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Thursday Questions & Answers for Oral Answer


Thursday Questions & Answers for Oral Answer

THURSDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers:

1. Wakapuaka Estuary—Mâori Land Court Decision

2. Tertiary Students—Student Support

3. Orthopaedic Surgery—Counties Manukau

4. Compliance Costs—Small Business

5. Police—Separation of Services

6. Heart Surgery—Delays

7. Television New Zealand—Edwards at Large

8. Electricity Commission—Priorities

9. Immigration Service—Confidence

10. Psychiatric Services—Auckland

11. Court Fines—Defaulters

12. Airways Corporation—Wilsons Rd Primary Radar

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Wakapuaka Estuary—Mâori Land Court Decision

1. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Will he be proceeding with the High Court judicial review against the Mâori Land Court decision in respect of Mâori ownership of the Wakapuaka Estuary north of Nelson; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister give the House and the people of Nelson an absolute assurance that no title will be able to fall into the hands of iwi exclusively for the area of the Wakapuaka Estuary?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can give the people of Nelson and this House an assurance that the Government will appeal this decision.

David Parker: Is this case about customary title?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In the Crown’s view, no. The Crown considers that this case is about whether a boundary was mistakenly drawn to include the foreshore and seabed. It is a case about administrative error, not customary interests. The Crown will argue in the High Court that the Mâori Land Court should not have granted title to the mudflats below the high-water mark.

Hon Ken Shirley: Given the Minister’s admission that the Crown will appeal the Mâori Land Court decision in respect of Wakapuaka Estuary and, presumably, Ohiwa Harbour, can he give the same guarantee that his Government will not proceed with the transfer of the ownership of the lake beds and the foreshore of 14 Rotorua lakes to local Mâori?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I suggest that the member refer that question to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Government has said that it will pass new laws to clarify ownership in the area of the foreshore, will the Minister now answer my earlier question, which is: will he give this Parliament and the people of Nelson an absolute reassurance that the Wakapuaka Estuary will not be allowed to fall into exclusive ownership of local iwi?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: This Government has already given the country an assurance that no title would be given to the foreshore and seabed.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When I sought assurance from the Minister regarding the status of the 14 Rotorua lakes the reply was that I should refer the question to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. The Department of Conservation, which this Minister has direct control over, does have responsibility for several of those Rotorua lakes, and I ask that he reply to the question.

Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister wants to add to his answer, he could.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would like to reinforce the answer that I have already given. I do not have responsibility for treaty negotiations; another Minister is privileged to hold that position. I would urge the member to refer that question to her.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister ever met with Ngâti Tama to ask how their ancestral title can best be recognised, and will he endeavour to negotiate a good-faith outcome with Ngâti Tama that preserves both their ancestral rights and public access to the foreshore?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: That member has asked two questions. No, I have not met formally with Ngâti Tama. In the year that I have been privileged to hold the portfolio of conservation I hope that I have demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with iwi all over New Zealand.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can I try for a third time and ask the Minister: can he give an absolute assurance to the House and to the people of Nelson that iwi will not be able to receive private, exclusive title for the area of the Wakapuaka Estuary under the legislation being proposed by the Government, yes or no?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: This Government has given a clear message to the people of New Zealand consistently for the last month or more that we do not regard the granting of title to seabed and foreshore as possible.

Stephen Franks: Would the Minister clarify, given his attempt at an unequivocal assurance, whether he is correct or the Prime Minister is correct when the Prime Minister has told us only that there will be no fee simple title, and has refused to rule out any of the myriad other titles under which people can have exclusive rights?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The assurance that I can give this House, and it is the same assurance that the Prime Minister has given, is that there will be no fee simple title.

Ron Mark: I did notice, in listening to the answer, that the Minister was taking direct guidance from the Prime Minister. I seek leave for the Prime Minister to actually answer herself since she seems to want the Minister to repeat the very words that she was passing back to him.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Ron Mark: I am seeking leave.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is seeking leave?

Ron Mark: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister can do that for herself if she wishes. The member cannot seek leave on behalf of someone else. [Interruption] Order! That is the one time that I give that warning today.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Minister cannot give me the categorical assurance that I seek in respect of the Wakapuaka Estuary, why should the public of New Zealand believe the Government on any other beach, estuary, or foreshore anywhere else in New Zealand?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can give that member, and every other member of this House, an absolute assurance that there will be no exclusive title on foreshore and seabed anywhere in New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had to endure three repetitions of that statement by that Minister, when we all know that on 23 June the Prime Minister said the very reverse.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It is a point of debate.

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Tertiary Students—Student Support

2. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Why was the discussion document “Student Support in New Zealand” not released until this month, when in January 2002 he announced that the Government would publish a discussion document canvassing options for reform of financial support provided to tertiary students in May 2002?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Education (Special Education)), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): In January 2002 the Minister was confident that the document would be published in May. However, competing priorities meant that that could not be achieved. Then a general election intervened, which affected both the time frame and the scope of the work.

