Questions & Answers For Oral Answer Tuesday
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions to Ministers:
1. Economy—Economic Credibility 1
2. Bream Bay Club, Ruakaka—Air Quality 2
3. Auckland Issues, Minister—Confidence 2
4. Exchange Rate—International Credibility 3
5. Growth and Innovation Taskforces—Skill Needs 3
6. GATS Negotiations—Overseas Investment Commission 3
7. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Bednight Contract 4
8. Child Sex Offenders—Supervision Regime 5
9. Algerians—Investigation of Arrivals 6
10. Methamphetamine—Addiction Support 8
11. Hanmer Clinics—Ministry of Health Contracts 9
12. Methamphetamine—Environment Science and Research 9
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CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: Has the Government received any reports into its economic credibility?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes. The latest household labour force survey released today showed further drops in the unemployment rate. We now have the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the OECD, which puts us in the top quarter. The financial statements for the 3 months ending September also released today showed that the operating balance had created some $700 million – odd above Budget forecasts.
Clayton Cosgrove: What recent evidence has he received to support the assessment of Mr Prebble, the leader of the ACT party, that Labour has high economic credibility?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There have been many such reports. The data I just referred to certainly demonstrates that fact, and the ASB, in a statement on unemployment numbers, paid tribute to the Government’s economic policies and the success thereof. That is what I believe some people call “destroying New Zealand”—may it long continue.
Gerry Brownlee: How credible is it to have the Minister of Finance’s $5 billion surplus, or his $700 million spare cash, when we have kôhanga reo throughout the country having run out of funding and calling in parents to relieve teachers and clean toilets, and similar sorts of shortages in other parts of the education system and in the health system, as well?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If the member thinks that under accruals accounting an operating surplus is “spare cash”, it shows why he should leave these questions to John Key.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about the credibility of the Minister of Finance. Surely, rather than a smart-ass comment like that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise—
Mr SPEAKER: No. Please be seated. The member can certainly have a flick comment back, but he does not use unparliamentary language. He withdraws and apologises.
Gerry Brownlee: I have withdrawn and apologised. None the less, it should be for the Minister to answer the question. If he has a reason for kôhanga reo to be out of funding—for parents to have to come in and supply cleaning materials for their toilets, to relieve teachers, and to provide art materials for all those young people—if in fact he has abandoned the closing the gaps policy that was so important a wee while ago, and if he has such fine economic performance to his credit, why does he not explain that situation?
Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to say a few more words.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Under accruals accounting an operating surplus does not necessarily reflect a cash surplus. Equally, if the member thinks about the unemployment numbers released today, there is scarcely room for a large fiscal stimulus to the New Zealand domestic sector, at the present time.
Rodney Hide: In light of the clear value that the Minister of Finance puts on Mr Prebble’s assessment, does the Minister realise that Mr Prebble gave his Government an A for spin but an F for policy—this Government being the most anti-business, anti-success, and anti-prosperous Government we have had to endure in a generation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A Government that can boast the lowest unemployment rate for 16 years, 3 successive years of higher growth than the average for the OECD, growing household incomes, and a particularly large reduction in unemployment amongst Mâori and Pacific Islands people, is clearly what the ACT party would regard as social failure. For them, success is the flogging off of State assets, rising unemployment, and increasing poverty.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Minister of Finance admit that, in the time that he has had a say in the Labour Party’s running of this country, we have seen New Zealand grow, in real terms, at one-third less than Australia’s rate and that we have a balance-of-payments crisis in this country that is almost unprecedented; does he put that all down to himself and his colleagues?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: To the first question, no. To the second question, the current account progress in New Zealand is following Australia’s track very closely, and I keep drawing that to the attention of the financial sector.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table an article from the Daily Post last year in which Dr Cullen stated that there would be 4 percent growth in the next year.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
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Bream Bay Club, Ruakaka—Air Quality
2. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister for Crown Research Institutes: Does he accept that the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited report titled “Air Quality inside the Bream Bay Club, Ruakaka” was “flawed” as claimed by MP Steve Chadwick in her 30 October 2003 letter to Clubs NZ; if so, what were the report’s flaws?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Crown Research Institutes): The problem that that report has run into is that it has been represented as a health risk assessment, which it never pretended to be. To quote the report’s author:“It is not a health risk assessment, and does not make any claims on the effects of any indoor contaminants (including tobacco smoke) on people.”
Hon Ken Shirley: Will the Minister deny that the scientists who wrote that report were leaned on to write a letter to the health authorities highlighting aspects of the report that do not focus on the science but, instead, on the political spin?
Hon PETE HODGSON: They certainly have not been leaned on by me. In fact, I have a letter from the senior air quality scientist responsible for the report, who states: “I have the impression that some aspects are being misinterpreted continuously, it would seem.”
Jill Pettis: What advice does the Minister have on whether the claims that have been made about the report are scientifically justified?
Hon PETE HODGSON: To quote the report’s author again, its air quality measurements “do not support any particular conclusion about the health effects or exposures due to tobacco smoke within the club.” That is an interesting contrast to the claim of United Future leader Peter Dunne that the report found that “extra ventilation resulted in an acceptable level of air quality.”
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that the workers and patrons of the Bream Bay Club have the right to breathe air free of carcinogens that kills thousands of New Zealanders, and is he satisfied that the research into the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke is sufficiently robust to justify the smoke-free legislation?
Hon PETE HODGSON: In answer to the second question, I am not sufficiently well-briefed to give the member a point of view, to be honest. In answer to the first question, most certainly.
Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister reconcile his last answer but one, relating to comments I had made about the report, with the final statement in the report’s conclusion, which reads: “During a trial period of extra ventilation, concentrations of both contaminants fell to very low values, even when smoking was allowed in a part of the club. This level of indoor air treatment appeared to result in a very acceptable level of air quality within the club.”; was the Minister aware of those comments when he dismissed my comments earlier on; if so, how does he reconcile the inconsistency?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I was aware of them, and I reconcile it thus: there is a difference between comfort—whether smoke gets in one’s eyes—and health—whether cancer gets in one’s body.
