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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer TUESDAY

Questions & Answers for Oral Answer TUESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2003


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


Questions to Ministers:

1. Taxation—Policy

2. Ministerial Confidence—Police, Minister

3. Land Transport Management Bill—Auckland Issues

4. Solomon Islands—Police and Defence Deployment

5. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Baseline Review

6. Te Whare Whakapikiora O Te Rangimarie Trust—Funding

7. Australia—New Zealand Relationship

8. Child, Youth and Family Services Department—Election Promises

9. Ministerial Confidence—Health, Minister

10. Corrections, Department—Supervision of Paedophile

11. Students—Achievement Levels

12. Environmental Risk Management Authority—Policy

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Taxation—Policy

1. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What are the Government's priorities for changes to the tax system?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The Government is engaged in a comprehensive programme of tax simplification and compliance cost reduction. We also plan to introduce a package in the 2004 Budget to deliver income increases, including through the tax system, to low and middle-income families.

Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister received any reports on other possibilities for tax changes? [Interruption]

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: And can I add my welcome to Dr Brash. I have seen a report advocating a reduction in the top income tax rate and the corporate tax rate to 30c in the dollar. This would deliver nothing to anybody earning under $38,000 a year.

John Key: Earning less under you.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I notice the spy has not come in from the cold, just yet! This would not deliver anything to anybody earning under $38,000 a year, and would place considerable pressure, both on the fiscal position and on the economy where the domestic sector is moving very strongly. It is no wonder that National—post-coup—is described as a bunch of deranged haemophiliacs arguing over which is the best band-aid.

Mr SPEAKER: That last phrase was out of order, and I ask that it be withdrawn.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw it.

Dr Don Brash: Given the Minister’s own preferred measure of the Budget balance shows the surplus in the year to June 2003 was $5.6 billion, is he determined to continue overtaxing hard-working New Zealanders; if so, is this related to his need to fund his planned election year giveaways?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is a bit rich, as we might say on this side of the House, to describe a programme designed to deliver better incomes to low and middle income people as a give-away, but tax cuts for people on many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as, presumably, good economics.

Dail Jones: Why does the Government give greater priority in its changes to the tax system to giving tax incentives for foreigners in the film industry, while failing to support New Zealanders in export businesses with tax incentives such as the New Zealand First proposal for a 20 percent tax rate, especially bearing in mind this country’s seriously deteriorating balance of payments situation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The film industry offers the opportunity for substantial development of employment and wealth creation within New Zealand. But I think if the member actually looked seriously at his proposal on tax rates, which differentiates between an exporting business or a non-exporting business, and which part of it is exporting and which part of it is not, he would find that huge compliance costs would be created in trying to operating differential tax rates in that regard.

Rod Donald: Why does the Minister continue to refuse to give middle and low-income workers in this country the same 6 percent tax concession that those who earn over $60,000 currently enjoy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The roughly $79 million a year cost of that will be far better spent if there were other mechanisms designed to address and to assist savings. The Government expects to make announcements on that within the next few months.

David Benson-Pope: What is the estimated cost of reducing the top personal tax rate and the corporate rate to 30c?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The reduction would cost approximately $1.7 billion. It should be noted that if that was applied to increases for low and middle-income families via such mechanisms as family support, then this could lead to increases of about $150 a week or more for a two-child low-income family. Under the proposals I have seen that family would not get a single cent extra.

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Ministerial Confidence—Police, Minister

2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Police; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister’s idea of a police force sufficiently resourced to deal with all facets of crime in this country the new multilingual handbook that now enables police to arrest people in 40 different languages, and how is a police officer expected to hold a baton, handcuffs, and a handbook at the same time whilst trying to find the correct language of 40 languages to shout: “Stop you’re under arrest”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think it is admirable that the police are being responsive to a range of communities.

Simon Power: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Police while under his watch violent crime has risen 3.6 percent in the 2002-03 year, and he has done nothing except bluster in this House?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My confidence in the Minister is well founded, particularly when I see that for the 2002-03 year there was the highest police resolution rate for recorded crime for 20 years.

Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister have confidence that the Minister of Police is adequately monitoring how the police apply the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provisions on free speech when launching prosecutions under the Telecommunications Act with regard to the content of emails, and are there any recent instances that give her cause for concern in this regard?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I assume the member is referring to a matter that appeared on television news last night in respect of an email sent by an Aucklander to the American embassy. I assume the American embassy exercised its rights, as anyone can, to lay a complaint. The matter is before the courts and it would not be appropriate to comment further.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does she expect the country to believe her on the issue of the resourcing of police, when in a recent boy-racer riot in Tauranga the police arrested no one at all, nor did they confiscate any cars, because they said that they simply did not have the resources?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have not seen that report, but I do know that at the initiative of a member of this House, Clayton Cosgrove, the law was tightened on boy racers, and the police will enforce that law.