Bernie Ogilvy: In the light of his statement that options such as universal allowances and zero fees are simply not affordable, why, after 21 months, does the discussion document fail to canvass alternative options for reform to student support as originally promised, such as a savings scheme to help families put money aside for their children’s tertiary education?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The purpose of that document is to ensure that there is a common understanding of the operation of the system and of the constraints that any Government faces in respect of what has been described as big-ticket items. It is important those things are discussed. Submissions are open until the end of October. I hope all members of this House and those who have an interest in that area take the opportunity to make submissions on the discussion document.

Jill Pettis: Does the discussion document identify measures the Government has already undertaken to provide further financial support to tertiary students?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, the document outlines a range of measures, the two most important of which are committing more than $400 million to make the student loan scheme fairer, in particular, writing off interest whilst studying for full-time and other low-income students, and committing around $440 million for fee stabilisation between 2001 and 2003. I note that the National Party regards the fees as “artificially low”.

Simon Power: Is he really surprised that student leaders described the student support review as a “kick in the guts”, and promised the Government a venomous campaign to acquaint it with student anger, when the student support review was so late and offered so little?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I encourage all those students to make submissions in respect of the discussion document. It does give an opportunity for all students to do what a Government has to do and that is to identify what the priorities are. That member should wait until the student loan scheme annual report is published next month. He will find that it will have some very interesting statements about the impact of Government policies that we have already introduced on matters like student debt.

Hon Brian Donnelly: If the consultation process clearly demonstrates demand for a universal student allowance over and above some of the initiatives already undertaken, will the Minister pledge to do everything within his power to advance such a policy through the Budget process?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As the member quite rightly identified, such a matter would have to go through the Budget process and that is why it is so important that students do take the time to establish what their priorities are.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked whether he would do—in this case as Minister—everything in his power in respect of that budgetary process. The Minister made no attempt to answer the question whatsoever, but gave just a stupid comment about students being consulted. This is just demeaning of Parliament. Would she answer the question that she was asked.

Mr SPEAKER: She did address the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, she did not address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I have said she did. Please be seated.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Let me finish my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I have made a ruling and that ruling stands. It might not satisfy the member—a lot of answers do not—but there has to be further opportunity to carry on thereafter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek a point of clarification, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister use her best endeavours with regard to the budgetary process or not? We are not any wiser about the issue. That was the question my colleague asked.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the Minister addressed the question. If she wants to add anything else she can.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the consultation.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to the fact that you are now on to question No. 2 today, and in both cases you have had to ask Ministers to add something more. When they have added something more, it has been after your intervention. We are at a point where they have given an answer that should have been given upfront in the beginning. So I want to raise with you, Mr Speaker—and the senior Government whip can shake his head—that if Ministers are not going to answer questions, then this is going to continue.

Mr SPEAKER: I have to judge what the situation is in this regard. If I think that the Minister should add a little bit more I will say so, otherwise I will carry on.

Nandor Tanczos: What justification can the Minister give the House—on the day before Suffrage Day—for a scheme where women take twice as long as men to repay their loans, resulting in an education that costs them more than it costs men, but leads to lower salaries than men; a scheme that has been criticised by the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: All of these matters will be taken into account. I note that we did not introduce the student loan scheme.

Bernie Ogilvy: In light of the fact that the discussion document addresses eligibility for allowances, will the Government look at shifting the parental income threshold, which has not changed since 1992 and now excludes the 40 percent of New Zealand households with a combined income of over $50,000; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I said in response to an earlier question, this is a matter for the Budget process after the question of the discussion document is resolved. Therefore, people are invited to make submissions on these important issues. The member’s point is a very good one, and I am sure it will be taken into account.

Bernie Ogilvy: In the light of the fact that one of the principles in the discussion document is to ensure consistency with the wider social assistance system, does he think it is fair that a student allowance scheme is based on the parental income of students up to the age of 25, when the same income testing is not applied to those under 25 years who are on an unemployment benefit who might be just as reliant on parental support, yet by comparison are getting money for nothing?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I recall that being a point that we made at the time the scheme was introduced and that we always suspected that the National Party intended to introduce parental means-testing for benefits.

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Orthopaedic Surgery—Counties Manukau

3. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made to rectify the inequality of access to elective orthopaedic surgery in Counties Manukau compared to the rest of the country?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I have made additional one-off funding of $5 million available to the Counties Manukau District Health Board to assist with reducing the inequality of access to elective orthopaedic surgery in its catchment area compared with the rest of the country. That will assist improved access to elective orthopaedic services for the population in its district.

Hon Roger Sowry: Why then have people like John Power been waiting 2 years for a knee replacement operation while two operating theatres in Counties Manukau have lain idle, and why, after she advised that World War II veteran’s general practitioner to contact Middlemore Hospital, has he subsequently been dumped from the waiting list?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Brown’s Road surgical facility, built under a National Government, was never funded. I am pleased to say the money that we are putting in will ensure that operations can be carried out in that area, and far more people will receive operations than have in the past.

Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister seen any reports with regard to problems with elective surgery experienced by Counties Manukau?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. There has been a reduction of over 1,600 people waiting longer than 6 months since 1998-99. Problems such as high acute demand were compounded in the past by underfunding, which has been addressed by the population-based funding formula that was introduced this year. This has seen the Counties Manukau District Health Board receive a boost of $57 million in the last Budget, of which $28 million was to address historical underfunding.

Heather Roy: In respect of access, can she deny that under her funding formula, one board gets $585 for a 40-year-old white male, while another board gets $1,536 for a 40-year-old Mâori or Pacific Island male on the same income in a poorer area—almost three times more money, based purely on location and race, regardless of health need?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, because the population-based funding formula takes account of a number of factors, including rurality, socio-economic status, and age—not like the old formula, which was based purely on population numbers.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When she was sitting down the Minister of Health did call out “racist”. I take grave exception to that, particularly from a Minister. I think she should be asked to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: The member, if she did call that out, will withdraw and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Speaking to the point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No. Did the member use the word?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: Please withdraw and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I was sitting down Mr Prebble yelled out “race based”; I replied “racist”.

Hon Richard Prebble: I did not raise a point of order; I just took it that the Minister of Health was acknowledging that the health system is racist.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member knows that he is not being helpful in that regard, at all. [Interruption] He often is helpful; I acknowledge that.

Hon Roger Sowry: Given that the Minister of Health has stated: “The buck stops with me.”, will she take responsibility for the 1,853 Counties Manukau patients who have been dumped off the waiting list without having the surgery they need to alleviate the pain; what will she do to ensure Mr Power, who cannot now walk to his front gate, gets his operation, instead of being dumped off the list?

Hon ANNETTE KING: When the booking system was established under a National Government, 58,000 people were so-called dumped off waiting lists. That member knows that people nowadays are assessed on their relative priority, and the person who needs an operation most gets it first. I am pleased to say that while under his watch 5,262 people were waiting longer than 6 months, we have managed to reduce that, plus put additional money in to address that issue.

Hon Roger Sowry: I seek leave to table documents that show Mr Power is no longer on the waiting list for having waited over 6 months, because the Minister has dropped them altogether. [Interruption] Someone was very close to leaving early.

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

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Compliance Costs—Small Business

4. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Revenue: What proposals has the Government made to reduce tax compliance costs for small businesses?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Associate Minister of Revenue), on behalf of the Minister of Revenue: The Government yesterday released a discussion document on simplifying tax for small businesses. Proposals included offering a subsidy to assist with payroll agents, a discount for business people paying provisional tax in their first year, basing provisional tax on GST turnover, and simplifying the payment of provisional tax.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What other steps has this Government taken to simplify taxation compliance?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Tax simplification for small business is one more step of a comprehensive tax simplification process that this Government has undertaken. It includes debt and hardship provisions, use of money interest provisions, adjustments to trading stock, and today Dr Michael Cullen announced that the tax rules on payments for non-resident contractors would be simplified.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister aware of the KPMG Peat Marwick - Business New Zealand survey of compliance costs released just 3 weeks ago, which showed that in excess of 98 percent of the 760 businesses surveyed found compliance costs had increased over the last 12 months; and when will the Government get really serious about dealing with these compliance costs, especially those for tax, occupational safety and health, and employment relations?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I respectfully suggest the member has another look at that Business New Zealand survey. He will see that in 13 out of 18 categories, at least 80 percent of businesses said that their compliance costs have either stayed the same or been reduced.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, will the Minister tell the House what favourable tax regime the Government is proposing for New Zealand shipping, or will it reinstate cabotage?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am pleased to confirm to the member that should a shipping business fall into the category of a small business, it will qualify for all the advantages of the tax package just announced.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Will the Government’s proposal to reduce compliance costs to small business extend to the dumping of the methane emission tax, which is opposed by upwards now of 70,000 farmers and the public; if not, why does the Government not release income derived from carbon credits now available to industry as a way of implementing the stated aim of reducing compliance costs to industry?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the member wishes to have a discussion about the emissions levy, I suggest he address it to the relevant Minister. I am advised that Federated Farmers has been invited to participate in the allocation of those funds, but has so far declined.

Gordon Copeland: Has the Minister considered directly offering a payment equivalent to that being offered to payroll agents to those small-business owners who chose to do their own payroll and GST returns; if not, would he be prepared to give it his consideration, given that it is a good idea?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: A good common-sense question deserves a common-sense answer—that is what this package is. There are reasons that payroll agents are able to generate additional savings. They are specially qualified, have all the resources necessary at their disposal, and both the taxpayer and the general public benefit from those efficiencies.

Hon Richard Prebble: Has the Government given consideration to really lowering the tax compliance costs of small businesses by reducing the amount of tax that small businesses must pay with the introduction of a low flat rate of tax; if it has not given it any consideration, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: A constituent of mine who lives not far from the honourable member runs a corner dairy. Not long ago he needed a heart bypass operation. The reason we are not lowering tax rates is that the same people who run businesses need schools and hospitals.

