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Tuesday¡¯s Questions & Answers for Oral Answer

TUESDAY¡¯s Questions & Answers for Oral Answer, 21 OCTOBER 2003

(uncorrected transcript¡ªsubject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers:

1. United States¡ªPrime Minister's Meeting with President

2. Burrows Family¡ªDepartment of Child, Youth and Family Services

3. Community Service¡ªAttendance

4. APEC¡ªNew Zealand Trade

5. Genetically Modified Sweetcorn¡ªTest Results

6. Burrows Family¡ªDepartment of Child, Youth and Family Services

7. World Heritage Committee¡ªMembership

8. Emergency Response Unit¡ªInternal Investigation

9. Employment¡ªAt-risk Young People

10. Foreshore and Seabed¡ªM¨¡ori Land Court

11. Algerian Refugee¡ªSecurity Risk Certificate

12. Small Business Advisory Group¡ªBenefits

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United States¡ªPrime Minister's Meeting with President

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Did she raise with President George W Bush, during their 12 minute pull-aside in Bangkok, the speech on United States - New Zealand relations prepared by the United States Ambassador Swindells for delivery at Victoria University earlier this month; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): No, because there was no reason to.

Hon Bill English: Noting that President Bush has said he wishes to complete a free-trade agreement with Australia by Christmas, is the Prime Minister aware of the serious costs to New Zealand if that occurs, and can she tell the House what those problems are?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The best information, firstly, is that the economic benefit to Australia is relatively small¡ªthat is the official Australian analysis. Secondly, it is unlikely to get any rapid access for agricultural products, particularly beef. Thirdly, there may be some investment diversion but, fourthly, in so far as there is any benefit to Australia, as our largest trading partner, some benefit will flow on to New Zealand.

David Benson-Pope: Did the Prime Minister discuss with the President of the United States the ¡°neither confirm nor deny¡± policy on nuclear ships?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The United States policy on this issue is well established, and is unlikely to change in response to calls from the leader of a minor party in a small country.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does she think that, on reflection, perhaps she and her Government are reading a wee bit too much into the significance of the 12-minute pull-aside, in view of the fact that all APEC leaders had at least 12 minutes with President Bush and that a long string of APEC countries received flattering comments from the President, immediately prior to that meeting?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is not attempting to make too much of the meeting, but the meeting was a very friendly one and President Bush continued to make very friendly comments about New Zealand, including our contribution to the war on terrorism.

Hon Matt Robson: Did the Prime Minister suggest during her meeting that New Zealand would surrender its nuclear policy, as has been suggested we should by some political parties in this Parliament?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because in part the President might well have asked for further information about the views of various political parties. It would have taken far too long to explain the differing views of the National Party on this issue.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that one political party in this House¡ªnamely, the Progressives¡ªis so beset on its roller coaster to oblivion that it is painting other parties¡¯ policies on the question of nuclear-capable, nuclear-powered ship visits in a totally maliciously false light?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister cannot answer a question about what another party is doing. That is up to the other party¡ª[Interruption]

Hon Bill English: Point of order¡ª

Mr SPEAKER: I just want to reflect for a moment. Perhaps the member could repeat the question. I think we can actually have it in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Bearing in mind that the Progressive party is a part of the Government, is the Prime Minister aware that a political party on the roller coaster to political oblivion is so beset with its journey that it is now painting other political parties in this House, on the question of nuclear-capable, nuclear-powered ships, in a totally false light, ¨¤ la Mr Robson¡¯s latest newsletter?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because it would be impossible to misrepresent the National Party¡¯s position. It has had so many that any possible statement must be true.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think the Prime Minister answered the question. Winston Peters¡¯ question was about the way that New Zealand First¡¯s position has been misrepresented by Mr Robson¡ªnothing to do with the National Party, whatsoever.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the member mention his own party, but if he was doing that, perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister could make a brief comment.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I am not aware of that. I am aware that New Zealand First has consistently stood in favour of the ban on nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed ships.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell us what benefits New Zealand has derived from her warm, open, friendly, and insulting relationship with the US, apart from photos and headlines, that could conceivably bear any relation to the contribution New Zealand has made with its significant troop commitments on the other side of the world; and when is she going to have something to show for all the grovelling?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand has committed itself in support of the reconstruction of Iraq and against the issue of terrorism, not in order to grovel¡ªalthough that is an interesting indication of why the member might do such a thing¡ªbut because it is the right thing to do.

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Question No. 2 to Minister

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call question No. 2, I am advised by the Minister that she has a slightly longer answer than usual, and I will take that into account with supplementary questions.

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Burrows Family¡ªDepartment of Child, Youth and Family Services

2. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Does she stand by her initial response to written question No. 9993 that contact between the Cremen-Burrows family and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services ¡°has been largely historic and was with various members of the family and extended family¡±, and her initial response to written question No. 9723 that ¡°None of the previous contact has been related to the care and protection of Coral or her brother Storm.¡±; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): No. Neither of my written responses to those questions was correct, and they have subsequently been corrected. I understand since lodging the answers originally that Mr Burrows made a further contact with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services on 21 January this year. His call was received but was not classified by the recipient of the call as a notification. A notification is a phone call to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services call centre that requires further investigation. As a result of information about this call, an independent investigation has now been announced into whether the department¡¯s system for recording telephone calls is adequate, whether Mr Burrows¡¯ call was dealt with appropriately, and how any issues arising can be addressed in the future. The findings of this inquiry will be made public.

