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Questions & Answers For Oral Answer Tuesday

Questions & Answers For Oral Answer Tuesday, 16 September 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers:

1. World Trade Organization—Cancun Talks

2. Primary Health Care Strategy—Implementation

3. Genetically Modified Organisms—Farmers and Bee-keepers

4. Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title

5. Climate Change—Reports

6. Ministerial Confidence—Immigration, Minister

7. Tourism—New Zealand's International Rating

8. Paintergate—Police Investigation

9. Prostitution Reform Act—Local Government Administration

10. Lotteries Commission—Internet Gaming Revenue

11. Biodiversity—Waitaki River

12. Auckland International Airport—Border Control

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World Trade Organization—Cancun Talks

1. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: With the failure of the World Trade Organization talks at Cancun and New Zealand’s exclusion from the Australia - United States free-trade negotiations, what, if anything, does the Government propose to do to promote our trade interests?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister for Trade Negotiations): Firstly, the member’s question is arguably predicated on errors. The Doha round remains alive. Cancun was a failure to agree, not a failure as such. Secondly, New Zealand has not been excluded from negotiations with the US; it is that we are not yet on the list.

Opposition Members: Ha, ha!

Hon PETE HODGSON: Finally, New Zealand promotes our trade interests continually and with vigour.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I realise I am guilty of laughing along with everyone else, but I did not hear the Minister’s answer after he claimed that we were not excluded but that we were just not on the list.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought that the Minister addressed the question.

Hon Richard Prebble: The Minister just carried on talking. I put down this question on notice and I would like to hear what the answer is.

Mr SPEAKER: Could the Minister please give the last part of the answer?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am happy to repeat my answer. I did pause for a time. Finally, New Zealand promotes our trade interests continually and with vigour.

Hon Richard Prebble: As New Zealand is the only member of the Cairns group not to be either part of the now G22 group or one of the countries that already has an agreement with the United States to hold bilateral trade talks, is it not time for the Government to repair our relationships with the United States so that we can get bilateral talks with that nation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I think the member misses the point again. We chose not to join the G22. We were not excluded from it, and we are welcome to join the group if we choose. We did not want to leave Australia hanging out because it chairs the Cairns group. The reason for that is that Cairns is in Australia.

Martin Gallagher: What has the Government been doing to advance the case for a free-trade agreement in Washington?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There is encouraging support amongst the US business community and in Congress for a free-trade agreement with New Zealand. Our embassy in Washington and the business community in New Zealand have been making considerable efforts to advance our case. We have continued to promote the need for a free-trade agreement in discussions with the US Administration, including in talks that the Minister for Trade Negotiations has had with US Trade Representative, Bob Zoellick.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister for Trade Negotiations satisfied with his achievements over 4 years; if so, what of significance has the Minister achieved for New Zealand exporters?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, the Minister for Trade Negotiations is satisfied with progress over 4 years, and would instance progress with Chile and Singapore, and prospectively with Korea and Thailand, and, in addition, closer economic relations with Australia That is not a bad list to be going on with so far.

Rod Donald: Did the Minister support the push by developing nations to take the investment agreement off the agenda at Cancun; if not, why does the Government support an investment agreement that gives more power to multinational corporations and takes away the rights of democratic Gvernments to set their own rules on investments?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret to advise that I am not aware of our green room position on that matter.

Hon Peter Dunne: With regard to the rise of the G21 or G22 at Cancun, does the Government have any concerns about the impact of the emergence of this group and its potential ongoing influence on the future of the Cairns group, and particularly given New Zealand’s involvement with that; if so, what steps is New Zealand prepared to take to ensure that the Cairns group set of initiatives remain on the table and are progressed through future discussions?

Hon PETE HODGSON: As the Minister himself said—I read in the paper anyway—we are not sure whether the G22 is a fleeting star or something that will be more permanent. If the latter, then New Zealand may want to reconsider its position. However, that is much further down the track.

