Questions& Answers for Oral Answer - 10 December
(uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. Immigration, Minister - Border Control
2. Drugs - P Epidemic 2
3. Foreshore and Seabed - Te Ope Mana a Tai Proposals 3
4. Patient Treatment - Decision Making 4
5. Early Childhood Education - Participation 4
6. Employment Relations Law Reform Bill - Policy 5
7. Resource Consents - Process 6
8. Interest Rates - Banks 7
9. Accident Compensation Corporation - Fees 7
10. Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill - Project Aqua 7
11. Gangs - Public Protection 8
12. Algerian Asylum Seeker - Security Intelligence Service Inquiry 8
Immigration, Minister - Border Control
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader - NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: In 208 weeks as Minister of Immigration, is she satisfied she has in place sufficient checks and investigative systems to ensure people are not abusing New Zealand's entry and exit laws?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Not entirely, because there is always room for improvement. However, I am satisfied that the checks and investigative systems in place today are far more stringent than they were in the 208 weeks before I became Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Now that the Minister has had time to be briefed on the case I raised yesterday pertaining to Adele Erisnas, a South African working as a nanny with an expired work permit, having married Mr Quban Khel, an Afghan taxi driver, at a registry office in Auckland at 11.00 a.m. last Wednesday, clearly a case of marriage of convenience, will she tell this House what she has done about this case and thousands upon thousands of overstayers who are staying in this country abusing our system of Government, and is she going to do something about it at last, or just allow this abuse to go on in the name of the New Zealand people?
Mr SPEAKER: There were four questions there. Two can be answered.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Raising a case in Parliament does not actually absolve an individual of their responsibility to get permission from the individual to breach the provisions of the Privacy Act, but because such a disservice has been done to this individual I have decided to reveal to the House that she has a work permit valid to 31 January next year. The member should get his facts right.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell us why on earth this person's work permit was extended, given the fact that we are not short of people who can act as nannies in this country and we have tens and tens of thousands of people unemployed; why on earth was this person allowed to come here, and stay here?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: All I have done on this occasion is to establish that the advice the member gave to the House yesterday was inaccurate. He alleged that she was an overstayer; she is not.
Marc Alexander: In 208 weeks as the Minister of Immigration is the Minister satisfied she has ensured that people are not abusing New Zealand's entry and exit laws compared with her predecessors, particularly the Minister who tried to bend the rules and allow a group of Chinese immigrants to buy their way into the country - New Zealand First MP, Tuariki Delamere?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: While there is a point of order I will not have any comment at all or people will be leaving.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that the case about which the member speaks related to a person who was not a New Zealand First MP. The member should get his facts right or he will be stopped in his tracks if he seeks to abuse the Standing Orders. He was not a New Zealand First MP.
Mr SPEAKER: If there is any reflection on a member of the House, then of course it is out of order. Is this person currently a member of the House?
Marc Alexander: No.
Mr SPEAKER: The question can be answered.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Many more checks and balances have been put in place to ensure that individual Ministers, as in the case described, who entered Parliament as a member of the New Zealand First party, do not happen again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister also enlighten the House as to the status of the investigation 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; and how many more cases do we have to hear about before this Minister does something in respect of her portfolio responsibilities?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Again, the information that we were given in the House yesterday does not quite stack up with what we have discovered - that is, this man is facing charges, and no convictions have yet been entered. It would be inappropriate to comment on a case where no convictions have been entered, although I do note that he first visited New Zealand in 1998.
Rodney Hide: In light of her assurances to this House, has the Minister been briefed by the Immigration Service on the case of the Pakistani national who was caught in Fiji on a false Fijian passport, then, before appearing in court, absconded through Pakistan and Malaysia, to arrive at Auckland airport, this time on a false Malaysian passport, whereupon he claimed refugee status, was granted a certificate of identity and work permit, and then married a New Zealand citizen before the Refugee Appeals Authority could throw him out, in return for which our Government granted him permanent residence; if the Minister knows about this case, what details and explanation is she prepared to provide to the House?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister think she is doing a proper job in respect of the tens of thousands of overstayers in this country, given that it is 2003 and we have a fully computerised system, or is sitting on her hands doing nothing her speciality?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I note that the overstaying rate has reduced of recent times. In fact, it was much higher when he was the Deputy Prime Minister.
Rodney Hide: Will the Minister give us the assurance that if I provide her with the name of the Pakistani national privately she will ask her department for the ministerial file that has been prepared on this case, and provide an explanation in the House next week of how this could happen?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Because of the claims that have been made, and the obligation I have to protect personal, private information, the undertaking I will give to that member is that if he does give me that information in confidence, I will ensure it is investigated, and will answer him to the best of my ability without breaching confidentiality.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why on earth is she pleading the privacy rights of criminals and fraudsters who have come to this country in the way that Mr Hide has described, and as she has done in the past when we in New Zealand First have sent her information, we have never ever had one report back from her?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I get very few letters from Mr Peters. In fact, the last letter I recall getting from him related to him asking for residence for an English-speaking lawyer who did not want to practice as a lawyer in New Zealand -
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No such case has been brought to that Minister's attention by me.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, the member did.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, the woman I talk about is sick.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That is entering the debate. Please be seated.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not a matter of debate. She is required to answer the question, and to be terse, to the point, and relevant. She is not being relevant now. Perhaps the Minister could table the case in front of the House now.
