Questions & Answer For Oral Answer Tuesday 18 Nov
(uncorrected transcript—subject to
correction and further editing)
Questions to Ministers:
1. Business—Government Regulations 1
2. Tertiary Education Commission—Research 2
3. Overstayers—Detection and Deporting 2
4. Treaty of Waitangi—Claims Settlements 2
5. Child Youth and Family Services, Department—Masterton Office 3
6. Prisons—Management 3
7. Sentencing, Parole and Victims' Rights—Outcomes 4
8. Breast Cancer—Breast-screening Programme 5
9. District Health Boards—Elections 5
10. Food Standards—Protection 6
11. Speed Cameras—Waikato Pilot 7
12. Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment Scheme—Outcomes 7
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1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Finance: What initiatives does he intend to take to improve relations with the business community, in light of yesterday’s New Zealand Herald poll which ranked both him and Labour fifth in understanding the needs of business?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The Government continues to expand on a range of initiatives to support business. Its most important contribution is to provide strong, stable leadership, which—as I found in Auckland yesterday—is seen as being in stark contrast to the National Party.
Dr Don Brash: Are not the business community’s concerns entirely understandable, given the raft of anti-business legislation that has been passed by, or is now being contemplated by, this Government, including amendments to the Employment Relations Act, changes to occupational safety and health legislation, the introduction of 4 weeks’ annual leave, and a total failure to address the shortcomings of the Resource Management Act, or is it the case that the Minister is simply not interested in the concerns of the business community?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: None of the above. I do recall that when the Employment Relations Act was passed, the member’s friends in the Auckland Employers Federation predicted that not a single job would be created as a consequence of that Act, that there would be no new jobs in the New Zealand economy. We now have a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, which is the lowest for 16 years. Of course, if the member wants to do something about the fact that New Zealand has one of the worst safety records in the developed world, I suggest he talk to those responsible—his friends in the same organisation.
Clayton Cosgrove: Could the Minister outline, for the benefit of the House, what recent international commentary he has seen on the Government’s economic performance?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: By sheer chance the Australian Financial Review noted in last weekend’s edition that the economy under the Clark Government was “humming along sweetly, with unemployment at an enviable 4.4 percent.” The same column stated that New Zealand business leaders must be “gluttons for punishment” for welcoming the change of National leader instead of recoiling from Don Brash’s disastrous mistakes while Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
Dail Jones: When will the Minister realise that business recognises the falsity of our economic scenario, where sectors earning our money are laying off people—primary sector employment down by 5 percent and manufacturing employment down by 3.1 percent—and both areas are affected by our high dollar; and what does this Government intend to do about it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I will not do is break the law, as proposed by the New Zealand First leader—summon the Governor of the Reserve Bank and order him to lower the exchange rate.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister foresee a deterioration in the Government’s relationship with the business community if the Government perseveres with its endeavour to have exporters pay for new national security measures; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Those measures are a response to demands from the United States. In other countries around the world it has been basically left to the private sector to meet those conditions. In New Zealand the Government is carrying out the requirements, and clearly we have a right to expect to be paid in return, for that.
Rodney Hide: Is not the real problem this Government confronts the fact that business can see through the spin and the self-congratulatory clapping the Government gives itself; and why does this Government not give some real relief to business in the form of some tax cuts?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is introducing and foreshadowing a number of changes in the tax system that will help the business community. I look forward to the member’s support on those issues.
Dr Don Brash: Did the Minister note that in the New Zealand Herald poll I quoted a moment ago he was rated fractionally below the Rt Hon Winston Peters and almost dead equal with the Hon John Tamihere; and is the Minister satisfied with that assessment of his performance by New Zealand’s business leaders?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In a poll where the preferred political party of the respondents was ACT, which scores less than 5 percent in general polls compared with 45 percent for the Labour Party, I think one can say the sample was somewhat biased.
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Tertiary Education Commission—Research
2. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): ): What progress is the Tertiary Education Commission making in improving the quality of information on research output in the tertiary education sector?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Last year the Government announced the Performance-based Research Fund, aimed at allocating $150 million of funding on the basis of research excellence. The Tertiary Education Commission announced on Friday that applications have been received, covering almost 6,000 researchers, for that money. Their work will now be assessed, and beginning from next year the new research funding model will be in place.
Lynne Pillay: How is the process run; and how will providers be rewarded?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The work of researchers will be peer-assessed by panels of independent New Zealand and international researchers. Excellence will be rewarded—meaning that resources will be allocated in a way that supports New Zealand having world-leading research.
