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Questions & Answers For Oral Answer Thursday

Questions & Answers For Oral Answer Thursday, 20 November 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers:

1. Mâori Health—Our Health, Our Future 1

2. Breast Cancer—Breast Screening Programme 3

3. Children—Fitness and School Transport 3

4. State Housing—Community Renewal Programmes 4

5. Prisons—Spring Hill, Meremere 4

6. Plunket—Funding 6

7. Beneficiaries—Sickness Benefit Numbers 6

8. Unit Titles Act—Auckland Regional Council Report 7

9. Mental Health—Serious Mental Disorders 7

10. Wallaceville Research Facility—Continuation 7

11. Pig Industry—Post-weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome 8

12. Mâori Tourism—Government Initiatives 8

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Mâori Health—Our Health, Our Future

1. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by her claim in the British Medical Journal that: “Conventional Western medicine has been unable to close the disparities in mortality and health revealed in official statistics.”, and does she accept the findings in the 1999 Ministry of Health report Our Health Our Future that “The improvement that has occurred in Maori life expectancy at birth since 1950 has been described as spectacular”?

Hon TARIANA TURIA (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, I do stand by my comments.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question has been set down on notice. It has two parts to it. The Minister addressed the first part and did not attempt to address the second part, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister said she stood by her comments.

Rodney Hide: The question as set down asks, secondly: “does she accept the findings in the 1999 Ministry of Health report …?”

Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could comment on that part.

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Mâori health did appear to be dramatically improving. However, subsequent reports show that information to have been misleading because of the under-reporting of Mâori data. The picture is worse than we once thought. Since 1980, improvement in Mâori life expectancy has been slight, whereas for Pâkehâ, improvement in life expectancy has been more marked. The gap is currently getting wider.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister accept Otago University’s Dr Papaarangi Reid’s analysis that Pâkehâ have stolen Mâori life expectancy, or does she accept that conventional Western medicine has been the best thing for Mâori life expectancy?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I think we need to listen carefully to the arguments that have been put forward by knowledgeable experts like Dr Papaarangi Reid, Professor Mason Durie, and others, and I am certainly not prepared to ignore such expertise. The key findings of the 2003 report Decades of Disparity: Ethnic mortality trends in New Zealand 1980 – 1999 is that mortality rates declined steadily for all ages and both sexes for Pâkehâ, whereas Mâori and Pacific groups showed little change.

Steve Chadwick: What is the Government doing to address Mâori health issues?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Last year I launched the Mâori health strategy, He Korowai Oranga, and a separate Mâori health action plan, Whakatataka, which place whânau order at the centre of public policy. He Korowai Oranga supports whânau to address underlying causes of health issues, and enables them to support individual members of the whânau, through collective action.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister believe that it is Western medicine that can treat type 2 diabetesand its complications; and what is she doing to promote the understanding and acceptance of the need to use such treatment when traditional Mâori healing fails?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: There is no evidence that traditional Mâori healing fails. Certainly, I accept that for type 2 diabetes Western-type interventions are important.

Metiria Turei: Has the Minister also seen the quote from Professor Ring of James Cook University—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry. I did not see the member or hear him call; I apologise. I have called Metiria Turei. I will call the member next.

Metiria Turei: Has The Minister also seen the quote from Professor Ring of James Cook University and Ngaire Brown from the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association in the same issue of the British Medical Journal that: “If Governments are to truly contribute to positive change, they need to make the commitment that would transcend political vagaries and election cycles, and strip away the racism that remains a barrier to the progress and health of indigenous peoples.”; and does she have any advice about that for the member who asked the primary question?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: As well as those reports that have been quoted by that member, editorials in four major international medical journals have described the impact of racism on the health of the nation. Why are we not prepared to be informed by that international context, in the light of our own appalling statistics?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Minister not admit that the biggest improvements for Mâori health would come from a decent, nationwide screening programme in respect of diabetes and hepatitis B, which could be run together—[Interruption] Yes, I will get on to the member’s one shortly.

Mr SPEAKER: This is the one and only warning today. There will be no interjections. I ask the member to restart the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Minister not admit that the biggest improvements for Mâori health would come from a proper, nationwide screening programme, in respect of Mâori, for diabetes and hepatitis B—programmes that could be run at the same time—and, secondly, that Mâori die much more, and in far greater numbers, from obesity-rated diseases, for example, than for any other reason, which is where her concentration and focus should go rather than in making veiled, stupid comments about racism?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: While I accept there are social issues relative to the position of Mâori health, I think it is important we take a very broad view of that, and accept that racism plays a key part in that, as well.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister stand by her statement in Tribal Health Policy in New Zealand that: “We soon found ourselves tangled up in audits, having to meet a whole lot of inconsistent reporting criteria. We had to provide services in ways that we ourselves felt were not effective.”; and does she believe that Mâori health providers should not have to be accountable for public money by way of audit?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Mâori health providers are audited two times more than any other health providers in the country—

Hon Member: Prove it.

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I can prove that—and Mâori receive 2 percent of the health dollar. Ninety-eight percent of those health dollars go to mainstream services. Everybody should be accountable for health dollars—both Mâori and mainstream providers.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister accept that Mâori life expectancy has improved by 14½ years since 1950; if so, how can she possibly claim that conventional Western medicine has failed to close the gaps? [Interruption]

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Can I have the question repeated? I was distracted by the comment.