Hon Richard Prebble: On 11 February, in the Prime Minister’s statement, this House was told that the Labour Government’s trade priorities were a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong and Chile, neither of which has occurred; a free-trade agreement with the United States, and thanks to the Prime Minister’s statements that will never occur, and then we were told it will be the Doha round, and that has failed; is not the conclusion that this House reaches that this Government has no trade policy?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Most certainly not. The various agreements that the member refers to are all under discussion. The Doha round has not failed.

Rod Donald: Will the Government admit, especially in the light of the Minister’s comments that he does not know what happened in the green room, that World Trade Organization processes lack transparency, deny participation, and are anti-democratic; and will the Government now stand with the developing countries so that they are not again put in the position of vetoing a ministerial statement because they were not allowed to participate in the negotiation of that statement?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The reality with international negotiations is that if one seeks to hold them in the WestpacTrust Stadium, one is unlikely to get an agreement.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that the leader of the United Party, Peter Dunne, was not able to save the Cancun round; if not, why not; and if not, what was he doing there in the first place?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The leader of the United Future Party chairs the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, and was present in that capacity.

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Primary Health Care Strategy—Implementation

2. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made regarding the implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategy?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yesterday I announced that funding for the provision of low-cost healthcare in pharmaceuticals for those over 65 years of age in any primary health organisation will be brought forward by 1 year to commence on 1 July 2004. This represents another $47 million invested in our primary health-care strategy on top of the $410 million that has already been committed.

Steve Chadwick: When did the over-65 age group last have this level of access to low-cost health care?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The last time the subsidy for primary health-care was increased for the elderly was in September 1990. Under a National Government the subsidy was reduced in February 1991, and in 1992 it was removed altogether for all people, including the elderly, except those with a community services card. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I will not have that member shout out like that. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard the question asked and the question was answered.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Ministers answering questions are under the same duties as any member who asks a question. Their answers should be short, succinct, and to the point. For the Minister to give the House a history lesson about a period of Government that she had nothing to do with and had no ministerial responsibility for is quite out of order. She has been the Minister of Health for 4 years—an appalling watch, I might say—and should account for her time.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need any assistance. The member may say that. He did not listen to the question. The question was asked and it was answered properly.

Judith Collins: How will the proposed closure of local and rural pharmacies, due to the Government’s changes in dispensing policy, advance the primary health-care strategy?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is the same stat dispensing policy the National Opposition spokesperson on health commended in a letter to Pharmac. There has been—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked a question. Would she give a straight answer, please.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Firstly, I was addressing the stat dispensing scheme the member mentioned in her question. Secondly, in terms of pharmacy provision, district health boards are working with pharmacists to ensure that the provision of pharmacy services continues around New Zealand, particularly in rural New Zealand.

Pita Paraone: What has been done to address the geographical inequalities inherent in the primary health-care strategy?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Unfortunately, geographical disparities in New Zealand exist right now. The aim of the primary health-care strategy was, first, to get additional money into areas of high need, and, second, to ensure that we put more money right throughout New Zealand, starting with the young and then the elderly.

Heather Roy: Can the Minister deny that for 2 weeks she has evaded my question that she cannot deliver on her Budget promise to deliver $3 pharmaceuticals to young people aged between 6 and 17 from 1 October this year, that problems with software have been key in that delay, and if that was such a good-news story as she says it was, why did she put out yesterday’s announcement at midnight?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The reason that the statement went out at midnight was so that it could hit Morning Report, which it did and it received an extremely good airing by a very good health reporter. It also made the major dailies so that as many New Zealanders as possible would know what was happening in primary health-care. It was not just a promise but a delivery by this Government.

Question No. 3 to Minister

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, but I note that neither the Minister nor his deputy is in the House. I seek the leave of the House to have my question deferred.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to defer it. Is there any objection? There is. Please ask the question.

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Genetically Modified Organisms—Farmers and Bee-keepers

3. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: What assurances can he give organic farmers and bee-keepers that their livelihoods will not be ruined by contamination by GE organisms?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment), on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture: The same assurances I can give to all New Zealanders that their health, environment, and economic well-being will not be affected adversely following the expiry of the moratorium.

Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister intending to forsake the organic and beef product sectors of the economy for the sake of promoting the GE industry; if not, will he tell the people who are protesting outside the House at this moment how they can protect themselves from the contamination by the GE sector that is so widespread overseas?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I maintain my original answer, which is that this Government is concerned about protecting all New Zealanders—be they organic producers or bee-keepers—so that they can follow their rightful industry, just as participants in organic produce and organic honey in Argentina are able to do so in their country.

Janet Mackey: What work is under way that gives the Government confidence that the coexistence of GM and non-GM crops is possible?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: In the short to medium term, the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s cautious case by case assessment of applications will effectively address any issues relating to coexistence. At the same time, officials are addressing issues surrounding the development of an industry code of practice. Any code of practice is likely to be based on the current seed certification scheme.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has the Government failed to fund vital bee research at Ruakura, including research on organics, given that a recent study by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimates an annual loss to the South Island pastoral sector of $234 million if the varroa bee mite gets established; and how can he convince anyone that he is not planning the ruination of all farmers by the way he takes bee management so carelessly?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I cannot answer the question about the Ruakura project, but I can stand by the fact that the varroa mite arrived in this country in 1997-98, and the fact that it has not moved to the South Island since that time is absolute evidence of the very excellent work done by biosecurity.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Why has the Government not met recommendation 7.7 of the royal commission report, which calls for an industry code of practice to be established to ensure effective separation distances between genetically modified and unmodified crops; and given that such work has not been done, what was the point of the moratorium?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The point of the moratorium concerned a whole lot of issues other than the establishment of the code of generic practice. We can develop a generic code of practice based on current seed certification and on agreements between organic and conventional farmers, but in the meantime, until we know which particular crop we are dealing with, we will use the ability of the Environmental Risk Management Authority to set conditions on a case by case basis to refine what we have for seed certification, and to protect neighbours from the adverse effects.

Bernie Ogilvy: Has there been any overseas experience with countries exporting both organic crops and GM crops simultaneously; if so, has this had any measurable negative impact on the organic crop exports to date?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, we have the experience of Argentina. It is the second-largest producer of genetically modified crops, but it also has the second-largest area in the world of certified organic crops. It has continued to increase its exports in both lines into the European Union. It also exports 192 tonnes of its total organic honey production of 245 tonnes into the European Union.

Ian Ewen-Street: In respect of the Minister’s earlier answer, is she aware that there are around 1,000 organic farmers in Canada who are taking a lawsuit in response to the widespread contamination they have had from GE organisms and their consequent loss of markets?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am aware of Canadian organic farmers who are also succeeding in exporting their crops into Europe.

Ian Ewen-Street: What responsibility will the Government take if the livelihoods of organic farmers, bee-keepers, and conventional farmers are in fact harmed through contamination by GE crops, irrespective of whether those GE crop-growers have violated any laws?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: It is not the intention of this Government that any bee-keeper or any organic grower will have his or her livelihood affected by the introduction of GM crops.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a report entitled Bee Industry Stung as Research Abandoned.

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

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Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the statement in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet foreshore and seabed proposal that “The foreshore and seabed should be public domain, with open access and use for all New Zealanders.”; if so, how can customary title coexist with public domain?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The statement is in a Government proposal, not a Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet one. I am advised that it is possible for customary rights to coexist with the legal interests of others in the community. The National Government’s customary fishing regulations of 1998 would suggest that this is so.

Hon Bill English: Would the Prime Minister now answer the question I asked, which is whether customary title can coexist with public domain, and can she reassure the House that if it turns out that customary title could include rights to exclude other New Zealanders, she will legislate to limit the extent of customary title?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the Attorney-General made clear in the House last week, customary title would not exclude public access.

