and taken no action on civil servants breaking the law?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am looking at the note here from Dr James Buwalda yesterday, when he released his reply to that inquiry, which states that no evidence of a conspiracy among officials to lie or deceive has been found. What he is saying is that the procedures were not followed properly, and he will ensure that they are and will take correct disciplinary action.
Hon Richard Prebble: Is the Minister not concerned about the editorial this morning in the New Zealand Herald, New Zealand’s largest paper, describing the inquiry into the Immigration Service as “completely unsatisfactory”; if he is interested in an independent civil service, why does he not order an independent inquiry into “lying in unison”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Anybody in this House should be concerned that this inquiry was one that was properly conducted, but Mr James Buwalda began his life as the head of the Department of Labour only at the time of this inquiry. He is completely independent. It is an appropriate process for him to undertake this inquiry in the way that he has.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not mind the odd interjection, but that are too many interjections. I want to hear the answer. I am entitled to hear it, as is every member of the House. I want to members to restrain themselves in that regard.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: To finish my comments, I think that when anybody reads through what Dr Buwalda has done here as the newly appointed head of the Department of Labour, it is entirely and utterly appropriate that this has been undertaken in this way and, therefore, I think the conclusions stand up.
Immigration—Labour, Department Report
5. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Immigration: Does she accept the explanation of the memorandum asserting “everyone had agreed to lie in unison” provided in the report to her by the Chief Executive of the Department of Labour that it “was intended as a sarcastic and humorous response to media criticism of Departmental staff failing to answer media questions”; if so, could she explain to the House which part was sarcastic and which part humorous?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Yes I accept that that was what was intended. Whether it achieved the intention is a matter of personal opinion. I note that the Secretary of Labour also stated that the annotation made by Mr Smith “seems to display poor judgment, a lack of professionalism, and a lack of respect for the media”.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister tell the House why the report of the Secretary of Labour finds that the “lie in unison” memo was sent to 300 individuals, but does not tell us whether any of them were Ministers of the Crown in this Government or staff in Ministers’ offices, and can the Minister give the House an absolute assurance that no Minister or ministerial staff member received that memorandum?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not aware that everyone who received the memorandum read it. I did not receive a copy of the memorandum. The immigration private secretary in my office was not on the mailing list at the time the memorandum was sent out. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber.
Hon Tony Ryall withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to say that I think that is grossly unfair. Mr Ryall was not interjecting on the Minister. He was giving a line to Mr McCully for further supplementary questions, and I think that to turn round and say a member cannot do that is absolutely unfair.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way. I heard the interjection quite clearly and loudly. I heard it and it distracted me from the question being asked. On this rare occasion I will be reasonable and let the member back in. However, the member had better not make any more comments to anybody during the asking of questions today.
Rodney Hide: Is it the Minister’s position that the public of New Zealand should accept it as a coincidence that a senior manager in communications at her ministry wrote on a memo that “Everyone had agreed to lie in unison.”, and subsequently did lie to the Ombudsman and to the New Zealand Herald; if so, how does she explain that as being a remarkable coincidence?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Neither of those two assertions is substantiated by the report.
Hon Murray McCully: I ask the Minister again: can she absolutely assure the House that no Minister in this Government and no staff member in a Minister’s office received the memorandum that said: “We agreed to lie in unison.”; if she cannot give that assurance, which staff or which Ministers received that memorandum?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have not inquired of colleagues whether they received the memorandum or whether they were on that mailing list. I have looked at the mailing list for the time in question from what was disclosed on the mailing list from that particular memorandum. I did not receive a copy of that memorandum in my office until the day that it appeared in the New Zealand Herald.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is this Minister telling us that 300 people were privy to that memorandum, but that she and none of the officials in her office were; and, secondly, why does she expect us to believe that there was no lying when that is precisely what happened in respect of the Ombudsman’s office and the New Zealand Herald?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The memorandum itself is a media log that is prepared every week. I do not know how many people receive it, but if the member says there are 300 people who receive it, then I am prepared to accept that. Not everybody reads it, and a lot of people have made comments about how objectionable they have found it because of the consistent comments from the individual concerned, because it has been happening for a very long time—going right back to the previous Government. I can tell the House that the immigration private secretary I have today, who was not my immigration private secretary at the time, is on the mailing list for it now, but the immigration private secretary who I had at the time was not receiving it—so, no, it was not received in my office at all. There has been no substantiation of the allegations that there was an agreement to lie.