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Land Transport Management Bill—Auckland Issues

3. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “the Government is preparing a major land transport package which will help address Auckland's congestion”; if so, will the Government accept amendments to the Land Transport Management Bill to address the criticisms by Auckland business and local government interests that in its current form the bill will fail to deliver adequate solutions?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, and no, for good reason. I do note that the Mayor of Auckland has said that the bill now scores an eight out of 10 in achieving faster progress to equip Auckland with a modern, integrated transport network.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister aware that the bill has been described as “still not enough tools to urgently fix Auckland’s incomplete transport network” by the same Mayor, John Banks, “a red light to road users” by Business New Zealand, “almost hopeless” by the Employers and Manufacturers Association, and “bad news for the majority of New Zealanders” by the Automobile Association; if so, will she consider amendments to address the concerns of those organisations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I consider an 80 percent tick rate by the Mayor of Auckland to be very good, and we are happy to keep talking with him about the other 20 percent. I also know that under this Government Auckland has at last got its fair share of transport funding.

Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has the Prime Minister seen on the Government’s work on Auckland transport issues?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Overall, local government in Auckland has been very positive. The Mayor of Auckland has said that not only has very good progress is being made on Auckland transport issues, but that for the first time in 25 years we have a Government of a mind to engage with Auckland so that Auckland can address its problems.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If any of that is remotely true, why is the Government collecting $2.2 billion in all sorts of road taxes for the intention of repairing or constructing new roads, yet only giving Transfund almost less than half of that—$1.2 billion; why is she robbing the New Zealand motorist and road user in the way she is?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Every Government, for a very long time, including the one the member served in, has taken more money off various road users in petrol and fuel levies than it has spent on roading. Not to do so would lead us to radically increase other forms of taxes, which we are not prepared to do.

Deborah Coddington: Given that earlier this year she described herself as “a straight shooter”, who “tells it like it is”, and who “leaves people in no doubt where she stands”, were those answers to Dr Brash’s questions as straight shooting as she can manage, or is it not true that she prefers to remove herself as far as possible from Auckland’s transport problems?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As someone who, with the exception of 1 year, has lived in Auckland for the last 40 years, I am very familiar with the Auckland issues—more, I might say, than some in this House.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Prime Minister agree that the 21st century transport legislation negotiated between the Government and the Greens will do more for Auckland’s transport through proper funding of public transport, alternatives to roading, and demand reduction—

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Heatley will leave the Chamber. I said no interjecting during question time. Please repeat the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why do you pick on our side for interjections when there have been numerous interjections around the House, including one from the Minister immediately to your left that was clearly audible to everyone here? Surely, he should be going as well.

Mr SPEAKER: I will not have the member questioning my decision. I had given the one warning that I always give. That was not the first interjection; it was about the third. I ignored the other two, but the third was made loudly. The member will leave.

Phil Heatley withdrew from the Chamber.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Prime Minister agree that the 21st century transport legislation negotiated between the Government and the Greens will do more for Auckland’s transport congestion through proper public transport, demand management, and alternatives to roading than the mindless pouring of concrete recommended by some other parties?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do want to acknowledge the considerable assistance given by both the Greens and United Future on this legislation. I believe that it is good legislation, because it goes beyond just narrowly looking at road to looking at all modes of transport, including alternatives to transport. The fact that under this Government money for public transport has doubled, I think, is a triumph.

Larry Baldock: What is her reaction to the group of major Auckland transport operators, including the Auckland chamber of commerce, that, yesterday, urged the Government to implement the Land Transport Management Bill with urgency so that further steps can be taken to achieve faster road network completion in Auckland?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that the Minister of Transport had a very constructive meeting with that group yesterday. It is hoped to make great progress on this bill this week so that it can be got on with.

Dr Don Brash: In light of the strong chorus of criticism of this bill, will the Prime Minister take the advice of Mr Simon Carlaw, chief executive of Business New Zealand, to “take this legislation back off the Greens and put it right”, or will she continue to ignore the advice of Auckland business and local body leaders about the shortcomings of this bill?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I believe it is very good legislation. It is not the policy of this Government to put things right.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is honest about a system that bleeds the motorist of over a billion dollars a year for her weirdo pet projects, and has Mr Swain, the Minister of Transport, saying that whilst Auckland will not have tolls on its bridge, Tauranga will?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is up to Tauranga to decide for itself. But can I say that the Government’s policy on funding transport is just as honest as the sentiment contained in the minority report from New Zealand First that advocated another 5c levy on petrol.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table that report so that the country might know the truth, apart from what it has just heard from the Prime Minister.