Heather Roy: Does she accept that Mâori life expectancy has improved by 14½ years since 1950; if so, how can she possibly claim that conventional Western medicine has failed to close the gaps?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Mâori did enjoy large increases in life expectancy from the 1950s to the 1970s, but the discrepancies emerged throughout the 1980s. Today I think that 15 percent loss of lifespan is appalling, and it cannot all be attributed to lifestyle factors.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister making allegations of racism in respect of the longevity of the Mâori people and Mâori health, when she knows full well that it is housing and a sound diet that are the most important things for Mâori, and what racist element in our society is forcing people to go down to Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Pizza Hut, or McDonald’s, and have Fanta and Coca-Cola by way of refreshments? Why does she not stick to the facts?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: As usual, that member has a lot of rhetoric but no evidence.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Does the Minister accept the Oxford University study that shows that the typical lifespan of pre-European Mâori was less than 30 years of age, and why does she not accept that conventional Western medicine is still the best and only way that Mâori health will improve?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I have not said that conventional Western medicine is absolutely not appropriate for Mâori health. However, I also believe that there are other ways of improving health other than that, and accept also that there other issues that come into play when we are discussing Mâori health disparity.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Minister said that my question was all rhetoric without evidence, would she accept that my evidence is herself?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I do not think that I need to account to Mr Peters for my eating habits; nor do I expect him to account to me for his drinking behaviour.

Hon Ken Shirley: Given the Minister’s comments about lack of evidence, and her statement that Mâori health providers are audited two times more frequently, how does she explain the Hawke’s Bay health trust run by Apera Clark, when dog food, spa pools, barrels of muttonbirds, two digital televisions, and household groceries were all paid for by taxpayers’ dollars filtered through that Mâori health provider?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Those issues were addressed after an audit, when it was decided not to renew the contract.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Despite her view being coloured by the fact that most of her colleagues would be three sheets to the wind on a wine biscuit, could I ask why she is putting racism out in front of Mâori people as some sort of excuse for their current condition, when she knows full well that she would be providing—for the first time for a long time—leadership by referring them back to a sound diet?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: We also know that sound diet requires a particular income.

Rodney Hide: Will she dissociate herself and her Government from the claims made by Otago University researcher, Dr Papaarangi Reid, on National Radio last Monday that Mâori life expectancy has been appropriated by Pâkehâ and that in doing so Pâkehâ have been “very, very greedy”; if not, why not?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I do not have any ministerial responsibility for remarks that other people make.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier in answer to a question the Minister associated herself with Dr Papaarangi Reid’s analysis by saying she had listened to the analysis, and now she is not prepared to comment on it. She actually linked herself into it.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is wrong. The Minister certainly addressed that question.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have a different point of order, in that the Minister said she was not responsible for other people’s comments, but my colleague Rodney Hide asked whether she would dissociate herself from those outrageous comments. She does have responsibility for whether she would or would not dissociate herself from those comments.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is wrong. The Minister certainly addressed that question.

Dr Lynda Scott: As it obviously costs more to feed a family on things like Kentucky Fried Chicken and takeaway meals, is the Minister saying that if one is poor one cannot eat well and that that is the cause of obesity amongst Mâori people?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Again that member has no evidence that Mâori people are eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, or whatever. It is noted in the disparities report that poverty is a key issue in terms of Mâori health.

Rodney Hide: Does she accept the analysis provided by Dr Papaarangi Reid on National Radio on Monday morning on Mana News that the problem with the foreshortened Mâori life expectancy is “not because of smoking” but rather because Pâkehâ people are being fast tracked through the waiting lists; if not, why not?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: There is evidence that Mâori people are not receiving access to treatments in the same way as non-Mâori people.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table United Nations records in respect of the longevity of Bulgarians, Greeks, and South Koreans, all of whom have a lower income level than the Mâori people.

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

Heather Roy: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is a British Medical Journal article dated 23 August this year Tribal Health Policy, in which the honourable Minister states: “We find ourselves tangled up in audits having to meet a whole lot of inconsistent reporting criteria.” The second document is Our Health Our Future: The Health of New Zealanders 1999, a report by the Ministry of Health that states: “The improvement that has occurred in Mâori life expectancy at birth since 1950 has been described as ‘spectacular’.”

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

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I seek leave to table the document on life expectancy trends from 1950 to 2000, by ethnicity.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want a clarification, if I may.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been granted. No one took objection.

Rodney Hide: Well, I just hope it has got the problems—

Mr SPEAKER: No, leave has been granted.

Gerrard Eckhoff: I seek leave of the House to table the pages within the Oxford History of New Zealand referring to the lifespan of Mâori pre-European being less than 30 years of age.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those pages from that book. Is there any objection? There is.

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Breast Cancer—Breast Screening Programme

2. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Has she received any reports that would justify the current breast screening age criteria to be widened outside ages 50-64?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes, I have received reports recommending widening the age range up to 70 years of age. The first time this recommendation was made was to the National Government in 1998, but it was refused on the grounds that New Zealand did not have the capability or the capacity to implement it. This Government is considering all information regarding the appropriate age. It will make a decision based on evidence.