Hon Ken Shirley: How does the Minister explain the file note by the scientist responsible for this report, which states that he was sort of leaned on and forced to write to Mr Gillespie from the Ministry of Health, and does the Minister think it is appropriate that in fact politics should determine scientific results, rather than letting them stand and be judged on their own merits?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The allegation that a scientist in New Zealand has been leaned on is new to me, and it would be a matter of some concern if ever a scientist in New Zealand responded to such leaning. However, the chief executive of the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere Research points out that the institute stands absolutely entirely behind its research, but went on to say that the report was not intended to provide comment or research into the impacts of ventilation on passive smoking. The institute points out that even with extremely effective ventilation systems, someone sitting next to a smoker would still be affected by passive smoking.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister agree that scientific papers are optimally assessed by international peer review, and that it is unfortunate a member of his own party has commented on this paper for political purposes before it has been thoroughly scientifically assessed?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am sorry to advise the member of the most basic piece of information. This was not a peer-reviewed piece of science.
Hon Peter Dunne: Can I ask the Minister to address his claim that this report was not about smoke-free environments within the Ruakaka Bream Bay Club, when the report in the section headed “Issues”, on page 1, states: “The particular issue addressed here posed by the owners of the Bream Bay Club is basically: can we achieve acceptably clean air in our club by using air filtration and ventilation, especially for protection against the effects of cigarette smoke?” How does he reconcile that statement in the report with his denial that the report was about that?
Hon PETE HODGSON: That is what the chief executive of the Bream Bay Club said it was about. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research gave a report on air quality, on the issues of comfort, on the issues of particulates, and on the issue of carbon monoxide—not on the various toxins that arise from tobacco smoke.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I waited until the end so as not to interrupt the flow of questions, but I draw your attention to this. It is a difficulty that we have time and time again in this House. Mr Shirley’s question to the Minister asked: “Does he accept that the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited report … was ‘flawed’ …”. What the Minister went on in his answer to say was that it did not cover that and it did not cover that. The report was never intended to cover those things. The precise question is: was this scientific report in its own terms flawed? The Minister refuses to answer or address it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is arguing the quality of the answer. I am not expected to judge on that. The answer stands as the Minister gave it. It addressed the question.
Hon Peter Dunne: I seek leave to table the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research report, which backs up the claims I have made.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table the letter to the manager of public health programmes by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research scientists with the file note copy outlining how they were leaned on and forced to write this letter.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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Auckland Issues, Minister—Confidence
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Before I ask the next question, can we have a brief time to stop laughing at that answer? I cannot hear myself.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member raises that sort of point of order, he will not be asking any further supplementary questions today.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How on earth can the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues who, in spite of the Auckland Regional Council’s current plea that: “A lack of Government policy on population is putting added strain on already stressed resources.”, said this morning on National Radio that the Government is doing its bit to help Auckland to cope with a burgeoning population; and can she explain what this “bit” is that she is talking about?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The “bit” includes very substantial additional funding across a whole range of Government areas, not least, in particular, the work going on between Government officials at central and local government levels on the Auckland transport plan.
John Key: How can the Prime Minister possibly have confidence in a Minister who has, under her watch, saddled Auckland ratepayers with a dilapidated rail system, failed to make any progress whatsoever on a credible roading infrastructure, and seen massive regional council rate rises that have prompted a rate revolt?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: To take simply the first question, the dilapidated rail system is largely the result of the privatisation of New Zealand Rail by the National Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does this “bit”, as the Minister put it, include helping the hundreds of Aucklanders with diabetes-related eye diseases who are going blind waiting for treatment, the 40,000 immigrants arriving in Auckland in the last year alone, Auckland cancer patients who, for the first time, face a wait for lifesaving chemotherapy, or migrants wasting valuable time and money by missing hospital appointments because they cannot understand letters advising them of check-ups, although they are meant to have an understanding of English to arrive here in the first place; and, with translation costs to the Auckland District Health Board reaching more than $4 million in the last year, which “bit” of that story is helpful to Auckland?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the Minister replies, I will give my only warning today—no interjections while questions are being asked, and that is it.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Considerable extra resources have been devoted to the Auckland health system. The introduction of population-based funding will certainly assist Auckland, in particular. A great deal of work has gone into cooperation between the three Auckland district health boards. Those are all positive progress issues in Auckland. Generally, migration adds to New Zealand’s wealth and value. I suggest that Mr Peters ask the member next to him about that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Despite not taking up the Minister’s invitation to ask the member next to me about that—he having been profitably employed since the day he arrived, unlike the tens of thousands that the Minister brought in—does this “bit” include the Government’s instruction to doctors that they cannot refuse to treat illegal immigrants or residents, regardless of the comment made by Auckland District Health Board chair, Wayne Brown, that: “It is not fair that the taxpaying locals are missing out on health care because their money is being used to treat illegal immigrants.”; how can she possibly have faith in the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, who clearly ignores Aucklanders completely, other than that she is some sort of soul mate?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland issues is not responsible for such details as the relationship between district health boards and doctors in Auckland.
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Exchange Rate—International Credibility
4. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Does he think he was being responsible when he stated that any action taken to curb the exchange rate by the Government would be declared “if and when I have done something.”; if so, what impact does he think such a statement has on New Zealand’s international credibility in the financial markets?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes, and none.
