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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 9 December

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Tuesday, 9 December 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers:

1. Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Policy 1
2. Business—Compliance Costs 2
3. Foreshore and Seabed—Public Access 2
4. Methamphetamine—Supply 3
5. Advance Passenger Screening System—Refusals 4
6. Cannabis—Legislation 5
7. Petrol Tax and Road User Charges—Revenue 5
8. Zimbabwe—Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 6
9. Carich Training Centre Ltd—Tertiary Education Commission 7
10. Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Products Agency—Bilateral Treaty 7
11. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Internal Assessment Results 8
12. Transport Strategy—Petrol Tax 9

Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Policy

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Labour: Does she stand by her statement in relation to the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill introduced last week, “The approach remains one of free choice, flexibility and fairness to all, to reflect the diversity of workplace arrangements in the labour market and to support a more innovative economy.”; if so, why?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister of Labour): Yes, because it reflects the reality that employment relationships founded in the principles of good faith and fairness are more productive, more stable, and more enduring.

Mr SPEAKER: Interjection occasionally is allowed, but silly comments like “Sit down” are not.

Dr Don Brash: What, then, does she have to say to allay the concerns expressed by business leaders that the bill is based on the failed German socialist labour-market structure, is aimed at introducing de facto compulsory unionism, will undermine the ability of employers to deal with staff equally and fairly, and impose unions and multi-employer collective agreements on those who neither want nor need them?

Hon Trevor Mallard: Write your own questions.

Mr SPEAKER: That interjection was out of order. It was in the second person, for a start, and the member will stand and withdraw it.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: If any employers—if any real employers, as opposed to lobbyist employers, actually believe that, I suggest they come and see me so we can go through the legislation together.

Hon Mark Gosche: How does New Zealand’s industrial law compare with its major trading partners?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Our major trading partner, Australia, has higher levels of labour law regulation. Its system is based on a national award system and compulsory arbitration. Furthermore, Australia has never had a law like the Employment Contracts Act, which may go someway to explain why Australians earns more on average than new Zealanders and, which the honourable member has, on occasions, pointed out to us.

Peter Brown: Is it not true that a principal reason behind the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill is to encourage, and in some cases compel, people to join unions, and thus to contribute to Labour Party funds?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, and as a former Labour Party president I can say definitely no.

Sue Bradford: What steps, in brief, is the Government taking to reduce freeloading by non-union members in the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, and does she think these measures will be adequate to address declining union membership, particularly in the private sector?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The purpose of the bill is not to address declining union membership, it is to ensure that there is fairness when it comes to bargaining between collective and individual agreements, which is why there is a provision in the bill that says that if, in fact, an employer passes on the same, or substantially the same, provisions with the intention of undermining collective bargaining then that would be bad faith.

Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister explain to the House where the free choice, flexibility, and fairness is in two clauses of the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—clause 14, which requires an employer to attend the first meeting of bargaining for a multiparty agreement, and clause 12, which requires an employer to conclude a collective agreement unless there is a genuine reason not to—and will those two clauses taken together not have the effect of enforcing employers into multi-employer collective agreements; in other words an Auckland employer could agree to this and force his Auckland pay conditions on every other employer in the country?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Pigs might fly; and I think that is a highly unlikely scenario that the member proposes. Those clauses are designed to ensure that substance is given to the notion of good faith—good faith meaning that the parties should engage with each other, but there is no obligation to reach an agreement. But, in fact, there is an obligation not to say “I will not talk to you.”

Dr Don Brash: How does she respond to the reported comments of Peter Tritt of the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association that the bill will “lead to interminable misunderstandings, wrangles, and confusion”, the statement of Simon Carlaw of Business New Zealand that it will introduce a system of Clayton’s arbitration and is “an undisguised shifting of the goalposts”, and the statement of Sue Thorne of the Early Childhood Council that the bill foists unwanted unions and multi-employer collective arrangements on those who clearly do not want them?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: My response to those comments is that they should take advice on what, in fact, is in the bill, not what they think is in the bill.

Hon Richard Prebble: Could the Minister clarify the answer given earlier on the so-called freeloading question, and say where the fairness is that an employer is not allowed to extend the same or better pay as is in the collective agreement if the intention and effect is to undermine collective bargaining, and how is an employer supposed to be able to prove that, and where is the fairness in discriminating against those employees who chose to be on an individual agreement?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: It does not apply to better or worse conditions. That clause applies where in the specific circumstances an employer sets out—and they are very few in number, but there are examples of it happening—to deliberately undermine the collective bargaining process by automatically passing on the same conditions that have been negotiated. The purpose of that provision is to provide fairness and balance to those who negotiate those conditions.

Business—Compliance Costs

2. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Revenue: What recent reports has he received on business reaction to compliance costs?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Revenue): A Colmar Brunton survey for the Inland Revenue Department last month asked how much of a hassle it was dealing with Government departments over payroll issues. Fifty-three percent of businesses rated it not really a hassle at all. Only 16 percent considered it a big hassle—much lower than one might consider from some public comments.

Mark Peck: How do compliance costs for small business in New Zealand compare with those in Australia?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Recent studies in Auckland and New South Wales show that compliance costs of GST are significantly higher in New South Wales. New South Wales also face payroll-tax liabilities and compulsory superannuation. Maintaining accident compensation cover and occupational safety and health requirements also require less time on this side of the Tasman.

Pansy Wong: Why has the Minister failed to convince Mr Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, who said that the trend is towards lower compliance in Australia and higher in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Barnett pointed out that the result of the findings were that costs were actually higher in Australia, but we could do better in New Zealand. As he said, clearly some compliance costs are necessary. On these matters Mr Barnett is a breath of fresh air compared with, say, some other business leaders.