Peter Brown: Noting that answer, is the Minister telling this House that she is aware of the dreadful statistics with regard to breast cancer, and does she not accept that it is urgent that the Government screen women from 40 upwards, like they do in Australia, which has a 28 percent better survival rate than New Zealand; if she does accept that, when is she going to do something about it rather than keep talking about it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, the Government does intend to change the age for which woman can access breast screening. This programme was put in place in 1998. It was put in place and needed to develop and expand around New Zealand. We now have the capability and the capacity to extend it, and that is what this Government intends to do.

Nanaia Mahuta: What response has she received on the announcement that the Government is considering the age of eligibility?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yesterday Grey Power put out a media statement welcoming a decision to extend the age of eligibility to cover the 50 to 70 age bracket and went on to say that the Minister is to be congratulated on her success in instituting the training of additional radiation therapists. These people are now emerging fully trained to assist in the fight against this dreadful disease. I really welcome Grey Power’s support of what this Government is doing.

Dr Lynda Scott: Now there is ample evidence to show that the age of free breast screening should be widened from 40 to 70, will she immediately review the access rural woman have to the six mobile breast screening units to allow for those who wish to pay for a mammogram to use the service while she is considering whether younger woman should actually get some access; if not, why will she not do this immediately?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Decisions on widening the access to breast screening, as I said, will be made in the near future. In the meantime that service is targeted at women between the age of 50 and 64. Unfortunately we do not yet have the number of women who are in that age group participating in the programme. Our first priority in the meantime is to them.

Dr Lynda Scott: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer the question about those who can pay. We have 20 women on the West Coast who have had to trek to Christchurch to get a mammogram, when the bus is lying idle—

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can address that point.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member did not hear me. I did address it. I said the priority is to the women who are between the ages of 50 and 64. We do not have the number of women who are already eligible in the programme, and we need to ensure our priority is to them first. If we were going to allow women to pay for screening, I suggest that decision could have been made a long time ago. It was not, because of capability and capacity.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that for a fraction of the cost of the feel-good bureaucratic Families Commission—the sop to United Future—that by widening the breast-screening window from 40 to 70 years the Government could do something positive and genuine for women and their families in this country?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I tell that member that this Government will do something positive for the women and families of New Zealand. It has been left to this Government to do that, and I will be making an announcement about that in the very near future.

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Children—Fitness and School Transport

3. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister of Education: What advice, if any, has he received from the Minister for Sport and Recreation as to how children’s fitness and health may be affected if they have to be transported long distances to school, rather than encouraged to walk or cycle to a local school, as a result of school closures?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)), on behalf of the Minister of Education: The Minister advises that he himself has consulted on the matter raised by the member. There is more likely to be a functional network of schools to which some children can walk or cycle if school closures occur as part of a planned network review. If schools are left to bleed slowly dry as the school population declines, distances between schools will become more random and make the option of walking to school less, not more, available.

Metiria Turei: When the Minister spoke about responsibility and the benefits of physical activity to the Project K Weet-Bix Kiwi kids walkathon on 7 August, did he also explain to those children how his Government can both sponsor walking and cycling to school under the walking bus programme, and under the network reviews close their schools and force them into cars and buses.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I was not at the Project K breakfast so I do not know exactly what he said, but I would imagine that if the issue was raised he would have said that he supports young people having access to good physical activity, and that he also supports a very high level of educational quality and he is not prepared to let schools around the country bleed dry. He wants to ensure that a planned way gives them an option of having good education.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Are issues relating to the children’s overall well-being taken into account as part of the network review process?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes. The actual process of network reviews is tough on both students and communities. However, the overall objective is to provide an end result that takes into account children’s educational, social, and physical well-being. Better educational resources, teachers with better professional support, greater opportunities for a range of social experiences and interaction, as well as improved physical facilities, should all result from network review processes.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that whenever parents raise their concerns about their school being closed—such as the distance that they will have to walk their children to the next school—the Minister always loses his rag and threatens to leave the meetings?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: He does not. I say to the member on the other side as he screeches and yells in a way that I know he deplores elsewhere, that the issue is an easy one. It is one of ensuring that educational quality is guaranteed to people where population is declining. The foolish policy being followed by Mr English raises a situation that he knows himself he would not implement.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the Minister aware of the Massey University research of the late 1980s, I think by the St Georges, which demonstrated that the most significant factor in the depression of educational achievement was not ethnicity, nor socio-economic status, but in fact was the distance a child had to travel to school, and is that research finding being considered in the current school reviews?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In fact, I can say that from my own personal point of view. The St Georges are friends of mine and I am well aware of most of their research. The member will also know that the policy of the Minister of Education is always to provide an evidence base for his policies. While I cannot guarantee that that particular piece of research is taken into account, I can guarantee him that evidence is.

Rod Donald: If the Minister persists with closing either the Invercargill South School or the Invercargill Middle School, what advice does he have for 5-year-old pupils from those schools on how to walk or bike to their new school safely, given that he will be forcing them to cross two four-lane roads—one a State highway and one without any controlled intersections, the main trunk railway line and the Otepuni stream?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No decisions have been made about which schools will close in that area. However, I put the question to the member once again. Of course, we will want young people to be safe as they travel to school. Of course, we want them to travel there in a way that is appropriate. But is the member recommending that every single school with a falling population should be kept open in this country? If he is, I doubt that he will ever be in Government to implement that.