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the Minister was addressing the question asked by the member, and the member then interrupted her.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was very interested in the answer. The member said that his party has sent some letters, they had not been answered, and the Minister was recalling to us the last letter she could recall getting. We were just getting to the interesting part about an English-speaking lawyer who did not want to practise law. I sort of empathise with that, and I want to know what was coming next.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was giving her version of the correspondence she had received. The question was about correspondence. She was entitled to answer in the way that she did.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My understanding from the exchange is that the leader of New Zealand First has given his assurance to the House that that letter was not sent. My understanding of Speakers' rulings is that when a member says that, his or her word must be accepted. Rather than you ruling out the point of order, your normal course of events in these cases has been to say that the member has said that that did not occur, and we have to accept the member's word.
Mr SPEAKER: Of course we accept the member's word, which was said after the comments of the Minister. I accept her word. I accept the Minister's word.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Either there is such a letter, or there is not. If you accept her word, you are saying that my word, because I gave it first, is not to be believed. Perhaps you could ask the Minister to find the file and table it now. Stop being a dreamer!
Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. Is that clear?
Mr SPEAKER: The member is on his final warning, and I mean that. As far as I am concerned, I accept the word of every member of Parliament. If there is a dispute, that dispute is covered either in debate or by one member acknowledging that a mistake has been made. Once I start not accepting the word of a member of Parliament, then we get into pretty serious trouble.
Drugs - P Epidemic
2. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that current laws governing the supply and possession of drugs are adequate to combat the rising ¡°P¡± epidemic; if so, why?
Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Yes, the Labour - Progressive Coalition Government this year reclassified methamphetamine as a Class A drug under the current law. The penalty for supply of the drug is a maximum of life imprisonment. The Government has also taken out a range of other actions to combat the use of P. Of course, there will always be more to do. I assure the member that this coalition Government is moving through its methamphetamine action plan, and further announcements are to be expected.
Paul Adams: Does the Minister concede that present measures aimed at halting the rising P epidemic are a manifest failure, given a North Shore social policy impact report that shows that P is now available to students while at school in most locations of the North Shore, and that dealers are targeting kids by waiting outside of schools and offering first-time users a free hit; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: The question is too long, but the member had come to the end as I rose.
Hon RICK BARKER: Of course it is a reprehensible act to tempt people to use drugs. There has to be a two-pronged approach. The first is to reduce supply, and the Government is doing its best on that. The second is to reduce demand and show people there is an alternative to a druggie life.
Martin Gallagher: What action has the Government taken in response to evidence of increased methamphetamine P use?
Hon RICK BARKER: Just yesterday the Government announced an increase in penalties for the unlicensed importation of methamphetamine precursors - now up to 8 years in jail. The Government has invested another $2 million in the Customs Service and $6 million for police. Cabinet has agreed to lower the presumption of P for supply from 56 grams to 5 grams. This will give the police the ability to prosecute more suppliers of the illicit drug.
Richard Worth: Why does the Government not consider banning the sale of pseudoephedrine-based products from chemists in order to cut off the supply of precursors to methamphetamine manufacturers from this source, particularly when there are effective non-pseudoephedrine drugs for cold and flu diseases available in the market?
Hon RICK BARKER: I am aware that a number of chemists in Gisborne have taken that action. It is a very good proposal and I am sure the Government will look at it further. But I make the point to the member that there is a whole range of precursors for the manufacture of methamphetamine - not just that source. If we attack one area and leave others open, the floodgates will open in the other direction. This Government takes the matter very seriously and we are going to take even tougher action.
Peter Brown: If the Government is serious about its concerns about drug use, when is it going to do something about people who drive cars whilst under the influence of P, cannabis, and suchlike?
Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of the original question, but the Minister may comment.
Hon RICK BARKER: That is more a question for the Minister of Transport, but I would make a brief comment to the effect that some substances are very difficult to detect by a test. The technologies are improving, and, as they continue to improve, I am sure the Government will consider bringing in laws to make use of them.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of this stated commitment to fighting the rising P epidemic, is the Minister working closely with the Minister of Police on this issue, and, if so, are the two police teams that are trained in the clean-up of methamphetamine laboratories - announced by the Government in mid-May - up and running yet; if not, why not?
Hon Rick Barker: I assure that member and the House that I do work closely with the Minister of Police. The Customs Service works closely with the Minister of Police, and the Department of Justice does as well. But I am not familiar enough with the police portfolio to answer the member's question specifically. I suggest she put down a question to the Minister of Police.
Paul Adams: In light of the fact that gangs control 95 percent of the distribution of P - the drug that is ruining the lives of too many North Shore teenagers - and in the face of the obvious failure of the present statute, will he introduce legislation to give effect to United Future's gang-busting initiative that confiscates gang assets and laboratories; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: I do not know of a law yet that prevents people from committing a crime. People commit crimes. We make laws to make sure they do not. [Interruption] The second point is that the member makes reference to the Proceeds of Crime Act, and the Government is looking at that matter very closely.
Paul Adams: Referring to my last question, why is it that children's rights can prevail over the rights of sex offenders who receive post-imprisonment electronic monitoring, yet the rights of teenagers, schools, and communities to be free from gang-propogated P-fuelled violence continue to get ignored because the Government is too concerned about a gang's right to hold property?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as that question concerns the original question, the Minister may answer briefly.
Hon RICK BARKER: All I can say is the assertion behind that question is complete and utter rubbish. This Government is concerned about the use of P, it is concerned about people's rights, and it is concerned about the welfare of its citizens. I reject every sentiment behind that question.