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

Deborah Coddington: Does she support comments made by the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, the Hon Judith Tizard, who opposes the eastern highway because it will give “the people in Howick an extra half hour in bed.”—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will leave the Chamber. Members were warned about interjections. Please start again.

Deborah Coddington: Does she support comments made by the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, the Hon Judith Tizard, who opposes the eastern highway because—[Interruption]

Hon Judith Tizard withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: I will deal with the member when she returns to the Chamber. Please start again.

Deborah Coddington: Does she support comments made by the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, the Hon Judith Tizard, who opposes Auckland’s eastern highway because it will give “the people in Howick an extra half hour in bed.”, or will it be left to Dr Brash and this party to solve Auckland’s transport problems?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member for Auckland Central is an honourable member and she said she did not say that she opposed it. What I can say is that this Government takes a well-rounded view of land transport issues. Motorways are not the only solution. Demand management, as the leader of the Green Party mentioned recently, is an important ingredient. Frankly, if the country had waited for the last National Government to solve Auckland’s transport problems, it would still be waiting.

Dr Don Brash: Can I seek the Prime Minister’s confirmation that she will not put Auckland’s traffic problems right, but that they will be left as they are?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I note it took the member several minutes to drop to that particular pun. I have every intention of this Government fixing Auckland’s transport problems.

Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table a New Zealand Herald article by Bernard Orsman quoting the Hon Judith Tizard as stating the eastern highway was not the right solution “just so all the people in Howick can have an extra half hour in bed.”

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

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Solomon Islands—Police and Defence Deployment

4. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: To what extent has New Zealand achieved its objective in deploying police and defence force personnel to the Solomon Islands?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): In less than 100 days the deployment has made enormous progress towards its first objective—that is, helping to restore law and order and a new sense of security. Over 3,700 weapons have been collected, 200 arrests have been made for major crimes, including Harold Keke and Jimmy Rasta, 25 allegedly corrupt and criminal police officers have been arrested, and a further 50 dismissed. This has all helped to provide a positive environment to restore Government services, to restore the economy, and to reform the public sector.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: How long will police and Defence Force personnel continue to be deployed?

Hon PHIL GOFF: This month, probably towards the end of the month, the infantry company will be withdrawn and will be replaced by an enhanced platoon of 40 Defence Force personnel. The helicopter support will be phased out by May of next year, and, as foreshadowed, the 35 police personnel will continue on a rotational basis for up to 2 years. Their continued presence after this time will be considered in light of events.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was a New Zealand Army infantry company part of the original request from Australia for forces to assist in the Solomon Islands; if so, why precisely did the Government , on 14 July, not agree to that request from the Australians?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is quite wrong. The Government did agree to the request. We said there would be a company on stand-by, if required. Some time after that the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, rang me to ask for New Zealand to deploy that company. Within 48 hours a decision had been made, and the troops were on the ground at the time they were originally expected. They have stayed there for the full duration of the deployment we foreshadowed at the time.

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Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Baseline Review

5. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): What responsibility does the Government accept for problems in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services that the First Principles Baseline Review finds to be “deep and systemic” and that “are about more than just levels of resourcing”?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): The Government does believe that the department must have the resources and systems in place to fulfil its functions. That is why we agreed to the whole-of-organisation review of the department, after it had been in operation for 2 financial years. That was long enough time to give us a good knowledge of the real issues facing the department.

Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer my question. It is quite simple: after 4 years in office, does the Government see itself being responsible for the failings at the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services—yes or no?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot insist on a “Yes” or “No” answer. The Minister addressed the question.

Katherine Rich: In a week when the damning house report will be released, and when the chief executive was scheduled to be before the Social Services Committee for the department’s financial review, is it not just too much of a coincidence for Jackie Pivac to up and resign and swan off for a holiday, when she and the Government have more pressing issues to attend to?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

Georgina Beyer: What does the Minister believe is the underlying cause of the problems identified in the baseline review?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services was set up as a stand-alone department in 1999 by the National-led Government, with neither sufficient resources nor systems, and without an adequate infrastructure. That followed a history of underfunding by the National Government, for example—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is an extremely serious issue. Children die in this country because of the failure of this department. To start saying that it is the problem of a previous Government, after this Government has been in office for 4 years and through four Budgets, breaches every aspect of the Standing Order and should be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: And that stops, too, because it is not a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: It had better be a point of order this time, because that previous point was not; it was a point of debate.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer to Standing Order 372, which talks about the use of arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, and ironical expressions. That is all we have had from this Minister on an extremely serious issue.

Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Minister how she constructs her answer—as long as she addresses the question. She had not finished.