Hon Bill English: Given the Minister’s statement that he makes all his decisions on the basis of evidence, what evidence is there that the Makarewa School, which is full, has 130 pupils, and an outstanding record of educational achievement, should be closed?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not have familiarity with that particular school. Therefore, I am not able to answer the question in particular. However, I return to the basic point. The Minister is not interested in closing schools that are full, operating, and have a future. He is interested in ensuring that all schools are viable and able to offer a good education to their pupils.

Sue Bradford: How will closing the Blackball School, forcing children to travel further afield by car or bus assist their fitness, and does he believe that perhaps the founders of the Labour Party will be spinning in their graves at the proposed loss of that historic community’s only school, especially given that the entire population is dedicated to its maintenance?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I imagine that the forefathers of the Labour movement will not spin in their graves when they hear that this party is committed to giving those young children the best quality education possible. By going to a school that is larger and has more resources, they will have more access to physical activity. [Interruption] I am sorry that the member cannot hear. It is because Mr English cannot stop shouting.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that closing schools and forcing children to travel by car or bus to school directly undermines the Government’s flagship Healthy Eating – Healthy Action strategy, which is to increase physical activity especially amongst 5 to 17-year-olds, and to reduce obesity, and why on earth is the Government pursuing a policy that directly undermines one of its core health strategies?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, and it is not.

Mark Peck: Would the Minister have any advice for Mr Donald who went to Invercargill promising to keep all schools open, while advocating the closure of the smelter?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The advice would be that Mr Donald should not promise things that if he were in Government he would not be able to deliver in relation to schools. I think that he should advocate on behalf of jobs in an area like Invercargill, rather than try to destroy them.

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State Housing—Community Renewal Programmes

4. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Housing: What community renewal programmes are being undertaken to revitalise State housing-rich neighbourhoods?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): The $4.9 million State-housing redevelopment programme in eastern Porirua gets under way this afternoon. New housing will be built to replace 14 older three-bedroom units and a further 10 three-bedroom units will be redesigned and refurbished. An important feature of the eastern Porirua community renewal project is that construction contractors have agreed to employ local apprentices through the Porirua Apprenticeship Trust to do that work.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What other State-housing modernisation and improvement projects are being undertaken?

Hon Steve Maharey: Community renewal projects are under way in Rotorua, Aranui, Clendon, eastern Porirua, Talbot Park, and Northcote, with $18.2 million in spending scheduled this financial year. In addition, the Housing New Zealand Corporation intends investing $18.8 million in modernising State houses, $16.9 million in healthy-housing initiatives, and $4 million in completing energy-efficient retrofits of 2,500 State houses, and providing 3,200 additional State houses over the next 4 years—a very substantial investment in housing.

Hon David Carter: Does the Minister agree with the chair of Housing New Zealand Corporation, Roger Bonifant, who has stated that the Mongrel Mob was just as entitled to a State house as any Rotarian; if so, how will that assist the revitalisation of State housing - rich neighbourhoods?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The misquote that has been applied to Roger Bonifant actually was misquoted from me, so I can say to the member that the point that was being made is that there are criteria for social housing. The background of people is not something we take into account, as long as they fit the criteria. But can I say that in my own city, where we had difficulties with the Mongrel Mob, we evicted them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does he think such a building programme is going to help the ordinary New Zealander, when he and his Government are bringing into this country 72,500 per year from abroad, of which over 40,000 are going to Auckland—a matter that the Minister of Immigration finds a comedy, and is the reason why she takes Valium most of the time?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The programme, of course, will help New Zealanders. We are already helping 63,000 households throughout the country. I can mention that in the last financial year the corporation housed—get this—144 refugee households, which equates to 1.5 percent of those housed last year—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Immigration, I said.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: —and if the member wants to argue about immigration, he needs to remember that one of the reasons we are booming as an economy at the present time is an intelligent, focused, and well-managed immigration policy.

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Prisons—Spring Hill, Meremere

5. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: What is the expected cost for the construction and completion of the proposed Spring Hill prison at Meremere?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Costs are currently being examined by the Government, with Treasury, Department of Corrections, and Ministry of Justice involvement. Final project approval will be sought once this work has been completed.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I do not require shouting. The member has taken a point of order. He is entitled to be heard in silence.

Hon Tony Ryall: I put to you that the Minister has not answered the question. I have two written questions very similar to the one I have asked, where he provided numbers, and the Minister is seeking not to address the question.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Speaking to the point of order, there are no final costs sorted out. Currently, there is—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have had enough. That member has had his final warning. During a point of order, there is to be no interjection. The Minister is speaking to a point of order.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Currently, work is going on to work out the final options and detailed costings. The approval will be sought once the work is under way.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is entitled to answer in that way. If no final statement is made, that is his answer. I am not judging on the quality of the answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That may be the Minister’s answer, but he was never asked what the final costs were. No project of this type would be ever contemplated by any Ministry without a projected cost, and he was being asked for that.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked what the expected cost is. He said there was no answer yet. He is entitled to answer in that way.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled that the Minister said there was no expected cost. In April, the Minister said the expected cost was $232 million, even though the original budgeted figure was $188 million. He must know the latest expected cost. He has been advised of it.

