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Questions Answers For Oral Answer Wednesday Feb 11


QUESTIONS ANSWERS FOR ORAL ANSWER 1 WEDNESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2004

(UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT—SUBJECT TO CORRECTION AND FURTHER EDITING)

Questions to Ministers 1

Health Services—International Comparisons 1

Television Polls—One Law for All Policy 2

Schools—Closures 3

Seabed and Foreshore—Customary Rights 4

Prisons—Management 5

Seabed and Foreshore—Customary Rights 6

Television New Zealand—International Travel Costs 6

Free-trade Agreements—United States 7

Immigrants—Deportation Orders 8

Social Development—Reports 8

Mâori Health—Spiritual Healing 9

Petroleum Exploration—Reports 9

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Health Services—International Comparisons

1. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: Has she received any reports comparing New Zealand’s health system internationally?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes. The Commonwealth Fund, the philanthropic independent research organisation based in the United States, has just released its latest report, which compares patient satisfaction with the quality of health care in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. New Zealand came out top overall.

Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister seen any other reports comparing New Zealand’s health system internationally?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Despite the obvious pride the rest of the country rightly takes in our health system—particularly patients—the Opposition persists in referring to our health system as a Third World system. If New Zealand is part of the Third World, what does that make the four countries—Australia, the UK, the United States, and Canada—which were rated below us overall?

Dr Lynda Scott: Why does she take credit for the fact that we scored first out of five countries on patient-centredness and access to general practitioners—scores totally due to our dedicated New Zealand doctors—but fails to tell New Zealand that we were fourth in long waits for hospital admissions, third and fourth on equity scores, and fifth on the wrong medications being given in the last 2 years?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I will table the report when I am finished. I tell the member that, on timeliness—the waiting time—New Zealand came out first. We came out first in patient-centredness, and we came out second on safety, efficiency, effectiveness, and equity. Although the member may not like it, the New Zealand health system is doing well because—yes—we do have good doctors, nurses, and health providers. New Zealanders like the system that we have.

Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister tell us whether this is the same report that states that 75 percent of our hospitals have insufficient funding to maintain current levels of service; if so, will the Minister outline how she plans to address that shortfall?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, there is no such report. This report is one that is carried out each year. It first started in 1998. I vividly recall the 1999 report, in which New Zealanders rated the health system we had at that time as the worst of the five countries.

Sue Kedgley: Given that the report highlights the high quality of New Zealand medical staff, is she concerned that Medical Council of New Zealand data shows that only 58 percent of New Zealand medical graduates are still practising in New Zealand 3 years after graduation, and will she be talking to the Minister of Education about reducing the burden of student loans and how to address this particular problem; if not, why not?

Mr SPEAKER: Two of those three questions can be answered.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have already spoken to my colleague about reducing student loans, and we have a number of very innovative things happening in terms of district health boards helping students to reduce their loans. But perhaps the member would be interested to know that the latest Medical Council figures of the number of doctors in New Zealand show that 391 more doctors are practising than were practising the year before.

Judy Turner: With reference to the primary question, does the Minister agree that recent Clinical Training Agency figures indicate that New Zealand is significantly short of World Health Organization standards for numbers of practising psychiatrists, with a deficit of 118 psychiatrists for the general population and 55 child and adolescent specialists, highlighting a gaping hole in New Zealand’s psychiatric services, and this leaves open the potential for the system to fail more clients like it has failed Mark Burton, Lachlan Jones, and Lesley Parr in recent years; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: New Zealand, like most countries in the world, does not have enough psychiatrists. This has been acknowledged by the Mental Health Commission for a number of years. The member may know that this year we increased the number of medical students by 40, and we are targeting them towards mental health and general practitioner services because we recognise that more psychiatrists are needed. Unfortunately, we needed to start some time ago; they take 15 years to train.

Barbara Stewart: I seek leave to table the two pages of the 2003 Commonwealth Fund international health policy survey measuring the current financial situation of the hospitals.

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

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Minister wish to table something?

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the report. [Interruption] I am happy to oblige Mr Prebble. In fact, I will deliver one to him. I am happy to table the report.

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

Television Polls—One Law for All Policy

2. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Will the Prime Minister now reconsider her reported claim that Dr Don Brash’s Orewa speech was “divisive” following last night’s record Holmes show poll showing that 90 percent of responding viewers agree with Dr Don Brash, and will she now concede that one law for all is a policy that unites the country?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): “Divisive” is the mildest way of describing a desperate campaign by a beleaguered party. The Government will get on with meeting the needs of the needy in ways which get the best results for New Zealand within the law of the land.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Prime Minister now tell the House why she is telling 90 percent of all New Zealanders that they are wrong to oppose race-based law, and they are wrong—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: This is the only warning I am giving today. There will be no comments during the asking of questions. Every member has a right to ask a question in silence, and that is the only time I am warning.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Prime Minister now tell the House why she is telling 90 percent of New Zealanders that they are wrong to oppose race-based law, and they are wrong to be concerned about Labour’s never-ending treaty grievance industry?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I agree with the close to 100 percent of New Zealanders who do not want our country divided, and want equality. The ones who do not make up the 100 percent are sitting opposite.

