Wednesday’s Questions & Answers For Oral Answer
Wednesday’s Questions & Answers For Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS:
1. Education Act—Private Schools Conditional Integration Act
2. Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act—Review
3. Land Transport Management Bill—Policy
4. Genetically Modified Food—Labelling
5. Immigration Service—Policy
6. Corruption—Transparency International Survey
7. Supreme Court—Cross-party Support
8. Television New Zealand—Transmission Holdings Ltd
9. District Health Boards—Surgery Exclusions
10. Public Health—At-risk Population Intervention
11. Corrections, Department—Emergency Response Unit
12. Customs, Minister—Speech, Mangere
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS:
1. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee—Latin-American Countries
2. Education and Science Committee—Teacher Education
3. Primary Production Committee—Scampi Fisheries
4. Regulations Review Committee—Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 2)
6. Masterton District Council (Mountfort Trimble Foundation) Bill
7. Social Services Committee—Families Commission Bill
8. Transport and Industrial Relations Committee—Holidays (Four Weeks Annual Leave) Amendment Bill
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Education Act—Private Schools Conditional Integration Act
1. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT) to the Minister of Education: How long have schools been given to respond to the Ministry of Education paper on the Consolidation of the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act into the Education Act?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Six weeks. However, the ministry met with major education sector organisations before the discussion document and the peak bodies for those organisations involved have been involved in discussions for some time before that.
Deborah Coddington: Will the Minister deny that having overseen the closure of scores of schools in the State sector, with hundreds more State schools under review, that the real agenda of this so-called review of the integration Act is to change the legislation to allow him to start closing integrated schools and further reduce choice for parents?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister please advise the House why changes to the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act are being considered?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We need to address the issues caused by having five Acts of Parliament dealing with education provisions. This was a matter highlighted in the Daniels case in the Court of Appeal recently. We need to modernise legislation to keep up with the times. The Act was introduced for a specific reason: to protect private schools that were in danger of closing in the 1970s. All those schools have now been integrated.
Simon Power: Should schools in the independent sector be worried about this initiative, given the previous track record of this Government in trying to destroy the independent tertiary sector and the independent early childhood sector; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member should realise we are talking about integrated, not independent schools.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked a question. Was there any?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The answer is no. I was trying to explain to the slow member why.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the Minister satisfied that the fees that integrated schools are charging are for property costs only, as the law allows for, or does he believe that some schools are pushing the boundaries of the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The latter.
Deborah Coddington: Will the Minister guarantee that this review will not result in law changes allowing him to close integrated schools; if not, is this why the whole matter has been handled so stealthily?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. The member should know that publishing a document that has gone to hundreds of people around the country, if not thousands, is not doing things by stealth.
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Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act—Review
2. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Justice: What changes is he intending to make to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act and why?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): A bill will be introduced,before the House rises this year, that will make a number of changes. Most important, it will dramatically increase the penalties for producing, distributing, and possessing child pornography. This is necessary to respond to, to denounce, and to deter the proliferation of child pornography through the Internet. It represents our position of zero tolerance towards those who would exploit and degrade children for sexual purposes.
Steve Chadwick: Will the bill include measures recommended by the Government Administration Committee in regard to covert filming and hate speech?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No. Both of those things are important matters but they do not belong in censorship legislation. Covert filming should be made illegal, but it is more appropriately dealt with through privacy and criminal legislation. We have asked the Law Commission to report on that by January next year. Hate speech needs to be considered in the context of the Human Rights Act, alongside current provisions dealing with comments provoking racial hatred.
Peter Brown: Is it acceptable to have two homosexuals in charge of censorship in this country; if not, will the Minister consider replacing one or both of them in order to better reflect New Zealand society, as against Labour Party structure? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Members are entitled to ask questions in silence.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, a person’s sexual orientation. I regard that as irrelevant to the job.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister concede that had the Government acted sooner, individuals like Lower Hutt’s Kevin Edwards, who was caught with over 5,000 pictures of young boys being sexually abused, might now be doing more jail time than a mere 6 months, and does he intend to change the Act to ensure that individuals such as Mr Edwards will serve their convictions consecutively, instead of concurrently; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I guess we could say that it would have been great if we had introduced the legislation 10 years ago. We did not. We are closely following other countries that have introduced similar legislation, as a precedent. What this legislation will do is increase the penalty for the production, trading, and distribution of pornography from 1 year maximum imprisonment to 10 years—that is a tenfold increase—and for those in possession of child pornography, from a fine of $20,000 to up to 2 years’ imprisonment. They are both dramatic but, I believe, necessary increases.
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Land Transport Management Bill—Policy
3. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement on the introduction of the Land Transport Management Bill that it “represents the biggest single change to land transport in New Zealand since the current system was introduced in the late 1980s.”; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): Yes. The bill broadens the focus of the land transport management system to land transport as a whole, introduces long-term planning, and enables new funding tools in the form of tolling and public-private partnerships.
Hon Roger Sowry: If the bill is so good, why does he think that the New Zealand Automobile Association believes that the Land Transport Management Bill has “an overall effect that will be bad news for the majority of New Zealanders.”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because it is clear to me they do not understand the bill.
Hon Mark Gosche: How has the bill addressed issues raised by submitters?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The select committee has simplified the consultation requirements for organisations affected by the bill. It has included efficiency in the approval process for funding land transport activities, and it has introduced more flexibility into tolling and public-private partnership provisions, including an early conditional approval process for such schemes.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister not accept that the single largest issue facing land transport is funding, and that this bill will not do it, either by quantity, time-frame, or fairness; if he does accept that, will he tell us how exactly he will address those three areas?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I acknowledge that. That is a good point. The issue is about funding. This is the start of making some improvements. It allows for tolling and public-private partnerships, but this is only the start of the work. The Government is doing a lot of work with the Auckland region, and there will be announcements about that later, in December.