Mark Peck: What steps has the Government taken to reduce compliance costs?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Measures introduced are in train and include restoring free post, which was abolished by National in 1998; allowing tax pooling through commercial intermediaries; the potential for subsidies for employers to engage payroll firms; and providing a discount for new businesses that pay their provisional tax in the first year of trading.

Foreshore and Seabed—Public Access

3. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: What plans, if any, has the Government developed to counter threatened protests by Mâori foreshore and seabed claimants, and can she assure New Zealanders that law and order agencies will not allow these claimants to disrupt or interfere with the public’s normal access to and enjoyment of our beaches and foreshore over the coming holiday season?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): I am confident that any breaches of the peace over the holiday period by any person will be dealt with in the normal way no matter where they take place, or by whom.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question specifically asked what plans the Government has. The Minister did not answer that key part of the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The actual question, which the member did not read out correctly, stated: “What plans, if any, … ”. The “if any” was left out of his reading of the question, but it is in the wording I have in front of me here. The Hon Michael Cullen may care to comment if he wishes.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Since a large number of responsible Mâori leaders have immediately rushed in to point out that they have no intention of engaging in any such action, the Government relies upon the normal forces of law and order to act.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the fact that leading Mâori identities such as Matiu Ray have said that the Government policy will force many Mâori to take direct action, including protesting on the beach, why does the Prime Minister think it appropriate not to have a plan to deal with those sorts of protests that may disrupt New Zealanders enjoying their holiday season?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Even Professor Margaret Mutu thought that that was a bad idea. She has been joined by Hauraki leaders, and a number of other leaders have come out very clearly saying that that would be provocative and likely to lead to a counter-reaction from the great majority of New Zealanders. I suggest to the member that he will find it perfectly safe to go down to the beach this summer.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm this morning’s New Zealand Herald report in which Professor Margaret Mutu asserts that in a meeting with a Mâori group last week Dr Michael Cullen blamed more conservative Cabinet colleagues for knocking back his plans to acknowledge Mâori ownership interests in the seabed and foreshore; if so, can she identify those more conservative Cabinet colleagues so that the Opposition can give them some assistance?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, I point out that there were two interjections by the member’s own colleagues during that question. That is the only warning I will be giving today. Mr Brash is entitled to ask his question without interjection.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am assured by Dr Cullen that as far as he is aware not many members of Cabinet are more conservative than he is. What he can also indicate to the Prime Minister is that Professor Margaret Mutu is not an expert on what Dr Cullen ever said anywhere.

Metiria Turei: Will the Minister counter those reported threats by confirming that Mâori will retain their current legal entitlement to determine the nature and extent of their customary rights, or will the Minister continue to fuel community disharmony by extinguishing that legal avenue and engaging in 1870-style confiscation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It might be helpful if I explain that the position taken by Te Ope Mana a Tai was that Mâori own all the foreshore and seabed and have all the developmental rights that arise out of the foreshore and seabed. I do not believe that to reject that is to wind up community resentment.

Hon Peter Dunne: If the Government is to accept that the ownership of the foreshore and seabed should be vested in all New Zealanders, can the Minister therefore assure the House that that means all New Zealanders, regardless of their race, geography, status in life, or whatever, will, in effect, have an equal and indivisible share in the foreshore and seabed of this country?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot give an assurance as simple as that. It is common to a large number of parties in the House that there still needs to be a framework for recognising customary rights, whatever they may be—as there is already in terms of the Waitangi Fisheries customary regulations. Clearly, those people who possess those specific customary fishing rights have rights that other New Zealanders do not have.

Hon Ken Shirley: Given that the Prime Minister initially asserted that non-existing-title land in the foreshore-seabed zone was owned by the Crown, why did the Government create all this public anxiety by floating the nebulous and undefined concept of public domain owned by no one?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I recall very clearly what the Prime Minister said, which was that the perception had been that the Crown owned the foreshore and seabed—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. Unlike the member, I have seen the transcripts, read them, and understood them. Beyond that point, the current statute states that the seabed is deemed to be vested in the ownership of the Crown. It is actually relatively silent in relation to the foreshore. The current legal framework is complex, difficult, contradictory, and clearly not designed to deal with land claims in terms of customary land relating to the foreshore and seabed.

Methamphetamine—Supply

4. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Associate Minister of Health: What are the latest measures being taken by the Labour-Progressive coalition Government to combat the supply and use of methamphetamine?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): After receiving recommendations from the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, Cabinet yesterday agreed that both pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which are ingredients used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, be classed as controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. The committee also agreed that the import and supply of P pipes be prohibited in this country.

Hon Matt Robson: What do these measures mean?

Opposition Members: Ha, ha!

Hon JIM ANDERTON: There would be some embarrassed faces if some of those members who are laughing were asked to answer that question. The classification of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine will give the Customs Service wider powers to investigate importation syndicates, including the ability to track suspect deliveries. The classification will also allow for penalties of up to 8 years’ imprisonment for those caught importing these precursor drugs without a licence. The prohibition on P pipes is designed to ensure that vulnerable young people do not get any mixed messages. We do not think it is OK for young people to smoke P, and therefore those caught importing and supplying P pipes will face up to 3 months’ imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both. The message the coalition Government wants young people to hear is not to use drugs, including P, because it is dangerous for them, for their family, and for the community.

Hon Tony Ryall: Will pseudoephedrine-based products still be able to be purchased from pharmacies throughout New Zealand?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes.