Judy Turner: Why were details such as the 21-minute telephone call to the department 21 January by Coral¡¯s father only disclosed in the Minister¡¯s follow-up answer to a written question, and does the department always need an entire month to locate the records of important and lengthy telephone calls?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Part of the terms of reference of the independent investigation will cover the very questions that the member has asked in her supplementary question. The originating call was not recorded because it was not considered to require further investigation, so it is not on a database. One of the questions that the investigation will cover is whether the non-logging of calls that are not then escalated to an investigation is appropriate.

Georgina Beyer: What steps have been taken to assure the public that they can have confidence in the department¡¯s ability to provide care and protection for our children and young people?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The reason that I have welcomed the chief executive of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services announcing the independent investigation is for precisely that reason, so that the public can have confidence in the department¡¯s ability to provide care and protection for our children and young people.

Katherine Rich: In light of the Minister¡¯s comments that the call was not recorded as a notification, how does she reconcile that comment with one made by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services spokeswoman that ¡°Any concerns¡±¡ªnot some concerns¡ª¡°reported to the centre about the well-being of children are treated as notifications, then recorded, and investigated¡±?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The social worker who receives the call at the call centre makes a professional judgment about whether the concerns raised require further investigation. In the case of Mr Burrows¡¯ call, that professional judgment was that no further investigation was required.

Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked how the Minister reconciled her comments with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services spokeswoman¡¯s specific comment that any call to Department of Child, Youth and Family Services was treated as a notification¡ªnot some, but any call.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister did address that part of the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is it possible that a 21-minute call that dealt with a man called Williams, who has 91 convictions for violent assault and all manner of mayhem, which are brought to the attention of the department, did not graduate to being a notification of the matter; what sort of a department is she running when that matter is put aside as being of no importance, whatsoever?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am not aware of the content of the phone call, or whether any assaults or particular allegations were made about the man who is now subsequently facing the charge of murdering Coral Burrows. That is part of what the investigation will determine.

Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the overwhelming failure of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services in this tragic case, and the attempted cover-up, will the Minister support a select committee inquiry into the operation of this department, which has had a record 17.5 percent turnover of social work staff and a record 89 percent increase in open cases to 24,895 under her Government¡¯s stewardship, and if she will not support that sort of inquiry, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In my view the credibility of the independent investigation into the specifics of this call, how it was handled, and whether our process for recording calls and logging notifications within the department are satisfactory will bring us all, as parliamentarians, the information that we require to then assess what future changes may need to be made. I would be very happy to come to the select committee at the invitation of the select committee to discuss this issue after the findings of the inquiry have been public.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister taking any steps prior to the reporting back of the investigation to ensure that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services staff who take calls have both enough life experience and sufficient professional training to be able to detect to at least some degree of accuracy which callers are likely to be genuine and when the subject of the call is serious?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As the member will know, we have taken considerable steps over the last few years to ensure the increased professionalism of social workers, including the recent introduction of the registration process. That on its own will not produce the results that the member wants, but it is a significant contribution towards that. Any other findings that are discovered by the independent investigation will be made public and will be acted on.

Judy Turner: Can the Minister explain why an inquiry into whether Mr Burrows¡¯ telephone call was dealt with appropriately, and into whether the department¡¯s system for recording and actioning telephone calls is effective, is required, considering that an evaluation of the Department of the Child, Youth and Family Services call centre was commissioned in 2001, or were the results of the previous evaluation never implemented properly?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, that is the case. A previous investigation into the operations of the call centre was made. In my view, obviously it has not uncovered all the issues. This is one that was not picked up adequately during that review, and that is why we are having an independent investigation.

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain how a tearful father can ring the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, talk about concerns for his kids¡¯ safety and their behavioural problems, talk about heartbreaking things like a little girl soiling herself due to distress, and talk for 21 minutes and not one note be made, and that not be deemed a notification?

Hon RUTH DYSON: It is not clear at this stage that no notes were taken of the call. It will be up to the independent investigation to determine the appropriateness of the notification. I think it would be quite irresponsible of me to determine whether that case was dealt with appropriately upon the call because I have heard only one side of the conversation.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that an inquiry such as the one regarding the Burrows case was inevitable, and will continue to be inevitable, while the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services continues to operate under the pressure of mounting systemic problems such as gross underfunding, high staff turnover, problems with retaining experienced staff, and difficulties with providing a timely response to the cases until they are of extreme urgency?

Hon RUTH DYSON: One of the reasons that the Government agreed to undertaken a first principles baseline review when asked by the department in December last year was to look at those very issues. When the department was originally set up by the National Party, immediately prior to the 1999 election, it was significantly underfunded and clearly lacked the infrastructure that it needed in order to bring two major departments together and deliver adequately, and¡ª[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is enough interjecting on this question. I want the answer finished.