Larry Baldock: Does the legislation reported back to the House this week signal the end of the changes to the land transport system in New Zealand, or does the Minister have plans for further legislation that may address some of the ideas and concerns expressed by submitters to the select committee on the Land Transport Management Bill?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. There are other changes, potentially, in the wind. Of course, this will depend on the outcome of the work that has been done between the Government and the Auckland region, which should apply to the rest of the country. We are looking at things like debt financing and other such matters, and at other aspects relating to tolling. There are some social issues here that have to be addressed, so all these things need to be taken into account. But if an agreed programme is announced in December, as we plan, there are likely to be further changes that need to be introduced next year.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Minister stand by the answer he gave regarding this bill yesterday, when he denied that at any time he had said earlier this year that this transport bill is the cost of having the Green Party’s control over transport issues because it was the price that Labour had to pay in order to get the Green Party to support a 4c increase in the price of petrol, given the fact that Business New Zealand has sent us an email today saying that is exactly what he told them earlier this year?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The reality is that the bill has been brought forward to this House under MMP arrangements with, primarily, the support of the Green Party, and I thank it for that work. But it is very interesting that there are a number of parties in this House who want more money spend on roading and will not support the petrol tax to implement that. It is about time they start to work out that that is voodoo economics. One cannot spend more and tax less.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister gave an interesting answer in which he claimed that other parties are supporting voodoo economics. The question I actually asked him was whether it was correct, as he told business groups earlier this year, that this bill is the cost of having the Green Party control transport. That is the issue that he has not answered.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: This bill is not the cost of anything. This bill is a major step forward for the land transport system in New Zealand, and it has been worked through with the Green Party as part of the MMP arrangements, and I thank the Green Party for its support for that.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that more funding is now available for land transport than ever before, and that the $3 million allocated to walking and cycling, for example, is likely to do far more to free up congested roads—by encouraging people to leave their cars at home rather than use them for short trips—than in buying about half a kilometre of motorway?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, to both those questions. Firstly, there is more money available now for road funding, because of the support the Green Party had for increasing tax on fuel, which every other Opposition party voted against. Secondly, it is important to know that in New Zealand about 30 percent of travel by car is less than 2 kilometres, and the more we can do in getting people out of their cars and into walking and cycling will help immensely with the congestion problems in New Zealand.
Hon Roger Sowry: Given that the Minister thinks the bill is a major step forward in addressing New Zealand’s transport infrastructure, is he concerned that Business New Zealand calls the bill “a red light for road users”; the Employers and Manufacturers Association says the bill is “almost hopeless”; the Auckland City Council says the bill is “only half the toolbox”; the Automobile Association says the bill will have the “overall effect of being bad news for the majority of New Zealanders”; and the Road Transport Forum says the bill is “designed to increase the extent to which the Government can fleece road users”; if he is not concerned about all those groups’ unanimous opposition to the bill, then what is concerning him?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: With respect, many of those groups had that same attitude as the bill went into the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. The committee worked incredibly hard on it, made some very good changes, and, as a result, this bill is a better product. I also note there has been a lot of support from many of the regional mayors around the country, and I thank them for that. This is a forward-looking bill, not a backward-looking bill.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: As part of the cosy arrangement that the Minister has managed to effect with the Green Party, can he promise Green Party cyclists a following wind, and, more particularly, why does he talk about voodoo economics, when less than $1 out of every $2 that is factored for the purpose of construction, maintenance, and road safety goes towards that purpose; and what has he done about that?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, everybody likes a following wind, but, secondly, the important point that the member maybe overlooks is the fact that that system of funding in New Zealand has been in place for a long time and was not changed when that member was the Treasurer of this country.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table the 1998 Budget where we began to implement a change.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen any comments made by former British Conservative Ministers whose Governments attempted to motorway their way out of congestion, and the lessons they learnt from this?
Mr SPEAKER: This is very, very wide of the original question. The Minister can comment very briefly.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Very briefly, I have seen the comments made by a former Conservative Minister of Transport in England, who said that many transport Ministers around the world were often afflicted with “big projectitis” in promoting other forms and modes and a multimodal approach, including walking and cycling, to help with the problems of congestion in major cities, like London.
Hon Roger Sowry: Is he concerned that the Automobile Association has also said of the bill that it “opens the way for more petrol taxes to be diverted from roading”; if so, will he support a cap on the amount of money that can be spent from the Land Transport Fund on non-roading projects?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. The member still does not get it. The reality is that if we are going to fix New Zealand’s transport problems we have to look across all modes. Simply trying to motorway our way out of the problem is not going to work.
Hon Roger Sowry: When the Minister said, earlier in the House: “It was clear to me that the AA don’t understand the bill.”, was that why he rang the association, after it issued a statement criticising the Government, to berate and threaten the association, if it was ever to do that again?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. I am a very straightforward person, and I made that call because of that.
Hon Richard Prebble: I seek the leave of the House to table a document that establishes that the Minister said this bill is the cost of the Greens’ control over transport. It is an email to me from Business New Zealand, saying: “He certainly said it to us in a meeting we had with him.”
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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Genetically Modified Food—Labelling
4. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she stand by her statement yesterday that “People have a choice whether they eat GM food or not. Any GM food is labelled.”; if so, why?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes, because the statement is from my third reading speech on the legislation that came out of the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill, and I stand by all the statements in that speech.
Sue Kedgley: How can she claim that all GM food is labelled, when vast amounts of GM food that is sold in takeaways, delicatessens, and restaurants do not need to be labelled, nor does any GM food that contains unintentional levels of GM or that contains flavouring need to be labelled, and will she therefore apologise to the House for her misleading statement yesterday; if not why not.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I believe that the New Zealand consumer has choice within the bounds of reality—first of all, that the GM presence can be proven. If there is no DNA in the food, one cannot prove either that it was there or that it was not there. And within the bounds of reality, in the sense that if there is any GM presence it is less than 0.1 percent, that might be two drops of vanilla in a tub of ice-cream.
Hon Steve Maharey: Why does the Minister think that a policy offering choice to people when it comes to genetic modification is important?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Genetic modification is a new technology that offers many possible benefits, and I think it is important we ask those questions. I reject the approach of opposing every application on the basis of some ideological belief that this research is wrong.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she accept the advice of Lord Robert May, who notes that 90 percent of the world’s wheat originates from conventionally bred irradiated wheat, a very crude form of genetic modification, and does she agree that the Greens will have been happily eating such wheat and growing it on their organic farms, but that her Government will continue to succumb to their pressure on a case by case basis, without public consultation, behind closed doors?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I cannot comment on either the eating habits or the growing habits of the Greens.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister wonder about the apparent contradiction with regard to the huge concerns and fears expressed about GM food and the fact that new plant and food varieties have been consumed and enjoyed for years across this country, achieved through so-called conventional plant breeding methods that involve pollination, mutation breeding, cell selection, and induced polyploidy, which often technically achieve the same end result of a genetically modified organism?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I do see an inconsistency in picking on one production method versus others, because all foods have to undergo safety testing before they go on sale. On the other hand, people should also have the right to choose what they eat, which is what our policies of labelling are all about.