Martin Gallagher: What steps are being taken by the Labour-Progressive coalition Government to ensure additional treatment of those young people using P and other very dangerous drugs, and also help the communities where this drug is currently rife?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a result of a Budget bid by the Progressive party there are 15 communities in New Zealand that will be progressing an anti-drugs strategy, commencing in March next year. In addition, the Christchurch community, on behalf of the whole of the South Island, is building, as I speak, a treatment centre for drug and alcohol – addicted young people to supplement the work of the youth drug court in Christchurch. This Government has an anti - drugs and alcohol abuse programme, which it is implementing with great vigour. I must say, that is in stark contrast with those provided under the previous National Government.

Ron Mark: How can the Minister’s commitment to fighting this epidemic be taken seriously when, under his Government, we have seen a person convicted of taking and supplying methamphetamine put on home detention because he is less likely to be exposed to P than in the Government’s own prisons; when we have killers dying of a P overdose while on home detention; and when the restaurant association is crying out for assistance to help workers who are addicted to P, and suggesting that one in five workers in the industry is taking illicit drugs; yet when it calls for legislative assistance to drug test those people, the Government sits on its hands and does nothing?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: This Government reclassified methamphetamine as a class A drug, which carries with it a life imprisonment sentence—something that former Governments never took action on. If the member is suggesting that politicians are going to declare what sentences will be handed down by the courts of New Zealand, I tell him there will be a rule of law while this Government is in Parliament whereby judges and police implement the law and politicians make it.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that testing is needed to secure convictions of methamphetamine manufacturers, what action is the Government going to take, now that the Institute of Environmental Science and Research has announced that it is expecting to test 300 clandestine methamphetamine laboratories next year—double the number found this year—which suggests a 2-year waiting list to have these tests undertaken?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am advised the police have provided more funding to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research to further improve its analytical capability to improve turn-round times in dealing with clandestine laboratories. The institute is currently recruiting scientists and technicians for methamphetamine work, as well as streamlining its processing to ensure better turn-round. It is interesting that those members who demand more from Government agencies are the very same parties that want tax reductions for the richest people in New Zealand, at the same time.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a document that shows that the Institute of Environmental Science and Research intends to tackle a doubling in the number of methamphetamine laboratories by employing two extra staff.

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

Question No. 3 to Minister

Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is in reference to question 3—I did not want to interrupt question 4. I am sure Dr Cullen did not intend to mislead the House when he said that the legislation deemed the land to be owned by the Crown. Section 9A states that all lands, including foreshore and seabed, “shall be land of the Crown”.

Mr SPEAKER: That is debating the answer. That is not relevant as a point of order.

Question No. 4 to Minister

RON MARK (NZ First): I seek the leave of the House to table a document that shows that the police sought funding to establish three methamphetamine teams, and the Government supplied funds for only two.

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

Advance Passenger Screening System—Refusals

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: How many people have been denied entry to New Zealand as a result of the New Zealand Immigration Service’s advance passenger screening system?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Advance passenger screening, including the use of the Advance Passenger Processing system was introduced by this Government in August 2003. Even though it is still in the first roll-out phase, and is not yet fully operational or mandatory for airlines, I am advised that between 8 to 10 people have already been denied boarding using the system. Phase 2 of the roll-out, which will commence between February and June next year, will include a separate statistics reporting function, so I will have more detailed good news for the member next year.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is 8 to 10 people over 4 months. Why is the Minister so excited about this, and putting out press statements, when there are hundreds of immigration fraud cases going on every day right under her nose; and can she confirm whether Adele Eriznus, a South African working as a nanny, work permit having expired, married Mr Cobancle, an Afghani taxi driver in a registry office in Auckland at 11a.m. last Wednesday—and this is part of the marriage of convenience to stay in this country proposal, which she supports?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have already said to that member that it is helpful to describe the particular case members want to raise in the original question, in order that I can be informed. I can tell that member that it was this Government that changed the partnership rules; there is no ability to apply for residence upon marriage, any more, as it was when he was the deputy Prime Minister. We now see a period of waiting—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Right, sit down. No, no, sit down. There’s a good girl, sit down.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: —until the person has been married for 12 months before they even lodge an application.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated. The Minister is entitled to answer the question. His idea of standing up and saying “sit down” is out of order. It will not occur again. If the member wants a supplementary, he can have as many as he likes when it is his turn to.

Dianne Yates: Have there been any changes to the advance passenger screening system since its launch in August.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes. I want to congratulate Air New Zealand, our own national flag carrier, for being the first airline to agree voluntarily to trial the new system. Since that time Malaysia Air, Royal Thai Airlines, Freedom Air, and Royal Tongan Air, have joined Air New Zealand in screening most of their passengers through the Advance Passenger Processing system. That system will become mandatory for all airlines in the middle of next year, as long as this House passes the Border Security Bill.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister assure the Parliament that there will be no Government interference in the Inspector-General Greig’s review of the Ahmid Zaoui case—clearly a man who slipped through the screening?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Mr Zaoui arrived in the country in December last year. The screening system was brought into place in August this year. There have been plenty of examples of people who have slipped through the net—that is why we have introduced the system. I tell this House that the number of refugee status claimants in this country, in the last financial year, dropped to the lowest level it has been since 1994. That means that nobody can say that this country is a soft touch for bogus asylum claims.