Dr Don Brash: Will the Prime Minister admit to the House and to all New Zealanders that her Government is creating a racially divided nation with two sets of laws and two standards of citizenship, or is she telling 90 percent of New Zealanders that they are wrong?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would no more agree with that than previous National Prime Ministers would have agreed that that was the effect of the 28 statutes in which they inserted reference to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, will the Prime Minister tell the House whether the Reserve Bank scholarship scheme for Mâori and Pacific Islanders, introduced by the last Governor, was a need-based scheme or a race-based scheme, and will she advise the House whether that scheme was an initiative of the Reserve Bank or a demand by the then National Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that the Governor at the time felt there was a need to endeavour to increase the numbers of Mâori and Pacific peoples coming into the bank. That is the sort of thing he said when he was in a position of authority, not when he is in Opposition.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given that New Zealand has had race-based legislation for most of its history that has denied Mâori the same level of entitlements as other New Zealanders across a range of health, education, and particularly welfare services, does she agree that that has contributed to the unequal situation in which most Mâori now find themselves, and that basic fairness requires policies to overcome that disadvantage?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think we could find examples of specific statutory discrimination against Mâori up until the 1950s. I think the inequalities that Mâori experience in the land of their birth arise more from unsuccessful attempts to make one size fit all. To the credit of Governments of both shades over the last 20 to 30 years, there has been an effort to meet needs in ways that will actually succeed.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to her answer to Mr Brown’s question, can the Prime Minister confirm that the former Governor of the Reserve Bank not only set up the scholarships, but after evaluating them for their success, doubled the number?

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister does not have any responsibility for that particular question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wonder whether the Prime Minister, in addition to the 28 pieces of legislation the National Party passed in this respect—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supported by New Zealand First.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, and the member knows it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will leave the Chamber, please. I have warned members. I am not having any further interjections. Questions are to be asked in silence.

Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wonder whether the Prime Minister, in addition to the 28 pieces of legislation—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to register with you the National Opposition’s real disappointment at your decision to ask one of our members to leave the Chamber. The reality is that Mr Peters started his question of the Government by attacking another Opposition party, and the Government is going to then have an opportunity to stand up, and for some minutes sway in on that particular answer. It is not for me to suggest that there is current collusion between Mr Peters and the Labour Party, but it sure looks like that, and it certainly looks worse when one of our members, giving a pretty simple sort of interjection and comment that might in the normal course be perfectly acceptable, ends up being slung out of the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: You will recall that I began by asking the Prime Minister about her reference to the 28 pieces of legislation that the National Party passed in this respect. That is as far as I got. It is drawing a very long bow to try to pretend—which no one believes—that I am in conclusion with, of all people, the Labour Party. It is inexcusable for Mr Brownlee to be a soothsayer and try to predict what I was going to say next.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say in relation to that is that I have made my decision, and I announced it very clearly to members. I suppose the first person is unlucky, but there was a very specific interjection, and it interrupted the member in the flow of his question.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you are establishing order in this new session of the Parliament around question time, I wonder whether you could explain to the House how the question by the Hon Trevor Mallard to the Prime Minister was out of order because the Prime Minister had no responsibility for the question, yet you allowed the question from Mr Peter Brown on exactly the same issue, for which the Prime Minister had no responsibility either. Obviously, we do need consistency.

Mr SPEAKER: Of course we do, and I listened to Mr Mallard’s question, which was not in order, and I did not allow it. When I heard Mr Peter Brown’s question, I thought it was in order. I will have a look at the Hansard. If I am wrong, I will come back to members.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to particularly get into a tit for tat with the right honourable gentleman, but I have actually told the House that I did object when those matters arose. It is true that I had to go through the lobby, which is the requirement of the Labour Party, but if we are going to do that, then that honourable member ought to record to the House that he has voted four times in the last 3 years for bills that contain principles of the treaty. It is the ACT party that has a 100 percent record on this matter.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his point, but it is not a real point of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Prime Minister now answer the question: why is this Government persisting with policies based on race, not need, and persisting with a never-ending treaty grievance industry, when 90 percent of New Zealanders do not support her?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government happens to agree with the sentiment that “the treaty that was unique in the history of the world—a treaty between two peoples agreeing to share a nation—was signed in 1840.” Those were the words of the honourable member in his maiden speech some time ago.

Mr SPEAKER: I will now ask the Prime Minister to come to the actual question that was asked.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: To the extent that I recall the question, there is one law of the land. The question is—

Hon Richard Prebble: Point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: The member can repeat the question.