Hon Murray McCully: If the report of the Secretary of Labour—which is based on his investigation into this matter—can tell us that there were 300 individuals who received the memo, but does not tell us whether any of the persons were Ministers in this Government or staff members in Ministers’ offices, then what sort of investigation did the Secretary of Labour conduct; and can the Minister understand that, in those circumstances, the public will conclude that the Secretary of Labour has been used to conduct a whitewash to cover up for Ministers or staff members in this Government?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. Two can be answered.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I really do not understand the relevance of that member’s question, to the extent that there are many people in this House who receive an electronic newsletter daily, which is called “PEN”. How many people delete it without reading it? That is the reality with this media log. It was not essential reading for every member who received it, and there were many people who deleted it on a weekly basis without even reading it.
Climate Change—Kyoto Protocol
6. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: What reports has he received about when and why the Kyoto Protocol will come into force internationally?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): The protocol will come into force when Russia has ratified it. I am advised that the current expectation amongst observers of the process is that Russia will confirm its position soon.
Jill Pettis: Is New Zealand’s commitment to international cooperation on climate change in any doubt internationally?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, not under this Government. However, under a future Government, it could be. For example, the National Party currently has at least three positions on Kyoto—to pull out in the second commitment period—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave an answer and he did not need to add to it in that way.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that part of the answer is not ruled out, could the Minister be allowed to go on and finish it? I am sure he was going to say that the ACT party has been quite consistent: we have never been in favour of—
Mr SPEAKER: No. That was a good try for a Thursday afternoon, but the member knows that is not a point of order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to state very clearly to the House National’s position on the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to state that position. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Ken Shirley: What is the Minister’s response to the published reports and models of the international climate change panel of scientists, which show that even if the Kyoto Protocol is fully implemented by all nations, in the year 2100—97 years from now—any human-induced or enhanced greenhouse effect will be reduced by only 5 years by what would have been the case had the Kyoto Protocol not been in force, and why does the Minister not conclude, as I do, that it is unfair, damaging to economies, and that it will not work, as the panel of scientists say themselves?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Minister may answer two.
Hon PETE HODGSON: That same report says that in the next 100 years the temperature rise throughout the globe will be somewhere between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius. In other words, this is the most serious environmental problem New Zealand and the world faces—the most serious. If the member says that because the Kyoto Protocol cannot do everything it should not do anything, I would say that I strongly disagree with that Luddite approach to life, and I strongly disagree with ACT’s position on climate change, in general. ACT is absolutely convinced that climate change does not happen, whereas the report of the panel of scientists that the member reads from indicates that it certainly does.
Hon David Carter: Does the Minister still stand by the O’Hara report that said that the agricultural industry contributes only $800,000 to climate change research—a report he described as “expert assessment”?
Hon PETE HODGSON: That report was signed off by Jeff Grant and myself as a comprehensive report. The O’Hara report is the first such report that has been made in the country. What is happening now is that a science plan is being drawn up, and that plan is looking at the research in closer detail to see whether the exact amount of science called for in the O’Hara report is needed.
Jill Pettis: Will the Minister please advise the House how this Government’s approach to international climate change negotiations compares to the approach taken by previous administrations?