Foreshore and Seabed - Te Ope Mana a Tai Proposals
3. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader - National) to the Prime Minister: Has she been informed of the report in this morning's New Zealand Herald which asserts that Te Ope Mana a Tai met with Hon Dr Michael Cullen two weeks ago and ¡°appeared to be in agreement¡±, but ¡°he had later told the group Cabinet colleagues railroaded him when they knocked back a paper he had taken to them on the issue¡±; if so, what were the proposals knocked back by Cabinet?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): The Prime Minister is aware of the general tenor of the article, and is also aware that it is wrong.
Gerry Brownlee: If the assertions are wrong, is she aware that at a 4 December meeting with Te Ope Mana a Tai, Dr Cullen did tell them that the Government proposes to settle the seabed and foreshore issue by issuing customary title, which will be available to recognise mana whenua as well as specific use rights; and is this a change in her position of full public ownership stated in August?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes and no.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Prime Minister give the House a simple assurance that the proposals that the Government is considering will advance equally and without prejudice, the interests of all New Zealanders, and that no new or exclusive rights that are not otherwise provided for will be created for any category of New Zealanders when these proposals are finalised?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can give that assurance. Indeed, for the vast majority of the population there will be no change from the position as it is at the present time.
Hon Ken Shirley: Why does the Prime Minister not simply front up to the Parliament and the people of New Zealand stating clearly the Government's foreshore and seabed policy, instead of engaging with meetings of self-selecting interested parties at the risk of being accused of duplicity by giving different messages to the different parties?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: At the minute she is on a plane, and it makes it difficult for her to front up to Parliament. It has actually been the Deputy Prime Minister's job to have these meetings, not the Prime Minister's job.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was put down to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister in this instance is answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. He cannot just dismiss the question saying the Prime Minister is not here; therefore he will not answer it properly.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has a certain point there. I will ask the Deputy Prime Minister just to expand a bit on his answer.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am the Acting Prime Minister, not speaking on behalf. As I said, the Deputy Prime Minister has been having these meetings, not the Prime Minister having the meetings and not fronting up to Parliament.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is now an occasion of the silly semantics that gives Parliament a bad name. Mr Cullen is getting up and saying: ¡°I am Acting Prime Minister¡± and then saying the Deputy Prime Minister - as if he were two different people. As Acting Prime Minister why does not he come to Parliament and tell us what the foreshore policy is, then he would not be accused of being duplicitous.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way: if that had been the question, then he would have had to answer. I understood him to say that at this moment he is the Acting Prime Minister, which is correct. He then, however, said that the Prime Minister was not having the meetings, the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the member, Dr Cullen, was having the meetings. I could understand that perfectly.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That will not do at all. If he is the Acting Prime Minister, then he is the Prime Minister. So when Mr Shirley gets up and says: ¡°Why doesn't the Prime Minister do X or Y?¡± he is clearly referring to Dr Cullen, and Dr Cullen ought to answer why he is prepared to go and tell all sorts of self-selected groups what the Government's policy is, but is he not prepared to tell this Parliament?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is a question I would be happy to answer, but it was not the question. If the member would like to ask that question, I would be happy to give an answer to it.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Hon Ken Shirley could restate his question with the information that we have just received.
Hon Ken Shirley: Why does the Acting Prime Minister, who has been meeting with self-selecting interested parties around the country, not front up to Parliament and tell it and the people of New Zealand what his Government's policy is? Then he would not be accused of duplicity by giving different messages to different audiences.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not giving different messages to any audience. I look forward to Federated Farmers finally having the courtesy to ring my office to ask for a meeting, to meeting with that organisation, and to telling it exactly the same message. What the member is ignoring, if he cares to listen - [Interruption] I have the microphone, so I can go louder - is that the policy is not yet finalised. I have been discussing proposals with a variety of groups in order to get their feedback on those proposals. I do not propose to discuss it with members opposite, because they show no inclination of wanting to engage seriously on the issue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Acting Prime Minister - or whatever he calls himself now - why it is better to talk to everybody outside Parliament, rather than people inside Parliament and inside this Chamber; second, why has he asked other parties to join an ad hoc select committee if the last comment he made is remotely true?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because it is a function of this Parliament that all parties are represented according to their proportionality on select committees. We could in fact have sent bills to select committees that that member's party is not represented on. I shall be happy to discuss with members the proposals when they are finalised. I will be discussing with some parties the proposals before they are finalised.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First, I ask whether the question is to the Acting Prime Minister, or whether it is to the Prime Minister, as it was set down. The last two questions have been asked of the Acting Prime Minister and answered in the first person by that Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: It is to the Prime Minister.
Gerry Brownlee: Secondly, I seek leave for there to be a debate immediately following question time so that parties on this side of the House can voice their opinion on this matter, since we note that the Government intends making its announcement once Parliament has shut down for the year.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to have a debate. Is there any objection? There is.
Gerry Brownlee: At the 4 December meeting with Te Ope Mana a Tai, did the Prime Minister understand that Dr Michael Cullen, the Hon Parekura Horomia, and the Hon John Tamihere agreed with each other that mana whenua title would translate into iwi, hap¨±, or wh¨¡nau having full authority over the seabed and foreshore specified in their customary title?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No.