Hon Richard Prebble: Thank you, I cannot have the Prime Minister refusing to answer because she does not remember the question. Will the Prime Minister now answer the question—why does this Government persist with race-based law rather than policies based on need, and a never-ending treaty grievance industry, when 90 percent of the nation does not agree with her?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is one law of the land, and the question is how, within that law, we respond to the needs of different communities and regions in a way that will work. I agree with the honourable member when he said, back in his maiden speech, implicit in that treaty is an acknowledgement of the equality of the two peoples. We want equality, we want unity, we accept that there are needs that have to be met in a way that will succeed.

Hon Richard Prebble: If my maiden speech is now being used as the basis for Government policy, I seek leave to table it.

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

Rt Hon Helen Clark: I had thought of seeking that leave myself.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not.

Schools—Closures

3. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister of Education: Why is he closing or proposing to close dozens of schools up and down the country, despite strong community opposition to those closures?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I suggest that the member consults members who have been involved in the reviews—in attending meetings or making submissions—including Messrs English, Power, Carter, Peck, Peters, Sutton, Duynhoven, and O’Connor, and Jill Pettis. She may then be better informed. In being better informed, she will know that this Government wants to ensure that all our children have access to strong, sustainable, quality schools into the future. We have had a substantial drop in population in some areas, and it is projected to continue in those areas and in some others.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Minister expect that families will now choose to move to Southland, to contribute to the significant population growth and economic boom in that area, when there are now significantly fewer schools for the children of those families to attend due to his school closure campaign?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In Invercargill there are 3,500 spare spaces in schools. There is one school where the student numbers have dropped by 340 in 2 years. Invercargill agrees that it needs change; it is just a matter of what change.

Mr SPEAKER: I have been asked by Television New Zealand—to help contribute to the sound feed—to ask members to please remember to turn the microphone towards them when they speak, as we lose the audio on the broadcast when they do not. That information has just been handed to me.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was thinking of writing a letter about this matter, as it would also help if the sound technicians realised that it is parliamentary for members to speak towards the Speaker. Yesterday I noticed that they were switching on microphones that were facing the other way. It would be very unparliamentary for a member to speak like that.

Mr SPEAKER: This is a new system and there are a few teething troubles, although it is a much better system. I appreciate receiving comments such as that. People can contact me afterwards, and I will make sure that those sorts of comments are followed up immediately.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister decide that the merged school comprising Grantlea, Seadown, Washdyke, and Marchwiel schools should go on the Marchwiel site, rather than the Grantlea site as recommended by officials; and can he confirm the widespread rumour in Timaru that it is because the principal of Marchwiel School and his wife are Labour Party activists?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is there because I consider it to be the most logical place. I was not aware until informed by the Timaru Herald of the activities of the principal and his wife.

Jill Pettis: Has the Minister had any suggestions for alternative methods of identifying schools for review?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I have seen two newspaper articles that suggest that reviews should be done on a different basis. They suggest that all 126 one-teacher schools should be subject to review, all 129 schools that receive an Education Review Office supplementary review should be subject to review, and over 400 schools with more than 30 percent of spare capacity should be subject to review. I will not adopt Bill English’s policy.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Why did the Minister ignore the call by Ngâti Hine for a school that they could call their own, and instead lump them in with Ngâpuhi in his recent decisions on schooling in the mid-north; and how does this decision honour the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say that I looked at the needs of the young people. In fact, the majority of children at the kura—Te Kura Kaupapa Mâori o Taumarere, I think, from memory—are Ngâti Hine children. Therefore, if the parents of Ngâti Hine want to get in behind that school—they want to make some changes that I think most people who know about the school know are necessary—then it is up to them.

Rod Donald: Why is the Minister planning to drastically reduce the choices available to parents for their children’s education by closing, for example, Watlington Intermediate, the only intermediate school in Timaru, or Salisbury primary, a rural school south of Timaru, or, for that matter, Grantlea or the Ngâti Hine school in the north, and will he heed the petition tabled today from the Mayor of Invercargill and over 7,000 citizens of that city, calling for a halt to his network review programme?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will not run through all the cases. There was a clear call from people in Timaru for full primary schools—a call that I heeded. On the question of the mayor’s call for a delay in the review process, it is my view that there is enough stress in Invercargill now, and that we are better to come to decisions and have good schools there from the beginning of next year, rather than to stretch out the agony and have more and more poor Education Review Office reports and have schools that have drops of 340 over 2 years, the way that that member seems to want things to continue. He just does not care about kids.

Mike Ward: Why did the Minister not consult with the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health, and the Minister for Industry and Regional Development before embarking on the network review process that is likely to impact on their portfolio responsibilities?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I look very carefully at transport issues as part of this exercise. I think it is fair to say that the Minister of Transport, the Minister in charge of school buses, and I have had a very good look at that. It is likely that the dog’s breakfast that is the school transport system in many areas will be improved as a result of these changes.

Metiria Turei: Given the Minister’s avid interest in school transport, can he identify for this House how many walking school buses will now be cancelled because children live too far from their nearest school to walk, and how that accords with the Government’s own transport and energy strategies?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Very easily—none.