Mr SPEAKER: If a member asserts that a Minister’s answers are contradictory, then that is a matter for debate, not a matter for me to adjudicate on. I am not responsible for the answer concerned.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are not responsible for the answer concerned, but when the Minister has given an answer in writing, with the latest costs—dated in April—and is then asked for the latest cost, he can give the April cost, which has not changed, or he can give a new cost, if he knows it. But to trifle with question time, as the Minister is doing—[Interruption] He is the second Minister to do this today; Tariana Turia did not answer a question, and then read the second part of the answer to question No. 1. She had it in front of her, but choose not to give it. We know that a Minister answered in writing—with the answer as at April—and now he refuses to give that to the House.

Mr SPEAKER: In answer to the first part, I pulled up the Minister Tariana Turia and made her answer the question. The member was absolutely correct, but that has nothing to do with this point of order. The Minister was asked a question, he has given an answer, and he can stand by that particular answer.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just before this point of order, you gave my colleague Nick Smith a final warning about interjecting during a point of order. During the point of order when my colleague Roger Sowry was on his feet, a number of Labour members interjected. Are you now saying that they will not be admonished in any way for their interjections, in the same way that my National colleagues have been?

Mr SPEAKER: I never mentioned any member by name. Did I? If I did, then I apologise. I apologise for the fact that I made a mistake there. I say to members that I will be listening very carefully for any comments made during points of order, and the next person will most certainly go, no matter who it is.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your assistance, because this is becoming habitual, and I suggest that it is unfair on the Opposition. Some time ago, we had an occasion where Mr Edwin Perry did not interject, but said the words “hear, hear” in support of a point of order being made by his leader. Your decision—according to the warnings you had already given—was to throw Mr Perry out. Not long thereafter, when I was making a point of order, Government members interjected in unison, and none of them were thrown out, because it would have placed upon you the requirement to throw more than one—probably 15 of them—out at one time. They received a warning. Government members interjected in unison again today, and once again escaped discipline. If this is a tactic accepted on that side of the House, then I think it is entirely unfair.

Mr SPEAKER: It is. I will now be tightening up considerably as far as interjections are concerned. I think the member has made a valid point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Question No. 5 asked for an expected cost for the construction and completion of the proposed Spring Hill Corrections Facility at Meremere. When will we get an answer to that question, knowing that it is now November, and that there is an April figure? If the figure is the same or different, then we should know. We have had no answer at all.

Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Minister to give that. If he said that he does not have a final figure, then we have to accept his word on that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are not asking for any final figure—that will not be known until construction is totally complete. We are asking what anyone in the Treasury or the Ministry of Finance would ask of any Minister putting up such a proposal, which is: “What do you think the likely cost will be?” It is a simple question, Mr Speaker. Why do you not make him answer it?

Mr SPEAKER: Certainly, I stand by my earlier ruling. The question was what is the expected cost. The Minister said that he does not have the figure. That was his answer.

Hon Tony Ryall: Since the Minister now appears to be covering up what is being reported as a major blowout in the budget of the Spring Hill Corrections Facility, will he drop the Labour Government’s ideological opposition to private prisons, given that the company that runs the Auckland private prison says that it can build the prison at Meremere for $100 million less than this Government is proposing?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the first part of the question, there is no cover-up. What is happening is that we are doing further work on the figures, as one would expect. As far as the second point is concerned, no. If the figures that the member is quoting were as rubbery as the figures given by the private remand prison now, I imagine they would be way off the mark.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has said in his previous answers that he has no figures, but in that answer he said that they are doing the figures. That must mean the Minister has some figures available, so why does he not present them to the House?

Mr SPEAKER: I do not take that at all from what the Minister said. I thought the Minister addressed the question.

Martin Gallagher: In terms of the specific needs of the region, why is the Spring Hill Corrections Facility required?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Currently, there are 600 inmates from this region who are serving their sentences as far away as Invercargill. In order to reduce reoffending, it is important to bring inmates back to their local communities, as family support is a key part of successful rehabilitation. In addition, the Government is putting more people in prison for longer as part of our get tough on crime campaign.

Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Government not drop its ideological view against private prisons in light of figures that I will table in the House after this question, which demonstrate that the private prison in Auckland has advised that it can run the Meremere prison for $12 million a year less than the Government is proposing, and what does the Minister think we could spend that $12 million on, when there is a desperate need for operations, police, and teachers? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I am warning the member. He got his one chance today, and he knows he made a mistake.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government is opposed to private prisons.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table correspondence that shows that the private prison company can build the Meremere prison for at least $100 million less than the Government proposes.

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

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I seek leave to table a letter to the chair of a select committee explaining the differences in figures that have been mentioned by the private prison for remand prisoners versus public prisons.

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

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Plunket—Funding

6. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What funding increases, if any, has the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society had since 1999?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Since we became Government, the Plunket Society’s funding has risen from $17 million in 1999 to $26 million this year, rising again to $28.5 million next year. This represents a 64 percent increase under this very good Government.

Steve Chadwick: Has she seen any reports falsely claiming that funding has been steadily cut by this Government?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have. The ACT health spokesperson falsely said there had been steady cuts in Government funding to Plunket, a claim that was refuted by the Plunket Society president.

Hon Peter Dunne: In addition to the extra funding that has been provided to Plunket, will the Minister be issuing a directive to district health boards to say that where Plunket identifies cases to it that require the attention of the services it provides, Plunket will not be told that doing things beyond its contract is not its business?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There is no need for a district health board to issue a directive. Plunket has two contracts. It has the contract that we fund, and then its own contracts, which it has developed over many years and which are not funded by the Government, including the car seat rental schemes and so on. What it decides to do with its money is its business.