Dr Don Brash: I seek leave to table the KPMG Peat Marwick - Business New Zealand report on compliance costs.

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

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Police—Separation of Services

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is it important to maintain separation between the administrative, operational, and political arms of the Police; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): It is important for there to be no political interference in the activities of the police. That was reinforced in 1993 by the Solicitor-General in an authoritative statement on the position in New Zealand, which said that the Minister may not direct the commissioner in his or her duty to enforce the criminal law.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is true, and if that is the precedent, why was the file of Daniel Alkema, who rode a trail bike on the grounds of Parliament in May of this year to protest the Government’s law and order policies, taken from the Lower Hutt police station to Wellington on the same day I raised that case in Parliament; is that not an extremely suspicious coincidence or is it just a blatant act of further political dabbling in the affairs of the police?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have no role at all in terms of where police files go, and I am not about to help your conspiracy theory.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might find that answer acceptable, though, of course, it is an accusation about yourself, not about me—

Mr SPEAKER: There was a comment made in the second person. However, I presume the Minister was not referring to me, but to Mr Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He used the word “your”, and you know full well that it is you he is talking about in terms of our Standing Orders and parliamentary precedents. Secondly, if he was referring to me, that is out of order, as well. I am not talking about a conspiracy; I am talking about facts.

Mr SPEAKER: If I were to interrupt every single person who made an error of grammar I would not have many people answering questions. The member was in error in what he said, but I accepted that his intention was clear. He has now said what he meant to say, and that is where that matter rests.

Georgina Beyer: During the Minister’s time as Minister of Police, has ever instructed the police on any criminal case?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Richard Worth: Would it be grossly improper for a senior police officer to have discussions with the Minister’s private secretary for police concerning politically sensitive issues, including the laying of charges against members of Parliament?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: My private secretary for police does not get involved in these matters. For example, there was a case where the leader of New Zealand First did not pay a taxi fare. We then had a newspaper article sent to Parliament saying that two people in Otago were fined $300, plus court costs of $30, for not paying a taxi fare. I did not interfere in either case.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was just a personal attack. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the question that was asked. If that is the way you are going to let this House run, I warn members over there that they will get all they ever ask for—they can be certain of that. If you want to try that sort of trick, you will get whatever you want.

Mr SPEAKER: Do not say if I want to try; I have not done anything.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Your job was to stop him when he was clearly not making any attempt at all to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The end of the answer was out of order; the Minister should not have gone along that line. He started off OK in addressing the question, but thereafter he went out of line.

Richard Worth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The result was that the question was not answered. It started with the words, “Would it be grossly improper if”, and the Minister made no effort to answer that direct question.

Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could just answer that one part.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not get involved. My staff do not get involved in criminal actions, nor do they interfere in criminal cases. I think that that member over there realises that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did any member of the Minister’s staff in his office see the details of that file either before or after Tuesday, 16 September; and have any discussions between staff in his office and the police taken place since then about that file?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can say that my office does not get police files. We do not read them. I have no interest in them. I have confidence that the police will do their job.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To the Minister’s knowledge, did any members of the police have discussions with the Speaker, or anyone in his office, since the file was pulled from the Lower Hutt police station on Tuesday, 16 September; and will he table that file and the telephone logs recording the timings of those messages in the House?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have that file, and I do not have the log of phone calls to the Speaker.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Since Danny Alkema is happy for this document to be tabled, I ask the Minister whether he will make it available to this Parliament—instead of some sort of snow job where the details are not given to anyone and the decision is handed down from high, and that is it. We want the facts here.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am not about to start getting police files to satisfy the political ambitions of other members.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you think that that is an adequate answer? This House wants to know what happened, because the two stories that have been put out in public are at gross variance and cannot be reconciled. I have asked for the police file and the record of the log of a man who came to me and was happy for those details to be tabled.

Mr SPEAKER: I say to the member that I have already made a ruling about part of that issue. I thought the Minister most definitely addressed that particular question. He gave an answer that was quite explicit, and I understood it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking whether the Minister will, with Danny Alkema’s consent, have that information tabled. To get up and say that he does not handle those files is not an answer at all. I am asking whether he will, with that person’s consent, obtain the file and table it in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister said he was not prepared to. That was my clear impression of what he said, and it is also the impression of those about me.

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Heart Surgery—Delays

6. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: Does she stand by her reported comments in the Press of 16 February 2002 that she took full responsibility for the recent delays in heart surgery in Christchurch, which clinicians say have resulted in the deaths of patients, and does she take equal responsibility for the recent delays in Wellington?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The comments relate to the situation in February 2002 in the South Island, when I was informed that cardiac services were underfunded. I responded immediately by allocating an extra $2 million to South Island cardiac services. In relation to the second part of the question, there is no longer a backlog of cardiac patients waiting in Wellington. With the unfortunate exception of one patient who had his surgery delayed five times due to other patients’ acute needs and his own complications, the backlog was cleared over a relatively short period of time, and I am pleased to say that that patient has also now had his operation.