Gerry Brownlee: Noting the series of points that were presented to that meeting, would the Prime Minister agree with the Hon John Tamihere that, in his view, a development proposal in an area covered by customary title with as low a level of interest as ingress or egress across the relevant area would result, effectively, in that iwi, hap¨±, or wh¨¡nau having complete control over whether the project could progress or a consent be issued?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will have to wait for full details of the proposals when they are finalised on Monday. They have yet to be finalised.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that this is an issue that concerns the whole of New Zealand and all representatives of New Zealanders, who sit in this House, I again seek leave for the House to have a debate immediately following question time, so that this House might discuss this matter before Parliament is shut down for the year.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to have that debate. Is there any objection? There is.
Patient Treatment - Decision Making
4. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does she agree that decisions about which treatment is most appropriate for particular patients are best made by their doctors in consultation with the patients themselves; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Generally, yes - provided the decisions made were based on best medical practice, taking into account the patient's diagnosis and the suitability of treatments available. I would also expect that any medicines that may form part of that treatment would meet current international standards in respect of quality, safety, and effectiveness.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of survey results indicating that one in 10 doctors has a patient he or she believes might benefit from medicinal cannabis; and given that cannabis is the only effective relief for a number of people with conditions such as chronic pain and nausea, why does she continue to deny doctors the ability to make cannabis available to their patients?
Hon ANNETTE KING: For cannabis to be proved as a medicine, it would have to have a status under the Medicines Act. It would therefore need to have a standardised dose, it would need to be safe, and it would need to have therapeutic efficacy. Unfortunately, we do not have that, as yet. However, a lot of work has been done on a pill that may be of use, in trials in the UK. My understanding is that the member would like for people to be allowed to smoke cannabis. That certainly would not be a medicinal use of that product.
Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister seen the most recent report from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand and the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have, and I suspect that most members of this House have. Those organisations conclude, from all the evidence available, that the risks of smoking cannabis are similar to those of smoking tobacco, and they recommend that public health education should include the message that the respiratory effects of smoking cannabis are similar to those of smoking tobacco. Why would we want to inflict that on New Zealanders as a medicinal way of treating anything?
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of comments by Paul Smith, professor in the pharmacology department at Otago University, who said that the Government is ignoring decades of international research on the medicinal use of cannabis, and that cannabis-derived drugs are already being widely used overseas; is she aware that there are many methods of administration that do not include smoking, which are all equally unavailable to patients who have the support of a doctor to use cannabis; and can she confirm her answer to a written question of 2 March 2001 that she considered no studies on the effectiveness of cannabis as a medicine when deciding applications for the use of cannabis as a medicine?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, that was the advice in 2001. Subsequently, the United Kingdom has undertaken trials on cannabis in the particular form of a pill - not in the form of smoking or eating, but in the form of a proper medicine. Those trials are due to be completed very soon, and when they are concluded the Government will certainly look at the use of such a medicine.
Nandor Tanczos: Will the Minister tell the House what public health good is achieved by 14 police officers raiding the house of a man who has been a tetraplegic for 28 years, in order to bust him, naked in bed, for using cannabis with the full knowledge of his doctor and specialist; and will she personally explain to Mr Leo Danger - sitting in his wheelchair in the public gallery today - why she continues to deny him effective pain relief?
Hon ANNETTE KING: When there is a suitable medicinal product for that particular person, then, certainly, the Government will consider it. But I would not consider at this stage that smoking cannabis is going to be good for that person's health. I have just released the report from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, where the effects of cannabis are shown to be very similar to those of tobacco. In fact, we have higher levels of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in New Zealand than we ever suspected.
Sue Kedgley: Would the Minister rather that Mr Danger continue to take a cocktail of 20 prescribed pills, including morphine and valium, every day to alleviate his suffering, rather than take cannabis - with, for example, a vaporiser - which he finds more effective, with fewer side effects, and takes with the full knowledge and consent of his doctor and specialist?
Hon ANNETTE KING: What the particular person whom members are talking about does with his doctor, obviously he does with his doctor. This Parliament has not approved the use of cannabis in a medicinal way. I do not believe that members would want me to approve that, until we know that it is a safe product to use.
Question No. 1 to Minister
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader - NZ First): I seek leave to table a letter dated 22 November, written to the Minister of Immigration, attaching a document pointing out that someone has come to this country, falsifying his name by taking the name of his brother, who is a qualified lawyer in Dakar but he is not. I ask her to do something about it, for a change.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Early Childhood Education - Participation
5. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to increase participation in early childhood education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): This Government is investing $8 million to create more than 1,200 new places for children in early childhood education centres. Seventy-two community-based non-profit early childhood services will receive this funding to establish new centres, extend buildings, or remove health and safety hazards.
Hon Brian Donnelly: When there are waiting lists for some of our early childhood providers and many children cannot attend early childhood education centres, why is it that if a visitor to New Zealand enrols his or her child at any early childhood institution, the Government will fully fund that child at the full rate, regardless of citizenship status?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not quite so concerned about the citizen status. I think residency is a question and, given the very good representations -
Hon Brian Donnelly: Non-residents.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, I think we even have a few non-citizens around this place every now and again. I am not concerned about that. I am concerned about residence status, and we are doing a funding review. Given the very good representations that the member has made, that will be included in it.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that half of all children who receive subsidies for early childhood education attend privately owned centres, and why are privately owned centres excluded from this scheme, thus excluding those children who attend privately owned centres?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I cannot confirm the numbers -
Hon Bill English: You should know them.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I cannot confirm the numbers, because the member is again making mistakes. Again, he just cannot count.