Hon RUTH DYSON: In my view, the findings of the baseline review reflect that original neglect, and I am delighted that our Government has now the opportunity to finally put it right.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope the House is not going to operate according to rules that state that answers to questions can include the implication that the National Party is to blame for Coral Burrows¡¯ death and that the Minister has no responsibility for her own department. Of course that will be greeted with interjections, because that is objectionable. This Minister answers questions here precisely because she has the portfolio responsibilities, as she has had for over 4 years. To then create disorder by accusing the Opposition of being responsible for the bad behaviour of her department will lead to interjections.

Mr SPEAKER: Of course it did, and it led to a lot of interjections. I let a lot of interjections pass before I intervened. I let the interjections grow to a point where I then judged that I could not hear the answer, and that is when I stepped in. I certainly allowed plenty of interjections.

Katherine Rich: Is the Minister now telling the House that there could be notes of the conversation as a result of the call; if that is the case, why did Child, Youth and Family Services deny all knowledge of any call whatsoever when Ron Burrows first made his allegation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: My understanding is that, yes, there could have been notes recorded as a result of that call, but that has not been finally confirmed. My further understanding is that the department said that there had been no notification, which means the process of the call being escalated as a notification to the point where it requires investigation. That was part of the personal apology from the chief executive of Child, Youth and Family Services to Mr Burrows.

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Community Service¡ªAttendance

3. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections: How many people sentenced to community work in the year ended 30 June 2003 failed to turn up in time to complete the full hours scheduled for the relevant day and how many have been punished for that failure?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): In the year to 30 June 2003, 27,936 offenders were sentenced to community work. All had between 12 and 24 months to complete their hours. During the course of the year formal breach of sentence review action was taken against 6,206 offenders. Most would have been breached for failing to report when required. This represents about 22 percent of offenders starting a sentence during the year, and is similar to the rate for periodic detention and community service in previous years. As was the case for periodic detention, a number of offenders would have received warnings from their probation officer and did not need any further follow-up action.

Stephen Franks: My question was: how many people sentenced to community work in the year ended 30 June 2003 failed to turn up in time to complete the full hours scheduled for the relevant day, and how many have been punished for that failure; not how many have been prosecuted? I ask the Minister to answer the question that was asked.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I tried to explain two things to that member. First of all, since the Sentencing Act changed, people can now complete their sentence between 12 and 24 months. So therefore, sometimes people have a 24-month period to complete it. Secondly, as in many cases that happened under periodic detention, if people fail to report they are given a warning¡ªthey are rung and they turn up, and that is not counted. The point of the matter is that I have tried to answer the question on the information I have, and I have given the member accurate figures.

Martin Gallagher: What happens to offenders who have committed a breach?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The offender will go back to the court, and the court can impose a fine of up to $1,000, impose a prison sentence for up to 3 months, or impose a further community-based sentence. This is no different to the punishment system under the previous Government where offenders who breached periodic detention were often sentenced to more periodic detention.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Government breaching its own good-faith mantra by agreeing to a negotiating guideline that sees the Department of Corrections wanting to send community-work staff home unpaid if no one turns up, when those staff should more appropriately be telephoning or tracking down the significant numbers of non-attendees of community work?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Any employment relations are not the responsibility of the Minister.

Hon Tony Ryall: You set the guidelines. It¡¯s your policy.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: That previous Minister will know that that is not the responsibility of the Minister. It is between the Department of Corrections and the appropriate union.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister concerned that his failure to ensure that persons who have had up to $30,000 worth of traffic fines issued by the police, and written off by the Department for Courts in place of community work, carry out their sentences is undermining the work of his colleagues who are valiantly attempting to reduce the road toll by issuing quota tickets hand over fist like an eight-armed octopus?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the Minister of Transport I am concerned about people who are not fulfilling their obligations. It is important that people who are sentenced to whatever form of detention¡ªbe it imprisonment or community service¡ªfulfil that time.

Stephen Franks: Given the revelation that in some cases up to 60 percent of offenders may not turn out for community work sentences, instead of trying to cut the hours supervisors are working, why does the Minister not ensure that they are paid for as many hours as it takes to find the offenders, do the paperwork, and ensure that they are punished so that it is never again worth treating a community work sentence as optional?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, that is an industrial dispute, as the member knows. With any industrial dispute, statistics are usually the first casualty. The reality is that the 60 percent figure mentioned by that member is simply not true. Even if the figure were 40 percent, which has been mentioned somewhere else, that would mean that around 16,000 offenders were not turning up, and that is simply not true. Those figures are being bandied around and will continue to be bandied around until the matter is settled between the department and the union.

Stephen Franks: What percentage level of non-compliance would the Minister consider acceptable, and what level of unpunished non-compliance, if any, would he accept, given the inability to answer the earlier questions?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: If one looks at the annual report of the department¡ªeven though I acknowledge to the member that it is early days¡ªone would see that compliance for the first full year is around 89 percent. The department has set its objective at 70 or 80 percent, which is about what it was under the previous Government. The department thinks that it will probably settle back to that. The reality is that in the current annual report, which was submitted to Parliament last week, 89 percent of compliance is the result that has been achieved.