John Key: Is the Minister considering an increase in the current $4.5 billion target for New Zealand’s reserves, so that he can intervene with more confidence in the currency market; if so, does he acknowledge that the current reserves cost the taxpayer $10 million a year in carry costs, and that any increase in reserves would lead to a $20 million or $30 million cost, and would run against the advice given to him by the Reserve Bank in his briefing that it would be marginal at best?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I am not considering that. I have been informally advised that the Reserve Bank may raise the issue with me itself, despite its briefing to me as Minister. I have yet to consider it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister think it is respectable to repeat past experience, when he was first a member of Government, when the dollar rose to US44c and finished at US72c—destructively against the interests of exporters—then between 1994 and 1996 it rose 26 percent under a National Government, without any effort by the then Minister of Finance to do a thing; why does he think that a rise of 33 percent in the last 15 months is good for exporters, good for a country dependent upon exports, and good for our wealth as an exporting country overall?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thought I had made it rather clear I do not, but, unlike the member, I act according to the law. I do not believe that one can call in the Reserve Bank governor and simply order him to lower the exchange rate, as that member seems to think one can.
John Key: Is the Minister considering any changes to the treatment of foreign investments in New Zealand, as the Thai authorities did on 14 October when they prohibited non-residents from interests in their current accounts dated less than 6 months; if so, what does he think these impacts will have on the $98 billion of foreign investment currently in New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The member may rest easy on that score.
John Key: Does the Minister think that his comments to curb the dollar last week are working; if so, has he noticed that the Kiwi has gone up 100 points since he made them to a 6½ year high?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have noticed that. But what I do know about exchange rates is that what goes up does eventually come down again.
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Growth and Innovation Taskforces—Skill Needs
5. MAHARA OKEROA (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What is the Government doing to meet the skill needs identified by the Growth and Innovation Taskforces?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Government has committed $21.55 million over 4 years for two new contestable funds to ensure the training needs of the biotechnology information and communications technology and design industries are effectively met by tertiary education organisations. The Tertiary Education Commission is commencing work with the tertiary sector on the new growth and innovation framework sector peak bodies to ensure that they understand what the funds are for and they are ready to make applications early next year.
Mahara Okeroa: What are the two funds called, and what practical purposes might they be used for?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The enterprise training for emerging industries initiative—
Gerry Brownlee: What name?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I know that people are eager on the other side to tell their local institutions about this, so I will repeat that. The enterprise training for emerging industries initiative can build connections between tertiary organisations and the three sectors by helping an information and communications technology organisation to establish additional types of training within the growth and innovation framework sector, or to help establish consortia between these sectors, their companies, and particular providers within the tertiary sector. The entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer initiative can promote the sharing of knowledge by supporting the development of management training or providing advice and support for the commercialisation of good ideas.
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GATS Negotiations—Overseas Investment Commission
6. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Which countries requested the New Zealand Government to remove or ease requirements for Overseas Investment Commission approval for foreign investment in the current General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): It is accepted practice amongst World Trade Organization members that requests made by and of other countries are to be kept confidential, but I can confirm that nine countries have asked for changes to our screening system as part of their General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) requests. That does not put New Zealand under any obligation to acquiesce to such requests.
Rod Donald: Can the Minister see any similarity between the European Union request to New Zealand to remove all requirements for Overseas Investment Commission approval for foreign investments and Dr Cullen’s request that the review of the Overseas Investment Commission considers “whether company purchases should be removed from the purview of the OIC”, and is this similarity pure coincidence?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I am not prepared to confirm that any particular country has made such a request of New Zealand, but I would point out to the member that the review of the Overseas Investment Commission might just as likely result in its being tightened up as in its being liberalised.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What is the New Zealand Government’s position on its participation in the General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The New Zealand Government has published its 10 guiding principles for New Zealand’s participation in these negotiations. The discussion document was published in March. I now seek leave to table it, and draw it to members’ attention, yet again.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dail Jones: What discussions has the Minister undertaken with the Greens to prevent the sale of land to foreigners, which incidentally is New Zealand First policy, and has he received an assurance from the Greens that they will take a principled approach and oppose any removal or easing of the powers of the Overseas Investment Commission relating to the sale of land to foreigners, or will the Greens’ approach be the same as it was on the GE legislation?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I have not myself undertaken any consultation with the Green Party on that policy, which I take to be the failed policies of the former New Zealand First coalition partner.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm with regard to the procedures of the Overseas Investment Commission, and particularly our sensitive land purchased by overseas interests, namely our coastal land, that in the last 6 years the total proportion of our coastal land purchased by overseas interests represents not 0.1 percent but 0.018 percent of our coastline?
Hon JIM SUTTON: My understanding is that the correct figure is 0.1 percent, but if the member really wants to get more information on that, he should set down a question to the Minister responsible.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: As the Minister thought he would put into contention the record of New Zealand First, is it not true that when he was in Government between 1984 and 1990 virtually no applications failed to get approval, and that between 1989 and 1996 every application was successful, and that since the new Government has come back in 1999, the Overseas Investment Commission applications are not handled inside the office of the Minister of Finance or Treasury, but rather down there, where they are rubber-stamped on a constant basis?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I cannot confirm any of the statistics from the member, but I can confirm that when that member was Deputy Prime Minister the Government of the day introduced a new and more rigorous set of criteria for the Overseas Investment Commission, but then sneakily never implemented them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table evidence that on the passage of the bill, at the time of the coalition collapsing, it was withheld by the National Government operating by itself, and later submitted by the Minister of Finance, the facts of which that Minister next to him knows—[Interruption] Tell the truth for a change.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot accuse another member of not telling the truth. He will please withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member has asked for leave to table a document. I am going to take that leave. Is there any objection to him tabling that document? There is not.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that what the Minister said he must know not to be the truth, because he was in a Cabinet that did precisely that—took a bill that was through its third reading, awaiting the Governor-General’s assent, and sent it down for that, a statement of which was put out by the Minister for the Treasury at the time, the Minister of Finance, Dr Cullen. He, being a Cabinet Minister, must have known that. If he knew that, then either he has amnesia or there is something else.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has made a statement in the House. He cannot be accused of not telling the truth.