Hon RUTH DYSON: That followed a history of underfunding by the National Government. For example, the former agency’s budget was slashed by $30 million in the 3 years between 1990 and 1993—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I accept interjection during answers; I do not accept a rabble-like noise. There is too much interjection; I must be able to hear the Minister. Some interjection is fair enough, but I must be able to hear the answer.

Barbara Stewart: What proposals are planned in the current Budget round to solve the fundamental problems that cause the overwhelming demand for the services of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services; or is the Minister’s Government prepared merely to sacrifice the careers of senior public servants on a regular basis?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member asking the question may have overlooked the fact that about 10 days ago we released the baseline review of the department, which had a comprehensive package of recommendations and the funding agreed to in order to implement those recommendations.

Dr Muriel Newman: On what day did the Minister first find out that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services did not know how many children were in its care, and can she tell the House what she did about it?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I regret I am unable to provide that information, but I will provide it to the member as soon as possible.

Sue Bradford: What level of expertise and practice management will Treasury and the State Services Commission bring to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services on the new advisory group set up as a result of the baseline review, and will the Minister consider adding someone with credibility in this area, such as the Commissioner for Children, to the advisory group?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I do believe that that proposal is worthy of consideration.

Marc Alexander: What responsibility does the Government and the Associate Minister accept for the alarming fact that about half of the notifications to the department have to be revisited because they were not dealt with effectively, when what this means in real terms is that in 32,000 cases children have suffered from further abuse and neglect unnecessarily; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That specific point was identified in the baseline review: that the trade-off between quality and quantity had been made to the detriment of the performance that was acceptable. That is responded to by the recommendations of the baseline review.

Katherine Rich: When the Minister offers the lame excuse that after 4 years, it is still the National Government’s fault for underfunding, how does she reconcile that comment in light of the Prime Minister’s statement regarding the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services that: “It’s no longer about money. There’s been a lot of money going in, so there must be something about systems, processes, and the ways of operating which isn’t working.”; does her Government accept responsibility for the failure of those systems and processes over the last 4 years; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That was exactly the point that was made in the baseline review: that it was more than about just money. Since we were elected in 1999, we have significantly increased the money and, as the baseline review recommendations pointed out, it did not make a marked difference. That is why the previous Minister agreed to have a baseline review.

Georgina Beyer: Is the Minister able to expand upon what the Government is doing to address the problems facing the department?

Hon RUTH DYSON: We have already increased funding to the department by more than 50 percent. We have improved the professionalism of social workers, strengthened the relationship with the community sector, and agreed to the baseline review recommendations. The review has a comprehensive range of recommendations, which will be implemented.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister believe that the former Minister Steve Maharey’s $216 million “circuit-breaker programme” to rebuild the image of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services delivered on its promise; if so, in light of the damning review of the department, exactly what did the $216 million circuit-breaker programme achieve?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member misrepresents the purpose of that funding increase, and, in my view, that is irresponsible when we are talking about the functions of such an important department.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to consider that answer. The Minister said that the question was misleading and, therefore, somehow out of order. The phrase was “circuit-breaker”, and that is what the Minister said it was. I suggest that if the Minister is going to accuse members on this side of misleading, then she should at least elaborate on what she is saying.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister never used the term “misleading”.

Hon Peter Dunne: Following on from the baseline review and the resignation of the chief executive, what assurances can the Minister give the parents, caregivers, and families of the children who are now clients of the service that their cases will be dealt with in a professional, stable, and beneficial way for those children?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The baseline review did acknowledge that there were deep and systemic problems with the operations of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, some of which will cause public concern. That is why the Government made it a priority to consider and support the implementation and full funding of the recommendations—for exactly the reason the member raised in his question: so that the public can have confidence in the department’s functions.

Katherine Rich: Does she agree with honourable Minister Tariana Turia’s statement regarding the resignation of the chief executive of the Child, Youth and Family that: “This situation was not of her making, and is a reflection of Jackie’s integrity and character that she has offered to resign.”; and does she think that her failure to express confidence in Jackie Pivac, plus the placement of three other Government organisations to babysit the department played some part in the decision of Jackie Pivac to resign?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes and no.

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Te Whare Whakapikiora O Te Rangimarie Trust—Funding

6. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: Why did the Ministry of Health make a final payment of $90,665.33 including GST to the Te Whare Whakapikiora O Te Rangimarie Trust when there was no contractual obligation to do so, and why did the ministry pay $74,146.96 excluding GST of this payment directly to the Inland Revenue Department to cover the trust's outstanding tax liability?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The Ministry of Health did not make a final payment of $90,665.33 GST inclusive to the trust. The trust received $5,625 GST inclusive in recognition of services provided without payment from July 2001 to January 2002 while the ministry carried out a second review. A tax liability of $74,146.96 GST exclusive had been identified by the Inland Revenue Department, prior to the second review commencing, relating to koha payments made to voluntary staff dating back to 1995. The ministry decided to pay the Inland Revenue Department directly for the outstanding tax, as the trust would not have the ability to clear the debt because its contract had not been renewed and the debt did go back 6 years, when the trust was contracted to operate.

