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Questions And Answers For Oral Answer Thursday


Questions And Answers For Oral Answer Thursday, 13 November 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers:

1. Meridian Energy Ltd—Waitaki Catchment Legislation

2. Auckland Growth Strategy—Transport Infrastructure

3. Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry—Capacity

4. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Child Abuse Investigations

5. Workplace Learning—Government Initiatives

6. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Masterton Team

7. Government Information and Services—Internet Access

8. Sentencing—Public Expectations

9. Customs Service—Drug Seizures, Auckland International Airport

10. Traffic Infringement Notices—Quota

11. Prostitution Reform Act—Territorial Authority By-laws

12. Upper Hutt Schools—Governance Policy

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Meridian Energy Ltd—Waitaki Catchment Legislation

1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Has she or her Ministry received draft legislation from Meridian Energy Limited on the allocation of water in the Waitaki catchment; if so, will this form the basis of Government legislation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Yes and no.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister guarantee that this Government will never agree to Meridian Energy’s proposals, which aim to turn 35-year resource consents to take water into permanent, tradable property rights to a valued public resource, and does the Minister agree with Meridian Energy that the Upper Waitaki River should be removed from the catchment plan, because, in its view, it already owns all the water?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. The legislation will not provide for permanent, tradable property rights, and, secondly, of course legislation will provide a framework for the allocation of water. The Government will not prejudge that one way or the other.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What is the basis of the Government’s legislation for allocating the water in the Waitaki catchment?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is committed to an outcome that meets all economic, social, and environmental needs and that leads to a more strategic approach. The legislation is designed to provide a framework to ensure that the best decisions are made for using water in the Waitaki.

Hon Roger Sowry: Why is the Government abrogating its responsibility to draft the legislation, and instead getting Meridian Energy, the one group that will benefit from this, to do the job for it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member should have listened to the primary answer, which was brief and to the point. No, the draft bill prepared by Meridian Energy does not form the basis for the Government legislation. It is being treated merely as a submission on the Government’s proposals.

Hon Ken Shirley: With regard to the draft legislation prepared by Meridian Energy and also the Government’s own review of water allocation, what other options is the Government considering other than an administrative allocation based on first in time, first in right, as against a market allocation based on a tendering process and price?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is a huge range of options between first in time, first in right and a pure market allocation. The Government will be in part of that last territory.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that Meridian Energy’s behaviour is undermining the community’s confidence that the law will be applied fairly to all water users?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government would be concerned if people believed that Meridian Energy was running this process. I have consulted with the shareholding Ministers and Meridian Energy, and they concur with me that in fact Meridian Energy will not be running this process.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is this just a case of a State-owned enterprise getting too big for its boots, or is the real problem a regional council that has never in 12 years developed a catchment plan for water allocation and a Ministry for the Environment that has just allowed things to drift?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that the lack of development of proper water allocation plans is part of the root of the problem that is underlying how to deal with the Meridian Energy proposal.

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Auckland Growth Strategy—Transport Infrastructure

2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that: “Getting the transport infrastructure right is a critical component of all growth strategies for Auckland”; if so, what proposals have been put before Auckland’s local authorities in the paper, authored by officials, and referred to in this morning’s New Zealand Herald?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. The Minister of Finance, the Minister of Transport, and the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, together with Auckland’s mayors and representatives of the Auckland Regional Council, received a presentation last week from officials on the emerging findings of their work, to consider how to fund investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure. A range of possible options was presented, and no decisions have been taken.

Dr Don Brash: In light of the New Zealand Herald report, which ties a proposed $430 million grant to 5 percent rate increases by Auckland local authorities, can we take it that any essential Government funding for Auckland roads will be tied to a commitment to rate increases in Auckland?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No.

Lynne Pillay: Does the Prime Minister agree that extrovert revenue should go only to roads, as advocated by the Employers and Manufacturers Association?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Increasing roads alone is not a sustainable solution to Auckland’s transport situation. Scenarios modelled by officials all involve a mix of roading, transport demand management, and passenger transport, and a range of funding mechanisms.

Dail Jones: How can the Prime Minister’s Government even contemplate another tax—a whopping 15 percent petrol tax at that—when it has a considerable surplus, and is siphoning off something like $600 million to $1 billion every year from petrol motorists, with no real justification, and using it to fund other Government projects and to bolster its very substantial surplus?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, if the member had been present as a fly on the wall during the Minister of Finance’s first major Budget meeting yesterday morning, he would not have asked that question about the surplus. Secondly, the Government has turned down—

Gerry Brownlee: That’s not an answer.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, it is an answer to that question. The member did not listen. The Minister of Transport has ruled out a 15c petrol tax increase. It is interesting to note that the New Zealand First minority report on the Land Transport Management Bill proposed a substantial rise in petrol duty, matched by a corresponding contribution from the Crown account.