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Beneficiaries—Sickness Benefit Numbers

7. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Has there been an increase in the number of beneficiaries on the sickness benefit since November 1999; if so, what is the size of the increase?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. The sickness benefit numbers were 32,868 in November 1999, and 40,393 at the end of October 2003. That is a 22.9 percent increase. Increased numbers of people needing a sickness benefit for a period of time is a long-term trend, largely due to an ageing workforce. For example, between 1991 and 1995, the number of people on the sickness benefit went up by 65.6 percent.

Katherine Rich: Given that the Minister explains the rise in sickness beneficiary numbers under Labour as being driven by an ageing population and by people with mental illnesses leaving institutions, why is the Taranaki service centre of Work and Income employing Tom Mulholland, a general practitioner and part-time comedian known as the “Attitude Doctor”, to attempt to talk people off the sickness benefit if, by the Minister’s explanation, they are too old or mentally ill to work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: New Plymouth general practitioner Dr Tom Mulholland is a highly respected physician and motivator. He will be running a programme called “Healthy Thinking”, which I am sure will be of help to many people. If the scheme is successful, I anticipate that Dr Mulholland will be in demand from many other groups of people who are suffering from depression or crisis of confidence. For example, the National Party caucus—

Mr SPEAKER: No.

Georgina Beyer: What new initiatives is the Government taking to assist people on sickness and invalids benefits to return to employment or increase their levels of participation?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has many programmes to assist people on sickness and invalids benefits to return to participation in the workforce. For example, three of the new Jobs Jolt initiatives are as follows: enhanced case management and reduced sickness benefit and invalids benefit management client ratios; innovative employment assistance programmes that include help to access health care, so that people can return to work; and vocational services and employment programmes through Workbridge and other providers. The Opposition may carry on beneficiary bashing, but we are getting people back to work.

Katherine Rich: Is the Minister concerned that hiring a part-time comedian and general practitioner to use humour to motivate people off a sickness benefit confirms public concern that his initiatives to encourage people off welfare really is a “Jobs Joke”, rather than a Jobs Jolt?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No. I say to the member that given that we have 88,000 people on the unemployment register and an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, the only joke is against the National Party.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister share the view of his colleague who said earlier that poor people—people on benefits—can only afford to eat pizzas, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald’s?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: What I share is trying to get things accurate. My colleague did not say that at any time during the many answers she gave to questions in this House, and that member should not put words into her mouth. He should just put the pizza in his own.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister stand by his statement to the House on 5 August 2003 that, in relation to the sickness benefit, “the sickness benefit is temporary. Before we demonise people on it, we should remember that most of them come off it, because they die”; if not, does he admit that he misled the House and will he now apologise and make a personal explanation?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I stand by the first part of the statement, but I understand that what I should have said that day, according to the people who advise me in the Ministry for Social Development, was that it was a reference to the invalids benefit.

Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table official figures showing that 40,000 people moved off the sickness benefit in August 2003—in that year—and only 347 of them died.

Mr SPEAKER: I should point out to the member that I usually wait to the end of the question for the tabling of documents.

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

Judy Turner: Will the Minister consider adopting an approach towards the sickness benefit similar to that used by the Accident Compensation Corporation in rehabilitating long-term claimants, in light of the fact that the benefit is intended to be temporary, yet about 5,000 people have been on it for 5 years or more?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is a very good question, and one that I will answer as follows. Accident compensation is a social insurance scheme, which means that we are able to use our projections about how long people will be on the scheme to fund getting them off it. Of course, the benefit scheme does not run in that way. But one of the things I am thinking about doing is putting proposals forward that would mean we could estimate the length of time people may well be on sickness or invalid benefits. I could put forward a proposal, for example, that would allow them to get into the health system earlier, get their problems fixed, and move back into the workforce, as a way of moving forward.

Judy Turner: In light of the increasing number of people on the sickness benefit with some sort of psychological condition such as stress, has the Minister asked officials to change the rules to require applicants to seek verification from a specialist in that area, rather than a general practitioner who can write out a prescription for antidepressants without a clinical reference?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In the area of invalids we have to have a designated doctor—in addition to a local general practitioner—to certify that the person is able to qualify for the invalids benefit. In the area of sickness—no, I have not considered that at this time.

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Unit Titles Act—Auckland Regional Council Report

8. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Commerce: What steps, if any, is the Government taking to deal with the problems arising from inadequate maintenance of apartments under the Unit Titles Act 1972, as identified in the Auckland Regional Council’s Bodies Corporate & Intensive Housing in Auckland report?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): The report confirms that the 1972 Act, which deals with the subdivision of land into units, is now out of date. Not surprisingly, it was called the “Flats Act”, I think, by way of reference when it passed through the House. It is now out of date, and it is not capable of meeting the needs of residents of large, modern apartment developments. The Ministry of Economic Development is now working with the Ministry of Justice to review that Act, and I hope to have amending legislation introduced into the House next year.

Jill Pettis: What problems did the Auckland Regional Council identify in its report, which the Government intends to respond to?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Auckland Regional Council report identified a range of problems concerned with the way bodies corporate are required to operate under the current legislation. In particular, the report found that that was leading to practical difficulties in getting agreement to the ongoing maintenance and effective management of those developments.