Dr Wayne Mapp: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I specifically asked whether there would be any Government interference in the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s review—yes or no. What is the answer?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It is hard to see how that supplementary question then arises out of the principal question No. 5.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say that the supplementary question was very wide of the original. The Minister was prepared to address it, and she did so.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is Adele Erisnas, a South African nanny whose work permit has expired, one of the 20,000 overstayers in this country, if she has done so much? What investigations have been done into allegations that Tak Wo Kwan duped five Christchurch-based Chinese students into paying up to $100,000 each to gain permanent residency, because he had friends who worked as immigration officers and immigration consultants; what happened to that investigation and why can we not hear how magnificently the Minister is performing in her administration on these simple matters?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I make the point to the member that in the last year, to the end of October, there were 2.062 million visitor arrivals. The member has pointed to two small examples. We are trying to make a system work that ensures we check people before they come into the country.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is why I told the Minister to sit down the first time, because I thought that she had made no attempt to answer the question, and she has not done so for that question, either. I asked her about an investigation that is public, and that she must know about, because she is a Christchurch member and the Minister of Immigration. It is a serious case where people who are visitors to this country are being duped, and she made no attempt to answer that question whatsoever. Mr Speaker, if you will let her get up and give any old ratty tirade of an answer, then we will have disorder in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: No, we will not. We will not have any disorder at all. The Minister was asked a question and the Minister gave an answer. I judged that she addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you tell the country what has happened to the Tak Wo Kwan investigation, because no one could have heard it today from the answer in the House? The Minister did not answer the question. It is almost the end of the parliamentary year, and once again we are the victims of obfuscation and straight-out evasion. What is the answer to my question?

Mr SPEAKER: That was not the original question. The Minister may not have been briefed on that particular issue. If the member asked that particular question, an answer should have been given.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did. Can I have my answer please?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have finished with the member. That is the end of that issue. I judged that the Minister addressed it. I am not going to have my authority challenged in this way. I said that the member asked a question about a very specific issue, in very specific detail. The Minister said that had she been advised of it, she would have come to the House with the information. That is a perfectly acceptable answer to give.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You said that had she been asked that question, she would have given an answer. Of course, she was—

Mr SPEAKER: The original question—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Let me finish. I am making my point of order, and whilst you say I have no right to challenge you, you cannot challenge my right as an Opposition member to ask a question fairly and within the Standing Orders. You put your finger up and said that had the Minister been asked the question, then she should have answered. The Hansard will show that she was asked whether there was an investigation into Tak Wo Kwan, and you cannot then backtrack to an earlier primary question that she answered, and say that that was an answer to the question that I just gave her. I want to know now—because no other New Zealander, including myself, knows the answer to this question—whether there was an investigation and what has happened to it. What is the answer?

Mr SPEAKER: I am just saying to the member once again that if he looks at the original question, he will see that it was about how many people have been denied entry. The Minister gave a pretty specific answer. The member then asked a question about one particular example, and the Minister said that she did not have that information at present, and that is a perfectly acceptable answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Hansard will disclose that the Minister gave that answer for an earlier question, which was to do with a South African nanny working here, whose permit has expired. This question—a supplementary that was allowed by you—asked about Tak Wo Kwan, who duped five Chinese students into paying up to $100,000 each for permanent residency, because of his contacts in the Immigration Service. It was a clear question, very clear in its detail. Parts of it have been published in the newspaper in Christchurch, where the Minister comes from, and she is the Minister of Immigration. Now, can I have an answer to my question?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I said in respect of the first supplementary question, if the member puts down the names of individual cases or details of factual situations in the original question, then I can be briefed before I come to the House. I did make the point that there were 2.062 million visitor arrivals to New Zealand in the year ended October 2003. I do not think we are doing too badly.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seriously seek your guidance here. The case in question was a high-profile case in Christchurch, which ministerial staff must have brought to the attention of the Christchurch-based Minister of Immigration. Indeed, there was a colour photograph in the Christchurch Press about Yusuf. For the Minister to sit here and imply that she has no detailed knowledge at all of that case, and that she requires a formal warning to obtain it, is beyond belief. I ask you, if not to bring the Minister back into line, at least to make her try to answer some details of that case.

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point of order is not in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: For the edification of the Minister, I seek to table a report from the Christchurch Press: “$400,000 paid for residency” of 4 December, 5 days ago—her own newspaper—setting out the details of this case.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, that is a classic. You sought to ensure that I could not get an answer to this question. The Minister said she has no details. She got up and repeated the same answer, which, in my view, was out of order. I am not interested in the ones who got here legally; I am interested in the thousands who get here illegally. We all know about that. Then I sought to table that document, and she said “No”.

Mr SPEAKER: There was not just one person who said “No”; there were more than one—and any one member can say “No” quite legitimately.