Sue Kedgley: Can she deny that the very large amount of food that is sold in restaurants, delicatessens, and takeaways does not need to be labelled, whether or not it is genetically engineered, and how can she therefore claim that people have a choice about whether or not they eat GM food, when so much of it is unlabelled, and will she therefore apologise to the House for her misleading statement; if not, why not?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I repeat the comment I made before that I believe that New Zealanders have choice within the bounds of reality. Let us look at a restaurant and talk about the bounds of reality and consider that the restaurateur putting up a new dish has to be able to say, down to 0.2 percent of the dish, which part of it is from a genetically modified ingredient. In fact, our regulations state that people have the right to ask the proprietor whether he or she can assure them that this new dish that he just put on that night contains any genetically modified ingredients and have to trust what that proprietor says.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that statements like the one she made in the House yesterday, her answers today, and her handling of the genetic engineering issue generally are one of the reasons why the Government’s poll ratings are dropping; if not, why not?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I could not possibly comment.
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5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: As Minister of Immigration, does she insist that her New Zealand Immigration Service operate on a policy of no surprises to her?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Yes, but it is probably no surprise to the member that it does not always work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is so, does the Minister consider it excusable that it took the Immigration Service 6 long months to investigate an attempt by one of her officials to obtain sexual favours from a woman applying for residency in this country, and that she only learnt about it 11 days ago; and how many other women’s dignity is she prepared to exploit due to her lack of control and knowledge and cover-up over what is happening in her own department?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Firstly, I have looked at the reasons why it took 6 months to undertake the investigation, and although we would like to think it could be done more quickly I am aware that the individual who was being investigated was absent from New Zealand for a period of time, but I would have liked to see it dealt with more quickly. Secondly, no, it is not acceptable that I did not know about it, and, thirdly, it is absolutely unacceptable that anyone approaching any Government official would be spoken to in that way.
Dianne Yates: Did the “no surprises” policy mean that the Minister was informed about allegations of corruption prior to it being reported in the media late last year, and what steps did she take as a result?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, again I was not informed. When the allegations were made I immediately referred the matter to the Minister of State Services requesting an independent inquiry into the specific allegations and into the procedures that the Immigration Service had in place for responding to allegations of corruption within its own ranks. The review and its recommendations, along with my feedback on the report, are being implemented, including a memorandum of understanding with the police.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister always the last person in this country to know, and why did she constantly and adamantly convey on the Holmes show last night that the “sex for residency” investigation, in her words, “was not a criminal matter, but a sexual harassment matter”, and today she now concedes that officials should have involved the police; can she explain the sudden change of heart in less than 24 hours, or are we to trust nothing that comes out of her mouth?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Many complaints are made against immigration officials. The New Zealand Immigration Service investigates each and every one of them. However, not all of them are genuine complaints. In cases where there is evidence of criminal offending, then the police are involved. What I have said today, after reflecting on the matter, is that the Immigration Service not so much should have referred the matter to the police, but should have concerned the police with the complaint, because it may have been possible to obtain sufficient evidence against him, which is a criminal standard of evidence rather than the civil standard that applies in an employment matter against this individual, as this has been done in cases involving bribery.
Dr Muriel Newman: Who does she hold responsible for the failure in this case to call the police, and what action has she taken to hold them to account for their decision since learning of this failure?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There has been a change in staff at the Immigration Service since this matter occurred; there is a new general manager. I cannot hold the current general manager responsible for something that occurred last year. I want to make very clear that many complaints are made against officers of the Immigration Service. As with members of Parliament, when there are complaints made about allegations of corruption, investigations have to be carried out.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that the Minister is always the last person in New Zealand to know, and was her continual refusal to treat the “sex for residency” investigation as a criminal matter another indication that she has absolutely no regard for women to be free from sexual harassment and exploitation in this country, but cares more about covering up the inadequacies and the so-called rights of, for example, the horrible fleabag who infected New Zealand women with AIDS or the rapists and con men who happily live here, even though she has been told over a long time who and what they are?
Mr SPEAKER: The question was too long, but I will let the member finish.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I should be allowed to ask a serious question of this nature without the moans and groans of people over there, namely, Ms Tizard. It is a serious matter, and I think that I should be able to ask the question in an environment where I can actually hear the question myself rather than have that groaning and moaning from so-called “femin-Nazis” over there.
Mr SPEAKER: Two wrongs do not make a right. I do not like that term being used about a member of Parliament. I would like the member to withdraw that term.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I also want to tell that member that I do not want interjections while questions are being asked.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I am not always the last to know. I have a report from my immigration officials on a regular basis identifying complaints that have been made in respect of Immigration Service staff. The difficulty in this particular case is that there was an exception in that it was not reported to me, because the reporting to me related to aspects of dishonesty. I do not believe that my officials tried to cover up for this particular set of circumstances. What I think they tried to do was find an outcome that saw this matter resolved so that this person lost his job knowing that the higher criminal standard of proof would not have been met in these circumstances.
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Corruption—Transparency International Survey
6. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Prime Minister: What is her reaction to New Zealand being ranked the third least corrupt country out of the 133 included in Transparency International’s survey on corruption, and how will she endeavour to ensure that New Zealand maintains a favourable anti-corruption ranking in the future?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): With pleasure. It is a tribute to the work over a very long period of time of central and local government politicians, central and local officials, and their independent review agencies. In any instances of inappropriate behaviour we will continue to act swiftly to ensure our reputation stays intact.
Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of that answer does the Prime Minister consider that the granting of contracts worth $2.1 million by the Ministry of Health to anti-smoking lobby groups requiring them to lobby members of Parliament to generate support for a member’s bill—the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill—will be viewed favourably or unfavourably by corruption watchdogs like Transparency International; if so, why does she come to that conclusion?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I doubt that the transparency watchdog would regard that as an instance of corruption; perhaps of inappropriate contracting. I do not think it would see an example of corruption being, say, tobacco companies buying support from political parties.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does she agree that this lobbying by smoke-free groups and the Prostitutes Collective was an inappropriate use of health dollars that crossed the line between health promotion to political lobbying, and can she assure the House that those contracts in support of Labour’s political agenda will not be continued?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding is that the lobbying of MPs was not part of the contract for the Prostitutes Collective It clearly was in the case of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and others. The responsible Minister has already addressed the issue. An inquiry is occurring to ensure that appropriate contracts are entered into in future. I note, of course, that general lobbying was part of the contracts signed previously.