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APEC¡ªNew Zealand Trade

4. TIM BARNETT (Labour¡ªChristchurch Central) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: What benefits to New Zealand trade emerged out of APEC discussions?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): The APEC economies at this week¡¯s meeting committed to re-energising the Doha round negotiations, which are vital to us as a small trading nation. It is only through the World Trade Organization negotiations that we tackle major problems such as export subsidies.

Tim Barnett: As well as the boost to regional and multilateral trade relationships, what bilateral trade enhancement was achieved?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The most significant was the high-level agreement with the Thai Government to progress a trade agreement with New Zealand, with the ambition of having it ready to sign at next year¡¯s APEC leaders meeting. That may have significance for our dairy trade. We also had the opportunity to explore issues further around potential trade agreements with several other economies.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why should New Zealanders believe that there is any likelihood of a free-trade agreement with APEC partner the United States, currently negotiating within Australia, any time soon, given that we are not even on the list of potential negotiation partners?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The member should be aware that there is encouraging support amongst the United States business and political communities for a trade agreement with New Zealand. Our embassy in Washington and the business community in New Zealand make continuous efforts to advance our case, as do Ministers and the Minister for Trade Negotiations when in discussions with the US administration¡ªdespite the opposition from the Opposition, I may say.

Dail Jones: Who does the Minister think he is fooling with this answer because, despite having spent over 100 days overseas since the last election, and having spent probably in excess of half a million dollars on these matters, he has achieved nothing new, and his ineptitude almost matches that of the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, but he is not quite that bad, as yet?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The member should eat his heart out. He will never have this job.

Mr SPEAKER: I would like the Minister to make a little bit more¡ª[Interruption]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One hundred days abroad, and after his expenditure of probably about three-quarters of a million dollars if I take into account his staff, and no results, ¡°Eat your heart out. I¡¯m the one who¡¯s enjoying the gravy train.¡± cannot be an answer

Mr SPEAKER: I just said I would like the Minister to be a little fuller in his answer.

Hon JIM SUTTON: Any trade Minister would need to spend 100 days abroad, or more, to do the job properly.

Rod Donald: Notwithstanding the Minister had the same level of ambition for a free-trade deal with Hong Kong and that has not come off, how in all conscience can the Government be seeking a free-trade agreement with Thailand when it has an appalling record of exploiting tens of thousands of children, when its minimum wage, of less than $1 an hour, is below the cost of living, and when the Minister well knows that thousands of jobs in New Zealand, particularly held by M¨¡ori and Pacific Island workers, would disappear in what is left of our clothing sector, if any such deal did come off?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I have every confidence that our agreement with Thailand, when it eventuates, will be of benefit to both countries, will increase employment in both countries, and by doing so in Thailand will put it in a stronger position to address the sorts of problems the member refers to.

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Genetically Modified Sweetcorn¡ªTest Results

5. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader¡ªGreen) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she stand by her replies to written questions Nos 9460, 9461, 10050 and 10051 in September and October 2002, in which she stated that samples of corn seed were collected from Talleys and Seed Production Ltd by MAF and sent to Genescan Australia for testing, that Novartis paid for the tests and owned the results, and that Novartis verbally notified ERMA and MAF that the results were negative for genetic modification; if so, why?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Yes, the Minister stands by the advice she was given.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How does the Minister reconcile those answers with evidence given to the Local Government and Environment Committee by Syngenta, previously Novartis, that it had decided not to proceed with those samples, and said:

¡°We do not have any record of sending samples from Talleys or Seed Production to Genescan. We have no records. There are no results. This is an issue about which we know nothing more than that.¡±?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I cannot know what is going on in the select committee, of course, but I can say that there was no time when any person in any company from any country advised any department of this Government that there were any positive tests from that corn, at all.

David Parker: Approximately how many seeds were tested in the year 2000, and why were they tested?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Tens of thousands of seeds were tested. The reason it was such a large number is that the first test suggested a positive. We now know the reason for that was that the first test was faulty, because the known negative control also suggested a positive.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that during the election campaign Minister Pete Hodgson and Minister Jim Sutton both said there were further tests not in Nicky Hager¡¯s book that showed the test was not contaminated, and that in the answers to two written questions in September and October specific tests on seed production and Talley¡¯s samples were referred to, the Minister said those samples were taken, they were tested, and they were negative, but the select committee has now found out they do not exist, how many more cover-ups will we find in this Government¡¯s claims over ¡°corngate¡±; if not, where are the tests?

Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may comment on two.

Hon PETE HODGSON: This particular batch of corn has been tested much more than any subsequent batch of corn that has ever come into New Zealand. Apart from the first test, which is now known to be faulty, all the tests that have been carried out by any company in any country have proven negative; whether they have been amalgamated or disamalgamated, and whether they have been gathered from growers and then put in to one sample or gathered from growers and put in to more than one sample. Now matter how one looks at it, the chances of finding a positive test in this instance are lower than finding that dear old D-8 in the Manapouri tunnel.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Greens come to the Government and the Minister outraged, resolute, determined, and resolved, with their heartfelt and grave concerns before the Supreme Court Bill was passed last week, or is this a matter of principle flying out the window again?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a very good statement, but it is not a matter over which the Minister has control.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought you might presumably make that mistake, so I asked whether they came to the Minister with their concerns before the Supreme Court Bill was passed. That is just a matter of timing.