Heather Roy: Why was Upper Hutt man Mike King’s surgery cancelled at Wellington Hospital five times since March this year when, less than 1 kilometre away, the private Wakefield Hospital could have done his surgery for certain within 2 days; and on what date did ideology become more important to this Government than humanity?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Ideology over humanity was not a consideration. I am informed by the Capital and Coast District Health Board that the chief executive officer made it clear that that patient could go to Wakefield Hospital. The reason the person’s surgery was delayed was that there were people who had acute needs—in other words, people who had had a heart attack—who needed their surgery faster. That person was on the elective waiting list.

Moana Mackey: Has access to cardiac surgery in New Zealand improved in recent years?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Over the last few years, access to cardiac surgery has vastly improved. In fact, almost 2,000 more heart operations were performed in 2001-02 than in 1996-97. At the Capital and Coast District Health Board, that has meant the number of heart operations performed each year more than doubled over that period, and, in the South Island, 580 more heart operations were provided in 2001-02 than in 1996-97. This year the Canterbury cardiac waiting list has been reduced by 40 percent.

Dr Paul Hutchison: When the Minister said “the buck stops with me”, and when she said: “We’ll look at what other capacity we’ve got around New Zealand. That might not be the public sector. We still pay for them.”, does she really mean it; or will cardiac patients around New Zealand continue to die unnecessarily because of her inconsistent policies and loose promises?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think that the member is not quite up to date—

Hon Member: Yes, he is.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, he is not. In Canterbury, in fact, 45 publicly funded operations will be done privately this year. The member obviously was not aware of that. We made it clear at the very beginning of becoming the Government that we had no objections to public hospitals providing services in private hospitals, so long as they maximised the capacity within the public system. Those protocols were set out by this Government in the year 2000.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that part of the long-term solution to heart surgery waiting lists is to reduce the risk factors that cause heart disease; hence, what would she say to people who have swallowed the tobacco industry line that second-hand smoke is not a cause of heart disease?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would point them to exceptionally good international research and to research in New Zealand that show that second-hand smoking does affect New Zealanders. In fact, it has killed about 400 New Zealanders a year.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with the comment from John Simpson, of the Australasian College of Surgeons, that: “If surgery was regularly postponed, more beds or a more efficient booking system was needed.”; if so, which of those two options does she believe is the more urgent?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is very unfortunate when surgery is postponed. However, it would be a very poor system that would not take those in the most acute need, first. So I think that providing surgery to those who need it first, and prioritising that, is part of a system that is much better than it was in the past.

Heather Roy: Why is it that since the Minister has become Minister of Health, the media have evolved to become the new patient advocates, so if people’s cases are in the paper, on the radio, or on television, they get their surgery, but everyone else continues to have to wait indefinitely?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is totally incorrect. However, I agree with the member, who wrote in a recent media diary that the Minister of Health should not be responsible for every individual case—and I certainly am not responsible for every individual case. But I have given two examples today where the buck did stop with this Minister, who provided not only money for heart operations in the South Island but $5 million for reducing the waiting times in the orthopaedic area of the Counties Manukau District Health Board.

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Television New Zealand—Edwards at Large

7. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Is he satisfied that, in relation to the programme Edwards at Large, Television New Zealand Limited has always set and maintained “the highest standards of programme quality and editorial integrity.” as set out in its charter; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Communications):, on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: Generally, yes.

Hon Murray McCully: Can he explain whether the editorial integrity required by the charter generally permits television presenters to repudiate expressly a formal apology tendered personally by the chief executive of Television New Zealand in relation to an admission of a serious breach of broadcasting standards by Dr Brian Edwards, or is this a special concession being made by the Prime Minister’s friend Mr Fraser for the Prime Minister’s media trainer Dr Edwards?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Minister has a relationship with the board of Television New Zealand, and the board has the responsibility for the chief executive and internal matters. That is a longstanding relationship. It is a shame that member did not follow it when he was Minister of Tourism, because he was sacked for dabbling in operational matters—and rightly so.

Russell Fairbrother: What process do viewers use to make formal complaints about television programmes?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: If a viewer considers that a programme has breached one of the statutory broadcasting standards and wants to make a formal complaint, the viewer must complain, in the first instance, to the broadcaster. If the viewer is dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, the viewer can, within 20 days of receiving the broadcaster’s response, refer the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for investigation and review.

Rodney Hide: In respect of the Edwards show does the Minister agree with Dr Brian Edwards that the funding from New Zealand On Air, of $190,000 is “chicken feed”, and in light of Dr Edward’s view of what is chicken feed and what is not, does the Minister know just how much of the Prime Minister’s $2.5 million leader’s fund is paid out to Dr Edwards as the Prime Minister’s media coach and spin adviser?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for the second part of the question, but he may answer the first part.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: That member will know that decisions on funding are nothing to do with the Minister. I am advised that the Edwards show on which Mr Hide appeared received the lowest rating of any of those shows. So it looks like, throughout most of New Zealand, the people have tuned out of the “ACT channel”.