Heather Roy: Of the $688,000 received by the trust, does the ministry know how much was used to provide Mâori patients with treatment by Mr Apera Clark, traditional Mâori healer and clairvoyant, and how much was spent by him and his wife on personal rent, power, petrol, groceries, dog food, digital television, spa pools, and cases of muttonbirds; or does she and her ministry not care how this money was spent?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Certainly the Ministry of Health and this Government do care how money is spent. In fact, the first review on this trust took place under the old Health Funding Authority, starting back in 1999. It then came to the Ministry of Health in December 2000. That is when a second review was carried out. They were not happy with the services provided by Mr Huata and the trust, and they decided to terminate the contract. It was terminated. They received no more money after they were given—[Interruption] They received no more money for services—

Stephen Franks: You know that’s not true.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment. He knows it is out of order.

Stephen Franks: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: They received no more money for the contract other than the $5,600 that was paid out after July 2002.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does she or her ministry know whether any patients were treated at Mr Apera Clark’s Mâori cultural and spiritual healing clinic after the Ministry of Health contracts expired; if so, how many patients and what health outcomes were achieved?

Hon ANNETTE KING: My understanding is that, yes, patients continued to be treated by the trust after the contract expired at the end of June 2001. I do not know how many people received services, but the trust has been providing those same services, traditional Mâori healing services, from 1995. That is what it was contracted to provide—first of all as a pilot in 1995, then in 1998 it was given a year-on-year contract.

Heather Roy: How come the ministry continued paying Mr Apera Clark $2,076 a week for 10 months, after a ministry audit revealed that patients were being treated by untrained staff, patient safety was at risk, there was no sterilising equipment, patients’ records contained no medicine dosages, and one consultation was counted as three for payment because consultations involved prayer, counselling, and medicine dispensing; and how can she deny that she has two standards—one for politically correct healing and one for medicine that works, because any proper medical practitioner would be struck off?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am certainly not defending anybody who provides a shonky service. However, let us get this into perspective. Traditional Mâori healing was provided funding in this particular trust, going back 6 years. It was done not just by this Government; it was funded over a number of years, and the Ministry of Health continued to fund the trust while it was reviewing it. However, prior to the conclusion of that review, the ministry had given notice that the contract would not be renewed, and it did not renew the contract.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister telling us that because this trust was established in 1995, one could probably conclude that the ACT party, the National Party, and the Labour Party, on these matters to do with one standard position for all, have the same policy?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for other parties; she has responsibility for her own party.

Hon ANNETTE KING: What I can conclude is that this Government and previous Governments before us have decide that we can, and should, fund traditional Mâori healing, following the development of proper guidelines for traditional Mâori healing under the National Health Committee under a National Government. Interestingly enough, we also provided funding for traditional Mâori healing when that member was Treasurer.

Heather Roy: Is it her policy to fund Mâori spiritual and cultural healing, and is there any clinical evidence that such healing is effective; or is this funding just political correctness gone mad?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It obviously is not considered to be political correctness gone made, in that, as I said, in the mid-1990s guidelines were developed by the National Health Committee, which were then used for contracting by the previous Government and this Government—[Interruption]—and I can tell the member who is screeching over there that it is our Government’s policy also to fund traditional Mâori healing, so long as it meets the guidelines established by the National Health Committee.

Heather Roy: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from the Ministry of Health to Mr Apera Clark, asking him to send an invoice for the final payment of $90,665.33 for services undertaken.

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

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Australia—New Zealand Relationship

7. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Does he believe that New Zealand's relationship with Australia is a close and positive relationship; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): From our perspective it improved after the last league test but deteriorated somewhat after the first two 1-day matches. Politically, however, I think the relationship is good.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Did the Government agree in late August to send an infantry company to the Solomon Islands—after refusing and putting one only on stand-by in July—because of a second letter from the Australians with what a Cabinet paper suggests were “more worthwhile military tasks” or because of serious Australian frustration with New Zealand, reflected in the speech made by the Australian High Commissioner, Dr Allan Hawke on 15 August, just before the decision, where he said the ANZAC relationship is finally poised on the fulcrum”: it could go one way or the other?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Once again, the member is absolutely wrong. This Government right at the start said it would provide a company; that a company was on stand-by; it would be sent if needed and requested. When it was needed and requested it was sent immediately. To draw a line with the high commissioner’s speech, which had nothing to do with what the member is trying to draw the connection with, is quite bizarre.