Cannabis—Legislation

6. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the commitment that she made in the confidence and supply agreement with United Future that “The government will not introduce legislation to change the legal status of cannabis.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of the study by the Christchurch school of medicine over the last 25 years, which shows strong evidence that cannabis acts as a gateway to other drugs, particularly among young heavy users, will the Prime Minister agree that not only should the previous statement regarding no change in the legal status of the drug be honoured for the duration of this Government, but also that other measures are required to further discourage young people from becoming involved in heavy cannabis usage; if so, can she indicate what steps the Government is taking in this regard?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the Government would agree with the point made by the member. Of course, the Associate Minister of Health Mr Anderton is in charge of developing policy in those areas, and I am sure he is more than willing to work with the member on those matters.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Prime Minister also aware of the comments made by Professor David Fergusson, who led that study, that because cannabis was illegal to buy, people had to get involved in the illegal drug culture where they were offered other drugs, and that cannabis laws were not working and were maybe exacerbating wider drug use—comments that back up the professor’s submission to the Health Committee, where he said one credible hypothesis for the gateway effect was that the gateway effect apparent for cannabis may be largely or solely the consequence of the legal status of cannabis; if he is aware of those comments, what attention is she paying to them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Oh, Tiresius indeed! I think it is fair to say that the report indicates a difference in terms of heavy users of cannabis in relation to those who are occasional recreational users. Heavy use is defined in the study, I think, as use only once a week. The member might be surprised to learn that that is heavy use, not occasional recreational use. I think the evidence is still fairly overwhelming that signals around legitimising the use of cannabis may well send the very wrong signals to young people.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question I asked was specifically around the comments to do with the fact that cannabis law prohibition itself creates the gateway effects, and I do not think that the Hon Mr Cullen, speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, addressed that.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I do. I think he addressed the question very specifically.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Government been told by Mr Dunne that should the Government support, from whatever quarter in this House it might arise, an attempt to legalise cannabis, that the United Future party would then withdraw its support or withdraw its undertaking on supply and confidence?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The supply and confidence agreement between the Government and United Future is absolutely clear and specific. The Government will not make any moves to legalise cannabis in this term of Parliament. If any member introduces a member’s bill, then all the members of the Labour Party will certainly have a free vote on that issue. I am quite confident that a number of members would vote one way and a number of members would vote another way, on any such bill.

Hon Peter Dunne: With regard to the Christchurch clinical school study, which shows that one of the key predictors of regular and heavy use of cannabis by youth was parental drug use, does the Prime Minister accept the argument that decriminalising the use of cannabis for adults effectively would have no impact on the use of cannabis by young people?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I do not think that argument can be accepted. Clearly there is an effect here, where adult behaviour will influence the behaviour of younger people, and that, of course, applies not merely to cannabis but to all forms of drug and substance abuse, including alcohol.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I just take it then that the Government never received from the United Future leader an understanding that should they as individuals support this issue on a free vote, Mr Dunne would withdraw his supply and confidence undertaking with the Government; and is that the reason why Mr Dunne’s claims that he could not stop the Prostitution Reform Bill are so spurious, as well?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no responsibility for the latter. All I can say is that Mr Dunne is a former member of the Labour caucus—an honour he shares with a number of party leaders in this House—and understands well, unlike some parties in this Parliament, and it is a matter of record, that when the Labour caucus adopts a conscience vote it is a free vote and it is not whipped, unlike the National Party on a number of occasions.

Petrol Tax and Road User Charges—Revenue

7. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Has all of the revenue raised from the extra 4.2c per litre petrol excise duty and associated road-user charge increases introduced by the Government last year been spent on new roads; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No, because some money has gone to road safety education and enforcement, some to alternatives to roading, some to public transport, and a small amount to walking and cycling. All of those benefit the motorist, either directly by improving the roading network or safety, or indirectly by reducing congestion.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting the comments of the Transfund chief executive that: “Higher than forecast revenue from road-user charges and fuel excise has resulted in Transfund holding $225 million in the national land transport account at the end of the financial year.”, is there any justification for further increases in fuel excise, known as petrol tax?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The first point to make is that all the additional revenue is held in the Land Transport Fund and none of it went into the Crown account. Secondly, all that money will be spent on land transport matters. Thirdly, the member is aware that we are planning for the funding of Auckland’s roading needs, and the rest of the country’s, for the next 10 years or more. We have to plan for a number of circumstances in that regard. Fourthly, in terms of any subsequent question he may raise, I suggest he waits for the answer to question No. 12.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister received any suggestions from Mr Brownlee about how the thousands of extra passengers who have been able to take public transport in Auckland recently should be forced back into their cars at rush hour; and has he had any letters from motorists clamouring for more heavy trucks on the road, rather than increased use of rail?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am certainly not aware of correspondence clamouring for extra heavy trucks on the road, and I am not aware of any positive suggestions made by Mr Brownlee on any transport matters, so far.

Gerry Brownlee: Has difficulty in gaining resource management consents contributed to Transfund’s inability to spend all the money it now has; and will the Government be moving to amend the Resource Management Act to make sure New Zealanders get the roads they need; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I look forward to the next general election to see whether any local National Party candidates in Auckland will oppose any specific roading project and suggest the road should move somewhere else, because one of the reasons it is important to have proper regulatory processes around roading is that the routeing of any specific road is always a contentious matter, and the Resource Management Act should not be replaced by some form of executive dictatorship.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Noting that you did recognise that the Minister got himself lost at the start of that answer—

Mr SPEAKER: He came right at the end.

Gerry Brownlee: I do not think he did.

Mr SPEAKER: I do.

Gerry Brownlee: I think he just managed to pull the wool over the House’s eyes.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not think so.

Gerry Brownlee: If I can make my point, the question was: will the Resource Management Act be reformed? It was not a question about some new authority. It was not a question about transferring Resource Management Act decisions to some other grouping. It was simply a question about whether the Act itself will be reformed. Everyone knows from one end of the country to the other that it does not work. Everyone knows that Transfund has $225 million because of this Act not allowing it to spend it.

Mr SPEAKER: The last part was a debating comment.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Resource Management Act, passed under the previous National Government, is under perpetual review and a number of changes have already been made.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister not recognise that the $225 million sitting in the Transfund account would be better spent in Tauranga on the harbour bridge project and the Hewletts Road flyover, and at least ease the congestion and the road problems in New Zealand’s foremost port, namely, the Port of Tauranga—would that not be a better use of the money rather than it sitting in a bank account?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I am sure the member is aware, Transfund and Transit made the decision about the allocation of the money—it is not made by the Minister of Transport or the Prime Minister. I have to say that should we spend $225 million on the Tauranga bridge it would be the most expensive bridge of its size in the world.