Nandor Tanczos: What is the Government doing to protect public access to research, where it is partly funded by the private sector and partly by the public sector?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I imagine the member has a particular case in mind. If he wants to bring it to my attention he should please do so, but he will know, by the way contract research runs, that if there is a public provider of funding and a private provider of funding the contract will set out how that research is to be used.
Deborah Coddington: Will the Tertiary Education Commission be measuring the improvement in research excellence as a result of compulsory consultation with iwi groups; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, the Tertiary Education Commission will be measuring the improvement in excellence within research, and has already released indicators for how it will do this. I want to say to members in the House that I do not know a single person in the country who opposes a performance-based research fund, and I ask National members, if they want to sink even lower, to say that they will repeal this.
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Overstayers—Detection and Deporting
3. DAIL JONES (NZ First), on behalf of Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What success has her department had in identifying and deporting overstayers in the last 12 months?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): One thousand, nine hundred, and eighty-four overstayers were identified from 1 November 2002 to 31 October 2003. Nine hundred and eighty-six overstayers were removed and 998 left voluntarily after being identified by the New Zealand Immigration Service. Comparing the estimated overstaying numbers and the comparable removal voluntary departure statistics, this year’s figures show a significant improvement on the 1997-98 year.
Dail Jones: Can she explain why the overstaying Hungarian couple, Joseph and Theresa Bertalan, have so easily slipped through the system unnoticed when they were working on visitor permits that expired in June, obviously had maternity care during Mrs Bertalan’s pregnancy, had access to taxpayer-funded accommodation, and have now given to their child New Zealand citizenship; and why is it only through Mr Bertalan allegedly breaking the law by shoplifting and giving foulmouthed abuse to the local police that this couple has finally been exposed to New Zealand Immigration Service officials?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not at liberty to disclose details of individuals’ cases without their consent or without their waiving their right to privacy.
Keith Locke: Why is the Government trying to deport Mr Abdikarim Ali Haji to Somalia via South Africa, when it is known that the safety of such a deportee cannot be guaranteed in Somalia, which has no properly functioning Government; and why is the Government not following other Western nations like the United States in not deporting to Somalia at this time?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That particular case has resulted in a High Court intervention. The Government is therefore not removing him at this stage, and the Associate Minister has been asked by the court to take into account the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees guidelines, which we are expecting to receive very soon.
Dail Jones: What is the problem on the ministry’s part in failing to give information about these people, whose case is well reported in the paper, whose permits have well and truly expired, who have been using the under-resourced health board, who are costing the New Zealand taxpayer thousands of dollars, and who are committing crimes here? What is the problem with the Minister telling the House what is going on with her department?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am perfectly well aware of the details of this particular case, but what that member consistently fails to accept is there is an absolute obligation on my part as the Minister of Immigration to respect individuals’ privacy up to the point that they either specifically give permission for their cases to be discussed or they have waived their right to privacy, as some particular individuals have, by making their particular cases public. In this particular case, the advice I received was that the individuals did not come to the attention of New Zealand Immigration Service officials until the police were involved.
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Treaty of Waitangi—Claims Settlements
4. MAHARA OKEROA (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What progress is being made on Treaty of Waitangi settlements?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): I am pleased to announce that the Ngati Tama Claims Settlement Bill will have its second reading today, and will be the second treaty settlement bill through the House this year, in line with our policy objective to have a settlement every 6 months.
Mahara Okeroa: What other progress has been made by the Government in treaty settlements?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: This Government has been making very good progress in settling historical treaty claims in a relatively short time. We have signed five settlements with Te Uri o Hau, Ngâti Ruanui, Ngâti Tama, Ngâti Awa, and Ngâti Tuwharetoa in Bay of Plenty. We will also be shortly signing another deed of settlement with Ngâ Rauru. We have also passed three treaty settlement bills: Pouakani, Te Uri o Hau, and Ngâti Ruanui, and we will, of course, be passing through this House the Ngati Tama Claims Settlement Bill this week. We are also currently engaged with five different groups at various stages of negotiations.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How many sets of legislation will the Minister introduce into the House before the next election, or will she continue boasting about settlements that have been negotiated by her predecessor, Sir Douglas Graham?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: It is true that some of those settlements were started by the Government. It is also true that that Government failed to settle them and to bring them to finality. That is what this Government does; it actually gets the job done.
Bill Gudgeon: In recent Treaty of Waitangi claims there has been disagreement on who should be the mandated personnel to represent iwi negotiating team, and that this has been a stumbling block that has created disharmony and distrust amongst—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has not yet started to ask the question. It must have a question word in it. Please commence.