Keith Locke: Does the information in this morning’s New Zealand Herald that 40 percent of Auckland’s peak hour traffic is education-related, motivate the Prime Minister to prioritise spending on alternative modes of transport that are relevant to school pupils and students, such as walking buses, cycle convoys, and public transport more specifically dedicated to education institutions?

Hon Trevor Mallard: Get rid of the tractors.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I assume that my colleague who interjected meant the sport utility vehicles, which tend to clog up our present day roading systems during the peak hours for school traffic transportation. Clearly those are a part of the solution, but it would be fairly heroic to assume that they will be a majority part of the solution to Auckland’s long-term roading and transport problems.

Deborah Coddington: Regarding funding mechanisms for infrastructure, is the Prime Minister prepared to give a categorical assurance to the country that as long as she is Prime Minister there will be no new petrol hikes or new taxes on petrol?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure that that member in particular would not expect the Prime Minister to rule out any element of user-pays in the transport system.

Larry Baldock: Will the Prime Minister give the people of Tauranga an assurance that if the Government adopts officials’ recommendation of a one-off contribution of $430 million towards solving Auckland’s roading needs, then a similar proportional one-off contribution—which, based on the population of Tauranga, would be about 10 percent of that, or approximately $43 million—would be allocated to Tauranga, which is also facing a roading deficit, complicated by the fact that it hosts the largest port in the country?

Mr SPEAKER: The question was very wide of the mark. The Minister may comment briefly if he wishes.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot give that assurance in that form, because I am advised by the Minister of Finance that while no decisions have been taken, he is somewhat sceptical about a $430 million upfront contribution from the Government.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister admit that the biggest problem in dealing with Auckland’s traffic congestion problems is the Resource Management Act, and her Government’s failure to fix the problems in that Act in the Resource Management Amendment Act this year, and now the extended consultation required under the Land Transport Management Act, rather than a problem of funding?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, indeed, a very clear conclusion the joint officials group exercised was that that was not the major problem. The major problem, surprisingly—to the member, perhaps, as a recent arrival in Auckland—is the growth of Auckland and the lack of addressing those problems of growth over a long period of time.

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Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry—Capacity

3. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What action has been taken to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to promote New Zealand’s economic and security interests?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Following a recent capability review of the ministry’s needs and resources, Cabinet has agreed to inject significant additional resources into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This will result in further funding this year of $6.22 million, rising to an extra $22.77 million a year within 4 years. This will allow the ministry, among other things, to promote further New Zealand’s trading opportunities, to strengthen cooperation with regional partners on security issues, and to improve consular services to New Zealanders.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What sorts of things will this additional funding allow the ministry to do that would not otherwise have been possible?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The problem the ministry had is that while more and more was being asked of it, funding cuts and economic constraints in the 1990s had run down its capacity to effectively promote New Zealand’s interests internationally. That is well documented in annual reports under the last Government in almost every year. The new funding will help with things like better meeting staffing needs, helping skilled training capacity, particularly in language training, delivering information technology requirements, helping exporters in traditional and emerging markets, and helping ordinary New Zealanders requiring consular assistance.

Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with former New Zealand Ambassador to the US, Denis McLean, when he said recently: “We need to think about our shared strategic interests with Australia much more than we do”; if so, how is this Government strengthening New Zealand’s capacity on security interests, specifically with Australia?

Hon PHIL GOFF: This Government has done an enormous amount to improve its strategic relationship with Australia.

Richard Worth: What?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member is so ignorant to ask “what” I wonder where he was when the war was happening in East Timor, in the Solomon Islands, and Bougainville. Clearly, there has been close cooperation between the two countries. Of course, as Richard Worth knows—because he pointed out how the defence forces had been so run down under his own party in power—we have done a lot more to put more funds into the defence forces.

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Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Child Abuse Investigations

4. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Can she give an assurance that the 2,760 cases of potential child abuse that required further investigation at the end of September were dealt with within the required time frame; if not, for each category of criticality, how many were not dealt with within the required time frame?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): I am advised that the required time frames for response were not met for each of the four categories, as follows: critical, 2.9 percent relating to three cases; very urgent, 3.4 percent relating to two; urgent, 56.9 percent; and low urgent, 49.5 percent—a total of 2,630. These figures are all improvements on both the previous quarter and the previous year, despite significant increases of 8 percent in notifications.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister find it acceptable that 2,630 cases of potential child abuse have not been investigated in the correct time frame by the department, and what responsibility does she take for that failure?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, “acceptable” is not a word I would use to describe my reaction to the unallocated cases. That is why, in the financial year 2002-03 we invested an additional $12.184 million of new money; in the financial year 2003-04 an additional $13.164 million of new money. In addition, in 2002-03 the department reprioritised, resulting in a saving of an additional $8.18 million, specifically targeted to deal with the increased volumes of notifications.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a long answer. The second part of the question specifically asked the Minister what responsibility she accepted for that matter. She did not address that part. I accept that might be her choice, but is it a safe assumption that she accepts no responsibility?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and the member knows it.