Sue Kedgley: How can New Zealanders be sure that TVNZ is meeting its charter obligations to maintain the highest standards of editorial integrity, and to be impartial and independent in its current affairs coverage, when its flagship current affairs programmes are sponsored by a bank and a car manufacturer?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The memorandum of understanding between the Minister of Broadcasting and TVNZ requires the organisation to provide the Minister of Broadcasting with quarterly reports on the use of charter-related funding. That is the appropriate mechanism.

Hon Murray McCully: Is the Minister aware that Mr Ian Fraser, Chief Executive of Television New Zealand, completely bypassed the programme commissioning process, which is laid down within Television New Zealand, to appoint personally the Prime Minister’s media adviser Dr Edwards with his own television programme—a programme that is now being exempted from the normal broadcasting standards process, and does the Minister regard that as acceptable within the charter?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not sure whether the Minister of Broadcasting is aware of that, but if the member has a complaint about that issue he knows where he can go. There are complaints processes, and the Broadcasting Standards Authority is the appropriate body.

Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table Television New Zealand’s apology to me concerning Dr Edwards’ rough treatment of me, and also the regret expressed by Mr Ian Fraser that he allowed the Prime Minister’s media adviser to have me on his show.

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

Hon Richard Prebble: I seek the leave of the House to table a log showing that tens of thousands of people have logged on to the ACT party’s website to see the live screening of that particular matter—[Interruption]

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

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Electricity Commission—Priorities

8. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Energy: When will the new Electricity Commission first meet, and what will be its immediate priorities?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): The Electricity Commission is meeting for the first time today. Its top priorities are to improve New Zealand’s electricity supply security, to get necessary transmission grid investment under way, and to improve competition amongst retailers and in the hedge market.

Mark Peck: As far as improving supply security is concerned, will the commission be limited to contracting new generation or might it also consider how to reduce demand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The latter. If it is cheaper and more effective to meet New Zealand’s electricity supply needs through demand reductions and better energy efficiency, then the commission will have this option open to it.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that if the commission is required to provide sufficient reserve capacity to meet demand in a one-in-60 dry-year that will increase power bills more than a solution that incorporates some special conservation measures into the dry-year plan; if so, will he amend the Government policy statement so that it does not outlaw conservation as part of a dry-year security plan?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member is confusing ordinary conservation with conservation in difficult times. The answer to the first supplementary question was to indicate to her that the commission is entitled to use the full range of demand side measures available to it, including a conservation campaign when there is no shortage of water in the lakes.

Gordon Copeland: In the event of a dispute arising between, say, Transpower and a local line company concerning the transmission of electricity, will the commission have the authority to tell one or the other of them to get on and make the investment so that electricity can reach consumers?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, it will, as soon as it has completed an early piece of work it must do, which was resolving transmission pricing methodology. That work must be resolved, according to the Government policy statement, by December of next year.

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Immigration Service—Confidence

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does she have confidence in the systems of the New Zealand Immigration Service?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Generally speaking, yes. However, systems can fail when people give undertakings that are not honoured, such as occurred with the Tongan rugby players, who have brought shame on themselves, their community, and their country. I support the Tongan community leaders who are calling for them to come forward and leave New Zealand now.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wonder whether the Minister could focus her mind on something that is worse that the Tongan situation—that is, how can she have any confidence in the system generally, or otherwise, when immigrant beneficiaries such as _______

are being allowed to skip the country for months, still receiving thousands in student allowances due to the Immigration Service failing to notify the Ministry of Social Development of their movements, and is this yet another example of this incompetent Minister proving that she out of her depth, at the cost to the taxpayer and the New Zealand students alike?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I have no details about that particular case. If the member would refer these matters to my office prior to question time I could actually come down with an answer to a particular case. I note the fact that that was exactly the answer that was given to me when I was the Opposition spokesperson on immigration by the then Minister of Immigration when he was the Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon Mark Gosche: Does the Immigration Service have systems in place to address the backlash New Zealand experiences as a tourist and student destination when Asian media report about anti-Asian sentiment in New Zealand?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The New Zealand Immigration Service has systems in place to identify trends and applications for visas, both tourist visas and student visas, and will continue to monitor the situation closely. New Zealand benefits significantly from international education and tourism from Asia, and anyone who would put those industries at risk for the sake of a headline does not represent mainstream New Zealand opinion, nor is he putting New Zealand first.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was her original answer a plaintive plea for me to take over her job, which I am sure I could do 1 hour a day, and why is it wrong for a member of Parliament to ask why a man in Thailand is being paid by the New Zealand taxpayer when he does not study here, does not live here, has no intention of coming back here until January next year, and all the records, bank account numbers, and air flight numbers are known to members of the community, but never to her as the Minister of Immigration?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: When the member puts down a question as to whether I have confidence in the systems of the New Zealand Immigration Service and I am able to say “Generally speaking, yes.”, I expect the member to provide the information in advance of question time so that I can come down to the House with an answer. There are several cases, but the vast majority of people who come to this country to live, to work, to study, or to play, are people who are good, decent, hard-working people, and they do not need to be attacked by that pathetic member.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know you often do not hear what happens down the back, but when Mr Peters was asking his question the Hon Mr Cunliffe shouted out very loudly from his seat. I doubt you heard it. We certainly did. It was certainly off-putting, and I suggest that he has not learnt his lesson from yesterday.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I did not hear it. I will be listening very closely.