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Mental Health—Serious Mental Disorders

9. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister of Health: Is she satisfied with the progress made over the past year towards providing more and better services for the 3 percent of people experiencing serious mental disorders as called for in the national mental health strategy?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Progress towards the national mental health strategy is monitored by the Mental Health Commission, an independent body. In its last report, it noted that although progress had been made in areas like funding, which increased by 5.5 percent over the previous year, in areas like alcohol and drug services and forensic services, in the number of community mental health workers, and in the matter of quality, progress was still being hindered by workforce shortages. I agree with its findings.

Judy Turner: In light of the fact that mental health funding increased, as mentioned, by 5.5 percent over the last year, but that the Mental Health Commission reports that people’s ability to access those services has not improved, what steps has the Minister taken to ensure that increased funding will have measurable results in the future?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Mental Health Commission points out in its report that the reason we have problems in terms of greater access—even though we have more funding and more services in the particular area—remains the problem of a trained workforce. Some of the mental health blueprint money is set aside for workforce development, and I think that one of the very good things that has happened in this last year is the establishment of the John Werry Centre for the training of mental health workers for children and adolescents—an area where we have been sadly lacking.

Dave Hereora: What progress has been made towards implementing the blueprint’s recommendations?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Between 1999-2000 and 2002-03 the blueprint has moved from a 58 percent to a 69 percent rate of implementation across the country. This growth path will continue into the future, as the Government has committed itself to implementing the blueprint fully.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why is nothing being done to improve family involvement in the assessment, care, and discharge planning of psychiatric patients, which was demonstrated to be so woefully inadequate in the tragic cases of Mark Burton, Peter Ellis, and Chad Buckle?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member will be aware that following a tragedy in Auckland, I had the Mental Health Commission undertake a review in terms of what information was provided to families. Following that review, there was the development of guidelines for that situation, and district health boards have been provided with those guidelines. Where the problem exists is in their implementation, and, certainly, the Mental Health Commission is monitoring that very closely.

Ron Mark: If progress is so good, why then, when the daughter of a mental health patient questioned after-hours support at the Seager Clinic of Princess Margaret Hospital yesterday, did the unit manager tell her that they did not have “a duty doctor on after hours on weekdays”; and why, when that same woman asked what she should do if there was an emergency during the night, did the unit manager tell her to “contact after-hours emergency’’—what sort of logic is that?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The provision of mental health services in New Zealand, as I have already said, is continually hindered by workforce shortages. We are certainly doing our best to improve them, particularly in the area of psychiatrists, because, as the member is probably aware, it takes 15 years to train a psychiatrist so they cannot be materialised overnight. We are putting a lot of emphasis on that. However, if a person is very unwell, it is not something to be alarmed about if they are referred to an emergency department at a hospital, because once they go into an emergency department they can be assessed and put into the appropriate place.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with concerns raised by the Mental Health Commission in its last two annual reports that “critical mental health issues were frequently not identified or addressed” in district health board planning, and that the financial information available was not sufficiently robust; if so, how does she plan to address this problem?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I do agree with the Mental Health Commission that statistics and information from district health boards were not good enough. In fact, a lot of effort is going in to improve the information that is required for good planning and good monitoring. I am pleased to say that we are now provided with considerably more information, and that the Mental Health Commission has the ability every quarter to look at how district health boards are spending their money, where they are underspending or overspending, and are able to provide me with regular quarterly reports.

Judy Turner: Noting that the Mental Health Commission report states that overall there was no growth in child and youth mental health services during 2001-02, and that clinicians in this field report that they are only able to engage in limited interventions for the most critical cases, what is the Minister doing to address growing concerns about the state of child and adolescent mental health services?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Since the report of 2001-02 there has been improvement in access to child and youth inpatient capacity with the opening of the new youth unit here in Wellington and the new unit at Starship Children’s Hospital. But the member is correct, there are still problems, as I identified earlier, in child and adolescent mental health services, and part of that problem is that we have not had a specialist, trained workforce for children and adolescents. The Werry Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, which opened this year and has started training, will considerably help that.

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Wallaceville Research Facility—Continuation

10. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister for Crown Research Institutes: Will he work with AgResearch to ensure the internationally recognised Wallaceville research facility stays open beyond 2008 in its existing state; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Crown Research Institutes): I have been in close communication with the board of AgResearch regarding its plans to progressively relocate staff from Wallaceville. The board is still in discussions with staff and with other research organisations about relocation options, and it is too early to be sure of the precise outcome.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why does the Minister let even a shadow of closure hang over the scientists and staff when Wallaceville has a proven track record of excellence, has formed viable business clusters, has a huge potential for growth, and when business leaders and scientists describe the closure plan as fatally flawed?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I freely acknowledge that world-class science goes on at Wallaceville, especially amongst some teams, but the member has overlooked the advantages of a progressive relocation—for example, he may wish to reflect on the fact that there is a strong science case to locate animal health research next to New Zealand’s only veterinary teaching facility. On the other hand, the work of Dr Ken McNatty, for example, will remain in Wellington.

Mark Peck: Does the Minister have confidence in the board of AgResearch in the way it has handled this matter?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I most certainly do. Changes such as those planned at Wallaceville are difficult for the staff and the community to adjust to, but I am satisfied that the board of AgResearch is working through this issue carefully, and under the careful scrutiny of the very vigilant member for Rimutaka.