Gerry Brownlee: Why did Transfund not spend the $225 million in the year it was provided to it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because it had more revenue than was anticipated, because the economy did much better than was forecast, thanks to this Government’s economic policies.

Zimbabwe—Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

8. TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What are the implications of the Commonwealth decision on the suspension of Zimbabwe?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): The decision to maintain Zimbabwe’s suspension emphasises that observing the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth is a prerequisite to continuing participation within it. Those principles set out in the Harare declaration include maintaining free and democratic political processes, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, just Government, and fundamental human rights. Those principles were agreed to by all Commonwealth countries in Harare in a meeting in 1991 that was, ironically, chaired by Mugabe himself, and reiterated at subsequent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting communiqués.

Tim Barnett: What is the significance of the division of opinion within the Commonwealth countries at Abuja over continuing Zimbabwe’s suspension?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Commonwealth’s tradition is to endeavour to work by consensus in reaching decisions. In the event, this was not possible at Abuja over either Zimbabwe or the election of the Secretary-General. Decisions in Abuja were, however, reached by proper democratic processes, and by a very strong majority, which encompassed countries from all parts of the Commonwealth. The message to the Mugabe regime was all the stronger given the breadth of opposition to its actions across the diverse community that makes up the Commonwealth.

Simon Power: Does the Minister think that comments by Matt Robson that New Zealand should not support Don McKinnon’s candidacy for the position of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth undermined New Zealand’s position on Zimbabwe, and that mixed messages from this Government contributed to New Zealand not being included in the six-nation group considering Zimbabwe’s position in the Commonwealth?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No. In fact New Zealand was the prime advocate for Don McKinnon as Secretary-General, who secured the support of all countries of the Pacific Forum. The Prime Minister wrote to every member of the Commonwealth, and New Zealand was always at the forefront both in support of Don McKinnon as Secretary-General and for the continuing suspension of Zimbabwe.

Hon Peter Dunne: What implications are there for New Zealand, other than just rhetorical, arising from President Mugabe’s criticisms and threats against this country, both during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and in the light of the removal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth?

Hon PHIL GOFF: New Zealand really does not give a damn what Mugabe has said about our country. The fact that he singled New Zealand out for criticism was an indication that New Zealand in fact had been at the forefront of opposition to actions taken in his country against the rule of law, against democracy, and against human rights.

Carich Training Centre Ltd—Tertiary Education Commission

9. DONNA AWATERE HUATA (Independent) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Has he received any reports on ways in which Carich Training Centre Limited could have repaid money owed to the Tertiary Education Commission?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Not specifically on that issue. In fact, until October Carich was making repayments on an overpayment of funding. It then applied to resubmit its student data return for the third time, with additional students that would entitle it to additional funding in 2002. In this very unusual situation, the onus is on Carich to justify the inclusion of those additional students. Neither Carich nor the receiver have been able to do so to date, so there was no basis for Carich’s claim that the Tertiary Education Commission owes Carich money.

Donna Awatere Huata: Why did the Minister not provide the letter of support that Caron Taurima asked him for, which would have enabled her to raise the finance from Westpac bank and others, to repay the Tertiary Education Commission the money it was owed, and to continue providing services to its students, 80 percent of whom, Ms Taurima has informed me, were Mâori?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I was not able to provide a letter of support simply because at the time we were talking with Carich, it was unable to supply a student data return that justified any of its funding.

Jill Pettis: Was it the Tertiary Education Commission or any other Government agency that put Carich into receivership?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, it was not the Government or the Tertiary Education Commission. Creditors other than the Government sought the receivership. The Tertiary Education Commission worked cooperatively with Carich for many months to try to resolve these issues. For instance, it agreed with Carich to spread its debt repayments over a longer time period than other providers, and agreed to Carich’s request to submit an unusual third single data return.

Hon Richard Prebble: On the question of repaying taxpayers’ money, what reports or actions has the Government made or taken to get repaid the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to the Pipi Foundation, which apparently was spent on aeroplane journeys, orchard fees, and stomach-stapling operations?

Mr SPEAKER: That matter is outside the scope of the question, but the Minister may comment if he wishes.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is an education matter and you have allowed a widespread range of questions today. I suggest to you that the member asked a question on repaying taxpayers’ education money, and we would be very interested to know the answer to that question.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to reply.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can understand the outrage of the member and would urge him to direct his question to the Minister responsible for that, Mr Trevor Mallard.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave for Mr Prebble to ask the question of Mr Mallard, the Minister of Education.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot do that, only Mr Prebble can.

Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Products Agency—Bilateral Treaty

10. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Will the Government revisit its decision to use the proposed trans-Tasman therapeutic products agency to regulate dietary supplements and complementary medicines following the Health Committee’s recommendation that strengthening domestic regulation is the most appropriate method of governing complementary health-care products in New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: No. Work on this has been ongoing since 1996 when the then Minister of Health, the Hon Jenny Shipley, signed an agreement to work on this proposal, and also because recent work by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has shown that New Zealand businesses will face lower compliance costs under strengthened controls administered by the joint agency than they would under controls administered by a New Zealand only agency.

Sue Kedgley: Did not Jan Mabey from Citizens for Health Choices hit the nail on the head when she said that the Minister “allowed the health select committee to proceed with their inquiry knowing full well that she would ignore totally any recommendations it made. She allowed industries, consumers, and taxpayers to waste tens of thousands of dollars, and many thousands of hours.”, and will she apologise for undermining democratic processes, or is it important that proper democratic processes are followed in Zimbabwe but not in this House?