David Benson-Pope: Could the Minister detail other positive comments that he may have seen reflecting New Zealand’s relationship with Australia?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There have been many such comments. For example, Prime Minister John Howard said, in March this year, that the opportunities that he had to talk with Helen Clark “about developing further an already very close and intimate relationship are quite without parallel”. There is another quotation that relates to Dr Smith’s question: “Foreign Minister Alexander Downer paid tribute to New Zealand last week saying that restoring life to normality in the Solomon Islands could not have been achieved without the major contribution that New Zealand had made.”

Hon Ken Shirley: If High Commissioner Hawke’s comment that “the ANZAC relationship is finally poised on the fulcrum” was not referring to the situation in the Solomon Islands, what was it referring to, and is the Minister concerned about that statement?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am happy to table the speech, and the report of the speech, for the member. The high commissioner was saying he was concerned that the next generation would be a further generation removed from the ANZAC relationship, and he was concerned about what might happen in the future. He also said, in answer to a question about the defence relationship: “I don’t see any fracturing or downgrading of the defence relationship, in any shape or form.” How much clearer could he have been.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Does the Minister consider it to be a close and positive relationship, when his Cabinet, on request from Australia to contribute troops to the Solomons, looks at the proposal—and the Cabinet paper itself refers to thankless tasks—and declines to send troops; and then on a second request, where the Cabinet paper then speaks of more worthwhile tasks, the Government decides to send troops; and does he consider that is a positive relationship when New Zealand contributes troops, so long as they get a better job from the Australians?

Hon PHIL GOFF: One would hardly send a company of infantry to do a job that did not exist. The Labour-led Government made it absolutely clear that the company was there if required; it would continue training in New Zealand until such time as it was required. When it was required, it was sent immediately. I have already quoted to the member the high praise given by the Australian Foreign Minister about New Zealand’s contribution.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I seek leave to table the Cabinet papers.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the Cabinet papers concerned. Is there any objection? There is objection.

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Child, Youth and Family Services Department—Election Promises

8. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Does she stand by Labour's 2002 election promise that it will “Invest more funding in community-based services meeting the needs of children and families and improve social work practice at Child, Youth and Family.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): Yes.

Marc Alexander: In the light of the Government’s election commitment, when will she action the call, made in the report provided by Mick Brown 3 years ago, that the department should contract out all tasks—other than those relating to the immediate safety and security of children—to community agencies, allowing the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services sufficient time it needs to carry out those functions that are best and most appropriately carried out by a Government agency?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Of the 53 recommendations that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services are responsible for implementing, in the report by Judge Mick Brown, which the member referred to, over 40 of those have already been completed and the rest are partially completed.

Moana Mackey: How has the Government met its 2002 election promise?

Hon RUTH DYSON: More than 900 community service organisations will receive funding totalling nearly $90 million in this financial year. The latest Budget included an additional $25.6 million over the next 4 years for these services. We have also improved social work practice by setting up registration of social workers, and investing significantly more in training.

Katherine Rich: When Labour’s 1999 child, youth, and family election promise was to ensure that all State agencies keep accurate statistics relating to their services for families, how does she reconcile that election promise with the fact that today the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is unsure how many children are in its care and whether they are enrolled in a school?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I would agree that that particular manifesto commitment has not been completely delivered.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of the Government’s 2002 election commitment, has it given consideration to abolishing the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services as a Government agency altogether, and better resourcing the community and voluntary agencies that currently work with at-risk children and young people to ensure that a better range of services are provided to those needy young people?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, the Government has not considered that proposal.

Marc Alexander: In light of Labour’s commitment to increase funding to community-based services, does the Minister agree that the proposal for a family support services operational group within the Ministry of Social Development is merely another concession to the empire building of her colleague, when this is exactly the kind of work that could be carried out by the community groups that the Government pledged to fund last year, and do it better?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I do not agree with either of the assertions made by the member in his question. It is almost impossible to comprehend how the member could envisage an individual community organisation having both the mandate and the ability to provide an overarching family service policy in the way that is envisaged through the recommendation of the baseline review to be instigated within the Ministry of Social Development.