Hon Ken Shirley: What specific action, if any, has the Prime Minister taken to address the public-sector corruption cases of recent weeks involving public funding of the ASH lobby and immigration officers abusing their powers attempting to gain sexual favours?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latter matter has been dealt with by the Immigration Service and the service has been dealt with by the Minister in question time. In respect of the former matter, I do not regard it as an instance of corruption, but an instance of inappropriate contracting to engage in behaviour that is not appropriate. It is much more appropriate to describe corruption as where, for example, an outside person or body is paying a sum of money to a member of Parliament to be a member of Parliament. I look forward to the declarations that all members of Parliament will be required to make under the Members of Parliament (Pecuniary Interests) Bill in that regard.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The final statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister is a slur on every MP. It is similar to the one he made earlier that you also did not pick up, suggesting that political parties are being financed by the tobacco lobby. If one looks through the accounts put in by parties at the last election, no political party said it was getting any money from tobacco lobbying. That was a straight-out slur made by the Minister to have people think that other parties were being financed by the tobacco lobby, to justify his secretly financing ASH. Now he is suggesting that there are MPs here being sponsored—unless he is referring to the well-known sponsorship by the trade union movement of certain Labour MPs.
Mr SPEAKER: The last comment made by Dr Cullen was inappropriate, and I hope that it will not be repeated. I will ask the member to withdraw.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had better withdraw for the fact that I also made that accusation in this House on three occasions in relation to Mr Hide, and he has never taken a point of order to contest it.
Mr SPEAKER: I have asked the member to withdraw. I now ask him to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw and apologise.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports that might change our ranking in the Transparency International survey—for example, whether behaviour in the House today in relation to the smoke-free legislation might be influenced by tobacco companies?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do notice that there are some rather obvious delaying tactics today. However, having been on both sides of this House, I would never describe delaying tactics in Parliament as a form of corruption.
Hon Peter Dunne: Can I take the Acting Prime Minister back to an earlier answer in which it was indicated that the particular activity is currently under investigation with respect to the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill, and in the light of that, will the Prime Minister be instructing the Leader of the House to defer consideration of that bill until such time as the inquiry has been completed; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because the Leader of the House has no power to defer the consideration of that bill. It is a member’s bill on a members’ day.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table evidence that the Labour Party took a huge sum of money from Fay Richwhite when Margaret Wilson was the president, as evidenced by David Lange’s testimony.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of the Acting Prime Minister’s last answer, will the Leader of the House discuss with the sponsor of the bill whether it would be appropriate to set this matter aside until the inquiry he referred to earlier is completed?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I take it from the reaction of members that they have been completely uninfluenced by the lobbying on behalf of the bill by members of Action of Smoking and Health, so not only was the contract inappropriate, it also appears to have been a waste of public money.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table in the House a letter from the British American Tobacco Co Ltd to Mr Peter Dunne.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection?
Hon Peter Dunne: I am quite happy for the letter to be tabled, but I would love to know what it said before I agree to the resolution.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the member could say a little bit more.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: “Dear Mr Dunne, Paul Adams has asked me to send you the enclosed £100 to help pay for your away day. I do hope you will enjoy yourselves. If at all possible I would be grateful if you could get receipts, etc. Enjoy your visit to England.” [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is the price of a McDonald’s. Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is. That is the end of the matter.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the Leader of the House might give us some indication as to whether £100 translated into New Zealand dollars would be a big enough sum to be disclosed in the Members of Parliament (Pecuniary Interests) Bill?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Paul Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just like it clarified. Paul Adams is my name, and I probably would not have £100 to start with, but I would not like members to think that reference was made to myself.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member is making it clear that this does not refer to himself, he can ask for leave to make a personal explanation. Is that what he is doing?
Paul Adams: Yes. I would like to take leave to clarify that the Paul Adams referred to in the letter that we have just heard read out by the member of the Green Party is in fact a different Paul Adams to me. I would like to make that clear at this point in time.
Hon Peter Dunne: I seek leave to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 134, “Interruption of debate”, regarding the matter that has just been tabled. This incident was in December of 1994, during the course of a private visit to Britain. I was hosted to lunch by Mr Adams, who worked for, I think it was called, Rothmans at that stage. The £100 referred to was to make sure that the cost of the lunch was covered for me and my family during a private visit. There was no other involvement, and I would contrast that with the time-honoured practice around this town, which I suspect may have occurred as recently as the most recent lunch hour, where members of Parliament are hosted to private lunches by various lobbyists. It was in that category and that category alone, and any suggestion of anything to the contrary is simply malicious and untrue.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his statement. His word will be accepted.
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Supreme Court—Cross-party Support
7. RICHARD WORTH (National—Epsom) to the Attorney-General: Will she change the appointment process of judges for the Supreme Court to allow some form of cross-party consultation; if not, why not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General): I intend to follow the practice of my predecessors and not politicise the appointment process.
Richard Worth: Would not a wise Attorney-General, conscious of her constitutional responsibilities and tasked with recommending the appointment of a bench of judges to the new Supreme Court and substantially a bench of judges to the existing Court of Appeal, see it as appropriate to secure a level of parliamentary buy-in for what are very significant appointments, and possibly for potentially long terms?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: This Attorney-General does not think appointments should be made to satisfy members of this House. What she will be doing will be following the advice that she will be given by an independent body. The Attorney-General will follow the advice that she will be given.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Minister answering on behalf of the Attorney-General or as the Attorney-General?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister changed her expression halfway through.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Parliamentary question time is not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of the public, as well. How is the public to know what is going on when someone gets up and, in a lofty tone, refers to herself in the third person, as if she were Little Richard or something?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Tim Barnett: Has the Attorney-General seen any reports on support for the proposed appointment process of judges to the Supreme Court?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. Recently members of the public were asked whether they supported the process I intend to follow—namely, that the new court be chosen by the Attorney-General on the advice of the Chief Justice, the Solicitor-General, and Sir Paul Reeves. The number who agreed with that was 41.6 percent, while 35.4 percent disagreed.
Stephen Franks: Does the Attorney-General’s advertisement last month for new High Court judges, which required them to have “knowledge of cultural and gender issues”, mean they must be cunning enough to at least pretend to share her politically correct agenda, and how will New Zealanders be assured that a failure to show the right kind of knowledge of gender issues will not disqualify applicants who think that equality before the law without regard to race, religion, gender, or status is more than an outmoded shackle of our colonial past?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Solicitor-General was responsible for advertising for expressions of interest. The procedure and criteria he follows are that which have been used in the past, and I understand that all people will be considered and appointed on merit.
Richard Worth: When the Attorney-General said, in answer to a supplementary question, that she would be “following the advice” of the advisory panel, does that mean that she will feel herself free to reject that advice if it does not suit her interests or judgment?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No.
Stephen Franks: I seek leave to table the advertisement.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that advertisement. Is there any objection? There is.