Rod Donald: Is the Minister aware that US Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, has asked Australia to remove its foreign investment regulations, as part of its negotiations over a free-trade agreement, and can he see the uncanny resemblance to the proposal floated yesterday by the Minister of Finance to remove companies from the purview of the Overseas Investment Commission?
Hon JIM SUTTON: No.
Rod Donald: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand laws around foreign ownership of land cannot be tightened beyond those committed to under GATS without breaching New Zealand’s World Trade Organization obligations; if so, which is more important to this Government—protecting iconic sites from foreign ownership or toeing the line at the World Trade Organization?
Hon JIM SUTTON: New Zealand can, if it wishes, tighten the conditions surrounding the purchase of land by overseas people in New Zealand.
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Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Bednight Contract
7. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF) ): Why did the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services fail to use $1 million worth of pre-purchased nationally contracted bed nights in 2002-03?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services contracts with providers annually, based on estimated volumes of around 335,000 bed nights. Last year there were 13,514 unused bed nights—4 percent of the total. The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services plans a small surplus of bed nights to ensure there are always beds available at short notice. However, last year’s surplus was higher than it should have been, partly because a large provider that cares for some of the country’s most challenging children experienced difficulties that meant its bed nights went unused. The baseline review also found that the department’s information systems did not address local needs precisely enough, and recommended ways to improve them.
Katherine Rich: Can the Minister assure the House that no children were left in unsafe environments over the 2002-03 year, while there were safe beds paid for but not used; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Associate Minister, my understanding would be that that is exactly the case—that no child was left in circumstances that he or she should not have been left in.
Georgina Beyer: What is the Government doing to ensure the effective use of pre-purchased bed nights?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We are implementing the baseline reviews recommendations, including investment up to $11.55 million over 3 years to ensure the department’s systems are efficient and effective. We are also injecting an extra $7 million over 3 years to help build a stronger regional structure to ensure that services are better aligned to local needs.
Barbara Stewart: How can he have any confidence in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services budgetary process to meet the needs of abused or neglected children in New Zealand when it does not even know the total number of children currently in its care?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The department does know the total number of children in its care, but, unfortunately its data is currently held at a site level that means when you ask that question it takes some time for the department to gather that to put it together. That is one of the changes recommended in the baseline review—that instead of holding that data at site level it should hold it nationally as well.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall last week that a question was asked of Ruth Dyson on that very precise matter. In what has been described by the newspaper as a “Parekura-ism” she got up and gave a long extended answer, which made no sense whatsoever. And today that same answer has been given by that Minister, saying simply that the information has been kept but we cannot tell the House—a full week later. That is just contempt of Parliament and it is a bureaucratic disgrace, approved by that Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is debating the answer. The answer certainly addressed the question asked.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the 31 percent increase in notifications to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services this year that require further investigation, including 260 critical cases, 115 very urgent, 1,673 urgent cases, and 712 low-urgent cases, how does the Minister know that these unused bed nights were not needed to keep those 2,760 children safe?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Associate Minister, and I stress I am answering on behalf of the Associate Minister, what I said earlier was that is my understanding that no child was left in circumstances that he or she should not have been left in.
Sue Bradford: Why did the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services fail to make full use of its budget for high and complex needs in 2002-03, and what steps is it taking to improve its services for children and young people in its care who have mental health needs?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: A question would need to be put down to the Associate Minister for the precise answer, since I am answering on her behalf. However, the member will recall that the history of this money is one of being shared between education, health, and Child, Youth and Family Services, and that it took quite some time for the courts to get used to making use of recommending that children are placed in a way that will make use of this money. That meant that the uptake was a little slower, but my understanding is once again that money is now being used by the courts.
Katherine Rich: Can he give an assurance that no Department of Child, Youth and Family Services social worker was made to compromise his or her practice by having to leave a child in an unsafe environment because he or she was under the false impression that no bed nights were available in the year 2002-03; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have not spoken to every social worker in the country, although there are record numbers of them at the present time. However, the social workers are professional social workers, and they need to make professional judgments. I am sure they do everything they can to make sure children are placed properly.
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the information that shows that there are 2,760 cases needing careful investigation.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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Child Sex Offenders—Supervision Regime
8. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Justice: What is the purpose of the extended supervision regime for child sex offenders proposed by the Government?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The purpose of the bill introduced today is to provide protection for children from high-risk sex offenders following the completion of their jail sentences or upon expiry of their parole or release conditions. The new provision allows offenders who a court believes are likely to reoffend to be the subject of supervision and controls for a period of up to 10 years following the completion of their sentences. This may include direction as to where they work and live and the people they associate with. It may require them to attend rehabilitation and relapse-prevention programmes. Where necessary, it can include home detention for up to 12 months and electronic monitoring—all in contrast with what members opposite did, which was nothing. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There was far too much noise during that answer. The Minister was giving information about a request. A lot of supplementary questions can come as a result. Certainly, there was too much noise when that answer was being given.
Darren Hughes: Does the bill apply to those already sentenced under the existing law; if so, why?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. When the bill is enacted, it will apply to all high-risk sex offenders still subject to sentence as of today’s date. The reason is that prior to the Sentencing Act, passed last year, preventive detention criteria were less stringent and some high-risk offenders were instead given finite sentences. The law requires that those people be released when they complete their sentences, even though they are likely to reoffend. Although this legislation may override the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in some respects, it allows society to exercise what I believe is justifiable control over high-risk offenders so as to protect vulnerable children from their reoffending.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why will the Minister not drop this spin and admit that all that this bill provides is the ability attach an electronic monitoring bracelet to those offenders, and how is that actually going to stop vile sexual predators like Barry Allan Ryder and Lloyd Alexander McIntosh from molesting young children, when all that will be done is to monitor where they are, not whom they are with?