Hon PETE HODGSON: This Government’s approach to international negotiations has built on the excellent work done by previous National Governments, which signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, negotiated New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol target, and insisted—indeed, made it “a bottom line” for negotiation—that the protocol should cover agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Question No. 7 to Minister
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise it under Speaker’s ruling 116/1: “Ultimately, the Speaker could refuse to permit a question to be transferred to another Minister for answer if the responsibility for a subject is so primarily held by a particular Minister as to mean that the transfer of the question would be an abuse.”This question was put down to the Prime Minister, and is a question about the Prime Minister’s personal diary and her reasons for making diary decisions. If the Prime Minister is able to transfer a question of that nature, then the Prime Minister does not need to turn up to Parliament at all, ever again. She could transfer any question. Of course, in the British House of Commons, questions about the Prime Minister’s diary are the means by which the Prime Minister is asked a question. We do not need to use that convention here, but now we have gone to the other absurdity, which is that we can ask a question about the Prime Minister’s diary and she can transfer it—and has done so, and shot through. That cannot be right.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it is, and it has been done on previous occasions. It is within the Standing Orders.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that it may be in the Standing Orders, but in the past it crept there because people had to be away through necessity, whereas today it has become, with our Prime Minister, a matter of habit. In some weeks she turns up 1 day out of 3 and then shoots through to open swimming pools. It may be creeping in to be a convention, but I want the matter referred to the Standing Orders Committee to ensure that it does not gain any more credence or currency in this Parliament. Frankly, against international examples, in terms of performing as the Prime Minister in front of the House, she is a disgrace.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say to the member that the point of order is an interesting one. If he wants to make submission to the Standing Orders Committee about having a particular Prime Minister’s question time, then that would be very interesting. I understand that the Prime Minister is not averse to that idea, at all.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not ask for a particular Prime Minister’s question time, as ludicrous as it should become given her past record of performance and appearance here. I ask that she not be allowed to transfer those questions on on a matter like this, particularly when it goes to the core of her own performance as Prime Minister. That is why I have raised the matter—not so we should have half an hour or an hour like in the UK, but where she might like to turn up here, as other Prime Ministers in the past have done.
Mr SPEAKER: I refer members to Speaker’s ruling 20/4 (Supplement), which I will read again: “Speaker’s ruling 116/1 recognises a longstop protection against abuse in transferring a question, where only one Minister could be expected to have personal knowledge of the subject. In none of the rulings cited did the Speakers concerned actually refuse to allow the Government to transfer the particular question. The Speakers merely acknowledged that, ultimately, they could prevent that happening.” In this case I rule that the Minister can answer the question.
Agriculture—Agricultural Emissions Levy
7. GERRARD ECKHOFF (ACT NZ) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: Of the 20 or so meetings that Federated Farmers have organised to enable members of Parliament to explain and be questioned about the Government’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions levy on agriculture, how many has the Prime Minister attended, and, if none, why has the Prime Minister not fronted up at these meetings?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): I am advised that the Prime Minister has received only one invitation—from the Northland branch of Federated Farmers, which branch she has already met with before.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Are the farmers of this country to understand that the Prime Minister is willing to climb every mountain, visit any war memorial, and visit any cooling-oil distributor, but she is not willing to front up to the producers of the wealth that she redistributes to her supporters?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Prime Minister fronts up to the farmers of New Zealand, as she fronts up to every other sector in New Zealand on a full-time basis.
Jill Pettis: How many public meetings did the Government arrange for consultation on its preferred climate change policies, and what level of participation was there from farmers?
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This supplementary question illustrates the problem. The question is now asked quite widely to the whole Government and any Minister, whereas the question was put down to the Prime Minister about her diary. What the Government organised and which lackeys it sent along instead of the Prime Minister is a question the Government should put down under its questions. The question the ACT party put down asked why the Prime Minister does not front up.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion the member is quite correct. This question cannot be allowed because it is far too wide. If members are to put down questions and transfer them, they have to be careful about the supplementaries.