Bill Gudgeon: What is the Office of Treaty Settlements doing about these claimants not happy with the mandated personnel?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Office of Treaty Settlements, with Te Puni Kôkiri, has a process to ensure that all claimants that are involved in the claim do have an opportunity to be represented. It is true, as the member said, in just about every settlement, there will be someone who is unhappy with that process. The way we intend to deal with that, and do deal with that, is to make sure there is always a place at the table for those who do not want to participate at that time, and frequently, by the end of the negotiations, they do.
Metiria Turei: When will the Minister undertake a comprehensive review of the Office of Treaty Settlements and the treaty settlement policy, in line with restorative justice principles, so that hapû affected by settlements have some control over the process of restitution for the heinous crimes committed against them?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The treaty settlement process is intended to address the heinous crimes that the member referred to. What I think the member is getting at is that the policy the office and the Crown have is to have large natural groupings in negotiations, as opposed to individual whânau and hapû on every occasion. The reason for this is simply that all those parties have an interest in the settlement. Also, it is important that the settlement process be undertaken in an appropriate time, and to have every hapû have an individual settlement would mean there would probably be no end.
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Child Youth and Family Services, Department—Masterton Office
5. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): What specific concerns did the supervisor of the social worker involved with Saliel Aplin and Olympia Jetson raise with the Chief Executive of Child, Youth and Family Services and how were those concerns addressed?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): I understand that the supervisor raised concerns about the Masterton site manager’s position being disestablished. The department’s response was that the change to split the business and practice management functions into two positions, with the business manager being based in Wellington and the practice manager being based in Masterton, would strengthen on-site management of social work practice.
Katherine Rich: In light of the Commissioner for Children’s finding that there was a “failure of the decision makers in Wellington to respond adequately and promptly to the unique situation developing in Masterton”, how does that finding illustrate that the national office was adequately supporting the Masterton office?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I would also like the member to reflect on the response from the chief social worker, given in her report, which questioned the degree of effect that changes to management lines and accountabilities have on professional practice. She also noted that social work standards should be maintained regardless of reporting lines.
Georgina Beyer: What initiatives has the department implemented to better support supervisors and social workers, including front-line staff in the Masterton office?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The department has initiated a number of new programmes, including the establishment of 38 new practice manager positions across the country to oversee practice quality and to assist in resolving difficulties or uncertainties within casework. Two of these new positions are in the Wellington region, with one specifically in Masterton.
Barbara Stewart: In taking note of the Minister’s previous answers, and given the number of currently unallocated cases—including those that have been notified to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services more than once—is she confident that the systems with the department are adequate to ensure the safety of at-risk children; if not, what specific changes are planned to improve these systems?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am confident that with the new initiatives and additional support that the department has been given over the last 4 years, and with the implementation of the recommendations of the baseline review team, we can have that confidence.
Dr Muriel Newman: What specifically did the Minister mean in her statement last week, when asked whether she accepted responsibility for the failure of the Labour Government’s Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, that: “That is an agreement I signed with the chief executive. It is her responsibility to deliver on that agreement.”; and can she clarify for the House whether she as Minister will accept responsibility for any child who is harmed under the care of the department?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The statement meant exactly what it said. I am happy to be accountable for the responsibilities that the privilege of my ministerial portfolios accords.
Judy Turner: In light of the fact that the social work supervisor’s concerns were not perceived to be addressed in this case, is the Minister concerned by Charlene Aplin’s intention to proceed with legal action against the department; does she intend to fight that action vigorously; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Any individual, including Charlene Aplin, is entitled to take legal action if he or she considers it appropriate.
Katherine Rich: If the Minister is trying to convince the House that major positive changes have occurred at the Masterton office of Child, Youth and Family Services after the girls were murdered, why in an answer to a parliamentary question about the changes that had been made 1 year after their deaths did then Minister Steve Maharey say: “There were no specific practices put in place regarding the social workers involved with Olympia Jetson and Saliel Aplin.”; that “the department is satisfied with its social work policies”; and that “there have been no changes in procedure following the deaths of the two girls.”?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As that member well knows, the policies and procedures were confirmed by the Commissioner for Children as being entirely appropriate. They were not followed.
Georgina Beyer: What support has the department given to the Masterton office since 2001?
Hon RUTH DYSON: A new manager appointed in mid-2001 increased resources to the office by employing a new team of social workers. The department has also strengthened on-site management during 2003, provided additional support and practice advice, provided additional social work resources from the Wellington office, strengthened collaboration with other key agencies, worked closely with community partners on initiatives to address family violence, and contracted an additional “social workers in school” position in Masterton.