Hon PHIL GOFF: If the National Party in Government had introduced the sentencing law that I passed last year, then those offenders would have been subject to preventive detention—and the member knows it.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked a question. I want him to give an answer please.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer is that, unfortunately, until the Sentencing Act came into effect last year the law on preventive detention for repeat offenders was inadequate. It was inadequate for the whole 9 years that that member was in Government. We have brought in the toughest regime that exists anywhere in the democratic world to ensure that those people who have completed their sentence, but still constitute a risk of reoffending, can receive the tightest possible monitoring and control that the law allows, notwithstanding the fact that this may breach the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Mr SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Stephen Franks: Why confine post-sentence supervision to sex offenders, who have relatively low reoffending rates, and not cover robbers, burglars, and other thugs, who hurt fresh victims, young and old, far more predictably, and why not simply replace our useless parole system that makes every judge a liar?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question was a little wide of the original question. The Minister may comment very briefly.
Hon PHIL GOFF: This bill focuses on child sex offenders already convicted and who are likely to reoffend because of the seriousness of the consequences of them so doing, given the vulnerability of their victims. This is extraordinary legislation. This is the toughest legislation that this House has ever seen introduced, and I expect the member to support the legislation on that basis. I expect the National Party to do so in repentance of the fact that it spent 9 years in Government doing absolutely damn nothing.
Ron Mark: From those answers can we now take it that this Government’s approach towards mental health issues and intellectual disabilities that the vast majority of the people the Minister is talking about suffer from are simply to be contained by him under criminal legislation, as opposed to doing the unthinkable, which is what all of New Zealand wants: accept that these people should be treated as mental health patients or as people with intellectual disabilities, that they should be put back into institutions where they can be properly cared for and looked after, as opposed to being chucked out on the street and once again endangering the lives of ordinary citizens?
Mr SPEAKER: That was far too long a question, but I allowed it. The Hon Phil Goff can respond briefly.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is factually wrong on the nature of the condition from which the worst of these offenders actually suffer. They are not mentally disordered—
Ron Mark: Yes, they are.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Does the member want to hear the answer to his question? They are not—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Not the same drivel, no.
Hon PHIL GOFF: If those members are to interrupt continually, I will not bother to answer this question.
Mr SPEAKER: I have asked the Minister to reply briefly. He can do that very briefly, and I want him to continue, very briefly.
Hon PHIL GOFF: If a person is mentally disordered he or she will be dealt with under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act and can be confined in an institution. If people are intellectually disabled they will be dealt with in a different way. The sorts of offenders who are being dealt with under this legislation are offenders who meet neither of those definitions, but in fact can, and should, be held criminally responsible for their actions.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why will this Minister not admit that this bill will not protect one child in this country, because all he is planning to do is to monitor where these sexual predators are, not whom they are with; it is not supervision, it is home detention, and it will not work?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It will not protect one person; it will protect the potential victims of the likely 350 people who by year 2009 will be subject to control and supervision under this legislation. This legislation provides not simply for the normal level of supervision under parole; it provides for the highest risk offenders for intensive supervision, which includes confinement in their homes, electronic monitoring, and, where necessary, a 24/7 regime.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has given a long enough answer.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hesitate to do this, but in the seven or so supplementary questions that have just been asked of the Minister, in all but the last one the level of interjection from the Opposition was so high that, sitting just four seats away, I found it virtually impossible to hear the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: In fact, there were five supplementary questions. I heard the Minister give vigorous answers. Of course, there was interjection. We expect that on occasion. When I thought it was excessive I stepped in.
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Algerians—Investigation of Arrivals
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is the Government currently involved in any investigations with respect to arrivals from Algeria in September 2003; if so, what are the circumstances of those investigations?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: As I have said before in this House, I am not prepared to disclose information about an individual case.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have asked this Minister a pretty serious question. I have some idea where this question is going. He has a responsibility to answer it. He has flagrantly told us all that he just will not answer. Frankly, that is an abomination in democracy, it is an abomination in respect of accountability at question time, and I for one do not intend to put up with that, and I expect you not to, either.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I will expect the Minister to address a question when it is asked. He certainly addressed that. The member can now have a supplementary question if he wants one.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member is not—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated right now. The member will not argue with me about that. I have ruled. There is too much argument about whether or not Ministers’ answers are satisfactory. That is not my job. My job is to ensure that the question is addressed. I heard the question. I heard the Minister’s answer. He certainly addressed the question concerned.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to make one thing very clear to you. I have a right to raise a point of order in this House. I will not be put down by you, or anybody. The point is that I did not ask for individuals’ circumstances. Read the question again. It states “If so, what are the circumstances of these investigations?”. How can the Minister come to the conclusion that I was asking about an individual? I shall have a point of order, unless—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated. The member who made that interjection will leave the Chamber right now.
Edwin Perry withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will finish his point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that I asked a question in respect of any investigations, and if so, what are the circumstances of those investigations. The Minister, contrary to your ruling, said he would not answer, because he said it was to do with individuals. That is contrary to the question as well. I am now asking you to get him to his feet, to give this House some respect, and this country, and tell us what is going on.
Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 127/6, which states that an answer can be absolutely refused, if in the opinion of the Minister interrogated, the public interest would be imperilled by giving the information sought. The Minister gave an answer. It was within the Standing Orders. The member can ask a supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The ambit of that Speaker’s ruling cannot cover the Minister’s answer. He referred to individuals, but I am not asking that question. You should look at the question. You and the Clerk allowed it through. Now I am told that he can get away with that answer. Until you can distinguish the plurality of my question against his singular answer, then simply your Speaker’s ruling cannot stand. I ask again for an answer on the circumstances in respect of any occasions in September. He will not give me an answer and I am asking you to make him do that.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question was in order. The Minister gave an answer that was in order according to the Standing Orders. If the member wants to ask a supplementary question, he can now do so.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This goes to the issue of the Opposition having to verify questions for the Clerk’s Office. It is not easy to get questions past the Clerk. We cannot ask questions that are based purely on supposition. We have to take evidence to the Clerk’s office that supports the question being asked.