Rodney Hide: It is actually not necessary for you to hear a comment for a member to be put off his question. That is one of the things that happens from the cross-benches—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rodney Hide: There they go again. You have one rule for us. I am on my last ruling, but they can shout out.

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member who made that interjection leave the Chamber.

Hon Chris Carter withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on the point of order that on this occasion I did not hear the interjection.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it the case that a person can sit on the cross-benches and interject on a questioner, and it is OK as long as the Speaker does not hear it?

Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way. I try to hear a lot of what happens in the House. Occasionally, on all sides of the House, one does not hear everything deliberately because one wants to hear the flow. I did not think that Mr Peters on this occasion was in any way put off from his question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: You are quite right. I was not put off at all. I did not object because I understand that Mr Cunliffe suffers from a thing called recognition hunger and needs to be heard frequently.

Hon Murray McCully: How does the Minister expect the public to have confidence in an Immigration Service that can circulate a memorandum asserting an agreement to “lie in unison” amongst 300 staff, with none of them battering an eyelid, and which then proceeds to have its most senior officers tell barefaced lies to the Ombudsman about the existence of that memo?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That member is perfectly well aware that there was no memorandum. It was a media log that was prepared on a daily basis. It has a number of such commentaries attached to it. They were throwaway lines. All of the rest of them have been throwaway lines. That member does not want to see any of the other media logs because it would prove the case that this particular one that he already had happened to substantiate a particular point of view that National wanted to raise. It is the most pathetic attack on public servants I have ever heard in this House.

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Psychiatric Services—Auckland

10. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: What is her response to comments by an experienced Auckland psychiatric nurse that the practice of “risky discharges” from Auckland acute units to make room for new patients is “insane”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Clinical decisions about what care is required for an individual patient, and whether that care needs to be delivered in hospital, can be made only by the clinicians responsible for the care of that patient. However, I am advised that all discharges follow strict criteria based on clinical assessment by a discharge team.

Sue Bradford: How can community care of seriously unwell people possibly be expected to work adequately when there is nowhere to put such a person on discharge from an acute unit, except into a boarding house in west Auckland that sleeps 18 people in two houses, four caravans, and a sleep out?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In assessing the needs of a patient there are three options to clinicians in terms of care. The first is that a patient can have high-level care if that is needed and go to another unit that provides long-term rehabilitation. Second, a patient could go to a second level that is run by a non-profit organisation, with varying levels of support and clinical follow-up. If the clinicians believe that patients should have another level of care, which is a lower level of care, there are at least three different interventions. The clinicians decide what the level of care will be within the criteria set and the assessment made.

Dianne Yates: What is the basis of clinical decisions on what care is required for an individual patient discharged from an acute unit?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Decisions will be informed by best practice, including developments in care delivery in the community, and by the needs of the patient relative to those of other patients.

Hon Roger Sowry: When mental health services in Auckland have historically been under pressure, why has the Taharoto mental health unit had its beds reduced by the Minister from the planned 41 beds to now just 35?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member asked why have they been under pressure. The reason that they have been under pressure for a long time—

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not ask why they had been under pressure. I will ask my question again. I asked why, when mental health services in Auckland have been under pressure, has Taharoto mental health unit had its beds reduced by her from the planned 41 to 35.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard the question. I have heard the question a second time. I am sure that the Minister will go on to answer it.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The reason that mental health services in Auckland have been under pressure is that funding for Auckland was less than provided, for example, in the South Island, and this goes back to the days of regional health authorities. Fortunately, this Government decided to increase funding to the Auckland and Midlands areas by $12.8 million for this financial year. That will go some way towards bringing those areas up to the level of funding for the South Island. None of it is optimal, but in terms of the beds talked about by the member, the configuration of beds in Auckland is part of an overall strategy to provide what is required for Auckland, and that is a mixture of acute in-patient beds, community step-down beds, and community care. What they have not had is the correct mix of those services.

Sue Bradford: To what extent does the Minister believe that the action plan resulting from last year’s special review, which had as one key goal additional accommodation with intensive support and crisis respite services, has been achieved, given the ongoing and dangerous situation in the Waitemata District Health Board and Manukau District Health Board areas, as revealed in the New Zealand Herald this week?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As the member is aware, part of the work that would be done to address those serious problems in Auckland was to get regional coordination. The first part of that was to appoint a regional director, Derek White, whom I understand the member will meet in the very near future. He informs me that more intensive care unit beds have been opened in Auckland, there have been more packages of care, and more resources have been put in place. The situation is improving. The Mental Health Commission stated in its report in April this year: “We have made significant gains in a relatively short time. However, further gains need to be made.”