Hon David Carter: Has the Prime Minister or any Government officials held recent discussions with SheepCo, Meat New Zealand, and/or Fonterra about their contributing to the agricultural greenhouse gas emissions research out of existing research levies; if so, what is the outcome of those discussions?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Primary Industries Council, which embraces all the bodies that the member mentioned, and a whole lot of others besides, and the Government put out a press statement to say that it had begun talks yesterday. I invite the member to keep an eye on the media.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Noting that it takes two parties to achieve genuine consultation and negotiation, was the Prime Minister disappointed at the level of engagement by leaders of the farming industry last year when the policy was being developed?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Prime Minister may have been disappointed, I am not sure, but I know that I was. During last year, consultation on the preferred climate change was held during the course of 49 meetings, 11 of which were specifically aimed at the farming and forestry sectors. The level of participation was disappointingly low.
Jill Pettis: Has he received any reports of original climate change policy ideas being presented at Federated Farmers meetings?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I most certainly have. One stunningly original idea was that New Zealand could both withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and give forest owners Kyoto forest sink credits. This suggestion came from the ACT party MP Gerrard Eckhoff.
Hon David Carter: Why did the Minister allow his Government to ever embark on the flatulence tax debacle, when today he signals that it intends to “back up”?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government’s preferred policy position was, is, and will be that farming, or the farming industries, come forward with a research programme. To date they have not. They may do yet.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why will the Prime Minister not direct her Government to release carbon credits appropriated from farmers to fund methane emission research, as the Government has already done for the State-owned enterprise Meridian Energy for energy research projects, and make these credits available to the farming community to fund this dopey research if the Government deems it absolutely necessary?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government’s policy on projects does not include research. The Government’s commitment to research is best signified by the fact that we spend about $25 million a year on climate change research, of which about $4.5 million is spent on methane mitigation.
Hon Richard Prebble: Could the Minister elaborate on his claim that the Prime Minister was invited to only one meeting? Is the Minister saying that the Prime Minister of New Zealand did not know what every other MP knew—that the farmers were coming to Parliament today, and that they were going to make a presentation at the steps of Parliament; and is that the reason she chose to go to an oil distribution factory in Auckland instead of being here and fronting up to the producers of the wealth of this country?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have no idea whether the Prime Minister of New Zealand was invited to such a function. But I do know that, as the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change, I was invited to the function only 48 hours ago.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to reconsider the ruling that you gave earlier. A Minister has now been asked a supplementary question, which you allowed, and which you said was a correct supplementary question, and the answer that has come up is that the Minister has no idea. Well, how on earth can the Government get away with a situation that the Prime Minister can now transfer a question to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change, and it can be ruled as a satisfactory answer for the Minister to get up and say “I have no idea”? The question should never have been transferred in the first place.
Mr SPEAKER: I will have a look at that—the member has invited me to do so.
Mâori Television Service—Reception Interference
8. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Communications: Does he stand by reported advice from the Minister of Communications that any interference issues resulting from the broadcast of the Mâori Television Service from the Broadcast Communications Limited platform can readily be solved; if so, how is this reconciled with advice provided by the Mâori Television Service that interference problems could affect “tens of thousands” of Sky subscribers and VCR users?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Associate Minister of Communications): Yes. I am advised that there is a range of potential solutions.
Marc Alexander: In light of evidence presented by Sky and the Mâori Television Service, is the Associate Minister at all concerned with the quality of advice he and his Cabinet colleagues are receiving from the Ministry of Economic Development on the transmission issues that presently plague the BCL broadcast platform for the Mâori Television Service; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No. Officials have been conscientiously working with a range of interested parties to provide advice on this matter.
Katherine Rich: Can the Associate Minister confirm that his colleagues the Minister of Broadcasting and the Minister of Finance have been violently opposed to any use of a cheaper Sky-based platform, which would solve the interference problems, because of the need to bolster BCL’s cash flow so that the separation of BCL from TVNZ is not a complete disaster?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: What I can confirm is that the Government is considering all options, as it should be doing.
Mark Peck: What process is the Government following in finding a solution?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Government is consulting a wide range of interested parties and will consider a range of options to find a win-win solution that best meets the interests of users.