Rod Donald: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take strong personal offence to the Minister’s claim that I do not care about kids, and I would like to ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister made that comment. I cannot hear every single comment that is made, and we have to consider comments in their context. I did not find that comment other than a debating comment, and I really think that we have to allow some cut and thrust in debate in this House.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I actually considered raising that matter myself under Standing Order 370 at the time that the comment was made, but I took it that the member did not object. In terms of the Standing Order a member is not to include discreditable references. To say that someone “does not care about kids” is abuse. It does not meet the requirements of Standing Order 370, which states that replies have to be concise and confined to the subject matter. I think, perhaps, the member is out of order in a different matter, in that he should have raised that earlier. But I would not like you to tell Mr Mallard, at this early stage of this year, that he can end all his questions with a piece of abuse.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It would probably help if I did withdraw. We may get some peace out of that.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister for doing that, because I was going to rule in that way in favour of the member. I think Mr Prebble’s comment was sensible.

Seabed and Foreshore—Customary Rights

4. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: How does she reconcile her statement that the Government’s policy proposal for the foreshore and seabed was about “acting in the best interests of all New Zealanders” with the statement made by the Solicitor-General at a Waitangi Tribunal hearing on the policy that it “does accord real rights to those who hold customary titles and customary rights. They are not, with respect, simply in the position of any other person.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Easily.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely you are not going to accept that answer from the Prime Minister as being consistent with the public good. It leads us to believe there are some aspects of the answer that she does not want to give the House. Although you cannot direct how a question is answered, you do frequently ask Ministers to return to the subject of the question, or perhaps to elaborate, when the House has not had as satisfactory an answer as possible. A one-word answer to a question relating to a very significant Government policy does seem somewhat trite.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to quote Speaker’s ruling 145/4: “If some information can be given in addition to the bare facts asked for in a question, information which would supplement the reason for the answer, giving such information would comply with the spirit of question time.” I think the Prime Minister should add a little to her answer.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I said “easily” because it is in the best interests of all New Zealanders to preserve both the general public’s right of access to, and enjoyment of, these areas, and the State’s sovereign right to regulate, with the recognition of Mâori ancestral connection and legitimate customary rights.

Dr Don Brash: Noting the Prime Minister’s comments earlier this week that there was no difference between the Solicitor-General’s statement to the tribunal and her own position, does she agree with the Solicitor-General’s statement that the proposed policy gives power to customary rights holders, including, in some circumstances, a veto over the proposed activities of others; if so, how is that in the best interests of all New Zealanders?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member represents a party that puts a lot of store on property rights. A customary right is a property right, and is expected to be respected. It may be in the member’s interest to blur the distinction being made between customary title, which gives rights of participation, and customary rights, which are property rights. I think it is important that the two are clearly distinguished, here and now.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree with Dr Brash that Mâori should be treated just as any other person is, or does she accept that the treaty accords tangata whenua a right to be involved in decisions about their ancestral land?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I agree that the Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document for New Zealand and that it is a symbol of unity, trust, and partnership between Mâori and the Crown—so did the National Government, in 1996, when it put it on the Government website.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister received any reports from Dr Brash or any other National Party person seeking to abolish the Mâori Land Court, a court that follows different laws from those for the rest of our country?

Mr SPEAKER: The question could be answered in relation to the Mâori Land Court as she could be responsible in that area.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I have not received any such request from that particular member, which only suggests, as I think the question implies, that his campaign is somewhat selective.

Stephen Franks: Does a view that Mâori are not “simply in the position of any other person” before the law in relation to seashore explain her view expressed on Radio New Zealand on 2 February that “any attempt to end the Mâori Television Service would land the Government back in court”, and are there any other areas where she thinks the judges can overturn laws passed by the elected representatives of the people?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member may not be aware that there is a long history of legal action and court decisions that preceded attempts by this Government and the previous Government to establish Mâori television. The previous Government attempted in good faith to do it earlier in the 1990s. That ran into trouble, and on the eve of the election in 1999 it made another offer, and, in fact, signed a binding contract. This Government came into office with, essentially, that binding contract to proceed with Mâori television over its head. But what preceded all of that were court decisions stating that the language of Mâori was a taonga, and that the Government had a duty to promote it, and through the medium of broadcasting.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister made no attempt to answer the question. The question was very simple: are there any other areas of law where she believes that unelected judges can overturn law passed by the elected representatives of the people?

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I think the Prime Minister did address the question.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the event that the Government does not secure a parliamentary majority for its proposals on the foreshore and seabed issue, is it not a fact that the status quo that will be returned to is not one where, as she said in her original answer, a reasonable balance is struck between the interests of various New Zealanders, but the position that was arrived at last June or July, where the Mâori Land Court will be able to entertain applications for exclusive title?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That has been precisely the Government’s concern from the outset. Were the Mâori Land Court to find that an area was to have the status of customary land, that is exclusive possession, and that is what we cannot agree to over these areas.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the law under which customary rights exist is the common law, that we are all equally subject to that common law, and that it derives from English legal tradition?