Georgina Beyer: What is the Government doing to ensure the department has the systems and resources so that it can meet the required time frames for dealing with notifications that require further action?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In line with the baseline review recommendations the Government is investing up to an additional $127 million to ensure the department has robust systems and resources required to meet our expectations. Priorities for the department include employing additional social workers and developing strategies to better manage demand and workloads.

Katherine Rich: Why is it that in September 57 percent of all urgent notifications of abuse or neglect were not dealt with within the prescribed time frame of 7 days, and only half of all urgent notifications of abuse and neglect were dealt with within the prescribed time frame of 28 days?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Through a combination of insufficient staff and not-as-efficient work to manage demand, as I would expect.

Ron Mark: In the light of those failures, was any payment made to the previous chief executive of the department, who resigned her appointment in the wake of the review of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services; if so, how much was the payment and why was it made?

Hon RUTH DYSON: If the member is referring to any payment attached to the actual resignation and departure of the chief executive, the answer is no.

Sue Bradford: Can the Minister give an assurance that the department now has systems in place so that when a second notification is received about an existing case, it will be dealt with urgently and taken seriously, no matter at what level the original notification was assessed—even at a very low level?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I cannot give a categorical assurance that that will happen in every case.

Judy Turner: In the light of yesterday’s revelations that the department’s social workers did not follow established procedures and practices in the Jetson/Aplin/Howse case, is the Minister confident that an increase in social workers, who, admittedly, are likely to be graduates with limited experience and knowledge of the department’s policies and procedures, will be able to reduce the number of unallocated cases and those of lower criticality ratings, which are not being addressed within the required time frame?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Could I firstly correct the member. It was one social worker who had not complied with the policies and procedures of the department. Yes, I am confident that the clear message that has been given, both by me as Minister and by the acting chief executive, about the need to comply with agreed policies and practices—that is, it is a mandatory requirement—will be complied with by both existing and new social workers.

Barbara Stewart: With the department having 2,760 cases of potential child abuse requiring further investigation as at the end of September, and that waiting list not having been reduced or cleared, has consideration been given to creating a task force of suitably qualified professionals to work on the elimination of this backlog?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I think that the response from the department is far more practical. Rather than create a task force, it is trying to attract the staff in order to deal with those calls.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that an immediate increase in the resourcing of the Social Workers in Schools programme, so that a social worker is present at every decile 1 and decile 2 school would give children a voice while they wait for a department social worker to have the chance to attend the long waiting list of cases with low criticality ratings; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I strongly support the retention and expansion of the Social Workers in Schools programme. That is not the only way that we will be able to further support the addressing of the problem. However, I certainly support the suggestion made by the member.

Barbara Stewart: How does the Minister intend to forecast the level of resources required to address the level of child neglect and abuse in this country, and is she confident that more funds will be sufficient to safeguard against any further systemic failures of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In answer to the latter question first, it was very clear from the recommendations of the baseline review that putting more funding into the department, on its own, would not solve the problem. The resources need to be backed up by improvements in the management systems and infrastructure of the department, and further funds were required as well. The Government has supported that total package for delivery. In terms of predicting future notifications, frankly, that is one of the biggest challenges that we face. The increase I mentioned in answer to the primary question of 8 percent was not anticipated. I certainly hope that our systems can improve our forecasting in the future.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister accept any responsibility for the fact that 2,630 cases have not been investigated by the department within the statutory time frame?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is an agreement I signed with the chief executive. It is her responsibility to ensure that the department delivers on that agreement. I accept totally the responsibility that goes with the privilege of having a ministerial portfolio.

Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table a news report from today that shows an agency in Hamilton that deals with at-risk children has had its funding stopped by this Government this week.

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

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Workplace Learning—Government Initiatives

5. DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What progress is being made in expanding opportunities for learning in the workplace?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): In a continuing sign of New Zealand’s increasing commitment to work-based training, the Government’s Modern Apprenticeships programme has reached its end of 2003 target of 6,000 trainees 3 months early. Modern Apprenticeship numbers have grown rapidly over the last year, and by September 2003, 6,073 Modern Apprenticeships were in place.