Mr SPEAKER: If that specific question can have either a yes or no answer, the Hon Pete Hodgson may answer it.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not know.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I assume that you will not accept that the Minister has addressed that question. He did not stand and he did not seek the call.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is perfectly correct. The Minister will now stand and call me.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret I do not know.

Hon Ken Shirley: How did the Minister give the replies stated in those written questions referred to in the primary question, when the evidence now from the company responsible, Syngenta, is that those examples do not exist and never did exist?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Because that was and is the advice to the Minister.

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister advise the House again why she knows that the first test conducted by Crop and Food Research was wrong?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes. When testing is undertaken, a control sample known to be negative is tested alongside the sample under investigation. In the instance of the first test, both the sample and the control suggested a positive. Therefore, the test itself was faulty. Had it not been faulty, we would not have had tens of thousands of seeds tested, nor ¡°corngate¡± or a select committee inquiry.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister clarify for the House whether we are to believe the Minister for the Environment¡¯s answer¡ªthat samples were taken from Talley¡¯s and seed production parts of that batch of corn, that they were tested and were negative¡ªor the evidence presented before the select committee by both the Environmental Risk Management Authority and the company that those tests never existed?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The former proposition was, and is, the Minister for the Environment¡¯s advice.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister think it is satisfactory that Dr Hannah of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, who drafted the replies to her question, still asserts that that advice was received from Novartis but has no file note of his conversation, did not ask for copies of the test results, and cannot recall the date of the call or precisely who made it and to whom; and why does the Minister still believe that that advice was correct?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I cannot speak for Dr Hannah¡¯s memory of 3 years ago nor for the memory of the multinational biotechnology company, but I notice that the member asking the question prefers to take the advice of the company. That surprises me.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Minister for the Environment maintains that, indeed, the samples were taken and the tests exist, as she told Parliament last September, will a commitment be made by the Government to provide the test to this House?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government has no written record of the tests¡ªas I understand the House was advised by way of answer to the written question that gave rise to this question of the day.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: While the committee is still endeavouring to determine whether the correct advice was received by the multinational corporation or Dr Hannah, and has no view on that matter, does the Minister think that this vagueness, complete lack of written records, or even requests for test results in a case of this importance is the sort of attention to detail and accuracy that we can expect from New Zealand¡¯s regulatory authority when it is managing the risks of GE release?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I repeat that whether the two tests the member wishes to bring to the House¡¯s attention were carried out, were carried out by way of amalgam with another sample, were not carried out, were carried out but not reported, or whatever¡ªno matter which of those many, many permutations is the truth of the matter, there is another truth: tens of thousands of seeds were tested by many different agencies in three different countries, and reports of those tests were made available to the Government. No such report looked like being positive except for the first one, which turns out to be now known as wrong.

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Question No. 1 to Minister

Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader¡ªProgressive): I seek leave to table the last seven issues of Robson on Politics¡ªfound at www.progressive.org, not at oblivion¡ªto show that the Rt Hon Winston Peters was wrong to say that I had mentioned his party¡¯s nuclear politics. I have only talked about its attacks on immigrants.

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

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader¡ªNZ First): I seek leave to table a press statement from Mr Robson, which totally debunks what he has just attempted to table in the House.

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

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Burrows Family¡ªDepartment of Child, Youth and Family Services

6. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): When Department of Child, Youth and Family Services spokeswoman Christine Langdon said that Child, Youth and Family had no record of Ron Burrows¡¯ call and they had ¡°rigorous processes in place for recording notifications¡±, what are these ¡°rigorous processes¡±?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): I am advised that when receiving a call the social worker determines the facts of the situation, the immediate and future safety of the child or young person, and whether in his or her professional judgment there is sufficient concern to justify investigation. If investigation by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is considered necessary, the call becomes a notification and is logged on the department¡¯s computer system.

Katherine Rich: Does the Minister agree with another comment from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services spokeswoman, that ¡°any concerns reported to the centre about the well-being of children are treated as notifications, recorded, and investigated¡±; if so, why was Ron Burrows¡¯ tearful 21-minute call¡ªdetailing issues that would upset most parents¡ªnot notified, recorded, and investigated?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, not all calls received by the call centre of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services are determined to be notifications and recorded when the call is received. The social worker who receives the call makes a professional judgment about whether further investigation is warranted.

Moana Mackey: What has the Government done to ensure that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has the resources to respond appropriately to information received regarding the care and protection of children and young people?

Hon RUTH DYSON: From the end of 1999 to the end of 2002, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services received an increase of more than 50 percent in baseline funding. In January of this year the Government agreed to a Department of Child, Youth and Family Services request for a first principles baseline review, the outcome of which will be announced shortly.

Barbara Stewart: Has the Minister consulted with any other Ministers to seek assistance for the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services in addressing child abuse and neglect; if so, what have they suggested?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The issues surrounding the call for a baseline review impacted directly on the ability of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to deliver its statutory, and other, Government policy requirements and obligations. That has involved very close consultation and work with other colleagues.