Quite clearly in this case, the questioner presumably has evidence that there is an investigation under way by the Immigration Service at the moment, with regard to the arrival of Algerian persons in New Zealand from September 2003. The question is: if it can be so far in the public domain that we are able to prove the veracity of the question to the satisfaction of the Clerk, why can the Minister simply not acknowledge that in the House? Surely, that goes right to the heart of Standing Order 372 of the Standing Orders you are required to protect, which says that a reply to a question must be given if it can be given consistent with the public good.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Indeed, that is the Standing Order, but as the Speaker’s ruling says—and it has to be the only possible Speaker’s ruling on this matter—the judgment about whether giving an answer is in the public interest must lie with the Minister alone. If the member cares to think through why that is so, it is apparent on the face of it.
Mr SPEAKER: The question may well be allowable, and, in fact, this one was. I never ruled out the question. No one says that the question was not in order, but it is the Minister’s responsibility to answer as he sees fit—as long as he addresses the question. He did.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was the Minister able to answer questions about Ahmed Zaoui, yet get the Speaker to agree with her that she should not answer this question today; and is it not a fact that another person suspected of terrorism has arrived here from Algeria—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Point of order—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no. I have not finished yet.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has a point of order; please be seated. I am not going to take that. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that rudeness. He knows that anyone can raise a point of order. He himself insisted on that right earlier.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: To whom?
Mr SPEAKER: To the House. He will do it right now, or he will leave. Right, the member leaves.
The Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you could enlighten some of us as junior back-benchers about how the House is meant to operate. In one week we have a Prime Minister standing up and, for political advantage, spilling her guts on personal details—
Government Members: Sit down!
Ron Mark: How many are we going to throw out? We have already lost one New Zealand First MP for interjecting on a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and if I catch one member doing anything like that, he or she will be going straight away.
Ron Mark: On the one hand, we had the Prime Minister spilling her guts on details of a private health situation in order to shore up a political position. On the other hand, now we have a question lodged—with 4 hours’ notice—about which a Minister could have had even the decency to make a phone call, before turning up to the House some 4 hours later and, with the House’s acceptance, batting the question off by stating he would not discuss the personal details or circumstances of an individual. It seems to me that this House cannot have it both ways, and that we need some consistency here in order to maintain discipline.
Mr SPEAKER: There is consistency, and I have ruled on each of the issues the member has raised.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you will find in the Hansard that at least part of a question—certainly, the first tranche of a question—was asked by Mr Peters before the Deputy Prime Minister took a point of order. Surely, the House is entitled to an answer to that. Can I also add that the National Party has a supplementary question to come.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that that point made by the member is accurate, but Mr Peters should not have involved the Speaker in that issue. My job is not to judge on the quality of the answer, as he knows; my job is to ensure that the Minister addresses the question.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He did ask a question—
Mr SPEAKER: He did ask a question.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The point I was going to raise was that it seemed to me the question was out of order, on the face of it. The member sought a question asking how the Minister had got you as Speaker to agree with something the Minister was stating. That is not a question for which the Minister is responsible, in any case. The Minister is not responsible for your rulings in the House.
Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I am going to rule in favour of the member—if he sits down. As far as I am concerned, there were two parts to that question asked by Mr Peters. The second part most certainly was out of order because it involved me, and it must not do so. The first part was in order, if the Minister wanted to answer, but I cannot remember its exact wording.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Could the member repeat the question?
Mr SPEAKER: One of his own party can repeat the question.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I will repeat it as closely as I can. Will the Minister confirm, one way or the other, whether there is an investigation going on concerning a suspected terrorist who arrived here in September 2003?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I say to the House that one of the difficulties that the Minister of Immigration gets into is that she is not allowed to talk about individual cases. In this case, the member asked a general question at the beginning. It seemed obvious that that was leading towards an individual case, which it has. Individual cases are not something that the Minister of Immigration is allowed to comment on. Under section 129T of the Immigration Act, she is explicitly prohibited from saying anything about cases to do with refugee status, for example, while they are heard. Members asking questions of the Minister of Immigration need to realise how closely circumscribed by the law her comments must be. Therefore, I have no intention of commenting on her behalf on a case like that.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has said that he cannot give us an answer based on an individual, but right throughout this year, we have had answers based on Mr Zaoui. I understand that Mr Zaoui is an individual. This House has been given information about an individual. Why can the Minister not maintain the same policy that the Minister of Immigration has maintained all year on that individual, Mr Zaoui. Really, all we need is a simple affirmative or negative.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot second-guess the way the Minister was going to answer. All I have to ensure is that he addresses the question. His answers can lead to further supplementary questions, but that is his answer, not mine.
Dr Wayne Mapp: If the Minister is not willing to talk about an individual case, can he assure the House that there is no one, other than Mr Ahmed Zaoui, who is now subject to a national security certificate and is being held in custody, so that we can avoid the kind of situation that happened in August 2000, when there was an apparent terrorist plot to blow up the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, because the member is inviting me to talk about individual cases on behalf of the Minister of Immigration. I want to say that, in general, if people enter this country with anything they should not have, having done things they should not have, or with a moral character that may be under question, those are matters that are always under scrutiny. If it is appropriate, those matters go to the police. We will not be invited to talk about a particular case.
Dr Wayne Mapp: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Whilst I referred to the nature of the question, I also wanted an assurance that a person subject to a national security certificate would be in custody. Do we have that assurance? We need an assurance that that person—or persons—subject to a national security certificate would be in custody. That can be answered in a general sense.