David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister advise any details of who the 6,000th Modern Apprentice was?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No specific person has been identified as the 6,000th Modern Apprentice. However, one of New Zealand’s oldest apprentices, who has just started on-the-job training, is clearly struggling with his first unit standard. The Waikato Times reports that listeners needed a strong cup of coffee to avoid nodding off during the first public outing from trainee Brash.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that was out of order. I ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise for that comment. It had no relation to the original question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise.

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Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Masterton Team

6. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Why did the roopu team in the Masterton office of Child, Youth and Family Services have a 36 percent higher caseload than the other team in the office?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): I am advised that in November 2001, which is the period that I understand the member is referring to, there was a significantly higher number of notifications than usual. The service delivery unit manager had established a third team, had recently employed two social workers with a caseload of 11 each, and was in the process of employing a supervisor. Work distribution was undertaken to address the imbalance referred to in the member’s question, and I am advised that currently the team’s workload is well within the average.

Katherine Rich: When the Children’s Commissioner’s report into the Aplin and Jetson girls’ deaths highlights problems of insufficient support and resource for the roopu team, does she support the department’s dismissal of the commissioner’s recommendation “to review the effectiveness of roopu teams, and the resourcing, training, and professional support of those teams.”; if so, why?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I would support the revisiting of that recommendation.

Moana Mackey: What is the Government doing to ensure that caseloads are allocated effectively?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is developing a national caseload management tool to manage caseloads for social workers that will factor in not only the number of cases, but also the complexity, skills, and experience of staff. That tool will help ensure that cases are allocated consistently and equitably.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House whether the social workers who were responsible for the case management of the Aplin and Jetson girls have resigned or been dismissed, and further, were any payments made upon the termination of their employment; if so, how much were those payments and for what reason were they made?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am unaware of any details relating to the latter questions, but in relation to the primary question the social worker concerned has resigned.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is quite customary for Ministers to say that they will supply other information at a later date. Can we have an undertaking from the Minister that that information can be supplied at a later date?

Mr SPEAKER: That is up to the Minister. I do not judge the quality of the answer.

Sue Bradford: Is the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services currently undertaking work to develop both the management and social work practice capacity of those involved in the roopu teams?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I understand that the department has not focused either of those two priorities at the moment specifically within the roopu team. But as a result of the discussion that has been generated from the Children’s Commissioner’s report, that will be under consideration.

Katherine Rich: Why was the Masterton office not being closely monitored by the chief executive, given the restructuring that was going on in the several high-profile child deaths in the Masterton area?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Significant additional support and resourcing had, in fact, been allocated to the Masterton office, and it is irresponsible for the member to imply any deficiency in response from the chief executive to the earlier tragedies. Direct support was given from head office, and from other regions, to ensure that the Masterton staff were properly supported and resourced to carry on their work.

Katherine Rich: When the roopu team in Masterton overseeing the Aplin and Jetson sisters’ cases had a caseload 36 percent higher than the non-Mâori case team, managed files of greater complexity, and had a key leadership position in that office eliminated, does she accept that as a result of Labour’s restructuring front-line staff on that team were on a hiding to nothing?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

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Government Information and Services—Internet Access

7. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of State Services: What reports has he received regarding the use of the Internet to gain access to Government services and information?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): The Government web portal will celebrate its first birthday tomorrow. The portal now has some 5,500 local and central government services and information resources listed. It receives some two million hits a week—a figure that has been climbing steadily since the launch of the portal.

Hon Mark Gosche: What types of information are people accessing through the Government web portal?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Every day the portal transfers more than 1 gigabyte of information. I am informed that that is the equivalent of 260,000 floppy discs. The top 10 most requested search items from the portal are laws, job vacancies, tax, immigration, education, business, health, Mâori employment, and Government. What people have not been able to access is when the only person opposite with a good understanding of information technology issues is to be promoted back to the front bench, where he belongs.

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Sentencing—Public Expectations

8. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does he have any concerns that sentencing of offenders is presently not meeting public expectations; if not, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The referendum in 1999 showed clearly that the New Zealand public of the time believed that the justice system was not meeting expectations. At that time 92 percent of New Zealanders voted no confidence in 9 years of neglect in terms of sentencing laws by National Governments and the National – New Zealand First Government. Since then, however, there have been major changes in sentencing laws, parole laws, and victims’ rights laws. Recent changes, for example, have attracted even the most strident critics of sentencing laws.