Dr Paul Hutchison: If the Minister is committed to the Government’s growth in biotechnology strategies, why is he supporting the closure of a successful and viable institution that has been built up over 100 years, and, with all that valuable institutional knowledge, why is he prepared to see it destroyed at the stroke of a pen?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The gentleman chooses to use polemic. He ought not. There is no destruction going on. This is a rebuilding of science, and there is a concentration of excellence in a fewer number of sites, except that Wallaceville—[Interruption] OK, members do not want to know the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will carry on.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Except that Wallaceville does have a future, and the precise future of Wallaceville, and who will be part of it, is still to be worked through.

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Pig Industry—Post-weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome

11. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Why did the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry decide it could not eradicate post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome found at three North Island pig farms, when expert epidemiologists and veterinarians have advised the Pork Industry Board that there is a 50 percent chance of containing and possibly eradicating the disease?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister for Racing), on behalf of the Minister for Biosecurity: No expert in New Zealand or overseas can identify exactly what causes this disease, how to contain the disease, or, indeed, how to eradicate it. Depopulating of farms has not worked overseas, and no one knows how long to keep the farms depopulated to beat the disease. That is why taxpayers’ money is not being spent on an eradication attempt at this time.

Ian Ewen-Street: Exactly what has the ministry done to identify and close the loophole that has led to this latest major breach of our biosecurity system?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There is no loophole in our biosecurity system. The virus that causes this disease is endemic throughout New Zealand. There has been considerable research throughout the world to try to identify what triggers the onset of the disease. That has not yet been discovered, but this Government will work with experts in New Zealand and throughout the world to try to identify and deal with this problem.

Janet Mackey: What support is the Government giving the pork industry in the wake of the discovery of this disease?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The pork industry has decided to attempt its own containment of the disease, and this stand is being supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which is instituting movement controls between the North and South Islands, as well as funding ongoing surveillance and research to try to manage and ultimately eradicate this disease. The ministry is also funding an active surveillance programme in the South Island.

Shane Ardern: Will the Minister now withdraw his statement that New Zealand has the best biosecurity systems in the world and confess to the public of New Zealand that his Government has failed in respect of its biosecurity policy and is gambling with New Zealand’s economic future, and now appears to not even be able to attempt eradication?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, we will not change our statement because we do have one of the best biosecurity systems in the world. This Government has committed considerable funds to the area of biosecurity—in fact $50 million more than the previous Government. We introduced instant fines for biosecurity breaches, purchased soft-tissue X-rays for every international airports, hired extra quarantine staff and detector dogs. We have had to do a lot biosecurity, because the previous Government failed to maintain biosecurity protection for New Zealand.

Larry Baldock: Where is the consistency of approach by the Government when it commits to spending $90 million to eradicate the painted apple moth in west Auckland with not much more than a 50 percent chance of success, yet will not spend a cent to help the pig farmers to eradicate this disease, and perhaps the Government might consider spending that money on research, which the Minister said is so desperately needed?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The problem is that nowhere in the world has eradication been carried out. Considerable research is going on to try to find out what triggers the disease. Spending taxpayers’ money, when we have no idea what causes the disease, could be a considerable waste of time and effort.

Ian Ewen-Street: As the infected farms are not breeding units, hence the chances of further contamination are believed to minimal, will the Minister now instruct ministry officials to attempt to eradicate the disease; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Officials are always focused on attempted eradication. The way we go about that depends on the science and information available. At this time ministry officials are working with pig farmers to try to ensure they run the best hygiene systems on their farms to prevent any further infestation within New Zealand.

Ian Ewen-Street: Can the Minister confirm that all three outbreaks of the post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome have occurred on factory pig farms where the crowded and stressful conditions for the pigs inevitably contribute to the spread of such diseases; if so, what is he doing to improve the conditions on factory pig farms?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I cannot confirm that. I know that the farm where this disease was first discovered had been having ongoing health problems for 12 months, and ministry officials had been working with them to try to deal with those problems. We will do everything possible in working with the pig industry to try to deal with the problem. It is not restricted to any particular type of pig farm, and, as I say, we work with them to try to deal with the problem.

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Mâori Tourism—Government Initiatives

12. MAHARA OKEROA (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Associate Minister for Economic Development: What initiatives has the Government implemented to build capacity in the Mâori tourism business sector?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Associate Minister for Economic Development):

[Authorised Mâori text to be inserted by Hansard office]

This Government has introduced a range of initiatives to assist Mâori into tourism. For example, the Community Employment Group has launched he kete tapoi Mâori, a resource kit designed specifically to assist Mâori communities that wish to take up the opportunities in tourism and to develop their own unique tourism product. Initiatives include the Mâori Business Facilitation Service via Te Puni Kôkiri and BIZinfo and BIZ training services, both available through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Mahara Okeroa: How is the Potama Trust working with the Government to develop the capacity of the Mâori tourism sector?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: The Potama Trust actively works with the Government in developing Mâori tourism through business assessments, development grants, and subsidising the attendance of some Mâori operators at key trade events such as Kiwi Link and Trenz. Furthermore, they are presently developing a database for all Mâori tourism businesses and operators right through Aotearoa. I seek leave to table the he kete tapoi Mâori initiatives that have been put together by the Government to assist Mâori into the opportunity and workings of tourism right throughout Aotearoa.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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