Richard Worth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question is objectionable because it calls for a legal opinion.

Mr SPEAKER: It could conceivably call for a legal opinion, but I will allow the Prime Minister to comment on it.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is certainly my understanding that it is exactly the English common law that we are talking about here.

Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister seen the Solicitor-General’s statement that “The customary right holders interests become paramount.”, when existing resource consents come to an end, and, in the light of that statement, what advice does she give to the holders of existing consents that become subject to a claim for customary right or customary title?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member endeavours to obscure and blur the two concepts again. Customary title is a recognition of ancestral connection, which then obliges planning authorities to ensure that those with that ancestral connection can participate effectively in processes. A customary right annotated on a title is a property right, which will be respected.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If a person is of half-Mâori and half-Scots or half-European extraction, which part will hold the customary right and which part will observe it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I imagine I cannot infer that the member is talking about himself, but he comes from a proud people in Northland, the Ngâti Wai, who have continued to live in that area for many hundreds of years, where they have continued to exercise a customary right. They may well wish to go through the procedures established through the Government’s statutory framework for these areas to have that right recognised, and that would be a right that would then be upheld.

Murray Smith: Given the Prime Minister’s last answer, does the Prime Minister agree that the Solicitor-General’s statement does not mean that individual Mâori New Zealanders will receive special rights from the Government’s foreshore and seabed proposals, but, rather, that Mâori communities, particularly hapû, that have historical connections to part of New Zealand’s coastline will have those recognised, and that to state that individual Mâori New Zealanders will somehow have more rights than the rest of us is disingenuous and plainly divisive?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes. I agree with that judgment entirely. It is not about individuals. It is about groups of people. It is about communities who, over many hundreds of years, had a connection with these places, and in some places and in some cases have continued to exercise a customary right to this day.

Prisons—Management

5. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with the management of State prisons; if so, why?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Generally, yes. As I have said before, the department’s primary job is to keep the public safe, and it has consistently performed well when compared with other countries.

Marc Alexander: How can the Minister have confidence in the State management of prisons when at least three of such prisons report that one-third of their inmates tested positive for drugs, with department officials having conceded that preventing such drugs from getting into prisons was unlikely; and, in light of such poor management, why will he not reconsider allowing privately run prisons, which have a much better management record, to continue operating here?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are a lot of debatable points in there, but can I talk about the drug issue first. The member will recognise that drugs in prisons is a difficult issue. That is true of all prisons around the world. I have visited all the prisons and what I do know is that, for example, drugs can be taken into prison in tennis balls across the fence and can be carried in in babies’ nappies. I know that in one case the drug P was carried in under the fingernails of a partner, yet, at the same time, the department has made extraordinarily good efforts to try to bring the numbers down. The figures the member reports are 2002-03 figures. The latest figures I have show that in the last 6 months the average across the country was about 18 percent. In Wellington, over the three prisons, it has dropped from about 18 percent down to 10 percent. This is an enormously difficult area and it cannot be resolved overnight, but the Department of Corrections is doing enormously good work to try to bring the figure down.

Martin Gallagher: Further to the primary question, could the Minister comment on how New Zealand’s prisons compare internationally?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Very well indeed. The total inmate cost per day, for example, is lower than in Australia, England, Wales, and Canada. We fare very favourably on measures such as the staff to inmate ratio, and the department’s integrated offender management system is considered to be a world leader.

Richard Worth: In the context of prison management why is the Government opposed to private prisons, given the stunning success of the private remand prison in Mount Eden—stunning in terms of the department’s audits on prisoner activities, assaults, positive drug tests, justified complaints, escapes; just name the measure?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: There is a range of measures. One of the things often quoted is that it is cheaper with remand inmates. That is not the case when we compare—

Brian Connell: It is the case.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is not the case when we compare remand inmates in State prisons and remand inmates in the private prison. The basic reason, in answer to the member’s question, is that we consider incarcerating people—putting people in prison, taking away their liberty—is the role of the State.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister not know that the reason he is now receiving such wonderful news of a drop in positive drug-testing is that his corrupt Department of Corrections management is instructing people to randomly sample selectively, in order to make sure that the numbers of positive tests are driven down, and that the Minister and his Government have good figures and good news for the country?

Mr SPEAKER: There is one word in that question that I cannot allow, and it is the word “corrupt”.

Ron Mark: I withdraw the word “corrupt” and leave in the rest.