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Ministerial Confidence—Health, Minister

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Health; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If she is such a hard-working and conscientious Minister, why is she a Minister who says that the efficacy of Alzheimer’s drugs has not been proven, when Canada, UK, Australia, USA, Latin America, and Western Europe all make those drugs publicly available; or is this just another example of inexcusable, inexplicable, heartless cost-cutting?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, none of the above. This country has very careful mechanisms for assessing what drugs it is appropriate to fund, and I am not aware that those mechanisms and procedures have changed substantially in recent years, at all.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does not the Prime Minister inform herself of the facts before she rises and makes a statement like that, when Canada, UK, Australia, USA, Latin America, and Western Europe—nearly all the First World—recognise that these drugs do work, and make them publicly available, whilst her Minister is demanding that Pharmac do a trial to find out what everybody else in the world knows, and where everybody else in the world is prepared to spend money, excepting her heartless Government and Minister?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only repeat that getting value for money is very important, and that does not mean paying any price for any drug that a pharmaceutical company wants.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is the Prime Minister aware that these drugs are the only treatment available to patients with Alzheimer’s, and why will they not be funded?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I suggest the member put down a question on notice with specific reference to the question of Alzheimer’s drugs. It is this Government’s determination to provide proper treatment for people across the range of conditions. It is also a fact that we consider health sufficiently important to have it as a front-bench portfolio.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister might think that it is important by placing someone on the front bench, but being informed about it is not what she is demonstrating today. She should not, having attempted to answer two questions already, then pretend that she has adequately answered this House by saying “put down a written question”. She has been asked why the only drug proven worldwide is being denied to the thousands of sufferers in this country, and—

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Speaking to the point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I have not finished yet. Sit down! I am on my feet.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. The member does not have to be rude. The member had not finished and I was going to allow him to continue. Would he please continue?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member is within a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No. My point of order is that the rudeness commenced with the Prime Minister thinking that she could rise to her feet when a point of order is being properly made. If you want to point to rudeness, then you should point to her.

Mr SPEAKER: I will make the decision on that. The Prime Minister rose thinking that the member had finished. The member had not finished and I was going to let him carry on. Would the member please carry on.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You can make any defence for her you like.

Mr SPEAKER: This is not a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The reality is that I was making a point of order, I had not finished, and you have accused me of rudeness when that accusation lies properly with the Prime Minister. I want to continue on when you properly do what you should have done and called her to question and accused her of rudeness, not me.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is wrong. He will carry on with his point of order or he will leave. Would the member please carry on with the point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the way I am treated I am not interested in carrying on with the question.

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Corrections, Department—Supervision of Paedophile

10. RICHARD WORTH (National—Epsom), on behalf of Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty): to the Minister of Corrections: Will there be an independent investigation into the actions of the Department of Corrections with regards to the supervision of paedophile, Lloyd Alexander McIntosh; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): No. The offender was being supervised 24 hours a day by a private provider contracted by the Department of Corrections. It is entirely appropriate that the Department of Corrections investigate the actions of the contractor and review its own procedures in relation to such contracts.

Richard Worth: Does the Minister agree with the comments made by his colleague the Hon Philip Goff: “We’re fortunate that it was not at the most serious end of offending.”; if so, is he prepared to explain these comments to Mr McIntosh’s female victim and her family who are coping with the reality that the State literally stood by while she was being assaulted?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: On most occasions I agree with the comments made by Philip Goff. I think it is really important to say that the department did all that it could. It made sure that McIntosh stayed in jail for as long as possible, it had conditions applied to the release, it negotiated a 24/7 supervision with McIntosh, contracted two agencies to carry them out, and took action when the conditions were breached. The department did all that it could.

Ron Mark: Given that the Minister only yesterday finally conceded that despite his earlier protestations that there was no need for a fully independent inquiry into the Department of Corrections emergency response unit, why will he not now accept that there is quite clearly a need for an independent inquiry into the department’s close supervision programme of Mr Lloyd Alexander McIntosh, or do we just have to sit here and wait until he gets another kick in the butt from the Prime Minister and finally does what we all know he needs to do.

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, as I indicated to that member, I was always relaxed about some form of inquiry but not political grandstanding. That is why we have taken this course of action, which the member supports. The difference between the two is that this one is about contracting arrangements with third parties. That is why it should be done by the department.

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Students—Achievement Levels

11. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to lift the educational achievements of school children in New Zealand?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Our Government is investing heavily in numeracy initiatives, because we see it as a top priority for lifting educational achievement. Initiatives include a nationwide numeracy project involving more than 10,000 teachers and the hugely popular numeracy assessment tool known as “asTTle”. This award-winning tool allows teachers to test students’ skills, accurately identify their weaknesses, and adapt and target their teaching accordingly.

Jill Pettis: What are the benefits of lifting numeracy skills?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Good numeracy skills are essential to everyday life and to success. It is important that 5-year-olds can count from one to 10, and it is important for adults to do more complicated calculations, such as starting from a base of 27 and learning to count to 14 amongst those numbers.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain how an increase of 40 percent in spending on Ministry of Education bureaucrats is lifting the educational achievement of children?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will brief the member later, but in the last Budget the former Crown entity, the Specialist Education Services, came into the Ministry of Education, thereby boosting the budget substantially.