Ron Mark: How would public expectations be affected when the system allows a person convicted of manslaughter and subsequently placed on home detention to be able to set up a P manufacturing operation, use gang members to distribute the product, intimidate his neighbours, have unlimited visitations from gang and prison associates at all hours of the day and night, start a relationship with a known female drug dealer, and, finally, die of a drug overdose; is this the Minister’s idea of a home detention system and a justice system that the public can have faith and confidence in?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As the member knows, I cannot comment on a specific judge’s ruling in a particular case. However, I can tell that member that the offence for pushing methamphetamine, now that it is a class A drug, has become a lifetime sentence. If the prosecution—usually the police—do not believe a sentence is long enough they can appeal the sentence.

Mita Ririnui: What responses has the Minister received from sentencing lobby groups to the changes in the legislation introduced this week?

Hon PHIL GOFF: A wide-ranging and positive response. For example, I received an email from the Sensible Sentencing Trust warmly congratulating the Government on the Parole (Extended Supervision) and Sentencing Amendment Bill. I also saw comments from the Safe Network, which treats sexual offenders, and it was also strongly supportive of the proposed new legislation. However, I have to say that, as usual, there has been the usual whingeing and whining from a few Opposition members.

Hon Tony Ryall: Now that the Minister has heard yet another example of an offender on home detention being completely free to break the law, what protection will be provided to New Zealand children by putting an electronic bracelet on a paedophile under his proposed law, under the exact same circumstances as this offender has been?

Hon PHIL GOFF: New technology means that—

Hon Tony Ryall: Aw!

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have not even started the answer and already that member is whingeing and whining.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked a question. He will listen to at least a couple of sentences before there is any comment.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Electronic monitoring means that a person can, in the first 12 months of supervision, be required to stay within his or her home, and the authorities are immediately notified if the offender has left the home. Additionally, with global positioning satellites, we will be able to track people wearing electronic bracelets, and that will create the near certainty of conviction for any offending that the offender might do in the future.

Ron Mark: Bearing in mind that this person was on home detention and that he did not need global positioning satellites for people to know he was at home, what is the point of having a system of home detention where there is obviously no supervision; and when will the Minister amend the law to ensure that neighbourhood consent is a prerequisite before a residence is approved for home detention purposes, bearing in mind that the Minister may have many home detainees who are drug dealers, murderers, rapists, and, now, paedophiles?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Of course, under law, front-end home detention can be offered only to somebody sentenced to less than 2 years’ imprisonment. Under law, as well, the judge must first decide that it is appropriate to grant that, and, under law, the Parole Board must then further agree. Under the legislation introduced this week, the member will be aware that there is a further tightening of judges’ ability to refer cases for home detention to the Parole Board. Contrary to what the member says—and the member before him—electronic monitoring gives the authorities the absolute ability to know that those persons are within the confines of their homes, where they are required to be.

Stephen Franks: Should the public have expected that when the Minister pushed through the Sentencing Act, as many as 26 so-called home detainees at a time could be floating around for up to 7 weeks at a time without electronic bracelets but with official approval; and what does he think of the justification offered by his colleague the Minister of Corrections for not warning the neighbours that: “The monitoring contractors are trained to monitor offenders and react to any instance of non-compliance. Members of the public are not.”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am not aware of the particular circumstance the member is talking about, but if he is talking about a situation where a sentence has been deferred pending the application for home detention to be heard, then the new legislation also requires that tight bail provisions be established for those cases.

Hon Tony Ryall: Further to the Minister’s answer to supplementary questions, how exactly will global positioning satellites alert authorities that a paedophile is at home molesting a child, as has just happened?

Hon PHIL GOFF: A person who is at the serious end of offending, who under the previous inadequate laws was not given preventive detention, can be required to have 24/7 supervision, in which case an offender like McIntosh, as soon as he picks up the telephone and tries to contact a child—which is contrary to the requirements of his supervision order—can be, as he was, detected. He was charged and convicted, and awaits sentencing. That is how it works. It has been quite effective.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw to your attention that my question was very specific, based on the impression of an expert understanding of the global positioning satellite system that the Minister tried to portray earlier in this question. I specifically asked him how exactly a global positioning satellite monitoring system, which indicates only where the person is—that is all it can do—will tell authorities when a paedophile is molesting a child at his home, as has just happened.

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to comment further.

Hon PHIL GOFF: What I thought the member would take from that answer is that the requirements relating to supervision, under the legislation introduced, are that it can be electronic monitoring, or 24 hour, 7-day-a-week supervision by another individual in that household. The Parole Board will make a decision as to which is more appropriate. It is a bit rich coming from that member, when there was no supervision at all after 9 years of a National Government doing absolutely nothing.

Mr SPEAKER: There was far too much interjection and there was far too much comment from the Minister.

Hon Member: He was provoked.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not care. The member will be provoked outside in a moment.