Mr SPEAKER: Right. The rest of the question can be answered.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, I take great offence at the claim the member has made and put out in a press statement. What I will say, though, is that if that member has evidence he should bring it forward. The member is known for this, of course. He claimed last year that Chubb prison guards had been bashed by a person on home detention and taken to hospital. That is absolutely not true. He claimed that Ukrainian farm workers were involved in a scam in Canterbury. That is simply not true. That member “cries wolf” all the time. He never has any information. He goes for the headline. He had better front up with some information before he loses all credibility in this House.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just like to rebalance, if I may. My accusations about an inmate dying from a P overdose while on home detention were true. The questions I raised about the Ukrainians were true. The questions I have raised about the “goon squad” were true.

Mr SPEAKER: That is debating material. It is not a point of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a different matter. Could someone indicate to the technicians that they have turned the knob and we are being blasted out by the sound system?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, we are. It is our second day. We are trying to get this right. Please be patient.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table written material published by the media demonstrating the aversion of the Minister to the “goon squad” inquiry, and his final acceptance after pressure from Ron Mark.

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

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek some guidance from you. Is making a personal statement in this House my only recourse in respect of those incorrect statements? Is that the way I have to do it? If so, I seek the leave of the House to make a personal statement right now.

Mr SPEAKER: There is the Prime Minister’s statement, which we will debate very shortly, and there is the general debate coming up. I am sure those answers can be given in debate. If the member wants to make a personal explanation he can ask for leave to do so.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER: About?

Ron Mark: To counter the allegations levelled right then by the Minister of Corrections about my misleading the House or making incorrect statements.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is where we get into some difficulty with personal explanations. This is not, properly speaking, a matter for personal explanation. It is really a matter for debate. If we are to allow that kind of personal explanation, then we will simply have a whole series of debates occurring under the guise of personal explanations. We reached that stage at one point in the past. I do not think we want to get back into it.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that leave has been sought, which the member is entitled to do. It is up to the House whether to grant it. Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.

Dr Muriel Newman: In light of yesterday’s report—that a third of prisoners at Rimutaka Prison tested positive for drugs—would the Minister tell the House what level of positive drug-test is he prepared to accept; if it is not a zero tolerance to drugs, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, the figures the member is quoting are from the financial year 2002-03, and the latest figure I have, for the last 6 months for the Wellington region, is 10 percent. I just want to put that matter straight. Of course, we would like to see no drugs in prison. The reality is that it is a problem all around the world. We are doing our very best to try to bring the numbers down.

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister in any way surprised at reports of State prison mismanagement of servicing, given that the Department of Corrections reports that it has not received a funding increase since the mid-1990s despite a 30 percent increase in prison population size; and why has this Government done nothing about that for 5 years?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am pleased to see the Minister of Finance nodding. It is true that the Department of Corrections has had huge pressures on it, mainly due to increased numbers in prison—some of which have been brought about by tougher sentences due to this Government having listened to what the public said in the referendum in 1999. There are some important issues that have to be addressed, and I am currently engaged in very fruitful discussions with the Minister of Finance about that matter.

Marc Alexander: Why should the public continue to have any confidence in the State management of prisons when, since Christmas alone, three guards at Paremoremo have been arrested for offences including fraud, corruption, smuggling, and engaging in improper relationships with gang-member prisoners; and why will the Minister not remove his ideological blindfold long enough to see that well-managed private prisons like Auckland Central Remand Prison ought to be allowed to continue?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are always bad apples in the barrel. That is unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to minimise it.

Seabed and Foreshore—Customary Rights

6. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Attorney-General: Has she been advised of the statements of the Solicitor-General to the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on the Government’s foreshore and seabed policy, in which he said, “Those who have a customary right do have a right to stop activities that will have a significant impact on that customary right. That is a real power, a real ability.”; if so, does she believe this is a fair and accurate representation of the Government’s policy?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General): Yes, and yes, because a customary right is a property right.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Is the Minister now saying that, in reference to the property rights that Mâori allegedly have over seabed and foreshore, they—to quote Dr Cullen—“have got the power of veto” over activities on the seabed and foreshore?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Customary rights, of course, have to be established through a process in the Mâori Land Court, but if they are established as a customary right, then the same rights and consequences would attach to any property right. For example, if I had an easement over a property and someone wanted to develop over my easement, then I would have the right to be able to say no.

Mr SPEAKER: I have been asked by the technicians, as we are trying to get a new system developed, to ask people not to go quite so close to the microphone as they used to. This is a new set, not 16-year-old ones.

Tim Barnett: Can the Minister give an example of where an activity that will have a significant impact on a customary right may be changed, following determination by the Mâori Land Court of a customary right?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. If someone has a customary right, for example, to launch a waka, and someone else wants to put up a jetty that would significantly impact upon the ability to launch that waka, then the iwi would need to be consulted and an accommodation found.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Minister accept, then, that Mâori owners of customary title and rights will be able to undertake commercial activities including the extraction of sand, access to fishing, and the erection of boat ramps, and will not some of those activities inevitably lead to exclusive use of foreshore and seabed, and limit every other New Zealander’s access to the foreshore and seabed?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I think the point has to be made that because there is one law that applies to everyone, property rights that apply to Mâori in this situation are the same as property rights that apply to others in other situations. So that is the fundamental premise—one law for everyone.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister confirm that that answer is a “Yes” to the proposition that Mâori customary right-holders will be able to limit and control access to the beach and foreshore?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, because, as we have said, there are public rights of access and they prevail. But the member must also realise that if there is to be any use by whomever, it must go through the Resource Management Act process.