Katherine Rich: If the Minister is convinced that she has given due attention to factors raised by the Commissioner for Children, why did Trish Grant of the Office of the Commissioner for Children say that such factors “haven’t been given the attention they should have by the department or, in fact, the Minister”?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Clearly because that was her view.
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6. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: : Is he satisfied with the management of prisons in New Zealand; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Generally yes. The department’s primary job is to keep the public safe, and it has consistently performed well compared with other jurisdictions.
Marc Alexander: Will the Minister review the security classification system, in light of the recent escapes of Andrew Rogers, a murderer and child sex offender, and Grant Simon, a brutal serial rapist, who is still at large after 11 days, both of whom were on minimum security work programmes outside their State-managed prisons; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Investigations are under way into both those circumstances. The security classification and the conditions surrounding the fact that one of those persons walked away are part of those investigations.
Martin Gallagher: How do New Zealand’s prisons compare internationally?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Very well, indeed. The total inmate cost per day is lower than in Australia, England, Wales, and Canada. New Zealand fares very favourably on measures such as staff to inmate ratio, and the department’s integrated offender management system is considered to be a world leader. Prison managers are making very good progress, and they should be congratulated.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister have confidence in and is he happy with the management of the Auckland remand prison; if so, what lessons does he feel the Department of Corrections could take from the success of that operation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the member knows, the issue of private prisons is now under consideration by the select committee. Of course, it is Government policy to have that private prison returned to the public prison system. We consider the incarceration of people is duly the responsibility of the State.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I specifically asked the Minister whether he has confidence in and is happy with the management of that prison. I did not ask him about the Government’s proposals about bills that may be before the House or the ideology behind that. I specifically asked whether he had confidence in and is he happy with that prison. I would like him to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I will ask him to comment a little further.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have not seen any issues about the management of the prison but I have seen some figures being used by Business Roundtable and others that do not compare apples with apples. If we look at the public prison system in New Zealand and compare its management of remand prisons with private prisons, we see that the public prison service is, on average, $7,000 cheaper than the private prison.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of some of the very serious allegations made against Australasian correctional management in Australia, and, notwithstanding, the considerable advances made by them in things like access to mental health services and relationship with local iwi, is he of the opinion that their activities in Aotearoa are in the nature of a loss-leader?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for Australian prisons but he can answer it in relation to his responsibility.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a number of comparisons. I think it is fair to say that some good progress has been made in that area, particularly, as the member rightly says, in relation to iwi relationships—something that is now being considered within the public prison system. But I think it is fair to say that, as I said before, the incarceration of people in New Zealand should be the responsibility of the State, not of private companies trying to make money out of it.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the Government maintain its policy to cancel the private prison in Auckland, when even the Minister’s own chief executive has advised a parliamentary select committee that the private prison is cheaper than the public prison by several thousand dollars, and, if he does not want prisoners to be in the custody of the private sector, why then have the police and the prison service put out the custody and transportation of prisoners to the private sector?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, there are actually three questions there. Firstly, the Government makes the decision—
Opposition Members: Answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister does have the opportunity to answer. He had not got to many more than two words into his answer.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There were three questions there, and I am happy to answer them all. Firstly, the Government makes the decisions, not officials. Secondly, the member’s figures are not right. Thirdly, contracting out escort services is not at all comparable with the management of private prisons.
Stephen Franks: Did he fail to answer Mr Ron Mark’s question about his opinion of Auckland remand prison management because he has made sure he has never accepted any of its repeated invitations to visit in case it might upset his prejudiced determination to close it, and it is easier to do that in ignorance?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No.
Marc Alexander: Why is the Government happy to allow the Department of Corrections to tender out to private companies for the transportation of prisoners and the provision of those on parole, yet through the Corrections Bill wants to stop them from running prisons, when surely, if they are good enough to keep prisoners secure while they are out in public, then they can manage to keep them safely behind stone walls and bars of a prison?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government considers the two things not comparable at all. For example, as far as the police are concerned, they used to be sitting in cars and vans monitoring speed cameras. They do not do it any more because we think they should be doing other things. Similarly, we think corrections officers should be doing other things, rather than sitting in vans going up and down between courts and prisons.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that although the publicly run Auckland remand prison has achieved the New Zealand quality health accreditation, the public prisons have failed to do so, and instead require exemptions; and does that not make it even more untenable for the Government to squash private prisons under the Corrections Bill?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I cannot confirm that.