Hon Bill English: 57 percent.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, the member does not understand the difference between community and private early childhood education centres. [Interruption] He has it wrong again. [Interruption] But the key point is -
Mr SPEAKER: For a start, the member interjected three times in the second person, which involves me. He knows that is out of order. I now want the Minister to come to the answer concisely.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In that answer, as with every answer he has given, this particular Minister chooses to make insulting comments about the questioner, rather than answering the question. I ask you to ensure that Ministers answer the question, rather than, as this Minister repeatedly does, get into a personal attack on the member concerned.
Mr SPEAKER: It would have been made very much easier for me to do that if the questioner had not been involving me in his interjections. But I take the member's point. The Minister will now come to the answer.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In answering the member's question I point out that his numbers are inaccurate. Secondly, it is not the role of the Government to provide capital - [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise. That is twice he has involved me by way of the two interjections he has made.
Hon Bill English: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister always answers questions by saying that the questioner does not know what he or she is talking about. In this case, he now says I did not know the numbers, when the first thing he said was that he did not know the numbers. If you are going to allow him to do that every time I ask a question, you can expect consistent disorder.
Mr SPEAKER: If I get that sort of comment again from the member he will be leaving the Chamber. I am not having that sort of nonsense at all. The member started his answer by saying that the member was inaccurate. He is perfectly entitled to make that statement. That was the first thing he said in his answer, after I had upheld the point of order of the Hon Dr Nick Smith. I want the Minister now to answer the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is no disrespect to you, but that is not how the Minister started his answer. He started his answer, some time before Dr Smith took his point of order, with a direct personal attack upon the questioner. You must accept that this is not the first day that we have brought up the issue of Mr Mallard and his style as Minister. It might be perfectly acceptable for the Labour Government to present a Minister of Education as he chooses to present himself, but all we want is direct answers to questions, not personal attacks upon the people who, apparently, have no right to ask him these questions.
Mr SPEAKER: I upheld Dr Smith's point of view. I did uphold his point of order. I said to the Minister: ¡°Please answer the question.¡± He then started by saying: ¡°I will.¡± - or words to that effect - ¡°The member is not accurate.¡± There is nothing out of order in that particular sentence. I have already ruled on that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is with a sense of d¨¦j¨¤ vu that we have heard that ruling as well. Earlier today the Minister of Immigration got up here and said that the most recent correspondence concerned a series of circumstances. I have just tabled the proof that that is not true - dated 22 November. When is she going to get up and table her evidence of what she said and for which you admonished me when I criticised her?
Mr SPEAKER: That is up to the Minister. It is not up to me.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is very much to the point of order in the House. How can you expect order to be maintained when Ministers can behave as Lianne Dalziel has today, and as Trevor Mallard is behaving now? Clearly in the case of Mr Peters' question, there was a total misleading of the House in the answer that was given. In the case of Mr Mallard, there was a deliberate design to antagonise the questioner. If this sort of behaviour continues, then it can only be expected that Opposition members, who are required to provide significant back-up and authority to the questions they submit, will get disorderly.
Mr SPEAKER: There are two different issues. I turn to the point of order raised by Mr Peters, which is very different from this other question. I refer him to Speaker's ruling 129/3 of 1992: ¡°The Speaker has no jurisdiction to determine whether the answer to a question is correct.¡± As far as the second point of order is concerned, I ruled in favour of the member raising it. I have now come to the Minister. He is to give his answer specifically and without any personal comments.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is not the policy of this Government to provide State funding for private businesses, for the capital portion of that business.
Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House why this Government believes that increasing participation in quality early childhood education is vitally important?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is very important. A lot of research shows that the particular benefits go to those people who are most likely to miss out in education - M¨¡ori , Pacific Island people, and those who live in rural areas.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I seek the leave of the House to table an answer to a written question that demonstrates that the Government's policy is to fully fund every child in early childhood, regardless of the residence or non-residence status of the parents.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Employment Relations Law Reform Bill - Policy
6. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Labour: Does she stand by her statement that the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill she introduced last week represents ¡°a good balance of practical and realistic measures that will strengthen the Act and further promote positive employment relationships¡±; if so, why?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister of Labour): Yes, practical because it builds on the success of the Act, such as the mediation service, and realistic because it recognises that employment relationships are about people working together to achieve common goals.
Hon Roger Sowry: Given that the proposed changes overturn much of the current case law covering good-faith bargaining, redundancies, and dismissals, how does she believe the bill will add value to employment relationships?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I do not accept the member's contention that they overturn case law. In fact, I refer him to the Baguley case, and also to the INL case, where the court has suggested clarifications that have been made in the legislation.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Employment Relations Act of 2000 succeeded in meeting its objectives?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: In large part it has achieved its objectives, especially in promoting a cost-efficient, peaceful resolution of disputes. It did, however -
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With all due respect to the questioner, this question relates in only the vaguest way to the question that was answered. The question that is set down as a primary question, which the Opposition wants information about, is about the amendment bill, which is about to come before the House. How can a diatribe on the agreed or otherwise success of the Employment Relations Act be included here? Surely it is a debating matter?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The principle question refers to strengthening the Act. The Act referred to is the Employment Relations Act.
Mr SPEAKER: My ruling on the point of order is that it is about how the principal Act is to be strengthened. The supplementary question was wide, but it was within the scope of the original question.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I was saying, in large part the Employment Relations Act did succeed in achieving its objectives. However, it did not - and this addresses the amendment bill - address the issue of vulnerable employees, which comprise the substantive changes in the employment relations amendment legislation.