Mr SPEAKER: There were three supplementary questions there, the Minister may answer two of them.

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There is still an extensive process following the signing that will allow the input from the select committee to select committees, and all the work that the select committee has done so far will be considered thoroughly during that process before the joint agency is finally set up.

Steve Chadwick: Has arsenic been found in products; if so, what approaches have been recommended?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes. In January 2003 arsenic was found in a Chinese remedy on sale in New Zealand. A test showed that it contained 4 percent arsenic and consumers were warned. The member’s views are inconsistent because she says that regulation for products actually consumed is overkill, while at the same time advocates for an expensive testing and regulation system for arsenic in timber used in kid’s playgrounds.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why is the Minister always stating that she is interested in hearing from people, then takes absolutely no notice of them, and has proceeded to move to sign a trans-Tasman treaty to regulate therapeutic products rather than progress New Zealand regulations and have mutual recognition with Australia?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The previous Government, under the control of the Hon Jenny Shipley, rejected trans-Tasman mutual recognition, and committed to a joint therapeutic agency. This move is supported by the industry, and I would like to quote from Mark Matthews, the Chief Executive of Nutralife Health and Fitness, who said that the joint agency made sense and would create a more even playing field.

Pita Paraone: How much research has been done into the effectiveness of the Australian therapeutic goods administration, and how did the Minister of Health assess the ability of this agency to regulate the New Zealand market, given the apparent inadequacies that led to the Pan Products recall?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We are not handing over control to an Australian agency. We are setting up a new agency. The Australian Federal Health Minister and the New Zealand Minister of Health will control that agency and set it up in a far more robust system than the current Australian regime.

Heather Roy: Can the Minister deny that the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research interviewed at least six dietary supplement companies in Auckland in December 2001 - January 2002, and without exception was given financial statements showing that all companies’ compliance costs would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and that any company with turnover of less than $5 million would be most unlikely to survive?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I think we can accept that no regulations at all would be far cheaper than having regulations, but the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report concluded that the joint agency would be far more cost-efficient and effective for all producers of these products.

Judy Turner: In establishing a joint agency, does the Minister intend to give effect to the Health Committee’s recommendation that regulation of complementary health-care products should be based on a negative or blacklist prohibiting unsafe ingredients, or is the Minister content to completely ignore submitters’ concerns and adopt the Australian white list system wholesale, squashing the innovation that is characterised in New Zealand’s growing industry; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: My understanding is that there will be a list of approved products and that those people producing new products will be able to apply for approval, and therefore be able to assure consumers that their product is safe for sale and consumption. That is the priority for this Government—ensuring that all products on the market are safe.

Sue Kedgley: In the light of the Minister’s recent comments in the media, could she confirm whether she ever formally wrote to the Health Committee stating that she wanted the inquiry completed by a certain date; if so, when?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware of any such document going to the select committee. However, I am aware that the chair has reminded the select committee time and time again that it should complete its study. However, certain members on the select committee insisted on demanding there be more information provided, which delayed the processing of that investigation.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that, despite her comments here today, the Health Committee was correct when it said that the trans-Tasman agency will actually give unprecedented power to an unelected, unaccountable managing director of the agency, and will involve surrendering control of the New Zealand complementary health-care industry, and what is the Minister’s response to the question asked by the chairman of Comvita when he said: “Why would we want to give our sovereignty away to Australia to a system that has been shown to fail?”?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We are not giving our sovereignty away to Australia. I have every faith in our Minister of Health, working with the Australian Federal Minister, to make sure there is an agency that is fully accountable to the people of both Australia and New Zealand.

Sue Kedgley: Given that the agency will be headquartered in Canberra, that the board will be dominated by Australians, and that it will set up under Australian legislation, how will we have full accountability through our Parliament?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: That is wrong. There is no decision about where it will be based. There will be legislation through both the Australian and the New Zealand Parliaments. At that time this House and the select committee will have every opportunity to have their say.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the answers to those questions the Minister read from a document where he quoted an industry source. I wonder whether he could table that.

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am more than happy to table this press statement from the New Zealand Herald dated Tuesday, 9 December, where the chief executive of Nutra-life Health and Fitness, Mr Mark Mathews, said that a joint agency made sense.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not an official document, but the Minister seeks leave to table it. Is there any objection? There is not.

Document laid on the Table of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table two lots of evidence, the first is that the agency will comprise two out of 12 New Zealanders on the board, and, secondly, that Tariana Turia had the Mâori alternative for natural medicines group taken out of the ambit of this agency, and perhaps she could explain why.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can seek to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is not.

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

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Internal Assessment Results

11. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What, if any, instructions has the New Zealand Qualifications Authority given schools regarding the reporting of students’ failure to achieve internally assessed National Certificate of Educational Achievement credits?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has given numerous pieces of advice on this issue. The consistent point is that when and if a student is ready to attempt an event-based internal assessment it is a matter for the professional judgment of the teacher. It is a good system, and if the member had used it he would have got someone who could count to do his numbers.

Mr SPEAKER: That last comment was unnecessary to the sense of the question asked. I ask the Minister to withdraw that last sentence.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw.

Hon Bill English: Does that ramble mean there is no Government policy on why schools will have to report when students fail their external National Certificate of Educational Achievement tests, but do not have to report when students fail their internal National Certificate of Educational Achievement tests, and schools are now confused, because some have been told they should report those failures and others have been told not to?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The situation is quite clear. A lot of schools with very talented pupils do not have them sit. Some schools do not assess students until they are ready for it. Most schools do not do that. There is absolutely no point in reporting students who do not sit assessments.