Dail Jones: What is the difference, in reality, between the proposal contained in the main question, that “The foreshore and seabed should be public domain, with open access and use for all New Zealanders.”, and the Government’s proposal of 23 June 2003 to legislate to give clear expression to the Crown’s ownership of the foreshore and seabed for the benefit of all New Zealanders?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said on other occasions, my statement from the beginning has been that there would need to be clarifying legislation and that is what we are consulting about.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is it not the Labour Government’s position that the Mâori Land Court may issue customary title to Mâori for the foreshore and seabeds, to exclusively commercially develop for marine farming, licensed tourism, gather it for resources, man it, and in fact, anything except fee simple title and the ability to restrict access; and if my understanding is wrong, why does she not just front up at one of these huis and explain what the Government’s position really is?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member has come up with an interpretation of the Government’s position that has certainly never been on my mind.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does not the statement in the original question mean that all New Zealanders, regardless of their ethnicity or origin, indivisibly but equally own the foreshore and seabed; if it does not mean that, then who does own the foreshore and seabed?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The assertion in the first part of the member’s question is precisely what the proposal is putting forward.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Were the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson wrongly reported on 23 June, in respect of the statement that they were going to clarify through legislation that the foreshore and seabed ownership would lie with the Crown; was she wrongly reported then, alongside her colleague Margaret Wilson, in the same press reports; if so, what steps has she taken to correct those reports from that day?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My statement was that the Government would need to clarify legislation, and that has been pointed out to a number of reporters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister knows full well that those media reports carried the statement that clarifying legislation would be to the effect that ownership lay with the Crown. The critical words are “with the Crown”, not some dreamt-up republican concept she came up with just today. I am asking her to answer the question: were those reports from 23 June wrong; if so, what steps did she take to correct them?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The report was wrong in respect of me, and I have repeatedly pointed that out.

Stephen Franks: In light of her response to Mr Prebble, does she dissociate herself from Dr Cullen’s ingratiation with objectors at hui by telling them that “public domain was in fact abandonment by the Crown of its longstanding and generally accepted ownership of seabed and foreshore” because it was “unnecessarily confrontational with Mâori claims to ownership”; and why will Labour not abandon the principle of colour-blind access to the seabed and foreshore just as readily as it abandons a hui in Northland next time there is a Mâori threat?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The day the proposal was launched I recall saying myself that in the current context the assertion of Crown ownership was considered to be divisive, and that it was better to work on a proposal that would make it clear that all the people of New Zealand have a stake in this area, while also providing for customary rights.

Hon Bill English: How can the Prime Minister be so sure about what rights go with customary title when it is her own Government’s position that that will be sorted out by the Mâori Land Court and in fact the only thing the Government has ruled out is fee simple title?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government has ruled out two things: one is fee simple title and the other is any exclusion of public access. I would note that Mr English asserts customary title to the National Party—something others say is in the public domain.

Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence is unnecessary, and is struck out.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We do have a dilemma with the way the Prime Minister answers questions. I listed for her a number of things that customary title would cover, and she said she would never consider any of them, then gives an answer now to Mr English, saying in effect that every single one of the things that I have said must be in. My only problem with my list was that it was not imaginative enough. It appears to me that the Government is saying, by saying it is ruling out just fee simple title, that every other sort of customary title—which, I say to the Prime Minister, must include things like marine farming and economic development—must be in.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a debatable matter.

Stephen Franks: I will try again: why did the Prime Minister keep answering last week’s questions and those today about the customary interest the courts will be allowed to create over public domain, by saying they could not extend to fee simple title when she knows there are many kinds of interests, even saleable titles that fall short of fee simple; and will she please tell us what will stop activist judges inventing or reviving property rights that this House would never pass?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What stops that is clear parameters for their actions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister advise the House that she will table here, in a matter of 24 hours, the evidence that she, after 23 June, sought to correct the journalist who reported at the time that her view and that of Margaret Wilson was that the question of ownership would be clarified by legislation; in short that it would be reposed in the Crown? On what occasions and how many times did she correct the media on that matter, and could she provide some evidence to support what she is saying?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can advise the member that my staff have advised a number of journalists of what the situation actually was.

Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that her policy that any restriction on public access is ruled out is new, because last week when we asked the Attorney-General about it she refused to confirm that policy; and will she tell her Ministers what Government policy actually is?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the member had paid attention to what the Attorney-General said, he would know that she said that the Government’s proposal would obviously exclude any attempt to exclude the public.

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Climate Change—Reports

5. MOANA MACKEY (NZ Labour) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: What reports has he received on climate change and extreme weather events?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): New Zealand business leaders were briefed last week by leading Swiss insurance company Swiss Re, which advised: “Today global warming is a fact. The climate has changed visibly, tangibly, and immeasurably.” They further advise that global insurance losses from natural catastrophes have skyrocketed from around US$3 billion per annum until the mid-1980s, to now over US$17 billion per annum in the 1990s. Uninsured losses even higher.