Marc Alexander: In light of a Ministry of Economic Development statement last week that it had known for some time of the problems transmitting from BCL, does that mean that the Associate Minister has only recently comprehended the scale of the problem, or is it the case that the platform decision was already bound by the mantra of his Minister of Broadcasting that the Mâori Television Service must be kept in the family, therefore ruling out any chance it ever had of operating as a successful broadcaster?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As the member knows, I have only recently become Associate Minister. However, the Government has been fully aware of the issues with all of the options for some time.
Marc Alexander: Has the Associate Minister received any reports from the Minister of Broadcasting on the interference issue, given that he is the Minister responsible for BCL; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes.
Marc Alexander: Does the Associate Minister consider that the Minister of Broadcasting who is responsible for TVNZ, which owns BCL, the transmission company vying for the Mâori Television Service platform, had an obvious prejudicial interest in ensuring a BCL-provided option won out, and that having blown up in his face, it is now simply a case of ideological dogma over plain common sense?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Government likes common sense, which is why it is considering all proposals, including those more recently suggested.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on that question and the sequence of answers. I realise that the determination as to who answers questions is not your responsibility but the Government’s. However, in this instance, as I think the answers demonstrated where the Associate Minister did his best but was not particularly forthcoming, there is a conflict between the issues of policy and some operational issues. The original question was submitted to the Minister of Broadcasting, because it related to the Minister of Broadcasting’s reaction to the advice his colleague the Minister of Communications had received from the Ministry of Economic Development. The notion of transferring the question to the Minister of Communications, in effect, placed that Minister in a rather impossible position of having to answer questions on his own advice about advice put to a colleague. I realise that you do not have direct responsibility in that area, but it does highlight a problem with the way in which questions are being transferred that sometimes makes the whole process of asking questions somewhat nonsensical.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his comments. I certainly will look at that issue. However, this issue is different from the other issue that was raised. I will look at both issues.
9. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What does she intend to do about non - New Zealand pregnant women coming to New Zealand to give birth so that their children can claim New Zealand citizenship?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Current visitor policy prohibits visitors from travelling to New Zealand to seek obstetric treatment, including any medical or midwifery services in connection with a pregnancy or the birth of a child. People who enter New Zealand as visitors with the intention of giving birth in New Zealand are in breach of their conditions of entry. It appears that problems have arisen from countries that are visa-free, and therefore the New Zealand Immigration Service is looking at ways of improving compliance with current policy.
Dail Jones: In view of the fact that newspaper reports indicate that some 1,300 women have come here from overseas—and this shows a great failure on the part of her department—what does she specifically intend to do to revise the visitor category so that situations do not recur in hospitals such as, for example, North Shore Hospital, where as recently as a week or two ago Brigid Maire had to leave the North Shore Hospital at 4.20 a.m. with her 2-hour-old baby because there were not enough beds at the hospital, primarily because of all these overseas women coming here to have their children?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: My advice is that people have been coming here from overseas for the purpose of giving birth for a number of years, but that the practice in fact increased as a result of changes to the provision of service under the previous National Government in 1999. The decision was made to give access to funding for free maternity care while in New Zealand, and the decision was made to get rid of bad debts. It was seen as an advantage to the child who would become a New Zealand citizen. I think that is the real issue.
Dail Jones: Does the Minister realise that New Zealand First is not interested in what the failed National Government of 1999 did, and has as much interest in that as it has in the failed policies of this Labour Party; and does she consider it just and fair on other immigrants, who must go through the application process to live in New Zealand, for overseas mothers to come here deliberately to give birth to a child and therefore claim citizenship for that child; and what will she actually do about this problem?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will answer the question asked, not the supplementary information at the start.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I was looking forward to answering that.
Mr SPEAKER: Well the Minister is not going to today.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The issue with regard to what we are doing today is that we have sent a letter to the couple who have identified themselves in the media as having deliberately come to New Zealand for the purpose of having children, to inform them that that is a breach of their conditions of entry and to advise them than an alert will be placed on their travel documents. They will require a visa to travel to New Zealand again, even though they now come from a visa-free country. That visa will probably be declined.