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Sentencing, Parole and Victims' Rights—Outcomes
7. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Is he confident that major changes in sentencing laws, parole laws, and victims’ rights laws have improved outcomes for society?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes, the Victims’ Rights Act, for example, has been strongly endorsed as “a major step forward” by victims groups and specifically by Victim Support. The tougher stance taken against the worst offenders under the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act, such as the longest ever non-parole periods—25 years and 30 years respectively—for Howse and Bell, have also been widely welcomed across the community.
Ron Mark: What undertaking and assurances can he give that individual security officers charged with the responsibility of responding to alarm activations and checking home detainees are not suddenly being confronted and endangered by armed and violent home detainees under the influence of methamphetamine?
Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member wants a specific answer I suggest he puts a specific question, and if he has any information about that he should have reported that to the police, first of all. But if he reports it to me I would be happy to have it investigated if, indeed, he has such information.
Tim Barnett: Is the Minister confident that changes relating to preventive detention will allow those who constitute a serious and ongoing risk to society to be given sentences that ensure that society is protected?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, preventive detention is being strengthened in three particular ways. Firstly, it has been extended to now cover 36 serious violent and sexual offences; secondly, it applies from the age of 18, not 21; and, thirdly, it no longer requires the prerequisite of there being an earlier serious offence. This sentence allows an offender to be detained indefinitely.
Marc Alexander: How can the Minister have confidence in a sentencing and parole regime that continues to fail victims and their expectations of justice, given that when sentences are imposed they will, by default, still allow offenders the very real possibility of serving only one-third of their sentence?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member will be aware of several Court of Appeal cases that state quite clearly that where a longer minimum period is required for purposes of deterrence and denunciation of a particular offence, up to two-thirds can be imposed. The member will also be aware that that is being clarified in current legislation that is before the House. The member will also be aware that offenders who now constitute an ongoing risk can and will be detained until the very last day of their sentence.
Stephen Franks: How is it a better outcome to have in the first year, after the Minister’s new sentencing and parole laws took effect, 4,500 more people robbed, raped, or bashed than in the year he first took power?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member will be aware that sentencing is one factor in terms of crime prevention. We hope that it is a deterrent. Unfortunately, too many studies around the world show that it is not a major deterrent. If we want to deal with violent offenders, the research, equally internationally, shows the best way to begin that is by dealing with the environments that create violent offenders, particularly poor parenting and the lack of early intervention. Those sorts of factors need to be part of the solution and not simply the tough sentencing regime that this Government has put in place.
Ron Mark: In respect of the Minister’s answer to my first supplementary question, can he explain how it is that in the last week two security officers have been hospitalised by armed home detainees who were high on P, and how many more children will have to hear that their father, who works for a private security company checking on criminals living at home, has been hospitalised by crazed P-using crims before he admits that home detention has been an abject failure?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is very easy to raise cases that have never been put before the House, or put to the police to the best of my knowledge. If they have not been put to the police, they should be, because a criminal offence has been committed. The member should not come into the House and grandstand; he should report that information to the police so it can be acted upon.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not about time the Minister accepted that every single one of the violent offences that has happened on home detention has been perpetrated by somebody who was on back-end home detention that his Government brought through this House, and is it not time that those criminals were kept in jail rather than at home?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I would expect the member as a former Minister of Justice to know that back-end home detention was introduced in 1995. It was kept in place for 4 years, and then another Minister put in place front-end home detention. That Minister’s name was Tony Ryall.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table an email that details the assault on two security officers whilst visiting people on secure home detention.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that email. Is there any objection? There is.
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Breast Cancer—Breast-screening Programme
8. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Why has the Government decided only to extend the free breast-screening programme “upwards rather than downwards”, in light of new scientific evidence which shows that deaths from breast cancer fell significantly in the 40-49 year old age group in those that were screened versus those that were not screened?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The Government is considering extending the free breast-screening programme upward to include women up to their 70th birthday, as there is substantial scientific evidence of benefit in that age group equating to a 30 percent reduction in breast cancer mortality. Clearly, the priority for widening eligibility for free breast screening is in that age group. In that respect New Zealand is in step with most other developed countries, where the most common age range for breast-screening programmes is between 50 and 69. However, the national screening unit of the Ministry of Health is reviewing new research on this topic on a weekly basis. Any decision to move the age group down will be based on the best possible evidence.
Dr Lynda Scott: As the peak rate for diagnosis of breast cancer is between 45 and 50 years, why on earth do we not extend free breast-screening to that age group?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In fact, the member is wrong. The peak rate rises with age. The Ministry of Health’s own New Zealand Health Information Service data shows that the highest rate occurs after 50 years of age.