Moana Mackey: To the Minister, what other advice has he seen from the insurance industry about the future impact of climate change?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Lord Levene, chairman of insurers Lloyd’s of London, said earlier this year that whilst terrorism had resulted in massive payouts, this was outweighed by natural catastrophes. He said that 12 of the world’s 13 worst storm losses have occurred in the last 10 years.

Hon David Carter: What reports has the Minister received on the international carbon price, which is significantly lower than the Government anticipated in its discussion documents; and how much are the Government’s nationalised forestry credits worth to New Zealand, based on the current international carbon price?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There is, as we speak, no international carbon price. There is a range of international carbon prices. The Government’s policy has been to cap carbon credits at NZ$25 per annum, which is simply in case Russia determines that it will carry forward its very significant hot air.

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Ministerial Confidence—Immigration, Minister

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: How can she have confidence in the Minister of Immigration who states most migrants are making a valuable contribution to our skill base?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Because it is true.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is true, when will the Minister of Immigration admit to this House that she is bringing in thousands of immigrants a year who have no intention of contributing positively to this country, and do we believe her or those at the coalface, such as Gold and Black Taxi manager Ian Gaskin who, on rampant tax-dodging taxi drivers, said: “I would estimate that I could have 50 to 60 percent of my fleet in the dog box, because I’ve got a lot of immigrants, and most of the taxi drivers in Inland Revenue’s audit of the taxi industry were African Muslims who had applied for a taxi licence in Melbourne, but had to wait 12 months before they became eligible to work, so they came here to work for 12 months”; what sort of shim-sham, flim-flam policy is that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It simply is not true that thousands of people come here with no intention of contributing positively. The member might like to know that a recent Business and Economic Research study found that migrants in Auckland alone are paying $1.8 billion in tax revenue a year, which, among other things, enables that member to live in comfort here.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unlike that member, I have had my own business and have had to pay taxes—unlike her, who has been on a taxpayers’ teat since she left school.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Please ask the supplementary question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If she wants to talk about someone on the taxpayers’ teat, she should look in the mirror.

Mr SPEAKER: Does the member have a supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, I have a supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, ask it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If immigrants contribute so much, has she stopped to wonder why Work and Income is dishing out $8,200 per immigrant to jump behind the wheel of a taxi—as well as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Social Development, and Ministry of Education, who are crying out that immigration is placing a strain on their services—a situation not surprising, given that the long-term unemployment among immigrants in Auckland alone is 12,000 people, who she and her wanted Minister brought here?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only repeat what the Minister of Immigration has said, which is that most migrants make a good contribution. However, I defer to the member’s superior knowledge about taxi drivers.

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Tourism—New Zealand's International Rating

7. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Tourism: What reports has he received about New Zealand’s standing as an international tourism destination?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Tourism): A recent Harris poll—a long-running and respected American public opinion survey—shows that New Zealand has jumped from No. 13 to No. 7 in the ranking of countries where American visitors would most like to go on holiday. That marks the most significant gain in the poll. In addition, the authoritative Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report for 2003 has named four of New Zealand’s luxury lodges in the top 10 of the world’s best luxury hideaways. These reports, like many others, illustrate the success of this Government’s partnership with the industry, which is increasingly attracting high-value, high-yield visitors to New Zealand.

David Parker: Has the Minister seen any further reports to indicate progress in achieving the tourism strategy objective of promoting New Zealand as a high-quality, high-yield destination?

Hon MARK BURTON: Indeed, the Tourism Research Council’s latest forecast shows visitor numbers increasing at a very healthy rate of 5.7 percent per annum, but, perhaps more important, visitor expenditure is increasing at nearly double that rate.

Ron Mark: What about poor people?

Hon MARK BURTON: I point out to that member that that represents 150,000 jobs for New Zealanders. That is why it is important.