Mr SPEAKER: That part of the member’s question is in order. The Minister might like to comment on it.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Minister of Immigration, in the circumstances of the questions today, it would require the Minister, once again, to confirm or deny an individual case. I am afraid that I am not able to do that.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked a general question. He was not asked a specific question. The Minister can give an answer to the general question.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The question invited me, if I remember correctly, to confirm or deny if someone was being held in relation to—
Mr SPEAKER: No—[Interruption]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, they would.
Keith Locke: Can the Minister confirm that, in recent times, many people fleeing the repressive Algerian Government have been granted refugee status in New Zealand, including supporters of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), and that negative information provided by the Algerian regime on such people is not always credible?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes to the first question and yes to the second question. It is not always credible.
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10. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement of May this year in relation to methamphetamine that “While dealing vigorously with those who make money from this scourge, we also need to ensure that we are supporting people who are addicted or whose lives have already been severely affected or destroyed by the drug,”; if not, why not?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, I do.
Judy Turner: In light of the Minister’s support for drug and alcohol treatment, why has he decided not to support the continuation of the Hanmer clinic’s outpatient services in five centres, in the absence of a rigorous evaluation of its outcomes compared to other treatment programmes and before the Ministry of Health’s impending review of all rehabilitation services in the central and South Island regions is completed?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Firstly, my advice is that some, at least, of the community services that are closing under the Hanmer clinic will be continued by the district health boards in those areas. The fact is that a 2001 review and a 2003 audit of the Hanmer clinic facility have shown that to provide any more public funding to the private organisation running the facility would be close to irresponsible in terms of the use of public funds and desired medical outcomes. There were 11 patients only, in total, at the Hanmer clinic—eight were public and three were private—under a contract of $9.8 million.
Steve Chadwick: What is the coalition Government doing to ensure that there is the right mix of residential and community-based treatment for alcohol and other drug-affected people?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The district health boards that fund these activities in the central and South Island regions are nearing the end of reviews to ensure that they are funding the right mix of residential and community services. The actual date of those reviews is unknown, but is likely to be by the end of this year or early next year. The Mental Health Commission is reviewing the mental health blueprint and that takes place this year. It is looking at targets set for alcohol and drug services. The blueprint is over 5 years old now, and this review is timely and should inform the Government whether the current mix is satisfactory.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister accept that methamphetamine addicts who need urgent inpatient treatment can experience significant adverse consequences if not treated in a timely fashion, and why does he believe that he or his Government can provide timely care for these patients, given that the only inpatient unit in the upper South Island is booked solid well into next year?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: My advice from the Mental Health Commission is that there are 132 residential beds in the South Island, there is in fact an excess of residential services, and there is a shortage of community services. Various reviews are going on at the present time, but the advice I am receiving is that there are adequate residential services now, but the reviews will show clearly whether that is correct.
Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the first part of the primary question, is the Minister aware of the Western Australian model of asset seizure that is being promoted by some members of this House and by the New Zealand Police Association, which is a regime that suspends basic principles of justice such as lawyer privilege and the concept of innocent until proven guilty and under which police seize assets in order to give those assets to themselves; and does he see any conflict of interest or potential for abuse of process inherent in such a proposal?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I did not hear all the question, but I do know this. The Green Party was the only party in this Parliament that voted against the reclassification of methamphetamine, and that the Progressive party, which gained significant financial support from the coalition Government in the last Budget, faced the fact that the Green Party opposed that budget and therefore opposed the extra financial provisions that we had for drug and alcohol treatment throughout the country.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am loath to make these kinds of points of order, but the Minister did not even attempt to address that question in any way. He talked about the Budget and he talked about the reclassification issue, and they had absolutely no relevance to the question I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, the member is perfectly correct. It had no relevance. The question asked was about a Western Australian example. I would ask the Minister to comment.
Hon Jim Anderton: It may come as a surprise to the member, but I have no ministerial responsibility for what happens in Western Australia.
Marc Alexander: In light of police estimates that it is gangs who are making 95 percent of the profits from the production of P, why has he not lobbied the Minister of Justice for tougher laws on gangs, such as the proposals recently unveiled by United Future, or does he naively believe that anything less than seizing gang property and making gangs prove their legality will have any impact whatsoever?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I do not know how the member knows exactly what I have lobbied the Minister of Justice on, but the fact is that the Government is looking at the issue of the assets of crime, and we are reviewing that legislation. The ministerial committee on drugs and alcohol that I chair with senior Ministers like the Minister of Justice has met far more often and taken far more action than any Government in the recent history of this country.
Judy Turner: In light of the Minister’s support for alcohol and drug treatment, why did the Ministry of Health stop funding the Taha Mâori programme at Queen Mary Hospital 3 months ago only to announce last week that an almost identical kaupapa Mâori adult alcohol and drug service for the South Island is to be established, or can he confirm that the real reason was that the Hanmer clinic was unable to find a partnership with Mâori for what was otherwise an extremely successful programme?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: In the first instance, the Mâori programme that has been funded is in the community in Christchurch and not in a residential environment in Hanmer. The second is that I remind the member that recently the Hanmer clinic closed for financial reasons and perhaps there may have been some knowledge of those situations inside the Ministry of Health.
Marc Alexander: How can the Minister claim that his Government is dealing vigorously with those who are profiting from P production when the New Zealand Police Association president claims that delays in testing evidence by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research make a mockery of the police crackdown on the manufacturers of P, because offenders are free to start new laboratories for up to 2 years on bail before they are brought to trial, and, as Minister responsible for the national drug policy, will he formally request additional funding for the institute in next year’s Budget; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: Only the final bit is in order. The rest is to another Minister.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Government has provided $6.55 million to the police for extra resources for methamphetamine laboratory detection and three-quarters of a million dollars to the institute for its development of scientific resources. These resources, we are advised by the institute itself, take years to develop. This Government has taken action; previous Governments did not.