Steve Chadwick: What representations have been made to increase the screening age upwards?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have received many letters, as most members in this House have received, from organisations such as Grey Power that are rightly concerned that the highest registration of breast cancer in New Zealand is amongst women over the age of 65.
Barbara Stewart: Is she planning any reconsideration of the Government’s position on the age bracket within which women are entitled to free breast-cancer screening, in light of the 125,000-signature petition of Debbie and Tim Short received today at Parliament; if so, will extensions be made at the lower end of the current age bracket; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: As I said in my answer to the first question, the Government is looking at extending the breast-screening programme. In the first instance we are looking at extending the age upward, because evidence is very strong that the older one gets the greater the risk of breast cancer. That is the area we are looking at initially. I do welcome the petition with 120,000 signatures brought by the family, whom I met with earlier today. I commend them for their passion. I will base my decision on that petition on the best scientific advice I receive.
Sue Kedgley: What is she doing to reduce women’s exposure to the hundreds of estrogenic hormonally active chemicals in New Zealand that are known to contribute to breast cancer, such as bisphenol A, commonly used as a flame retardant; and will her ministry be making a submission to the Building Bill to ensure that women are not exposed to such estrogenic chemicals in their own homes that contribute to breast cancer?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot answer that question. I have no knowledge as to whether any representations are being made on changes to the Building Act.
Judy Turner: Noting that 3.8 percent of all males die from prostate cancer, and those deaths represent a quarter of all male cancer deaths, what progress has the National Health Committee made in assessing the proposal to provide free screening for prostate cancer?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There is nothing more that I would like than there to be an effective screening programme for prostate cancer for men. In fact, more men die of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer. However, no other country is carrying out a screening programme at this stage, because there is not an effective one. As the member has already pointed out, the National Health Committee has been reviewing all international literature and is due to report in January next year.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why do some Australian women receive free mammography from age 40; and why do New Zealand women continue to die unnecessarily, when we know from scientific data that free breast cancer screening in the 40-49-year-old age group will reduce death rates by up to 44 percent?
Mr SPEAKER: The second part of the question is in order, and the Minister may answer that.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I would dispute the figure the member has raised. In fact the figure I have seen is 15 percent. However, I would also like to point out that the Australians set up a breast-screening programme considerably before New Zealand did. We did not establish one until 1998, and at that time it was decided that the age group would be 50 to 64 because the data showed that that was the appropriate place, just as the data now is showing that we ought to extend the screening upward as our first priority.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why are New Zealand women still waiting far too long for radiation therapy following breast cancer surgery and still having to travel to Australia, which was a short-term solution that this Government still has not solved?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to tell the member that in December this year the first graduates out of the new radiation therapy programme we put in place will graduate. So instead of having 16 a year—it takes 3 years to train them, and 16 a year were trained until we became the Government—38 a year are trained now. When that happens we will address this problem. I am just sorry that it was not addressed before—and they continue to deny it, when they should have done something about it.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table The Lancet of 26 April 2003 article, which clearly indicates, from those studies, that there is a significant 44 percent reduction in breast cancer mortality for those aged 40 to 69.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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District Health Boards—Elections
9. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health:: Is she satisfied that the general public has had every opportunity to read and make submissions on the Ministry of Health consultation document entitled Constituency Arrangements for DHB Elections under STV; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes. The change to the single transferable vote (STV) was first announced on 23 November 2000, at which time I stated that the election for district health boards in 2001 would be on a first-past-the-post basis based on wards, but in 2004 STV would be introduced using broad representation.
Heather Roy: How does she square her quick and dirty consultation, with submissions due tomorrow, with Prime Minister Helen Clark’s 1999 election promise of wide community consultation?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Ministry of Health’s consultation document is with district health boards and local government. The public of New Zealand have an opportunity to have an input into that because all the consultations are being held in public at district health board meetings—something we did not have before, actually. All the meetings were held in private under the previous system.
Jill Pettis: Could the Minister please outline to the House some of the benefits of using the at-large STV system?
Hon ANNETTE KING: At-large structures under STV provide greater voter choice and flexibility. It is a fairer system, as under STV all candidates would need to attract a minimum of 12.5 percent of the vote. It would prevent something that happened in Whanganui in the 2001 district health board election, where one member was elected with only 769 votes, while in another constituency the highest-polling unsuccessful candidate received over 3,000 votes.