Television New Zealand—International Travel Costs

7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Broadcasting: How many employees of Television New Zealand Limited were sent to international broadcast conventions and trade fairs in 2003 and what was the total cost including all fares, accommodation, entertainment, dining and transport costs of this?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): I am advised that for the financial year ended 30 June 2003 TVNZ employees made 28 trips to international conventions and trade fairs, at a cost of about $380,000. In the time available TVNZ has been unable to provide information for the entire 2003 calendar year, and I will undertake to supply that information to the member as soon as possible.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it the Minister is saying that although the year that he has taken ended in June 2003, TVNZ could not, on 4 hours’ notice, provide him with this information, but had the greatest of ease in making false allegations about someone having a free meal and, at the same time, gave Ross Armstrong carte blanche to do what he liked—to massively overspend and not account for money—and would not show that on television one night?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I know the member is feeling wounded about those issues, but I can confirm—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I’m not. It’s my turn now.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Well, I am sure he will enjoy it—scamper around. Now, if I can go back to the issue. Yes, TVNZ can provide the information up to 30 June 2003 and, yes, it will provide information for the rest of the year and I will give that to the member.

Darren Hughes: Does the Minister consider it appropriate for employees of TVNZ to attend international broadcast conventions and trade fairs?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do. TVNZ is a very successful broadcaster, with revenue in excess of $300 million off waiting at arm’s length from the Government. For the company to fulfil its dual objectives of the charter and of being commercially successful, its employees do need to attend those kinds of events to contract business, and they will continue to do so.

Rodney Hide: On the subject of free dinners, does the Minister think it was appropriate for Dr Ross Armstrong to wine and dine Ministers of this Government, including Dr Armstrong’s very good friend the Prime Minister, and Government MPs, all on TVNZ’s expense account, while Dr Ross Armstrong was under intense inquiry, firstly, by the Finance and Expenditure Committee and, secondly, by the Privileges Committee—and is that one scandal that we do not expect to see on Government television?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Dr Armstrong over many years has worked for both the National and Labour-led Governments, and undoubtedly he has been to a number of dinners during that period of time in the course of his duties. His activities that are being referred to by the member were the subject of an investigation by the independent Auditor-General, who gave the comments that we have all read in his report. As far as we are concerned, that is the end of the matter.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to get the Minister to address the question, which was this: does he think it was appropriate for the chairman of TVNZ to be wining and dining Ministers and MPs while he was under inquiry by the Finance and Expenditure Committee and the Privileges Committee? Why can he not answer that question yes or no?

Mr SPEAKER: He did answer. He did address that question.

Rodney Hide: He did not.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. He did address that question. If he is asked for an opinion, he can give an opinion if he wishes to do so. The answer he gave definitely did address that question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It may be your view that he answered that question, because what we have here is the view that any old words or excuse will do. The question was quite simple: yes or no—was it appropriate? What this Minister has done is to dodge it entirely, with your help.

Mr SPEAKER: No, he has not. Now the member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for those last three or four words talking about my help.

Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have not finished ruling yet. Please be seated. As far as I am concerned, I have to ask myself whether the question was addressed. It was, and that is the issue. The answer may not satisfy the member and it may not even satisfy me, except to the point of whether the question was addressed. It was.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What standard will you apply to your judgment of whether a Minister addresses a question? It seems to members on the Opposition side of the House that whenever it gets tricky, any set of words will do, without actually addressing the question, which was whether it was appropriate. There has been an Auditor-General’s inquiry report. The Minister said he has read it. My question to that Minister was whether that was appropriate.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister, I thought, in his last sentence said there the matter would rest, in his opinion. I thought that answer addressed the question quite specifically—

Rodney Hide: Well, what was the answer?

Mr SPEAKER: The member is really going right to the edge. As far as I am concerned, the Minister addressed the question.

Free-trade Agreements—United States

8. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: When will negotiations begin on a free-trade agreement between New Zealand and the United States, now that Australia has completed its own deal with the United States?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Acting Minister of Trade Negotiations): The starting date for any negotiations depends on the United States’ agreement to enter such negotiations, and the relative priority it sets between countries expressing an interest in this area.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade correct when he said on Monday that there was now a risk of investment and trade diversion from New Zealand, and if so, what steps is the Government taking to minimise the consequent economic damage to New Zealand?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I speak with some authority when speaking on what the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trade said. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that it created both opportunities and risks. The downside risk was that there was the potential for diversion of investment, in particular, but maybe also of trade. The upside was that growth in the two economies that are our first and third-largest markets would be of benefit to New Zealand; and as the meat industry has said, new opportunities will be open if Australian trade is diverted to the American market. What we are doing about it, of course, is taking every reasonable step to try to enter into such negotiations. But more than that, we are working very hard to try to ensure that the Doha development round recommences. That will provide far greater benefits for this country and the world.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What steps has the Government taken to promote prospects for negotiations with the United States of America on a free-trade agreement?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The New Zealand Government has worked very closely with the private sector to build a constituency in the United States in favour of a free-trade agreement with New Zealand. As a result of the work we have done, and work the business councils in both countries have done, 314 leading US companies have come out publicly in support of a free-trade agreement with New Zealand, and 21 senators and 50 members of the House of Representatives have written directly to President Bush urging that such negotiations commence.