Judy Turner: In light of his support for the treatment programmes, how does he intend to ensure that the excellent staff employed by the Hanmer clinics are retained in service in New Zealand and not lost to other countries, and how will he ensure that the 350 current clients are successfully integrated into other treatment programmes?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: My advice is that those clinicians, nurses, and others who work or had worked at Hanmer are being considered by the district health boards that will continue those services, and any who wish employment and are qualified for it have a very good chance of succeeding.
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Hanmer Clinics—Ministry of Health Contracts
11. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: Why did the Ministry of Health end its 3-year contract with Hanmer clinics 14 months early, and did the clinics fulfil their contractual obligations in providing services to drug and alcohol patients?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Although 13 months and $3.6 million of Government funding remain for the provision of service by the Hanmer Institute, the decision to end the contract was mutually agreed to by both parties, because of the company’s financial difficulties. A recent audit report showed that the company was failing to perform its contractual obligations in a number of areas.
Heather Roy: How did the performance of Hanmer clinics compare to Te Whare Whakapikiora o te Rangimarie Trust, and will the generosity of the Ministry of Health in paying the Mâori health trust’s tax bill be extended to ensuring Hanmer clinics are not left in debt?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Ministry of Health has been incredibly generous to the Hanmer Institute. For example, in May 2000 the ministry gave it a suspensory loan of $300,000, and in January 2000 it gave additional funding of $275,000. In May 2002 it gave additional funding of $250,000, and in April 2003 it gave an advance of $100,000. The Ministry of Health has been very generous and very patient, but at the end of the day, it will not allow more taxpayers’ money to go to a private business that was in serious financial difficulty.
Mark Peck: Does the Ministry of Health have any responsibility for staffing issues at the Hanmer Institute?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, it does not, because the Hanmer Institute is a private company, and is, therefore, solely responsible for staffing issues. The institute and the ministry, signed an agreement to end the contract on 8 November, and agreed that the ministry pay a sum of money to the institute to assist it in making payments owed to staff.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister believe that the inpatient drug treatment services at Hanmer provided a valuable service for those who needed treatment—I quote the Minister of Health, Annette King—“far away in the bush somewhere”; and can we trust the grip on reality of a Minister who considers Hanmer as “far away in the bush somewhere”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not know whether the member has been to Hanmer recently, but I think that if he had, he would find it a little far away from the main centre of Christchurch. As I said, the audit found that the services offered by Hanmer Institute did not meet all contractual obligations, and I find it fascinating that ACT and National are prepared to come in and bat for this particular provider, when they are very quick to criticise any provider that happens to be Mâori.
Sue Bradford: How does the Government square the closure of Hanmer clinic with the overall nationwide shortage of alcohol and drug treatment services, given the tough new Jobs Jolt policies, which means, in effect, that Work and Income will force beneficiaries into drug and alcohol counselling, on pain of losing their benefit, whether they like it or not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: As the Hon Jim Anderton pointed out in answer to a previous question, there were 11 patients in the residential service at Hanmer, eight of whom were public patients. For the member’s interest, none came from Auckland, because Auckland would not send patients to Hanmer—and had not for many years—and the only patients that ever went from the old Midlands region were for the Taha Mâori programme, so it was not accepted by the referring physicians as the most appropriate service. I thought it was interesting that a memo from staff, written only 1 day ago, stated how concerned they were at the financial mismanagement of this organisation.
Heather Roy: Does the Minister agree with Janice Gemmell, organiser of the National Union of Public Employees, who said last week that: “It is our understanding that $3 million a year would fully fund the hospital, so the Government’s $30 million contribution to Team New Zealand’s yachting campaign would fund a decade’s extension to Queen Mary’s life.”—and, I have to say, the saving of a great many lives; if she does not agree, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not agree, because there is no justification for any Ministry of Health to pay a much higher rate to Hanmer than to any other residential provider in New Zealand. That may have been the view of that particular employee last week, but this week employees suggested that action should be taken to sue the directors of the Hanmer clinic and Queen Mary Hospital personally, on the grounds of financial mismanagement. We feel we have sufficient documentation and evidence to substantiate such a claim.
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Methamphetamine—Environment Science and Research
12. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: How many methamphetamine labs found by police are still waiting for the evidence seized from them to be examined by Environmental Science and Research, and when do these cases date back to?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Acting Minister of Police): There are currently 132 suspected clandestine methamphetamine labs under investigation by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. All have had initial examinations by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. I am advised that the oldest active case dates from July 2002.
Hon Tony Ryall: Noting that, under Labour, crime is more random and more violent, does the Minister not think there is a very real risk that some of these drug cooks will escape conviction, because of the undue length of time taken to get many of these serious drug cases before the courts?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I advise that, and I quote the member, under Labour considerable resources have gone into resolving the problem of methamphetamine in New Zealand, and, as a result, the police have been doing an extraordinarily good job on our behalf.
Mahara Okeroa: What additional resources have been provided by the Government to deal with the methamphetamine problem?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As a result of this year’s Budget, an extra $6.8 million over 4 years has been provided to process methamphetamine cases. Two seven-member clandestine laboratory response teams have been established, and an additional $700,000 has been provided to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research to investigate 100 methamphetamine labs.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister explain to the House why the Institute of Environmental Science and Research had budgeted for only 20 meth lab investigations this year when in 2001, 41 labs were discovered, in 2002, 147, and the number is expected to exceed 200 this year; and is this not another example of this Government’s pathetically inadequate response to methamphetamine, which it has allowed to become a major crisis in society?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot explain the first part of the question, but I can explain, as far as the second half of the question is concerned, that additional resource has gone into the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, and, as has been pointed out by the police and the institute, one cannot just pick scientists up off the street. It takes a while for them to become engaged, and that is what is happening right at this moment.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)