Dr Lynda Scott: Is she aware that a system of STV voting for health board members will markedly reduce rural representation on boards, and does she support the call by Zone 5 Local Government New Zealand to retain constituencies; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The only thing that would restrain rural people under STV at large is not voting, and they have a very good record of voting. If there were one member in a ward in a STV election, that member would have to get 50 percent of the vote to be elected, so one might as well have first past the post. Under this system, all rural people across the whole district can vote for other rural people.
Pita Paraone: Notwithstanding the example the Minister has given in support of STV, is she confident that should STV proceed, membership of district health boards will fairly represent their communities; if so, why—given, for example, the Northland District Health Board, where there are three distinct local body districts, each with variable population figures, the smallest of which is a third of the size of the next largest?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I do believe it will give much fairer representation, because people across the whole district can vote for those candidates. They are not confined to a small area. It will certainly be much more advantageous for Mâori, women, and minority groups, because all people can vote for those candidates, rather than being put into small areas in which they can vote only for a small number. It is a much fairer system, which is the reason why it is being supported.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister intend to invoke changes to the district health board election process by Order in Council prior to 30 April next year, as provided by section 19 of the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act, or will she use section 20, which involves more public consultation?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There will be no further consultation on the STV at large issue. I presume that is what the member is talking about. Cabinet has made a decision in principle. We made that in 2000. We have communicated that decision over that time and we have reconfirmed the decision that it will be at large.
Heather Roy: I seek the leave of the House to table the document Constituency Arrangements for DHB Elections under STV.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Heather Roy: I seek leave to table a press release from the Southland Times dated 6 November 1999, in which the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, stated that she would put an end to Wellington bureaucrats deciding what was best.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that newspaper article. Is there any objection? There is.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the Local Government New Zealand Zone 5 report stating that it is opposed to STV.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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10. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Does she have confidence that New Zealand’s interests are always able to be protected through Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): Yes, I have every confidence in the joint food standards setting system delivering on New Zealand’s interests. That includes the work of Food Safety Australia New Zealand and the decisions of the ministerial council. The joint food standards setting system has delivered New Zealand a comprehensive, state-of-the-art food standards code that sets out not only a full range of generic labelling provisions that address both safety and consumer information but also, where necessary, provides a number of specific standards.
Sue Kedgley: How can New Zealand’s interests always be protected when we have one vote out of 10 on the ministerial council, and when the Australian Federal Health Minister can give written directions to Food Standards Australia New Zealand on any matter, which the authority must comply with, even when New Zealand disagrees with that direction; and can she confirm that the New Zealand Minister of Health has no such powers?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Any food standard is, first of all, communicated to the public through a discussion document in which consultation must take place. It then goes to the ministerial council for a decision to be made, and that decision is made public. New Zealand has the right to call for a review on any standard, as does any Minister. We also have the right to set a separate standard. That does give New Zealand a lot of ability to have a very large say. I must say that the member herself has been to my office to congratulate Food Safety Australia New Zealand on setting a new food code that included nutritional labelling, so I presume the member was happy with that decision.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain any other advantage for New Zealand from having joint food standards?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Food Standards Australia New Zealand ensures consistent standards and facilitates food trade, thus increasing the local New Zealand food trade market from 4 million people to 23 million people. This arrangement also reflects our close relationship with Australia, and most people would agree that that is a good thing—except in rugby.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister support the statement of her colleague Ruth Dyson, who said recently: “This is an open Government that has democracy at the centre of its decision-making procedures.”; if so, why did she agree on 4 April this year to keep secret all official advice to the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council, which makes final decisions on matters such as food labelling and other issues of great concern to New Zealanders?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The decisions that have come out of the council were made a long time ago—before I became the Minister. It was decided that decisions would always be communicated to the public, but in terms of discussions that took place within the ministerial council that information would not be made public. I have confirmed only what has been the practice for a number of years.
Sue Kedgley: Why does it say on the website that those procedures were agreed by the ministerial council on 4 April this year; is it not the case that if the Australian Conservative Federal Government decided to change our GE labelling laws as part of its free-trade deal with the US—which, of course, is under discussion right now—the decision could be discussed in secret at the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council; and is it not also true that, ultimately, if the Australian Government did not get its way in the council it could simply direct Food Standards Australia New Zealand to make changes, even if the New Zealand Government did not support them?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think it goes: no, no, and no.
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Speed Cameras—Waikato Pilot
11. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with the former Transport Minister Hon Mark Gosche’s reported statement that he had ordered an end to hidden speed cameras because he did not believe the [hidden speed camera] pilot in the Waikato had cut speeding or road deaths; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): I am advised by the previous Minister of Transport Mark Gosche that he had actually stated there was a lot of debate about the relationship between speed cameras and police presence. As a result, the Government decided to reinstate the highway patrol, which has been an outstanding success.