Dr Muriel Newman: How can the public have any confidence in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services inquiry into this case, given that a previous inquiry into the department¡¯s involvement in the deaths of two Masterton schoolgirls, who were killed by their stepfather, Bruce Howse, in 2001, has been delayed four times, and has still not been released 18 months later; and in light of accusations of Government interference, why will the Minister not support an independent inquiry by a select committee?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I will answer all three questions as much as possible, but I do find the terms ¡°independent¡± and ¡°select committee¡± slightly oxymoronic. Frankly, I would have more faith in the independence of Ailsa Duffy QC in relation to the specific inquiry that was announced last week by the chief executive of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. In relation to the report into the deaths of the two Wairarapa girls, my understanding is that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has agreed to withhold its response to those murders until the response of the Commissioner for Children is released, and that response has been delayed for a little while. The reason it has been deemed better for both reports to be released at the same time is to reduce further trauma for the family and the community.

Katherine Rich: In light of Mr Burrows¡¯ comment that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services call centre told him he would have to substantiate the claims he had made before action was taken, how does the Minister expect parents who are worried about child abuse, unsafe conditions, and older children wetting and soiling themselves, to substantiate claims, if that is the new benchmark to get the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to do anything?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am advised that substantiation of claims is not necessary before a call becomes a notification, and that will be one of the issues that Ailsa Duffy will be investigating.

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World Heritage Committee¡ªMembership

7. DAVID PARKER (Labour¡ªOtago) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What are the implications of New Zealand¡¯s election to the World Heritage Committee?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Our election gives New Zealand the opportunity for the first time ever to be part of the decision-making process within the World Heritage Committee, and to promote the heritage values we believe in. It was an excellent result by New Zealand. We won by the biggest ever margin on that committee¡ªtop equal; one of 22 candidates. That shows the very high regard for New Zealand internationally, and the effective campaign that we ran. It also gives us the opportunity to have heading our delegation Paramount Chief Tumu te Heuheu, who has continued the leadership work of his forefathers in conserving the natural and cultural heritage of this country. It is really good news for New Zealand.

David Parker: Will New Zealand be seeking to represent the region on the committee as well as the heritage values of this country?

Hon PHIL GOFF: New Zealand stood for the position on the World Heritage Committee as a country with three important world heritage sites of its own that it is committed to preserving, but it also campaigned on the basis that no country in the region had ever been represented on the World Heritage Committee. In that sense we stood on behalf of all Pacific Island countries, and will be working to ensure that they have input and that their voices are heard, also for the first time in that forum.

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Emergency Response Unit¡ªInternal Investigation

8. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he believe that the Department of Corrections¡¯ internal investigation into the emergency response unit meets the requirements of transparency, accountability, and integrity?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Generally, yes. Within the constraints of the Privacy Act, as much of the investigations¡¯ findings have been released as is possible. Members of the emergency response unit were held accountable for their actions and disciplined, and systems have been changed as a result.

Ron Mark: How can the Minister say that it meets those requirements when the investigating officer, Mr Tony Dyer, on Saturday, 18 October stated: ¡°Managers being investigated were able to refuse to be tape-recorded; managers could refuse to be interviewed until after they had received full transcripts of the witnesses¡¯ interviews, and in some cases a copy of the questions we intended to ask; managers who were controlling the investigative process had clearly been involved in some of the decisions being made and were now being investigated; and senior managers went on leave when they were required for interviews.¡±?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen the article that the member refers to. I think it is fair to say that virtually all the allegations made in there are true, except the one right at the end, which I am investigating. They have all come out before. The reality is that the way the system worked was that natural justice meant that the people who were being accused of things had a right of reply, and it seems to be that that is one of the things that the member is upset about.

Hon Tony Ryall: In the light of the public debate regarding the goon squad, a prison officer charged with smuggling methamphetamine into Rimutaka Prison, and now news that five prisoners are taking the public prison to court on allegations of cruel treatment, why is this Minister intent on abolishing the private prison contract at the Auckland Central Remand Prison and replacing it with the very same public prison service that is causing him so many troubles?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: If that member wants to defend the record of private prisons around the world, I am very, very happy to provide him with that information. The reality about the private prison is that that was a Government commitment we are going to honour. Although we cannot talk about that particular case, I am interested, once again, to hear that member sticking up for criminals instead of prison officers.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: The member withdrew and apologised for that last sentence, which he was going to be required to do.

Mahara Okeroa: What should people do if they have any further information regarding the emergency response unit?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have said previously, if people have any new information they should pass it on to me, the State Services Commission, or the Ombudsman. I am still waiting.

Marc Alexander: By whose authority was the emergency response unit given funding, how much was allocated, and given the grievances from both inmates and corrections staff arising as a consequence, just how much has the good squad so far ended up costing the taxpayers of this country?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Minister can answer two of them.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is quite detailed information, and I do not have that in front of me. If the member wants to put that matter down as a question, or come and see me, I will be happy to provide him with the information.