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Television New Zealand—Transmission Holdings Ltd
8. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What progress is being made on implementing the planned separation of Transmission Holdings Limited (THL) from Television New Zealand Limited in accordance with the Television New Zealand Act 2003?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): The legal separation will proceed as planned on 31 December 2003. The television and transmission businesses are already operating separately. Contrary to assertions made by Opposition members, not one cent is payable in tax to effect the separation, nor will there be any stamp duty paid.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: How are the television and transmission businesses performing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Both businesses are performing well. TVNZ has provided a greater range of programming, in line with its charter obligations; has dominated ratings; and has generated record advertising revenue. On the transmission side, Broadcast Communications Ltd is becoming a major player in the telecommunications industry through its broadband partnership with Telecom, while TVNZ (Australia) is rolling out digital terrestrial television in Australia in order to maintain its strong financial position.
Katherine Rich: What is the total cost of separating BCL Ltd from TVNZ to create Transmission Holdings Ltd?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I cannot give the member that information, as I did not bring the total costs with me. It has not been done yet in full because we are, of course, waiting until December. At the moment there are some costs incurred around this, and in December I will be able to give the member that figure.
Sue Kedgley: Given the loss of revenue to TVNZ that will occur when BCL Ltd splits off into a separate State-owned enterprise, why is the Government seeking a dividend of $7.848 million from TVNZ, instead of allowing the company to reinvest that money into programmes?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There is, of course, no loss of revenue. These two companies are still answerable to the Government, and Transmission Holdings Ltd, as it will be called, will be paying money back to the Government. TVNZ itself is in fact running extremely well—as members know—from record advertising revenue coming in. It has made the choice to reinvest some of that back into the company at this time, and to pay the dividend announced to the Government. We have agreed with that.
Katherine Rich: Was it the Minister or his officials who forgot about the potential capital gains tax implications of separating BCL Ltd from TVNZ, in light of the fact that these potential costs were flagged by Arthur Andersen in a 2001 report?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No one forgot. Officials raised this, as we said in the House at the time. During the process of separation it seemed wise for us to take advice on this matter. I want to say to the member, who was one of those who thought the figure would be as high as $20 million, I think, she said at one point, that we are not paying one single cent.
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District Health Boards—Surgery Exclusions
9. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government’s policy regarding a district health board’s ability to practise blanket exclusion of certain surgical procedures?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: District health boards were reminded earlier this year that Government policy does not—
Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to interrupt the Minister, but there is something wrong with that microphone and we cannot hear a word she is saying.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could say a couple more words.
Hon RUTH DYSON: I happy to, until the microphone starts working.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister could move down to the front seat.
Gerry Brownlee: There is a nice one down the front there.
Hon RUTH DYSON: That member might be after the leader’s job, but I am not.
Mr SPEAKER: When a technical difficulty like that occurs we just have to make the best of it.
Hon RUTH DYSON: District health boards were reminded earlier this year that Government policy does not allow for blanket exclusion of surgical procedures. The decision to establish a priority booking system for surgical procedures was made in 1996. That system requires that regardless of the procedure, if a person’s need is high enough the procedure should be carried out.
Dr Lynda Scott: How are frustrated and angry general practitioners supposed to care for patients they know need surgery for symptomatic hernias, when this Minister continues to make misleading statements that deny blanket rationing of services are occurring, while at the same time, every general practitioner in Waikato has been told they cannot refer hernia patients for even a first specialist assessment?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The member knows that is not correct and that if the person meets the criteria the procedure will be carried out.
Dave Hereora: Are hernia procedures still being carried out; if so, how many are being done at the Waikato District Health Board?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes. Hernia operations are being done. Waikato has actually increased the numbers since 1998-99, from 468 per year to 557 in the 2001-02 year.
Pita Paraone: Notwithstanding her reply to the primary question, is it her policy to have the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board practise blanket exclusion by requiring Napier residents to go to Hastings for surgical and other health services; if not, why is there the determination to remove the last remnants of a once-proud health service in that city by not supporting the retention of the old hospital site and buildings?
Hon RUTH DYSON: While not all surgical procedures need to be undertaken in a hospital, generally it is preferable that patients travel to a hospital to have the procedure done.
Heather Roy: In relation to the funding of health board surgical procedures, can the Minister deny that the planned August deficit of half a million dollars for district health boards, actually blew out to a deficit of $5.7 million; and what guarantee can she give that she will not deliver another blowout to over $100 million for the year, as has happened in each of the last 2 years?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I am not able to confirm that.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why has the Waikato District Health Board publicly stated that it has been performing elective hernia operations, when its chief executive officer has admitted that outpatient clinics can no longer afford to accept referrals for hernia repair; and exactly who is running the health service, the Minister or the boards?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I repeat that district health boards have been reminded that it is Government policy not to have blanket exclusion of any surgical procedures. The system—as I outlined in answer to the primary question—is that regardless of the procedure, if a person’s need is high, the procedure should be carried out.
Dr Lynda Scott: Who are New Zealand patients to believe—a Minister saying there is no blanket ban on hernia surgery, or a board saying it cannot afford to see patients, let alone operate on them; and why are these patients caught like piggy in the middle, with the only certainty being that they will not get surgery?
Hon RUTH DYSON: If members of the public are considering which version they prefer to believe—the story from the member or from the Minister of Health—I would strongly recommend the Minister of Health.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a letter from Jan White, the Chief Executive Officer of the Waikato District Health Board, which states: “I regret that we are no longer able to provide you and your patients with the treatment you desire”. This referred to a hernia patient.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a letter from the Minister stating that district health boards should not adopt blanket surgical policies of this sort.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a letter from Mr Dennis Whittle,
regional clinical director of general surgery, which states that only 42 elective inguinal hernia repairs have been done in the last 12 months. The patients were on the list and the board felt obliged to honour that commitment, but it will not do any more.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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Public Health—At-risk Population Intervention
10. MAHARA OKEROA (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Sport and Recreation: What is the Government currently doing to ensure at-risk population groups are effectively targeted through physical activity interventions?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Sport and Recreation): Sport and Recreation New Zealand is undertaking a major survey on the physical activity and eating habits of New Zealanders. The research moves beyond just documenting the physical activity and nutrition habits of New Zealanders, and focuses on why people do or do not engage in specific behaviours.
Mahara Okeroa: Why is the promotion of physical activity critical?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and diabetes, and has mental health benefits. In New Zealand, physical inactivity is associated with up to 3,000 premature deaths per year, coming close to smoking and poor nutrition as a modifiable risk factor for poor health. That is five times higher than the road toll. That is why I welcome additional physical activity by New Zealanders, and I want to ask Mr Peters whether it is true that John Kirwan has given him a phone call.