Hon Brian Donnelly: How will shutting down 300 schools help lift educational achievement of New Zealand schoolchildren?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No decision has been taken to close 300 schools, but I should say that spending money on numeracy initiatives rather than on building contractors for empty classrooms would be considerable progress.

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Environmental Risk Management Authority—Policy

12. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she stand by her comments about the Environmental Risk Management Authority that “We have established a system that allows people to have their say on those applications, and I encourage those wishing to do so to use the system”; if so, what is she doing to encourage people to have their say?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes, and we have increased the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s funding, giving it the resources to run robust public hearings, but not exhaustive ones, and to build it relationships with the public.

Sue Kedgley: In its consideration of the GE onion application currently before it, why did the Environmental Risk Management Authority refuse to hold hearings anywhere but in Christchurch, and refuse to allow teleconference facilities to be available so that the many submitters who could not travel to Christchurch could make submissions, and how do those policies encourage those wishing to do so to have their say on the authority’s applications, as the Minister promised would happen?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The submissions were heard in Christchurch because the application involves a 15 square metre plot of onions located in Canterbury, and because it is a field trial rather than a release, meaning that most, if not all, genetic material or heritable material will be destroyed at the end of the trial. I would also like to point out that it is for the panel to regulate its own hearing practices, but I understand that a New Zealand resident overseas is being heard by videoconferencing, even though this is a very small and concentrated trial.

Larry Baldock: How many submissions have been received by the Environmental Risk Management Authority regarding the application by Crop and Food Research to begin field trials on genetically modified onions, and does this number suggest to her that people are still confused about the difference between commercial release, which was covered by the moratorium, and field trials, which have been taking place for years and were not covered by the moratorium?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am advised that around 1,900 written submissions were received. Although about half of these are form submissions, the number still indicates to me that people want to have a say in these matters. I believe that the system we have set up gives them the opportunity to do so.

David Parker: Can the Minister advise the House whether the application concerning onions to the Environmental Risk Management Authority from Crop and Food Research is the first of its kind in New Zealand?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: No, it is not. We have had 13 other field tests of genetically modified organisms in New Zealand already. These have been for a variety of organisms including potatoes, cattle, and petunias. In other words, the authority has had plenty of experience with these kinds of applications.

Sue Kedgley: Why did the Environmental Risk Management Authority offer teleconference facilities to an overseas submitter, but not to any submitters in New Zealand; and when parliamentary select committees are able to advise submitters when they should turn up to make a submission, why is the authority unable to advise some submitters which day they can be expected to be heard by the authority; and is not all this just part of an ongoing authority strategy to make it as difficult as possible for ordinary New Zealanders to make submissions?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I understand that one of the other submitters who applied for a videoconference was Jon Carapiet of GE Food New Zealand, knowing that former other members of GE Food New Zealand were also appearing and were being heard by the authority. Jon Carapiet, I think, was on the Green Party list at the last election. Mr Carapiet asked to appear on the videoconference link only at 5 p.m. last Friday.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: When she decided recently that our taxes would fund 87 percent of the cost of the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s regulatory hearings in order to shield applicants from paying the full costs from their business activities, did she ensure that the authority received enough funds to conduct hearings in main centres and provide teleconference facilities, as is routine for select committees; if not, will she provide this funding?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I remind the questioner that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act was passed in 1996, and it was decided by the then Government that there would be a 100 percent cost recovery by 1999. Because of a delay in part of the legislation, which did not come into place until 2001, it was decided at this time that the 100 percent cost recovery was too large a barrier for people working in hazardous substances, such as plastics manufacturers, as well as for people involved in the research on new organisms. I would remind the questioner again that the Environmental Risk Management Authority is a statutory authority. It is not under ministerial direction. Certainly it gets funding from the Minister and, as a statutory authority, it determines the details of how it conducts it hearings.

Sue Kedgley: In light of her claim that “ERMA makes its decisions in an open and transparent manner”, why did the authority go into a secret session yesterday so that details of Crop and Food Research’s collaborator in the onion field trial could remain secret, and what exactly is commercially sensitive about the name of a company that a Crown research entity is collaborating with?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As I was not at the authority hearing yesterday, I am not totally sure which information is being referred to. When information is defined as commercially sensitive it is not publicly available for all the applicant’s competitors to see. This is in keeping with New Zealand’s international obligations. It is, of course, made available to the authority, which scrutinises the application in light of all the information it has.

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Question No. 8 to Minister

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): During an answer to a supplementary question in relation to question No. 8 I gave an incorrect figure. I would like to correct it now.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is not.

Hon RUTH DYSON: In relation to the recommendations completed on the Judge Brown report, the correct number is 34.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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