Ron Mark: If the Minister were to receive, in confidence, the names of prison officers¡ªand I repeat, prison officers¡ªwho are prepared to state, on oath, to an independent investigator that: ¡°Aspects of the department¡¯s evidence presented to investigators regarding the death of inmate David Rere Haimoana was at variance to their observations of the events, key persons who witnessed the events surrounding the death of inmate Haimoana were never interviewed and were specifically excluded, and that affidavits were put in front of prison officers for them to sign that contained falsities¡±, would he immediately ask the State Services Commissioner to launch a totally independent inquiry into that evidence, or would he simply do as he is continuing to do and cover up for inept management by the Department of Correction?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have said to that member, both publicly and privately, I would welcome some new information. As the member knows, I am considering a range of options, but if the member were to give me, in confidence, the names of those people, then of course that would be part of my decision making to look at where we should go. I have said that to the member on many occasions.

Marc Alexander: How does the Minister expect the public to have confidence in the department, when he has blocked attempts to hold the select committee inquiry into the goon squad¡¯s activities, blocked scrutiny accountability on questions about payouts as a result of those activities¡ªcalling them employment related and hiding under that¡ªand thereby denying taxpayers, who must fund these payments, the right to know where and for what their money is being used?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As far as the select committee inquiry is concerned, I have ruled that out and I have given very good reasons for that. As far as payouts are concerned, those are employment matters, which come under different rules, and that is the way it should remain.

Marc Alexander: Why is it that Tony Dyer, a member of the goon squad investigative team, was told, on the one hand, to use a specific format and not to use detail, but, on the other hand, when the report was completed, that lack of detail was deemed to be insufficient to support the findings, and given that the Minister has subsequently decided to block the demands of United Future, New Zealand First, and National for an inquiry, his rationale, which is based on the veracity of that report, must itself be flawed and undermined by its stated lack of credibility; if not why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen these allegations, and they have been looked into. But, as I said, I do not have a closed mind on where we should go to next, and I am asking for new information that can help us decide where we should go from here.

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Employment¡ªAt-risk Young People

9. JILL PETTIS (Labour¡ªWhanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What approaches is the Government working on to help at-risk young people get into employment or further training?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Last Friday I launched the trial of Youth Pathways. It is a new programme for young people, who leave school with no concrete plans, to put them into employment or further training. Ninety school leavers in three locations will receive one-on-one guidance through a support transition programme run by Career Services. That programme is one of a number of initiatives designed to ensure that, by 2007, every 15 to 19-year old is engaged in appropriate education, training, or work option, that will lead those people into long-term economic independence and well-being.

Jill Pettis: What other initiative does the Government have in place currently to help at-risk young people to get into employment or into further training?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Heaps. But to pick out two of the initiatives that are outstanding, I would mention the Modern Apprenticeships programme, which is focused on 16 to 21-year olds, and currently involves 5,739 participants. The programme recently received a boost of $600,000. It is so popular we needed to put more funding into it. I also mention that the Prime Minister and I announced further initiatives, like Youth Pathways, as part of a $56 million education and training school-leaving age package in the last Budget.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the fact that the number of students being officially allowed to leave school before they are 16 has doubled in the last 5 years because of reduced capacity of schools to cater for these students; and is he satisfied with this appalling increase?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The question is better directed to the Minister of Education, but since I happen to be the Acting Minister of Education I will, on this occasion, try to answer the member¡¯s question. These issues are of concern to all of us¡ª that young people are leaving school at that time. That is exactly why the Minister of Education has been putting in place programmes to ensure those young people are not truant, are not suspended; they are at school where they belong.

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Foreshore and Seabed¡ªM¨¡ori Land Court

10. RICHARD WORTH (National¡ªEpsom) to the Attorney-General: Will the Government be asking the M¨¡ori Land Court to adjourn foreshore and seabed cases before it for ¡°somewhere in the order of six months¡±; if so, what is the Government¡¯s timeframe for finalising the foreshore and seabed policy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Attorney-General: The Government will be making application to the M¨¡ori Land Court to adjourn foreshore and seabed cases to provide more time to complete its consultations and clarify the law, but no specific timeframe has been set. It is certainly hoped that consultations will be complete and the policy details announced this year.

Richard Worth: When Crown counsel Mr Doogan told the Waitangi Tribunal yesterday that he could not say for sure whether the Crown was ¡°committed to maintaining¡± the so-called four principles, was he telling the truth, or was he misleading the tribunal, and, in fact, the four principles remain in force?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Neither. But the four principles do remain in force, and I will be ensuring the Crown counsel are better briefed before they reappear on Thursday.

Stephen Franks: Will the Attorney-General undertake that the M¨¡ori Land Court will one day be allowed to decide on the claims that are before it, and to define customary property interests, as promised by Dr Michael Cullen to the Omakau hui? If so, how will the principle of certainty sit with the bias that appears when the same judges are wearing their Waitangi Tribunal hats?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Attorney-General is committed to fulfilling any promises made by the Hon Dr Michael Cullen. The member raises a very interesting issue about people wearing two hats, one of the Waitangi Tribunal and one of the M¨¡ori Land Court. I suspect that is an issue the Government may want to look at in the near future.

Richard Worth: Arising from his answer to a supplementary question, in what specific way will Crown counsel be ¡°better briefed¡± at the next appearance? What was the shortcoming in the information provided to the Waitangi Tribunal by Crown counsel on behalf of the Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In M¨¡ori terms, there was a failure to have a kanohi te kanohi meeting between the Ministers and Crown counsel.