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Corrections, Department—Emergency Response Unit
11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his reported comments that he was comfortable with a focused inquiry on the controversial former emergency response unit known as the goon squad; if so, will he instigate an independent inquiry by the State Services Commission into the Corrections Department’s handling of the goon squad affair?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): I stand by my comments that I was comfortable about a tightly focused inquiry, but went off the idea of a select committee inquiry once I heard members of the Opposition using this as a political platform to attack the public prison service. However, I am currently considering whether there should be a further investigation of some sort. If that member has any new information on the matter, I encourage him to bring it forward. This will help me in my deliberations.
Ron Mark: On that basis would the Minister be interested in evidence from a prison officer that alcohol confiscated by the emergency response unit was drunk at various emergency response unit parties, including at Mr Smith’s own home; that drugs that were confiscated from visitors to the prison simply disappeared and were never found again; that time sheets were falsified, costing the department thousands of dollars, that some prison officers in the emergency response unit refused to take part in what they considered were illegal operations in Dunedin, and have suffered the consequences since then in terms of their employment—
Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.
RON MARK: One more.
Mr SPEAKER: One more.
RON MARK: —and that some prison officers were presented with affidavits regarding the death of David Rewi Haimoana that they were required to sign and refused to sign because they contained falsities?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I would be surprised if those allegations had not been looked into, certainly in the reports that I have seen. But if the member wants to bring them forward formally to me, with the evidence that goes with it, then this is a good time to be doing it, as we consider the options that we should take.
Georgina Beyer: What should be done by anyone who has any further information on the activities on the now defunct emergency response unit?
Opposition Members: He just said it!
Hon PAUL SWAIN: They should not pre-guess. As I have already said, people can contact me, or they can forward any such information to an outside agency, like the State Services Commission, the Ombudsman, or the Controller and Auditor-General This information could be passed on under the Protected Disclosures Act 2000, which provides protection to whistle-blowers.
Gerry Brownlee: In the light of the revelations from Mr Mark today that many of those involved in this sad incident have come under all sorts of personal pressure to shut up and say nothing, will the Minister give the House an assurance that should evidence come forward from prison officers it could be done on the basis of no prejudice, so that their careers are not wrecked and that they are no longer subject to the sort of internal bullying that appears to be going on in this case?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have heard those allegations before about bullying, and they have been investigated. The vast majority, as I understand, have been declined. What I will say to the member, though, is that if information comes forward, with evidence to back it up, then I give that member the assurance that the people that bring it forward will be protected and their careers will not be affected.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister give his reasons behind his Government’s refusal to allow the Law and Order Committee to conduct an inquiry into the activities of the goon squad, and do any of these concern the integrity of the Department of Corrections at a time when we are discussing the private management of prisons—the closing of them for ideological reasons—and given that there is a demand for a full and public accounting of the activities of the goon squad why is the Minister seemingly complicit in protecting the shenanigans of a Government department?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, it has actually nothing to do with the bill. This was a call for an inquiry—I think, made by that member. I thought that member made it in good faith, and he had the courtesy to come and talk to me about it. The major reason why I went off the idea was when I heard members of the Opposition try to use it an opportunity to attack our public prison service. I object to that.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have sat and listened to that spin line, and we are at the point now where I am going to seek your assistance, because I and that Minister are fully aware of a private conversation between him and me, where I gave him an absolute assurance that that would not happen, and, by continuing to say that, he is misleading this House, and deliberately so. Also, he is aware that 3 years previously, I had gone to the office of the Minister of Corrections personally and in a closed-door session sought such an independent inquiry.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
RON MARK: For him to continue that line is to mislead, to deceive, and to lie.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not having any further comment. That is not a point of order, but the member made the point he wanted to make, and that is all right. I just want to say that had I thought the Minister was referring to him in particular, or anything like that, I would have jumped on it—immediately. The Minister referred to—[Interruption] He did not actually mention Mr Mark, did he?
Ron Mark: He said “that member” looking directly at me, and numerous times publicly he has stated me.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought he said “members”. If the member gives me that assurance, I will accept it.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I said “members”, but the point that I have referred to in previous answers in this House was that member’s specific public appearances on television and on radio, where he has publicly attacked the prison service of New Zealand. That is not the excuse, in my view, to do an inquiry into this. If there is another method, or if there is new information, then we can look into it, but—but—I have given him the reason why we decided we were not going down that track.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance on this matter. The member has a perfect right to say what he likes in this House on that particular issue, and the member has a perfect right to appear on television and elsewhere. That does not in any way influence what happens in question time in this way, and I do not think Mr Mark was committing any offence at that point.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just heard the Minster repeat an alarming statement. I thought that select committees in this Parliament were their own masters, and that when they have been authorised by Parliament they are subject to Parliament’s direction as to their terms of reference, times of sittings, and those matters. For a Minister to say that he is against a select committee inquiry, that he went off the idea, and that we would decide—namely, his Cabinet colleagues—is a serious challenge to the proper functioning of this Parliament and its select committees.
Mr SPEAKER: Just a moment. Just as Mr Mark is entitled to his opinion, the Minister is entitled to his, too. He can make that comment. That, however, does not mean the select committee has to take any notice of it.
Since last week’s question to the Minister, has he seen the allegations made by prisoner officers that the reason the Emergency Response Unit bosses—Smith, Kelly, and Bird—were not fired is that lies were told in the hostage-taking situation in 1997, and that quote: “everybody had … on each other, so there was no way Tony Bird was ever going to be fired, because he would have turned around and blown the gaff on everyone, and Smith knew stuff. Smith had it all over Tony Bird, and Bird had it all over Rushton”; and are those allegations alone not sufficient cause for the Minister, in the order of protecting the integrity of the department, to order a totally, absolutely independent inquiry into the goon squad?
Hon PAUL SWAIN:
The first point is that those allegations were made in 1997—2 years before the goon squad was established. Secondly, those allegations have been investigated. I am happy to table the formal response from the department, and for the member to have a look at it. If he has further concerns he should take them up with me. I seek leave to table the response to the allegations that were raised in the House last week.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Ron Mark: Given that those allegations implicate the very people who manage the Department of Corrections in Canterbury and the department here, at the highest level, why would the Minister place any credibility, at all, on an explanation given to him by those very same people, which, some would say, was an attempt to cover their own backsides?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: A huge number of allegations have been made in this House, and elsewhere, about these issues. Those allegations have been investigated, but it is not the first time that member has made allegations in this House that have been proved to be utterly false.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. These particular allegations have not been investigated. I seek leave to table a report in the Investigate magazine, dated September this year, which outlines the whole sorry affair.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister concluded his statement, in his last answer, by saying: “it is not the first time that member has made allegations in this House that have been proved to be utterly false”. That is not true. It should not be forming part of his answer, but, worst of all, it is not true. So he should be asked to desist from that line of answer, or put up or shut up.
Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister said the member was doing it deliberately, of course, it would be out of order. I did not hear the word “deliberately” used.
Ron Mark: I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker. The Minister in his answer stated that these allegations had been investigated. As far as I, and anyone else in the House, am aware, this report was made public only in September this year. There has been no investigation of this matter. The—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member sought my advice: that is not really a point of order.
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Customs, Minister—Speech, Mangere
12. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Customs: Does he stand by comments he made yesterday in a speech to Customs personnel in Mangere, Auckland; if so, why?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): Yes, because Customs staff are achieving excellent results in detecting and seizing illegal imports of drugs and precursor chemicals. Their efforts deserve every congratulatory comment I made in my speech yesterday, and I believe of every member in this House.
Hon Tony Ryall: What sort of “soft on drugs Government” is this, when this Minister lists his concern about the effect P is having on tourism, ahead of the insidious effect this drug is having on child abuse, domestic violence, and murder rates in this country; and how can we take him seriously when he thinks tourism is more important than the effect P is having on New Zealand families?
Hon RICK BARKER: The member can take it out of context, any which way he likes. This Government has a methamphetamine action plan. This Government has increased the category of methamphetamine from a class C drug to a class A drug. This Government has taken action. That is completely different from the previous Government, which, despite requests by the police for the Customs Service to take action, did nothing.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Does the Customs Service have sufficient staff to deal with the current drug problem?
Hon RICK BARKER: The Labour-Progressive Government is increasing the number of Customs staff, at a cost, in the last Budget, of $1.9 million. I had the pleasure yesterday of inducting 11 new Customs drug staff, and there are five more to come, which brings the number of Customs drug investigators back to about where it was before it was cut by the previous National Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked by his own colleague, and, no doubt, he prepared the question, as to whether Customs had sufficient staff. That is what he was asked. He made no attempt to answer it. He just gave us a diatribe on what there was now, as opposed to what there was in the past.
Mr SPEAKER: This is one occasion on which I agree with the member. He was asked whether there were sufficient staff, and that should be relatively easy to answer.
Hon RICK BARKER: We have increased the staff to the maximum level we are capable of at this stage.
Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked whether there were sufficient staff.
Hon RICK BARKER: I said that we have increased staff to the maximum we are capable of absorbing at this stage. Whether or not that is sufficient, is a moot point, but we simply cannot increase the staff any faster.
Keith Locke: Does Custom’s reliance on analysis from overseas agencies, as the Minister mentioned in his speech yesterday, lead to serious mistakes when Customs strays into the political arena, as demonstrated in the Refugee Status Appeals Authority’s determination in the Ahmed Zaoui case, where the authority criticised the Customs officer who interviewed Ahmed Zaoui at the airport for wrongly claiming that Mr Zaoui was a member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, or “GIA”?
Mr SPEAKER: That is getting far too wide of the original question.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked whether he stood by the comments he made yesterday in his speech.
Keith Locke: Yes, but the original question related to the Minister’s speech yesterday. It was in general terms. This relates to something that was in the Minister’s speech.
Mr SPEAKER: But this is a customs matter, not an immigration matter.
Keith Locke: Well, this is to do with customs. I am talking about what the Minister of—
Mr SPEAKER: Now the member is irritating me slightly. I have ruled the question out.
Hon Matt Robson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point made by Mr Locke asked whether it was in the Refugee Status Appeals Authority finding on Ahmed Zaoui that the Customs Service was heavily criticised for its treatment and breach of the rights of Mr Ahmed Zaoui. In my opinion, Mr Speaker—and I am asking you to reflect on it—the Minister of Customs and the Customs Service were implicated in the issue that Mr Locke has raised.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to be ungenerous to the member. I will allow the Minister to comment on the issue.
Hon RICK BARKER: I do not accept that member’s assertion that the Customs Service acts politically; it does not. And I do not accept the findings that said that the Customs Service was acting as on an immigration basis. At the time, the Customs Service was asked its questions under the Customs and Excise Act, which it is perfectly entitled to do.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to interrupt the flow of questions, but there seems to be something wrong with the amplification system. The voices of various people, when they speak, are coming through distorted, and perhaps you can have someone look at that.
Mr SPEAKER: I am having a look at this matter.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the Minister’s answers relating to methamphetamines, what is his response to comments in this month’s Police Association News that describe the commitment by his Government to controlling the $400 million a year gang-controlled methamphetamine crime industry as totally inadequate “petty cash” and “chicken feed”?
Hon RICK BARKER: I cannot agree with that, at all. I say to the member and to this House that the Customs Service this year put up a request for a budget bid of $1.9 million. That was the maximum it thought it could handle. The Government gave it exactly what it asked for, and we are implementing the plan. We have seen a 300 percent increase in the seizures of methamphetamine at the border. We have seen the seizure of 7 kilograms of cocaine at the border, and other seizures will be announced shortly. The Customs Service is doing an excellent job.
Hon Tony Ryall: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: No, there are no further supplementary questions from the National Party today.
Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On our calculations, Mr Ryall is entitled to another question. He has had his primary question, plus one supplementary question. There should be another supplementary question available for Mr Ryall.
Mr SPEAKER: The National Party has 16 allocated for today.
Lindsay Tisch: That is correct, and we have taken only 15.
Mr SPEAKER: The information I have from my assistant—but I take responsibility for this—is 15. But, I will be reasonable.
Hon Tony Ryall: How does he explain the responses in this House previously that the Government is doing everything it can to deal with the methamphetamine epidemic in New Zealand with his pledge made yesterday to try to accelerate the progress of the Government’s methamphetamine plan, when Jim Anderton, the head of the ministerial committee on drugs, told the public on television recently that this is not the kind of crisis that people are making it out to be?
Hon RICK BARKER: As the Customs Service and other agencies observed on the actions and activities of those who seek to import illicit drugs into this country, we notice a change in their behaviour. We have to therefore adapt our tactics, our strategy, and our law to help deal with that increase in supply of drugs into this country. I am very proud of the action we have taken thus far to date.
Mr SPEAKER: The answer was too long.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a couple of documents, a document that is a transcript of an interview of prison officer Nigel French by Maureen Love and Barry_____
dated 13 September 2000.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I distinctly saw the Minister shake his head and say “No”, whilst his learned colleague said “Yes”.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard a “No” said quite clearly, and that is the end of the matter. Please seek leave for the tabling of the other document.