Hon Tony Ryall: Noting that previous Minister Mark Gosche is reported in the Waikato Times on 9 June 2000 as saying that hidden speed cameras had proven to be a failure, and given that Minister Hawkins in the House last Thursday ruled out lowering speed camera tolerance, will this Minister now rule out the introduction of hidden speed cameras?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government is considering a range of new enforcement options to go with its very successful engineering programme. An education programme will be announced next week. We have to bring the road toll down; it is as simple as that.
Mark Peck: What other reports has the Minister seen on the effect of speed camera trials?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a number of reports saying that hidden speed cameras were successful in reducing crashes and fatalities, that there were sufficient road-safety gains from their use, and that cameras were used for road-safety reasons—not to raise revenue. Those reports are from the former National Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and from former National Minister of Transport Maurice Williamson. They are from the days, of course, when National had good leaders—not ones like that motley lot over there.
Mr SPEAKER: That last comment the member knows is out of order. He will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paul Swain: I withdraw and apologise.
Ron Mark: Other than the strategy of concealing speed cameras in wheelie bins, a tactic most New Zealanders would rubbish, what other novel ideas has the Minister considered in his proposal to camouflage and conceal speed cameras?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Most people would consider those kinds of measures rubbish. As I have said, a range of road safety options is being considered. Announcements are hopefully to made in December.
Hon Tony Ryall: Noting that Mrs Shipley and Mr Williamson’s comments were made before the end of the pilot scrapped by Mr Gosche, why will this Minister not realise that dead bodies speak louder than officials’ reports, which showed that in the hidden speed camera area, the road toll went up, and that the trial was cancelled because it did not work?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is totally contrary to what the Auditor-General’s report said in 2002, and I recommend that the member read it.
Hon Tony Ryall: In trying to defend what has become an indefensible position in light of the fact that his own officials’ report showed the road toll went up over the period of the speed camera trial, why does the Minister keep quoting the Victorian experience with hidden speed cameras, when in fact, in the last 10 years, the road toll in Victoria has remained virtually unchanged, yet here in New Zealand the road toll has gone down 37 percent over the same period, without hidden cameras?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Victorian situation has reached a plateau and the Victorians are in the same position as us. [Interruption] They are in the same position as us, which is why we are considering new measures. Rather than quote transport officials, I would rather quote the Auditor-General, who said that over the period 1 June 1997 to June 1999, the open road crash rate fell by 11 percent and open road casualties fell by 19 percent, which are effects that have been associated with the hidden speed camera trial. So, I am happy to table this, although there is no need to because it is already a document of Parliament.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a document that shows the official review of the hidden speed camera trial that shows, firstly, that no conclusions can be drawn on a link between speeds and hidden speed cameras because of the small statistical sample, and, secondly, that the number of deaths went up over the trial period; it did not go down.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Paul Swain: I seek leave to table two letters, one from Maurice Williamson and one from Jenny Shipley, supporting the speed camera trials.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table some photographs of a speed camera hidden in a wheelie bin.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those photographs. Is there any objection? There is.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table some documents from the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council showing that, contrary to what the Minister said, the procedures for keeping secret official advice were in fact approved on 4 April of this year.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the decisions that were made and made public following that same said meeting.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
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Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment Scheme—Outcomes
12. DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has he received on the outcomes of the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment—or PACE—scheme has been very successful in assisting job seekers wishing to develop a career in the creative industries to move into paid employment. As at the end of September 2003, 1,620 people had moved off the unemployment benefit and into paid employment with the assistance of the scheme.
David Benson-Pope: What other reports has the Minister received on the scheme, and is he aware of any other taxpayer-supported schemes that offer employment support for people engaged in creative pursuits?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have been informed that the very successful Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme has been criticised on the grounds that it has “the potential to give people unrealistic expectations”. I have also been recently informed that taxpayers are providing an annual salary of more than $110,000 for a budding author to write a children’s book that would make most right-wing people blush. I would observe that both the critic of the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme and the budding author of The Little Yellow Duck of Freedom are both ACT MPs.
Katherine Rich: What does the Minister say to successful, independent artists like Grahame Sydney, who are not convinced that turning budding artists into welfare dependants does anything to increase the artistic vibrancy of New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would say to him that the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme has been very successful in placing people into long-term, stable employment—unlike being a leader of the National Party.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)