Ron Mark: I seek leave of the House to table a letter received in my office outlining the circumstances described in my question of a person who died at home of a drug overdose whilst on home detention.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the letter. Is there any objection to that?

Hon Phil Goff: No.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no objection. When the member said “No”, I presume that he meant that there was no objection?

Hon Phil Goff: No, there is no objection. I hope it is more accurate than his last one.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is trifling with me. I asked whether there was any objection. It requires only one person to say “Yes”, not everybody to say “No”. There is no objection. It will be tabled.

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

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Customs Service—Drug Seizures, Auckland International Airport

9. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Customs: Is he satisfied with the performance of the New Zealand Customs Service in relation to drug seizures at Auckland International Airport?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): Yes, I am. Customs Service staff at Auckland airport are doing an excellent job. Last month, staff intercepted 1.2 kilos of heroin at the airport, with an estimated street value of $4 million. The heroin was located in the shoes being worn and carried in the luggage of a traveller from South Africa. Intelligence suggests that its ultimate destination was Australia. We have the sharp eyes and the instincts of our experienced Customs Service staff to thank for the seizure, and I am sure our colleagues across the Tasman will be grateful for that.

H V Ross Robertson: Did the Customs Service make any other significant seizures at Auckland International Airport in October?

Hon RICK BARKER: Customs Service officers also intercepted 3.2 kilos of ephedrine, a primary precursor used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The ephedrine was concealed in tins of baby food formula in the luggage of two Thai male nationals who are both residents of Auckland. The interception resulted in both men being charged with the possession of a precursor substance and with intent to manufacture a controlled drug. To date this year, the Customs Service has seized 776,900 tablets, or the powdered equivalent of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, from 374 interceptions.

Shane Ardern: In the light of the Minister’s answer, when will the Minister keep an effective list of all methamphetamine precursors imported, and make that list available to all appropriate Government departments?

Hon RICK BARKER: I have not quite got the sense of the question. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A member is about to leave. The Minister is perfectly entitled to have a member repeat a question, and I do not want any silly nonsense like there has been today. I ask Shane Ardern to repeat the question.

Shane Ardern: In the light of the Minister’s answer, when will the Minister keep an effective recorded list of all methamphetamine precursors that are imported, and make that list available to all appropriate Government departments?

Hon RICK BARKER: As I understand it, there is an effective list. The trouble is that some people tell fibs.

H V Ross Robertson: Why are these recent seizures important?

Hon RICK BARKER: These recent seizures are important because they show that the Government investment of an extra $1.9 million into drug intelligence and drug enforcement at the border is working very, very effectively.

Shane Ardern: In the light of the Minister’s answer earlier on, I seek leave to request the Minister to table that list as an official document, as the Minister has used it in his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot ask anybody else to table anything. What a Minister chooses to table is his or her own business.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister gave an answer to a question in which he said he understood there was such a register. Members on this side of the House have certainly never seen such a register, nor has anyone heard of it. I invite the Minister to go and check, perhaps, after question time, because I suspect that he will have to come back before the end of the day to correct his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: If he does, he will. All I thought was that the Minister said he understood there was a list. Of course, he did not quote from it.

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Traffic Infringement Notices—Quota

10. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: How does he explain his statement that “Police do not have a quota of tickets they’re supposed to give out every hour. There is no such quota.” with his answer to a written question stating “A minimum expectation is one enforcement action (not being a warning) for every hour of patrol.” and with media reports of orders to issue three tickets an hour and orders to ticket at least one motorist every hour?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The police are expected to enforce the law. It is their job. An expectation of one enforcement action for every hour of patrol is a work performance management measure.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Government maintaining this current traffic policy, when even though the New Zealand Police has issued a record number of speeding tickets this year—nearly 1 million—the number of crashes is up, the number of injuries is up, and the number of road-toll fatalities is up?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: We are following the same rules that have been there since before the merger of Ministry of Transport traffic officers and the police in 1992. Overall, the road toll may be up, so that member should be supporting the police giving out as many tickets as they do when people speed.

Martin Gallagher: Can the Minister spell out to this House how long there has been a requirement that officers involved in traffic duty in this country actually do their job?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: In one guise or another, there have been performance management measures for the police even before the merger of the Ministry of Transport with the police in 1992. In 1997 a performance agreement between the then Minister of Police and the Commissioner of Police required the commissioner to provide district performance statements on contacts per hour for doing what had always been done. It is a pity the member cannot remember that.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister therefore concur with the comments of his colleague the Minister of Transport on 3 June this year: “The most convincing argument supporting the police enforcement of speed limits is the declining rate of death and injury from road crashes.” and “Let me state quite clearly there is no quota of tickets that police must meet when police are required now to issue 30 percent more infringement notices than last year, and when police officers are telling members of Parliament—these are general duty officers—they are being ordered to issue one ticket per hour, regardless of the importance of other duties they may be trying to perform—

Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient for that question. The member has already had too long.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The commissioner requires that his staff do not just sit on the road in patrol cars but that they enforce standards in speeding reduction and restraint wearing, as well as in trauma-promoting offences. That is why they are employed.

Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister tell the House whether he accepts the findings of British research, which conclude that speed cameras are a failure—they do not deter drivers from speeding, they are remarkably unsuccessful at saving lives, and they may well cause accidents of their own—if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think that there are all sorts of theories about ways in which speed cameras are effective or ineffective. The best thing is for people not to speed and get caught by them.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Minister supporting lowering the speed camera tolerance, when it is not those speeds that kill—even his own Government’s figures show that three-quarters of fatal accidents and 85 percent of crashes happen below the posted speed limit?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is not the Government’s policy and it probably will not be the Government’s policy. I think this is really a performance issue, and that is why that member has gone from place 8 on the National benches down to 15.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister give the House and the people of New Zealand an absolute, categorical assurance that hidden speed cameras will not be used in New Zealand, and specifically that police are not now working on an Australian model, where speed cameras might be hidden inside rubbish wheelie bins, for example?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: If the member wants an answer to that, he should ask the Minister of Transport. It is my opinion that hidden speed cameras are not as effective as having the highly visible highway patrol that this Government introduced with tremendous success.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister seen the information that shows that 30 percent of his high-profile highway patrol’s time is spent behind a desk doing administration work, and has he seen the latest survey, printed in the New Zealand Police Association magazine, that shows that 71 percent of New Zealand police officers operate a traffic ticket quota system, which he has denied in the House?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can say that we most certainly get various reports from the Police Association, but the reality is that the police have a work performance, which means they should be issuing tickets for “speed reduction or restraint wearing or trauma promoting offences.” This Government is not responsible for the journalist not understanding that, or the member opposite not understanding it.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is the result of a UMR Insight research survey, which shows 71 percent of police officers believe they operate a traffic ticket quota system and 82 percent say this is having a negative impact on policing.

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

Hon Tony Ryall: The second document is an official document from the Government that shows that 75 percent of fatalities do not involve a vehicle travelling over the speed limit.

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

Hon George Hawkins: I seek leave to table the Land Transport Safety Authority Survey 2003, which shows that 92 percent of people responding to whether the police were putting enough effort into catching road criminals and safety matters were in favour of more or the same level as there is now.

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

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Prostitution Reform Act—Territorial Authority By-laws

11. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that the territorial authority by-law provisions of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 are being implemented to achieve the aims of the Act; if so, how?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): I am advised that some territorial authorities have already moved to create by-laws, while others have taken no action at this time. The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 gives local bodies powers to regulate location and to control or prohibit signage relating to brothels. It is up to the local authorities to determine what by-laws are appropriate after consultation with communities.

Larry Baldock: In light of the fact that over 80 percent of submissions to the Auckland City Council favoured either the restrictive by-laws proposed or an even tougher approach, will the Minister concede that the very provisions he had inserted into the law are being used by the public to signal that they do not want any kind of liberalisation of brothels or prostitution law; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No. What it shows is that people wanted what I put into the Supplementary Order Paper, which is the ability of territorial local authorities to keep brothels out of areas where, patently, it was inappropriate for them to be.

Russell Fairbrother: Is there provision in the Act for review of its operations if any aspect of it is found, over time, not to be satisfactory?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. The author of the bill put such provision into it—that is, to provide for the establishment of a Prostitution Law Review Committee to monitor the way in which the Act is working and to report back to Parliament within 5 years. Any problems with the way in which the Act is working can be picked up by that process. I have sought and received from the whole of the House nominations for membership of the committee, and I hope to finalise the membership of that committee by the end of the year.

Sue Bradford: What steps, if any, is the Minister taking to ensure that all local authorities understand the legal implications for them of the Prostitution Reform Act?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The law is set out clearly under the Act. It is not for me to give legal advice to local authorities. They are well equipped to do so, and have sought advice and have to operate under the processes set out under both this Act and the Local Government Act 2002.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister concur with the Act’s sponsor Tim Barnett that the aim of the law is harm minimisation for prostitutes, or does he agree with the approach of Auckland City Council, now supported by over 80 percent of Auckland’s public, that it is harm minimisation for the public?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, I do agree that the purpose of the Act is harm minimisation, and that anybody who did not believe that prostitution existed under the old laws had their head in the sand. Anybody who did not believe that gangs were responsible for running escort agencies under the old law, as the police reported to the select committee, also had their head in the sand. I believe this Act will help in many ways, but obviously we want to make sure that it does what it is intended to do.