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Paintergate—Police Investigation

8. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement about the police inquiry into “paintergate” that “I shall have a good deal more to say about that [the inquiry] when they’ve finished their sort of elephant act in the strawberry patch.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No, I thought better of it.

Hon Bill English: Why did she attack the Opposition for raising questions about the police when she herself in the course of the “paintergate” inquiry refused to be interviewed by the police, refused to answer 25 written questions put to her by the police, and threatened to sue the police if they did not get on and do the investigation the way she wanted it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This matter was handled by my lawyers at all times.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest of respect, that is not, and cannot be, an acceptable answer. She is being asked as the Prime Minister what the position was, so to get up now and say that the matter was handled by her lawyers at all times, when they were subject to her instructions and were at all times in a client-lawyer or client-solicitor relationship, and then sit down, excusing herself as somebody commanded by lawyers, may be typical but is not acceptable.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister said that she was acting on legal advice. She is addressing the question in that way.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She did not say that she was acting on legal advice. But there is a more important point. We now have a situation in which the Prime Minister is trying to introduce another standard into the House, where she will not have to answer questions if she has taken legal advice on them. In any situation when she has taken legal advice, she will just be able to get up and say: “Well, ask my lawyers.”, so that she does not have to answer the question. I put the question directly to her about her actions—not about the legal advice or the police, but to her about her actions. So the idea that we have to accept her answer that we should just ask the lawyers, is unacceptable to the House. If that had to be the case, then we would have to ask the lawyers to come in so that we could ask them.

Mr SPEAKER: I would like the Prime Minister to clarify that answer a little.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I acted on legal advice. The police, after a full investigation, determined not to take the matter any further, and I agree that that is where it should end.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is the House, the country, and the nation’s lawyers to take it that the police in New Zealand are now being directed by a prime ministerial press statement as to whom they should prosecute and whom they should not prosecute, and what, in principle, is the difference between the Helen Clark regime in New Zealand and that of the police State of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member most certainly should not infer that. I should say that when specifically asked, on Monday of last week, whether I thought the police should prosecute in the case of Mr Ardern, I said I would make no comment whatsoever about what the police should do. I have my own views. I do not intend to air them.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister comment on the example she thinks it gives when she behaved in the way I have outlined in the context of “paintergate”, when she has effectively condoned a dishonesty offence in her own department; and where she refuses to take action against members of the Labour research unit who certainly broke the rules around Parliament in the last few days by putting an obscenity on the door of Shane Ardern’s office?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Those researchers have apologised to Mr Ardern, as they should. I should say that such episodes are not unique. A National Party researcher once sent out faxes proclaiming the death of Michael Laws and ended up in court, and his accomplice is now in the office of the Leader of the Opposition.

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Prostitution Reform Act—Local Government Administration

9. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: What actions will he take in response to the comments made yesterday by Auckland Mayor, John Banks, that “While it was Parliament’s decision to decriminalise prostitution, every council is now in the difficult position of administering the Prostitution Reform Act.”, echoing those made last week by Juliet Yates, chairwoman of the Auckland City Council’s development committee, that the legalising of prostitution has handed the council a job it did not want?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Acting Minister of Justice): As required by the Act, the Minister is establishing the Prostitution Law Review Committee, which will include a member nominated by the Minister of Local Government. The Minister of Justice promoted the Supplementary Order Paper that provided for councils to control the location of brothels because the bill was silent on the matter. Auckland City was one of the councils that sought such powers if the bill were to become law.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister concerned by the statement last week by the Minister of Local Government that under the Prostitution Reform Act health and safety issues can now be addressed, in light of the fact that the list of certified brothel-keepers is to be kept so secret that not even health and safety inspectors will know where all the brothels are; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not have information in respect of that particular matter. If the member would like, I will provide some supplementary information to him. I simply do not have it with me.

Tim Barnett: Has the Prostitution Reform Act provided new powers to any other bodies additional to councils that made Government policy more enforceable?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, the Minister of Immigration moved a Supplementary Order Paper that provided powers to revoke permits for those on open work permits working in the sex industry, which will enhance the New Zealand Immigration Service’s ability to minimise the possibility of international students and others being targeted by the sex industry. I note that no other Government made such a move.