Peter Brown: If the Minister does want the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill to provide ¡°a good balance of practical and realistic measures¡± which will ¡°promote positive employment relationships¡±, why does she not support a group of individuals - as opposed to a union - having the right to negotiate a collective agreement, as is the case in Australia; is it because she believes New Zealanders are inferior?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Never, and I think that is obvious - except on the rugby field, of course.
Opposition Members: Oh!
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Netball is another question, of course.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: We win the women's rugby.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, we certainly win women's rugby and netball. But the point is that the honourable member raises issues as to the organisation of employees and workplaces. Traditionally that has been done in the form of the legal notion of a union and there seems no point in changing that at this stage.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister assure nurses and other health workers that the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will not prevent nursing and medical staff from taking industrial action in support of fair pay next year; if not, why not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The purpose of the provision relating to the health sector was to ensure that patient and public safety is maintained. That was the objective during a strike or a lockout - not to prevent the strike or lockout itself, but to look after patient safety.
Paul Adams: How will the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill promote positive employment relationships when, under certain circumstances, employers taking over a business will have to inherit workers that they do not want?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government considers that skilled employees are in fact an asset of the business, and, just like plant, capital, and goodwill are seen as assets, so should employees. So we do not see in this instance that it will be a detriment.
Hon Richard Prebble: How can the Minister describe the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill as ¡°a good balance of practical and realistic measures¡± when 90 percent of private sector employees are not in a union and will be discriminated against because under the bill collective bargaining, which can be done only by a union, requires an employer to reach a settlement but, with an individual contract, which 90 percent of New Zealanders are in, there is no such requirement - where is the balance in that?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The balance is that the individuals have a choice as to whether they have a collective agreement or an individual agreement.
Hon Roger Sowry: Will the Government be providing direction on the meaning of ¡°fair and reasonable¡± in relation to dismissals, including redundancies, or is it now the Government's intention that the courts be left to substitute their business judgment for that of business managers?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government has heard the request of employers not to have prescriptive legislation but to ensure it applies to their particular circumstances, and that is what that provision is directed to take account of.
Hon Roger Sowry: Is it the Government's intention that employees be permitted to gather at any time with their union representative without fear of disciplinary action or deductions from pay, thus enabling the potential disruption of business without reasonable cause; if not, what limitations will be placed on those meetings under this new legislation.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The amendment does not change the existing provisions in the legislation.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is clearly an answer the Minister may wish to reconsider because there is a clause in the legislation that does exactly that - changes it. I see now that the Minister is acknowledging that. I wonder whether she will reconsider her answer.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: It does not change the legislation, it clarifies that if a delegate - [Interruption] I have said all along that this is an amendment about clarification, and the clarification is that if a union official drops in to address an issue for an individual employee that is not considered to be one of the legitimate stopwork meetings in terms of the Act. Some employers have interpreted it that way; therefore we needed clarification.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given the Minister's clarification of her original answer I am wondering now whether she could address the question. The question was quite clear. It was: is it the Government's intention that employees be permitted to gather at any time with their union representative without fear of disciplinary action or deductions from pay, thus enabling the potential disruption of business without reasonable cause; if not, what are the limitations?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Obviously not.
Resource Consents - Process
7. DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour - Dunedin South) to the Minister for the Environment: What has the Government done to reduce the costs and improve the processes associated with applying for resource consents?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Many things. Most significantly, we have put $5.6 million into the Environment Court since 2001. This has enabled the Environment Court to hear cases more quickly, reducing both the delay in reaching resource consent decisions and the associated compliance costs. The Environment Court is now disposing of more cases than are being lodged, and has already halved the backlog it inherited when this Government came into office.
David Benson-Pope: What evidence is the Minister able to provide the House that increasing the Environment Court's resources is reducing the amount of delay in resource consent hearings?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Digital evidence recording has resulted in a 50 percent time saving on hearing days for the Tongariro power station case currently under way. This new way of recording evidence is a world first, and, according to judicial officers quoted in the Dominion Post on Monday, is the biggest advance they have seen in 20 years.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Environment Court is doing so well in advancing hearings why has she introduced a draconian bill to this House that exempts only the Waitaki River from its plan being appealed to the Environment Court; is it because the Waitaki River is viewed by this Government of lesser environmental importance than others, or why do we not have the same rules for all rivers in this country?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Minister may comment on two.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: When the member reads the legislation he will find out that the process inside the first hearing of either setting up their allocation plan or making the decisions is one that is more interrogative than adversarial.
Larry Baldock: Given the progress that has been made in the Environment Court as a result of additional resourcing, does the Minister have any plans to seek further additional resourcing in order to continue to speed up the process?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes. Over the next 2 financial years an additional $3 million will be available to update the court's information technology systems, enhance case management processes, provide additional hearing days, provide training for Environment Court commissioners, for instance, in mediation services, and provide digital evidence recording systems.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table clause 32 of the Waitaki bill, which states that it cannot be appealed to the Environment Court for its plan.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that bill. Is there any objection? There is.