Varroa Bee Mite—Research Funding
10. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What public funding currently exists for research into the control of varroa bee mite and when does this funding expire?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): I am advised that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has used public funds to support a $1 million varroa research programme. The bulk of that work was completed by June 2003. The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has never funded research specific to varroa control. An application from HortResearch for research into the control of the varroa bee mite was considered by the foundation, but the application was not successful. HortResearch has been in contact with various interested organisations seeking their financial support in order to continue parts of the varroa research programme.
Ian Ewen-Street: What is the Minister doing to ensure that the demarcation dispute between the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry over funding does not jeopardise the bee products industry and all the primary production that depends on pollination; and, if he is doing nothing, why is he doing nothing?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not think there is a demarcation dispute. The Government increase in biosecurity research was 600 percent. The amount of biosecurity research funded by this Government has increased, this time, by 600 percent, and still the varroa bee mite research did not make the cut. There needs to be some questions asked about why that was.
Helen Duncan: How does the foundation allocate its funding?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Funding is allocated on a contestable basis, using expert reference panels. Any research into the specific control of the varroa bee mite is assessed alongside other research. The foundation has focused on the best means for protecting our ecology and agriculture from introduced threats in the future, when it does its biosecurity research assessment, and the investment round—I think this is important—was 300 percent oversubscribed. Therefore, a large number of research proposals missed out.
Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister concerned that the bee products and pollination service industries could be decimated when the varroa bee mite becomes resistant to present treatments, and does he not realise that he does not have the luxury of time to delay the completion of the research?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member misses the point. I do not make research decisions. I am not allowed, in law, to do so. However, I am concerned, which is why I rang the chief executive of HortResearch a week or two ago, and said: “Look, what are we going to do about this?”. I have had a letter from him to say that additional funding has been secured from the private sector and from within HortResearch as well, which will keep some of the work going. Some of us are looking to see whether we can find some more money, on top of that.
Ian Ewen-Street: Why does the Minister think that the bee-keeping industry should be totally responsible for funding, because of biosecurity by other State agencies, when, for instance, the forestry industry does not pay for the eradication of the painted apple moth and the Asian gypsy moth?
Hon PETE HODGSON: With respect, the member misses the point again. I have never said that I think the private sector should be fully responsible. I have never said anything about that, actually. What is more—guess what—last year, and the year before, the research was paid for by the Government entirely. This time around, they missed out on a research bid that they have never previously had any success with. Notwithstanding that, the private sector and HortResearch, which is Government-owned, are trying to put together a programme.
Public Service—Political Neutrality
11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of State Services: Who was the public servant who made the inquiry to the State Services Commission in July 2002 who, concerned about the political neutrality of the public service, said: “The appearance may be that the public servants are no more than political puppets, especially since what they are now saying is different to what official papers at the time said.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Minister of State Services: The Minister has not been advised who the public servant was who made the particular inquiry. As the member indicated, the approach was made to the State Services Commission. That is entirely appropriate, as it is the State Services Commissioner who is responsible for maintaining the political neutrality of the public service. Public servants who are in any doubt about matters of conduct or integrity should be encouraged to seek guidance from the commissioner.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Prime Minister said these words: “I would welcome a select committee inquiry, I am very happy for officials to speak completely openly, because there’s nothing to hide, and I am not putting any restrictions on anyone talking.”, how can the select committee possibly interview this person, who effectively believes that the Government was lying on this issue; how can we talk to this person if he will not say who it is?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would imagine that the best way of approaching this, since the person is clearly known to the State Services Commissioner, whom they appropriately wrote to, and who appropriately replied back to them, would be to talk with the State Services Commissioner, who appears in front of select committees.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the State Services Commissioner be investigating the apparent discrepancies between the statements made to the select committee by civil servants, and the documents dating from late 2000, and does he think it strange that all civil servants are now agreeing in every detail in their account of what happened?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Minister’s understanding is that the State Services Commissioner has been very interested in this process, that all documents of course were released before the document that is being referred to by Nick Smith was able to be released, and that he has subsequently been very much interested in making sure that all public servants behave in an appropriate fashion and that all material is made available.