Gerry Brownlee: Has she had any meetings to discuss with the Minister of Local Government the extensive range of enforcement costs the Labour Government is imposing on local authorities, such as this prostitution regulation, alcohol ban enforcements, increased community policing, and anti - boy racer measures, just to mention a few?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Not that I am aware of.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that at one time the Prostitution Reform Bill at select committee contained fairly rigid clauses that would have implemented zoning at local bodies, and at one time when the United Future member did not turn up, Mr Barnett was successful in having these clauses deleted, as a result giving a huge amount of work to local bodies, which the select committee was trying to address?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The member raises a good point in that this was a member’s bill; it was dealt with by way of conscience vote in the House.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister concede that the very amendments now decried by councils across the country as unwanted and unworkable, were the very ones that he promoted in order to cobble together a majority for an otherwise flawed bill; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I said in my first answer, Auckland City was one of several councils that asked for the power to regulate the establishment of brothels within communities, because the bill, at that point, was silent on the matter.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister now agree that the decriminalisation of prostitution was not supported by the people of New Zealand, when we see the local authorities who represent those people bringing in restrictions on brothel-keeping in their areas, thus reflecting the true sentiments of their citizens?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, it reflects that the Minister of Justice’s Supplementary Order Paper has achieved its purpose, which is the local community through their council determining where brothels ought to be located.

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Lotteries Commission—Internet Gaming Revenue

10. JUDITH COLLINS (NZ National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What is the forecast extra revenue to be generated by the Lotteries Commission’s ability to operate Internet or interactive gaming, as passed in the Gambling Bill?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The move to remote interactive gambling will help to address the decline in sales that the commission has experienced. Any increase in revenue is likely to be modest and gradual.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about the forecast extra revenue, and that answer was a classic example of a Minister not answering the question asked. If a forecast had been done, and I am certain it was, then surely the Minister could either say he was not going to give us the forecast, or give it. There was no need for the sort of answer he gave, which did not include a forecast—especially when he had notice of the question several hours ago.

Mr SPEAKER: Now that the member raises that point, when the Minister was giving the answer there were about three or four interjections that distracted me. They should not have been made. Perhaps the Minister could expand on the answer.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Those figures are not worked out yet. I am not a soothsayer.

Judith Collins: If he cannot answer that question, what reports has he received about the expected number of problem gamblers likely to use Internet gambling to be provided by the Lotteries Commission?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: We already have Internet gambling in New Zealand at the TAB, and that has not produced a large increase in problem gamblers.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What controls does the Gambling Act place on Internet gambling?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Gambling Act allows not only TAB and the Lotteries Commission to operate remote interactive gambling but lotteries are generally the least harmful form of gambling, even when they are offered on the Internet, because of the delay between the time of entry and the draw, and because the interactive element is minimal.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, does the Minister accept the view of many, many professionals worldwide that accessibility to gambling leads to more problem gambling—and interactive gambling makes gambling more accessible; if so, how does he justify overruling the select committee, without any democratic mandate to do so?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I remind the member that a majority of this Parliament passed that bill, with a majority of 10. Parliament did that; no one else. It could have voted the legislation down, if it had wanted to.

Sue Bradford: Why did the Government refuse not only to take the advice of the select committee but also to take the advice of the expert academics and problem-gambling treatment providers, who were assembled at the third international conference on problem gambling, held in Auckland last week, who passed a resolution calling on the Government to reject New Zealand – based Internet gaming because of the harm it will do, and has done in many overseas jurisdictions?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I took the view there was more good for the population at large, and because many good features will be put in place to help those with problem gambling addictions.

Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister reconcile the introduction of interactive gaming facilities by the Lotteries Commission with the fact that last week alone, New Zealanders spent over $20 million buying Lotto tickets in pursuit of a jackpot?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think last week showed that most New Zealanders want to have a little flutter occasionally. However, we realise that gambling does cause harm to perhaps 1 to 3 percent of the community. I am sure most people on Saturday night would have thought that was an excellent result.