Question No. 1 to Minister
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): In respect of the tabling of a letter of 22 November from one Allison Jones of the office of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, I seek leave to table the reply dated 3 December stating that we were unable to locate any trace of a person by the name applying to enter New Zealand.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I seek leave to table a letter signed by the Rt Hon Winston Peters to me, dated 7 May 2003, bringing to my attention the plight of two young British people who, although he had not known them personally, he thought would make excellent New Zealand residents and would bring skills and assets of benefit to our country.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I seek leave to table my reply of 3 June explaining that that would require an exception to Government residence policy.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is.
Interest Rates - Banks
8. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader - ACT) to the Minister of Finance: What is the Government's view on the recent trading bank interest rate rises and what action, if any, is the Government going to take?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Interest rate rises are bad news for borrowers and good news for lenders. The Government does not propose to revert to failed policies of the past such as interest rate controls. It will continue very prudent fiscal management, which is the best contribution it can make.
Hon Richard Prebble: Would the Minister care to comment on the fact that the Australian inflation rate is 1 percent higher than New Zealand, and interest rate rises in Australia are justified, but inflation is low in New Zealand, the Reserve Bank has chosen not to lift its interest rate, and would it not appear that the Australian managers of New Zealand trading banks are looking at the economy through Australian eyes, and is it not time the Reserve Bank required those trading banks to set up their own boards, like Westpac, so that they start to make decisions from a New Zealand viewpoint and not an Australian one?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A number of those banks do, but, of course, the bank that has led the charge towards trying to keep mortgage rates down is Kiwibank that the member opposed the creation of.
Hon David Carter: Is the Minister concerned that rapidly rising house prices, and now increasing interest rates, will make homeownership even more difficult for many New Zealanders; if he is concerned about it, what will he do about it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is clearly a great deal of pressure in the domestic sector, including the building sector in particular. I am sure the member understands the Government's capacity to influence that is best done through a tight fiscal policy. Anything else, such as random tax cuts as proposed by members opposite, would lead to a loosening of fiscal policy and more upward pressure on interest rates.
Accident Compensation Corporation - Fees
9. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: What decisions have been made on the new ACC levy rates this year?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): Excellent news for everyone, particularly for motorists and the self-employed. The average total levy for motor vehicles, including licensing fees and petrol excise duty will fall by 6.8 percent. The average total self-employed levy will drop by 2.2 percent, while the total employers' levy and the total earners' levy will stay unchanged.
Dave Hereora: How do the new accident compensation levy rates compare to overseas rates?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Extraordinarily favourably. For example, in Australia average employer premium rates over the last 2 to 3 years range from A$1.55 to A$3.04 per A$100 payroll, compared to accident compensation total employers' levy of A$1.21. Despite Australia's relatively high rates, its private insurance schemes have struggled to survive. Two major insurers have collapsed, including HIH, which was a major player under National's privatised accident compensation scheme.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a very misleading statement by the Minister and inappropriate in the answer. The reality is that not one New Zealand accident compensation claimant was affected by that failure.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that is not a point of order.
Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill - Project Aqua
10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National - Nelson) to the Minister for the Environment: How does she reconcile her statement in the House last Thursday that ¡°This bill, which we have before us this week, will not be about fast tracking any proposals.¡± with her press statements on 2 September 2003 saying: ¡°The legislation will also reduce time delays associated with appeals¡±; on 22 October 2003: ¡°It is important that the process which requires legislative change, occurs as quickly as possible.¡±; and on 3 December 2003 saying the bill is needed to achieve ¡°expedient¡± decisions?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Easily. The legislation is about a time-bound process to develop a water allocation plan. It is not about favouring one proposal and moving it ahead of others.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Would the Minister explain to the House the difference between the words ¡°reducing delays¡±, ¡°expedient¡±, ¡°ensuring the process is as quick as possible¡±, and ¡°fast track¡±, or is the only difference Government spin?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I repeat again that I think the member confuses process with the outcome. This Government makes no prediction about the outcome and, therefore, no prediction that the process is there to serve a certain outcome.
Mark Peck: What has been the local reaction to the legislation?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: It has been welcomed, as was made clear to me yesterday when I met local government representatives from the four consenting councils in Waimate.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: If the bill is not about fast tracking a favoured Government project, will the Minister consider giving up some of the extreme powers the bill gives her to hire and fire all the decision makers for both the water allocation process and the decisions on consents?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The bill is about to go before a select committee, and I imagine that those finer points can be taken up in there. The question of hiring and firing does not necessarily concern the people who are appointed to the panels.
Gerrard Eckhoff: What is the Minister's reaction to yesterday's Otago Daily Times editorial on the proposed legislation where comments such as: ¡°The Government seems intent on rewriting its own script.¡±, and ¡°The Government, working through the environment Minister Marian Hobbs, is hell-bent on getting Project Aqua up and running before the next election.¡±, and finally, ¡°This is an outrageous piece of legislation. It cannot be condoned.¡±; and what is her reaction to that conservative newspaper's comments?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Furious, and I replied as such.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Minister claims that the bill is not about fast tracking, can she explain why clause 32 states that the Waitaki River plan cannot be appealed to the Environment Court - and that river is the only river in which that would be the case - and why clauses 49, 51, and 52 automatically give priority to fixtures before the Environment Court, severely limits the access of evidence, and puts extra constraints on time; if that is not fast tracking, can she tell me what would be?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have always said, and said quite clearly in statements that have been quoted by that member, that we are about moving the process expeditiously. We are not about fast tracking one particular proposal. Reference to the hearing process in the clauses referred to by that member - which is different in this legislation - encourages the inquisitorial as opposed to the adversarial, and this lessens the need for appeal on fact rather than on process.