Richard Worth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not only was it impossible to hear that answer, it contained foreign language references.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, could the Minister repeat his answer?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The answer I gave was that the failure was probably the fact that there was a failure to have¡ªto use M¨¡ori language¡ªa kanohi te kanohi briefing between Ministers and the Crown counsel. That means face to face.

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Algerian Refugee¡ªSecurity Risk Certificate

11. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Immigration: Does she agree, in light of the Ahmed Zaoui case, that the ¡°framework for issuing security risk certificates ¡­ has been shown to have serious flaws¡±; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): No. This is the first case that has tested Part 4A of the Immigration Act, inserted in 1999. Given that the hearing of the appeal to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, which was made at the end of March this year, has not even begun yet, it is too early to draw conclusions about whether there are any flaws in the process.

Keith Locke: Does she agree with the New Zealand Herald editors that to deny Mr Zaoui even a summary of the accusations against him¡ªas the Inspector-General has so far decided¡ªis a breach of natural justice and against the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I do not agree with the New Zealand Herald editorial, any more than I agree with the New Zealand Herald¡¯s decision to print the man¡¯s name and his photograph after my specific not to do so, back in December last year.

Dianne Yates: How are the individual¡¯s rights, in cases involving national security, balanced with the public interest when classified security information cannot be released?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Section 114A of the Immigration Act, which sets out the objects of Part 4A, states that the balance is best achieved by an independent person of high standing to consider the classified security information and approve its proposed use. The Ministry of Justice vetted the bill that brought in this part, and after some changes were made to the original draft, it considered that it achieved overall consistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, thus there was no requirement to report in terms of section 7 of the Act. That is another reason why I do not agree with the New Zealand Herald.

Keith Locke: Is she aware that in other Western jurisdictions there is an allowance for a summary of the classified information, without endangering the safety of any person who is a source, to be provided to the accused person, and that such a provision is in clause 38 of our errorism Suppression Act, passed by Parliament last year; is not this in contradiction to what she has just said and why does she not support a summary of the classified information being provided to Ahmed Zaoui?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: My understanding is that a summary was in fact included in the interlocutory decision of the Inspector-General. I make the point to that member that the Security Intelligence Service cannot operate effectively without cooperation from overseas counterparts. Overseas intelligence agencies require the service to give cast-iron guarantees that certain information supplied by them will be kept confidential. That is a quote from the report from the Ministry of Justice with the compliance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and I am happy to table it in the House.

Keith Locke: Will the Minister apologise to Ahmed Zaoui¡¯s lawyers for attacking them for pursuing all possible legal avenues, particularly in the light of very strong criticism from the Law Society of her attack on the lawyers; and is it not the lawyers¡¯ duty to do everything possible for Mr Zaoui, who faces possible torture and death back in Algeria if the refugee status he now has is finally overridden by the security risk certificate process?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The point that I was making was that it was a bit rich for the lawyers to be arguing that his continued detention was the fault of the Government when in fact they were the cause of the delay in having this matter heard. As I said, the appeal was lodged in March this year and it was deferred until after the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision, and there have been further interlocutory matters. I draw that member¡¯s attention to the rules of professional conduct for barristers and solicitors, which state: ¡°A practitioner should not make any statement to the news media relating to proceedings which have not been concluded which may have the effect of, or may be seen to have the effect of, interfering with a fair trial.¡±

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Speaking about these lawyers, and Mr Locke for that matter, firstly, can the Minister tell me how many fundamentalist Islamic countries did Zaoui pass on his way from his place of origin to New Zealand, and, secondly, what is now the exact cost to the New Zealand taxpayer of having this person in our country?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not have that information with me, although I do have a copy of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision if the member wants to look through that. He will see that it makes it very clear which countries Mr Zaoui travelled in. I believe that he left Algeria some 10 years ago. He had been living in Malaysia for a number of months, if not years, before he chose New Zealand. He selected New Zealand as the destination, which is made very clear in the decision. In respect of an update on the amount of costs, I understand that they are over $60,000. I seek leave to table the Ministry of Justice compliance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act report of 12 August 1998.

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

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Small Business Advisory Group¡ªBenefits

12. MARK PECK (Labour¡ªInvercargill) to the Minister for Small Business: What benefits does he expect to flow from the appointment of the Small Business Advisory Group?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Small Business): Last week I announced the appointment of the new Small Business Advisory Group. This group will ensure the Government hears the views of people in real small businesses, which can be very different from what big business bureaucrats or academics are telling us. On this side of the House we believe that the best people to tell us how to support small business are those involved in running small businesses day to day.

Mark Peck: How was the group selected?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Over 240 applications for the positions were received. The nine members appointed represent a diverse range of sectors and regions. The most important factor in selecting these nine members was hands-on experience in small business and strong networks within the small business sector and in their communities. The appointment of this group, combined with other initiatives such as implementing over 80 percent of the recommendations of the business compliance cost group, represents at least 95 percent of potential benefits to business.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript¡ªsubject to correction and further editing)


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