Judith Collins: What does the Minister say about the comments made today by Major Campbell Roberts from the Salvation Army: “Salvation Army centres, along with members of the NZCCSS, are seeing daily major impacts on New Zealand families through gambling excess.”, and they are “devastated that, without public consultation and in disregard of the recommendations of the select committee, these new amendments were introduced and passed.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I say he ought to look at all the evidence, including the comments of Dave Macpherson, who is welcoming a reduction of approximately 80 pokie machines in Hamilton alone.

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Biodiversity—Waitaki River

11. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Has he sought or received any advice on the biodiversity values of the lower Waitaki River; if so, what action does he propose to take?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Yes, I received and noted the report.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he believe that further losses of endangered black stilt, wrybill plover, and black-fronted tern, as well as degradation of water quality and reduced salmon and trout fishery, are justified in order to provide for less than 5 years’ growth in electricity demand?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: A full report has not yet been done on the mitigating factors that could occur regarding any water applications in respect of the Waitaki River.

Nanaia Mahuta: What is the role of the Department of Conservation in respect of proposals for the utilisation of the Waitaki River?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: My department has a statutory duty to advocate for the conservation of aquatic life and freshwater fish, and this includes advocacy for the protection of the conservation values of the Waitaki River system. The department will participate fully in the new two-stage process recently announced by the Government, in order to get the best results for conservation.

Gerry Brownlee: Why is his department so relaxed about the State-owned enterprise proposal effectively to flood private land and effect some degradation upon the Waitaki River, when it is completely uptight about the prospect of putting a dam in the Dobson Valley on the West Coast?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Each application stands or falls on its own merits. No two applications are the same.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has he asked for any calculation of the cost to his department of attempting to restore the habitat that would be destroyed by predators and four-wheel drives if Project Aqua is allowed to take 73 percent of the water out of the Waitaki, and will he insist that all those costs be included in the economic assessment of Project Aqua?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I indicated earlier, no in-depth study has yet been done on any mitigating factors that might occur on developments on the Waitaki River.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister say that any hydro proposal will be considered on its merits when he said that he was not prepared to consider the Dobson project at all, and can he now answer Mr Gerry Brownlee’s question as to why private land being flooded is of no concern to him in the Waitaki valley, but that where it is public land, as in Dobson, he has a very different view?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As that member should know, having once held the responsibility of being the Minister of Conservation, to flood an ecological area as is found at the Card Creek ecological area would involve changing the Conservation Act. That is a very different matter to current proposals on the Waitaki River.

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Auckland International Airport—Border Control

12. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Customs: How is the Customs Service preparing to deal with any increase in passengers at Auckland International Airport this summer?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): The good news is that arrivals from overseas are already ahead of an all-time high, and are expected to go higher. The 36 percent increase in capacity in Auckland with new airlines to New Zealand such as the Emirates Airline and Royal Brunei Airlines will be put considerable pressure on customs and other border agencies. The service is working with other agencies, airlines, airports, and others to make adjustments to flight schedules, additional staff, layout, and other procedural changes to help to minimise delays. It will be a very busy summer holiday.

Dianne Yates: With this influx of passengers at Auckland Airport will customs be able to maintain border control and protect New Zealanders from terrorism and the smuggling of illegal drugs and other prohibited goods?

Hon RICK BARKER: New Zealanders can be assured that customs is, and will continue to be, vigilant in maintaining border security. All inbound and outbound air passengers pass through customs control. Current matching of information with other countries, border control agencies, and profiling techniques ensure that people who smuggle drugs and contraband are more likely to be intercepted than ever before. If members have any doubts they should see page 2 of the Contraband newspaper put out by customs, which shows seven people convicted in recent months for importing drugs into New Zealand received extensive jail terms of up to 12 years.

Gerry Brownlee: Why does the New Zealand passenger arrival form not require visitors to this country to disclose criminal records?

Hon RICK BARKER: I cannot answer that question off the top of my head, but I will certainly get an answer for the member.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is extraordinary. This form has recently been reprinted. I am quite certain that the Minister would be aware that there has been an error and that that particular question has been left off some half a million of these forms to accommodate these vast numbers who are coming to the country. For him to say that he is unaware of it and that he will get back to us later is, quite frankly, just skirting the scrutiny of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave an answer to the question.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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