Mark Peck: Does the legislation give the Minister any decision-making powers over the use of Waitaki water?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: No. The decisions will be made by an independent, expert statutory board and panel of commissioners, nominations for which I am seeking from the community.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister describe the board and the panel of commissioners as independent, when she appoints them, the chair, and the deputy - they serve solely at her pleasure - and she can fire them at any time for any reason; and is this not about as independent as a Robert Mugabe judicial appointment?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: There are many appointments made to many boards in this country by this Government. We seek people with a requisite range of skills. It is the manner in which they act, who makes the final decision. That decision will be made by that board and is appealable to the courts, not to the Minister.
Gangs - Public Protection
11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader - NZ First), on behalf of RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: In light of recent gang activity in Highbury, Wairoa and Otaki, is he satisfied that current laws are sufficient to protect the public?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Generally yes, but we can always do better.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister think it is a sad state of affairs that innocent women need to leave their own country and their families, because this Government has made it too dangerous for them to stay in this country, but when in Opposition for over 9 years Labour said it would ¡°crush the gangs¡± but it has done nothing?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, it is unacceptable for gangs to intimidate people in the way the member describes. There is no question about that. However, it is not fair to say that nothing has been done. Law changes have been introduced and the police have been given extra resources. For example, new laws have been passed to crack down on participation in criminal gangs, and powers of investigation and interception have been beefed-up. I am advised the Minister proposes further law changes to ensure the better targeting of criminal assets.
Darren Hughes: What has been the effect of the Government's changes to the law on participation in a criminal gang?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Under section 98A of the Crimes Act, amended through the Transnational Organised Crime Bill last year, participation in a criminal gang is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. This law applies equally to patched members, prospects, or associates. The new law is increasingly being used to prosecute gang members - with 16 prosecutions taken in the first 6 months of this year, compared with two for each of the previous 2 years.
Richard Worth: Does the Minister agree that only by taking the profit out of crime will criminal gangs be stopped from the large-scale drug dealing - especially methamphetamine - that has enriched, empowered, and entrenched them in New Zealand, and if he does, and with reference to an earlier answer he gave, when will there be meaningful asset-seizure legislation proposals put before Parliament?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I agree it is one measure that could crack down on gangs. It is, of course, not the only measure, but it is one, and I agree with the member that it is an important one. I know that the Minister has law changes proposed, but I am not aware of exactly when he intends to introduce those. I suggest the member put down a direct question to him.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister doing anything at all, when we have the taxpayer having to foot the bill of over $460,000, since 2000, to relocate abroad, from this country, battered women and their families, because this Government has simply done nothing about the intimidation by these gangs, and when will he stop talking and do something?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do not think it is fair to say the Government has done nothing. The Minister of Justice has been very, very diligent in improving not only the law and order portfolio but increasing the laws that oppose gangs and their activities.
Algerian Asylum Seeker - Security Intelligence Service Inquiry
12. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service: Will the Government be holding an inquiry into the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service's handling of the Zaoui case in light of the loss of part of a videotape interview and the subsequent discovery of an audiotape of the interview with Mr Zaoui; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): The Rt Hon Helen Clark will be receiving a full briefing on this issue when she returns from overseas, and no further comment will be made until she has had that briefing.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister accept that the credibility of the Security Intelligence Service has been seriously dented by the lost and found audio tapes and the fact that Mr Zaoui was interviewed and videotaped without his knowledge and consent, and without his lawyer being allowed to be present?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, no further comment will be made until the Prime Minister, on her return, has received a full briefing.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Acting Prime Minister assure the House there will be no governmental interference in the role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Justice Greig, in his review of the national security certificate issued in respect of Ahmed Zaoui?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely, and I welcome the member's support for that, when the Government is under so much pressure from a number of quarters asking it to intervene in that process.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why are we going to so much trouble and so much expense - probably now $200,000 - in this case of a person who left Malaysia, falsified his entry into this country in terms of documentation, and how many countries that were Muslim did he bypass on the way to a supposedly Christian country?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the latter part of the question is wrong, if I have my geography right -
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Algeria to here.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thought the member said from Malaysia to New Zealand -
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That was the last one.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Or rather, not from Algeria. Whether or not the member likes it, New Zealand is a country of the rule of law, and the process will be followed without Government interference.
Keith Locke: Given that Parliament is not allowed to scrutinise adequately the SIS, what steps is she taking, as the responsible Minister, to make sure the SIS is not so careless or devious with the use of its videotapes, audio tapes, or who knows what else?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not accept the member's accusation of deviousness. Certainly there appears to have been some carelessness, but, as I said, the Prime Minister will be receiving a full briefing when she returns from overseas late this evening.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In three of these questions the Minister answering for the Prime Minister has said that he cannot answer the question because the Prime Minister will get a full briefing when she returns. This question was on the Order Paper. Surely the Minister should have been briefed to act as the Prime Minister and answer the questions adequately.
Mr SPEAKER: No, because the answer the Minister gave was very specific that there will be a full briefing when the Prime Minister returns. I presume after that briefing, then questions can be raised with her. The member has a final supplementary question if he wants one.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that the Inspector-General should consider Mr Zaoui's rights, particularly in the light of Cabinet papers establishing the Inspector-General's position, which explicitly states that his role shall be to ensure that the activities of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service ¡°are consistent with human rights¡±?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government will not comment on the way in which the Inspector-General undertakes his statutory duties.
(uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)