Ron Mark: The other document--[Interruption] The Minister asked for information. I am attempting to give that. He is now denying it, so I will not bother. I will put it out in the media.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
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Question No. 1 to Member
PAUL ADAMS (United Future): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is rather by way of clarification. We have had questions to Ministers and now are about to have questions to members. Could you clarify for me whether the format is the same. Do we ask questions of the member as though we were asking them of a Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I usually allow the member who asks the substantive question to ask the supplementary question.
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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee—Latin-American Countries
1. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: When does he expect the committee to report back on its inquiry into New Zealand’s political, economic, trade and cultural relationship with Latin American countries?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee): As chair, the question of when the committee reports back is not one for me to determine, but for the whole committee to resolve at a time when the inquiry has been completed.
Paul Adams: What were the terms of reference for the inquiry, and why were those particular terms of reference chosen?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The terms of reference are quite wide reaching and in effect allow us to inquire into all aspects of the political, economic, trade, and culture relationship with the countries of Latin America. They were chosen after consultation with members of the business community, and after discussion with the Latin American ambassadors in New Zealand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but they were ultimately adopted by the committee. They have been interpreted in such a way to allow the widest possible inquiry into all aspects of this issue.
Dail Jones: As a member who attends the trade section of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee—and I am saying that because of any personal interest that might be raised as a result of this question in terms of the Standing Orders—in view of the fact that this is an inquiry into Latin American trade, and there seems to be some difficulties in getting more information in New Zealand, what possibility is there of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee travelling to South America to be fully briefed on the issues involved?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister cannot answer that question.
Hon PETER DUNNE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As the member pointed out, he is actually someone who attends the committee, and this issue has been one that we have discussed and raised with the Clerk’s Office. I submit to you that it is perfectly proper for me as the chair to answer to the House what actions we have taken in that respect.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the question.
Hon PETER DUNNE: As I indicated previously, the issue has been discussed within the select committee. There is a feeling that it would be beneficial for members of the committee to conduct the inquiry to some extent in person rather than at long distance. The difficulty that we actually have is that at the moment the rules for travel preclude travel for select committees to destinations other than Australia.
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Education and Science Committee—Teacher Education
2. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee: How long has the committee spent on its inquiry into teacher education?
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee): The committee has spent 11 hours 3 minutes hearing evidence during its inquiry into teacher education, and 1 hour 17 minutes in consideration—that is, a subtotal thus far of 12 hours 20 minutes.
Bernie Ogilvy: When does the chairman expect that the committee will be ready to report back to the House on this inquiry in light of the fact that the inquiry into decile funding for State and integrated schools has already taken some time?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY: The precise answer to that question is when it is finished. The committee has set no deadline for the completion of its inquiry, recognising the complexity of the issues before it.
Simon Power: Will the Education and Science Committee be calling for more evidence in its inquiry into teacher education; if not, why not?
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY: Yes. As occasions arise the committee has the capacity within its own right to be able to call upon more evidence, and has already taken the opportunity to do so.
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Primary Production Committee—Scampi Fisheries
3. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Chairperson of the Primary Production Committee: When does the committee intend to report back on its inquiry into the administration and management of New Zealand’s scampi fishery?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Chairperson of the Primary Production Committee): A very conscientious committee is working through a large amount of information. This is a substantial inquiry, and I am confident that the committee will report a credible and worthwhile report when deliberations are completed.
Larry Baldock: Will the committee’s report on the inquiry into the administration and management of New Zealand’s scampi industry now take top priority on the committee’s agenda in light of the absence of legislation currently before the committee?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter for the committee to decide, not the chairperson.
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Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 2)
4. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Chairperson of the Regulations Review Committee: How many submissions have been received to date on the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 2)?
RICHARD WORTH (Chairperson of the Regulations Review Committee): The committee has received five submissions on the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 2).
Gordon Copeland: In light of his answer to the primary question, can the chairman tell the House when public submissions to the bill will close?
RICHARD WORTH: Submissions closed on the bill on 26 September 2003.
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Question No. 5 to Member
Mr SPEAKER: This question is deferred automatically because Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith has leave from the House today and it will be asked tomorrow.
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Masterton District Council (Mountfort Trimble Foundation) Bill
6. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to Georgina Beyer (Member in charge of Local Bill): Why has she sought to postpone the second reading of the Masterton District Council (Montfort Trimble Foundation) Bill under Standing Order 71(1)(b)?
GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa): In answer to the member, it was in order to assist progress on the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill.
Hon Peter Dunne: In making that trade-off, did the member consult the district council to obtain its approval, or was she acting as a result of discussion with the whips of her own party?
GEORGINA BEYER: I had an informal conversation with the Mayor of Masterton District Council about my intention to defer the second reading of the bill until 5 November, and subsequently left a telephone message for him when I had, in fact, sought that approval from the Clerk of the House.
Jim Peters: Why should the good people of Masterton await further time when the bill has been considered by the select committee, submissions heard, and the final mind of the committee made known, merely because of a political device?
GEORGINA BEYER: I understand that according to the Standing Order quoted by the original questioner I have the privilege in this House to make that decision as a member in charge of a local bill.
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Social Services Committee—Families Commission Bill
7. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: When will the committee report back on the Families Commission Bill?
GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa): I am pleased to inform the deputy chair of the Social Services Committee that the bill is due to be reported by 12 November.
Dr Muriel Newman: Will the Families Commission Bill be reported back to the House earlier than originally scheduled; if so, why?
GEORGINA BEYER: I understand that that would be a decision for the committee to make. However, in my view that is entirely possible.
Katherine Rich: How many submissions objected to the wide definition of a family group used in the bill?
GEORGINA BEYER: I am unable to answer that question precisely. I do not have that information here. However, I can inform the member that the Social Services Committee received 58 written submissions on the Families Commission Bill; submitters that we heard gave most support to the Families Commission’s role of advocacy and increasing public awareness of matters relating to the interests of families. Some submitters liked the bill’s inclusive approach to New Zealand families in recognition of the diversion of families. Submitters also supported the research of the role of the Families Commission. To answer that member’s question, I would be happy to enlighten her at a meeting of the Social Services Commission, of which she is a member, tomorrow.
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Transport and Industrial
Holidays (Four Weeks Annual Leave) Amendment Bill
8. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee: When will the committee report back on the Holidays (Four Weeks Annual Leave) Amendment Bill?
Hon MARK GOSCHE (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee is required to report back to the House on this bill by 1 December 2003.
Deborah Coddington: Has this report back date been extended; if so, why?
Hon MARK GOSCHE: As I became the chairman only on Thursday, I am not aware of any extensions. That member has been on the committee longer than me, she should know.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
transcript—subject to correction and further