Rodney Hide: Does he agree with the anonymous public servant when he said what the civil servants are now saying “is different to what official papers at the time said”, or is this another example of a public servant making a sarcastic and humorous response?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I imagine this has been dealt with fully by the fact that public servants, under the umbrella of the State Services Commission, with the State Services Commissioner at their head, did appear in front of Opposition MPs and in front of the media to explain all of this at a press conference so that nothing was held back. They have been very open.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister give an assurance to this House that the select committee will be advised who this public servant was, or is the Government now backtracking on the commitment given by the Prime Minister that the select committee would be able to speak to anyone who made any comment about the “corngate” issue?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Prime Minister of course has made statements that she fully stands by, but I repeat that this person appropriately wrote to the State Services Commissioner, and that is the appropriate place to go to.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The base question that I laid today was who the person was. The Minister says to go somewhere else and get it—get it off the State Services Commission. I then asked a very simple question: would the select committee be able to know who the person was so that it can properly complete its inquiry? Again, the Minister did not answer the question. If we cannot get answers to questions in the House, quite frankly, what is the point of Parliament or question time?
Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a rather silly comment at the end. There is a great deal of point in Parliament and question time. A lot of things come out in question time. The Minister did address the question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister give an assurance that the State Services Commission will advise the select committee of who the person was that wrote this message so that the select committee can get to the bottom of the “corngate” issue?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The memo was appropriately written to the State Services Commissioner, and the question is therefore appropriately directed as to whether he wishes to disclose the name of that person.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Ah!
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I say to the member who, as usual, brays in the middle of the answer to his own question, that getting to the bottom of the issue created by himself is not something that anybody else cares about in this House. We know that there is no issue here to be dealt with or to be got to the bottom of. If he really wants to know who this person is, then the appropriate person to go to is the State Services Commissioner.
Trial, Indonesia—Spiritual Leader Abu Bakar Bashir
12. MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What, if any, concerns has New Zealand expressed about the outcome of the trial in Indonesia of the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I have expressed concern that the person widely regarded as being the spiritual leader of Jamaah Islamiah, Abu Bakar Bashir, received a short sentence of 4 years for lesser offences, instead of the life sentence he could have received if found guilty of the terrorist acts and being leader of the terrorist organisation that he was charged with. Jamaah Islamiah, with links to al-Qaeda and responsibility for plotting terrorist attacks across South-east Asia, poses a major threat to security in the region. The inability of the Indonesian prosecution to satisfy the court that Bashir was the leader of Jamaah Islamiah did not produce the definitive outcome and the ability to impose a long deterrent sentence for terrorism that many had hoped for.
Martin Gallagher: What information is there to suggest that Bashir has clear links with or influence over terrorist groups?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is a range of information that points to those links. One pointer is that many of those on the police most-wanted lists for terrorist suspects in South-east Asia are graduates of Bashir’s religious school in Central Java. While he may not have had operational control over the terrorist activities, people argue that charismatic Imam such as Bashir motivate those who actually carry out the terrorist acts. Finally, the judges in the trial accepted that Bashir was aware of and had approved Jamaah Islamiah activities such as military training in Afghanistan, despite his purported denial that Jamaah Islamiah even existed.
Gordon Copeland: Has the Minister received any advice from our embassy in Indonesia concerning the implications of the light sentence handed out to the Jamaah Islamiah leader, and what does that say about Indonesia’s commitment, or otherwise, to the elimination of terrorism in this region of the world?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I would not go so far as to say that the outcome of this court trial represented a lack of commitment by Indonesia to dealing with the organisation and with terrorism. After all, the major country in which these terrorist activities are taking place is Indonesia. It has badly damaged its economy; and most of the victims—for example, 11 out of the 12 victims in the bombing of the Marriott Hotel by Jamaah Islamiah—were Indonesian workers. I think the failure was the failure to produce the level of evidence needed to get the conviction that most people wanted to see.
Hon Richard Prebble: I seek leave to be able to ask another question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member seeks leave to be able to ask another question Is there any objection? There is.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)