Helen Duncan: What facilities exist for students to check their internally assessed National Certificate of Educational Achievement results?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This year access to internally assessed National Certificate of Educational Achievement results have been made available online for the first time. This lets students see their results before the end of the year, allowing them and the schools to check them, further guaranteeing a smooth process for the January results.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister explain exactly how not reporting on standards that have been attempted by students, but who have then failed to demonstrate any achievement standards, will add to the richness of information available to employers regarding potential future employees?

Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants to consult, please do so. Mr Donnelly is asking the question.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the exchange that took place the Minister of Education made some very strange noises. They certainly sounded like animal noises. Maybe he should be asked to explain, withdraw, or apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: No, he will not be asked to explain. He will be asked to withdraw and apologise.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise. The standard approach for the national qualifications framework, including the time when that member was a Minister, was that on the framework, successes were recorded.

Deborah Coddington: What instruction, if any, has the New Zealand Qualifications Authority given to schools like Cambridge High School that give National Certificate of Educational Achievement credits to students for picking up rubbish, and schools that offer scholarship passes in dance, drama, and turntableism?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Scholarship does not start until next year. Cambridge High School did not give students credits for picking up rubbish.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree that the statements he made to the House are directly contradicted by the following statement from Karen Colbert, a senior official in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to Auckland deputy principals: “Data we have at the moment is flawed, because some schools do send in non-achieved and some don’t. NZQA says ‘Don’t send them in.’ ”, and is this just the New Zealand Qualifications Authority helping some schools hide failure?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: First, the person’s name is Kate Colbert. [Interruption] A little bit of accuracy from the member would not hurt. What is clear is that the New Zealand Certificate of Educational Achievement update issue of 19 June this year makes it clear that students are entitled to enter for, and withdraw from, individual standards. That is absolutely clear. It has always been clear. It was clear for internally assessed School Certificate, as well.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister now trying to say that no student fails internal assessment of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement; he or she just withdraws before that conclusion is reached?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is very clear that a lot of people do not make the standard. The member knows that.

Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table a New Zealand Herald report of 5 July that quotes the principal of Cambridge High School saying that students got two credits for picking up rubbish.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have two points. My first point is that I notice today you have at least gestured towards members of the Opposition and said to them that that was the last time they were to behave in a particular way.

Mr SPEAKER: I said that to all members of the House.

Gerry Brownlee: OK, but there certainly was an indication earlier to a member that that was to be the last comment by way of interjection on this day. We notice that on three occasions now you have required the Minister of Education to withdraw and apologise for the sorts of comments he made during and around his questions. We noticed also that in the course of his questions he prefers to refer to insults rather than answers in his own case. We are just wondering when the Minister of Education might be subjected to the sort of discipline that appears to be applied to members of the Opposition at the present time.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the Minister of Education has been questioned effectively by the Hon Bill English. I would have thought that it was in the interests of the House that he be asked to answer. If I wanted to send him out, I could easily have done so, but then there would not have been anyone to ask the question of.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Question time is a serious time when members ask questions and expect some accountability. The Minister was asked a very direct question by Deborah Coddington regarding giving credits for collecting rubbish at Cambridge High School. He denied it. She has now produced the New Zealand Herald article of 5 July this year, where the principal of that school is quoted as saying that that is exactly what they did. One could put down a breach of privilege, but that seems to be an undesirable course of action, especially as Christmas is getting close. It seems to me that the Minister really ought to set out the situation. If he is saying that the New Zealand Herald misquoted, perhaps that is an interesting answer, but if he is really assuring the House that no such credits were given, and they turn out to be given, we have all been misled, have we not?

Mr SPEAKER: That is, of course, right, and the Minister would be expected to come down to the House and make an appropriate statement, if that were the case. That has been done on occasions this year. In fact, that was the only occasions in all the 37 years I have been here.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the minutes of a meeting between the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Auckland Deputy Principals Association.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a report from the chief executive of Transfund, in which he makes clear that the bulk of Transfund’s $225 million excess this year arises from projects that cannot progress, because—

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

Transport Strategy—Petrol Tax

12. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm whether the soon-to-be-announced transport package will include an extra tax on petrol; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No, I cannot confirm that. Announcements will be made on Friday when the details have been finalised.

Peter Brown: Can the Minister confirm whether that package will include a diversion of the petrol tax—that currently goes into the Crown account—into roading, and to what degree it will be, and whether it will be ongoing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot confirm that. Announcements will be made on Friday when the details have been finalised.

John Key: Why does the Minister support an increase in the petrol tax in Auckland, when the current funds available from Transfund, coupled with any catch-up funding from the Government and the assets of Infrastructure Auckland, could not possibly be spent in the next 10 years on new roads in Auckland, without changes to the Resource Management Act?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Nobody in Auckland local authorities would accept that last assertion.

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that if an announcement is made on Friday for an increase in petrol tax, it will be distributed regionally and not used only for Auckland roads?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Details are yet to be finalised, but I am sure the member’s excellent suggestion will be taken fully into account when they are.

Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that, if such an announcement is made, all the additional tax raised will be spent on roads?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I say, the details have not been finalised, but an even more excellent suggestion is likely to be agreed to, I am sure.

Donna Awatere Huata: I seek leave of the House to table a report to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) outlining a rescue plan for Carich, which required only a confirmation letter of support from the Minister.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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