Sue Bradford: Is the Minster aware of the recent briefing held for Auckland Labour MPs by social service agencies concerning the crisis in mental health housing and support services in Auckland, and if she has not already, will she immediately adopt the recommendation of setting up a working-group from the health, housing, and welfare sectors to help speed up real solutions to the current crisis?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There are a number of issues there that relate not only to health but are intersectorial issues. and I am very supportive of different agencies working together. Intersectorial issues relate to housing, employment, and health services. I am supportive of them working together not only in Auckland but in other parts of New Zealand. However, I think Auckland will have the best opportunity to make improvements, because it already has in place coordinations across a number of sectors and particularly the health sector.

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Court Fines—Defaulters

11. MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Courts: What new technology is the Department for Courts going to use to assist fines defaulters to pay their fines?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): The department will be trialling text messaging to fines defaulters between November this year and January 2004. The trial will involve collection staff sending payment and action-day reminders by text to fine defaulters who have text-capable mobile phones. This group is predominantly male, aged between 15 and 30 years and they owe the greatest amount of overdue fines, usually drivers with licence offences. Texting those people will be a much more proactive method taken by the department.

Martin Gallagher: Why is this form of messaging expected to be successful with this group?

Hon RICK BARKER: Market research shows that a high percentage of people in the 15-30 year age group use their mobile phone as their primary communication medium. New Zealand has 2 million mobile phones, and text messaging is one of the main forms of communication. It has been described by the research as more intimate and personal than other forms of communication, and more likely to evoke a response. Some day I expect that people will be able to pay their fines by telephone.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister stand by his department’s stated strategic direction for 2000-05 “to help make New Zealand a more just and a safer place through the promotion of law-abiding behaviour by ensuring compliance with monetary orders”; if he does still stand by that statement, can he then explain to the House how a female driver can, between May 2000 and August 2003, be permitted to rack up a total of 60 traffic infringements, totalling a massive $22,712 in fines—as detailed in the court documents that I am holding—without ending up in jail?

Hon RICK BARKER: Yes, I do stand by the statement, and, yes, I do acknowledge that there is an issue about people racking up fines and there being no central place to collect them immediately. There are delays from when the fines are imposed by the police. The police try to collect fines themselves, the fines are put on to the court, and there are other authorities that can put fines on. It is an issue that I am looking at. I would hope to have an answer for the House within the next 6 months as to what we can do to improve the process.

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Airways Corporation—Wilsons Rd Primary Radar

12. SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Does he believe the decision by Airways Corporation to shut down the Wilsons Road primary radar will compromise the safety of air lanes; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): No, I do not. In any event, as Minister for State Owned Enterprises I have no responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority.

Simon Power: Can the Minister guarantee that once all the changes to Airways Corporation operations at Ohakea have taken place, the level of safety and the control of the air lanes of New Zealand will be exactly as they were before the changes; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I indicated, I have neither operational responsibility for the Airways Corporation nor—

Simon Power: Will Airways keep it?

Hon MARK BURTON: If the member wants an answer then let me answer it—nor do I have responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority, which is responsible for safety of the airways. I can assure the member that the configuration of radar for that part of the country is being managed in a manner consistent with all the secondary radar systems across New Zealand.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister seen any reports on the performance of the Airways Corporation?

Mr SPEAKER: No, that question is—

Hon MARK BURTON: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To be clear, you may have misheard my first answer. I said that I have no responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority, which is the agency that has responsibility for airways safety. This question was about the Airways Corporation, for which I do have responsibility.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance on this matter. The supplementary question was far too wide of the original question.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, is the Minister—because it is the impression he has given—not concerned about aviation safety; does he not recognise that the aviation industry and the users of that industry have the principal say as to whether there is a radar in Wilsons Road, and that it is not a State-owned enterprise or the Civil Aviation Authority that has the final determination on such an important issue?

Hon MARK BURTON: As a shareholding Minister I can assure the member that I regard the maintenance of aviation safety as being the highest possible priority. It is the Civil Aviation Authority that regularly reviews the arrangement the Airways Corporation has in place to control domestic airspace. The Airways Corporation is obliged to notify the Civil Aviation Authority of any changes it makes, and the Civil Aviation Authority has the power to act if it believes there are any safety concerns—it does not.

Simon Power: Does he have any concerns that once the Air Force’s heavy aircraft fleet—the 757s, the Hercules, and the Orions—moves to Ohakea in 2007, the safety risk posed by small aircraft with malfunctioning transponders, no transponders, or by those who have forgotten to turn their transponders on, will be unacceptable; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON: I repeat that that is a matter for civil aviation. Any member who believes that he or she has a genuine concern should raise it. I certainly would, as a member of the flying public. I assure the member—and I have been advised by my colleague the Minister of Defence—that the contract between the Airways Corporation and the Royal New Zealand Air Force has been renegotiated. The new contract provides the Royal New Zealand Air Force with the services it requires.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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