Larry Baldock: In light of the fact that brothels may set up and operate without a licence until 1 July 2004, does the Minister concede that the continued delay in the establishment of the Prostitution Law Review Committee, whose first task is to investigate exactly how many prostitutes are operating in this country, means that it may miss that important baseline in its research, and therefore be unable to establish in future whether there has been an increase in prostitution as a result of this law change?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I do not have that concern, but I want to see the committee set up as soon as possible. I have invited the member’s party, United Future, to make nominations, but I do not think I have received any.

Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table the nominations that we have submitted.

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

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Upper Hutt Schools—Governance Policy

12. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement in today’s Dominion Post that he would consider “governance-type arrangements” for Upper Hutt schools; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes, because I am a caring Minister who listens to submissions, including those from my very good colleague the local member. This Minister also initiated legislation to accommodate that sort of change.

Deborah Coddington: What is the difference between schools in Upper Hutt and Pungarehu School in Opunake, given that the Minister dismissed a proposal for shared governance from parents there; or are there different rules for parents from Labour electorates and parents from Opposition electorates?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The submission I received from the very good local member who has been representing the people of Taihape, is for a similar type of arrangement, which is also under consideration.

Jill Pettis: Could the Minister outline what changes have been made to the use of savings generated by school network reviews under this Government?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Under this Government, savings generated from network reviews are reinvested in schools affected. The money is invested in extra teaching and learning resources, improved information technology facilities, additional sports and cultural resources—and Opunake people are very pleased with what is happening there—and enhanced transport assistance. This contrasts with the policy of the previous National Government, which snatched any savings back into central government coffers.

Simon Power: Will the Minister apply the same process to Upper Hutt schools that he did to Taieri schools, which David Benson-Pope commented on, as reported in the Taieri Herald on 4 November: “I have a degree of sympathy for people’s feeling that their time was wasted. They went into the process with commitment and open-mindedness”, and: “The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, tried to involve the community to a greater degree, which backfired”; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think I will follow some unusually sage advice, which indicated that: “The fundamental problem is we have more schools than the number of pupils justify, and nobody wants their school to close. Education is about children, not buildings. Half-empty schools are in nobody’s best interest.”—said by Nick Smith.

Hon Brian Donnelly: What is the Minister’s reaction to inflammatory letters sent by a member of this House to each of the schools under review, suggesting to communities that rather than engage in constructive debate about the rationalisation of resources for the future, they should take militant action to retain the status quo?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: People have choices, and that may be the choice some people take. Responsible members of Parliament—and I think this includes Mr Simon Power, in the Taihape review, certainly Mr Paul Swain, in the Upper Hutt area, and Mr Mark Peck in Invercargill—have worked with their communities. They have developed best options and have presented them to me. That system works, whereas Deborah Coddington’s contribution to the printing and publishing industry does not work at all.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that the reviews in Upper Hutt, South Canterbury, and other places are contrary to the Government’s regional development policies—a view raised by the Greens in July this year, and recently confirmed by the Minister for Economic Development; if so, will the Minister now take a holistic economic view of the process, which includes the cost to families and the environment of increased transport demands, and the significant loss to regional economies of driving families away into towns to be closer to their schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the answers are no, no, and no. Can I explain that the strength of rural schools and schools in provincial towns is really important to me, and I do not like to see them drifting to death, as was the policy of the previous Government.

Bernie Ogilvy: Will the Minister consider using some form, or combination, of a private-State or private-public partnership of school experts to support his governance-type arrangements; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is up to boards, which get massive amounts of extra resources as a result of this process, to make some choices in that area as to whom they engage. The member should talk to his colleague Murray Smith, who was hissed and booed off the stage at Upper Hutt when he tried to make this political on Tuesday night.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not the case that by yielding to the demands of the New Zealand Educational Institute for gilt-edged staffing ratios for small primary schools, the Minister has priced them off the market, thus forcing him, in his finance role, to shut many of these same schools down?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No that is not the case. I am of the very firm view that the three half-days that teachers in sole-charge schools get for support, so that they can do their job as a principal, and we can get some extra one-to-one help for kids in those very small schools, is an excellent investment. There are some areas, including Cattle Creek, in the Hon Jim Sutton’s area, where it is just absolutely vital to have those small schools.

Simon Power: I seek leave to table the comments of David Benson-Pope in the Taieri Herald.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those comments. Is there any objection? There is.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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