Dail Jones: Will the Minister ensure that any trade negotiations between New Zealand and the United States will not involve a quid pro quo similar to Australia’s—where there was a trade between armed servicemen—such as New Zealand armed servicemen serving in Iraq in return for beef sales to the United States?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I can absolutely give that assurance, and I must add to that that I was appalled at the implication in the Leader of the Opposition’s comment that the reason we had not achieved it was that we had not sent troops to Iraq. This country, under this Government, will never trade the lives and the safety of New Zealand personnel for a commercial advantage.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree with the assessment of the economics editor of the Australian Financial Review, who wrote: “By the traditional standards used by economists to rate these sorts of agreements, the Australia – US free-trade agreement at the best would be given a bare pass. As likely as not it will be judged a net cost to Australia.”, and would he be prepared to trade away Pharmac, the Overseas Investment Commission, our nuclear-free status, our GE labelling regime, or any of the other things on Robert Zoellick’s wish list, in order to get a free-trade agreement with the United States of America?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are several points in answering that question. Firstly, the member needs to be corrected. The pharmaceutical purchasing arrangements between Australia and the United States were not part of the agreement reached. Secondly, while disappointment—and strong disappointment—has been expressed in many quarters in Australia about the fact that the trade agreement did not progress as far as was hoped for and anticipated in agriculture, clearly the Australian Government anticipated there was a net benefit to Australia. That is why it has signed the agreement.

Hon Ken Shirley: Will he acknowledge that the main reason New Zealand is not on an equal footing with Australia in achieving a free-trade agreement with the world’s most powerful and prosperous economy is his Government’s bungling of foreign affairs and defence issues; and if he will not acknowledge that, what is his explanation for New Zealand being left behind?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I certainly will not acknowledge that, because it is simply not true. While the ACT party and the National Party have said they wanted to trade off our nuclear-free status for such an agreement, I note the comment made by the US deputy chief of mission, David Burnett, this morning. He said the nuclear issue has “been overblown. I don’t think it plays much of a role, frankly.” He added: “We’ve certainly never directly linked the two issues—nor would we ever put forward a quid pro quo.” So the net answer is that they would trade away New Zealand’s right to make sovereign decisions as an independent nation and not get what they are looking for anyway.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I specifically asked the Minister, if he could not acknowledge the fact, what is his explanation for New Zealand being left behind? He has given the House no explanation for why New Zealand has been left behind.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is prepared to make a brief comment.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am happy to add to that briefly, if I could perhaps refer to David Burnett again. When he was asked why Australia got it, he said that Australia rated highly as the United States’ ninth-largest trading partner. The two-way trade between Australia and the United States is $41 billion; the two-way trade between New Zealand and the United States is only $8 billion. Clearly, size played a significantly and probably the crucial role. Size does matter in this case.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why does this Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade continue to hide behind the diplomatic politeness of foreign countries when commenting on other countries, and refuse to acknowledge that relationships between New Zealand and the United States are, in fact, at a serious level; because if they are not, why, after the Prime Minister explained to President Bush in her pull-aside at APEC on October last year the seriousness of investment diversion to Australia should New Zealand be excluded from a deal, has it continued to refuse to include New Zealand in a deal; what is the reason?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Far from the assertions of the Opposition spokesperson, the relationship between New Zealand and the United States is very, very, very good. I deal regularly with the Secretary of State and his deputy, and they in turn have talked very positively both about the role that New Zealand plays internationally in security and stability, and in terms of the role that New Zealand plays as a good international citizen. The reason the United States is entering into agreements with other countries is sometimes strategic—most often in its own interest in terms of size of trade. In that area it is hard for New Zealand to compete.

Immigrants—Deportation Orders

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: How many people who have been served with deportation orders since February 2003 are still here and why?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call on the Minister, she did advise me before this question was asked that her answer would be a little longer than usual.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I am advised that, since February 2003, 17 deportation orders have been served. Five people have been deported. The remaining cases are either under appeal or have been overturned by the Deportation Review Tribunal, or the person is still serving a prison sentence. In case the member actually meant removal orders rather than deportation orders, I have been advised that there were 1,117 removal orders served on people unlawfully in New Zealand between 1 February 2002 and 31 January 2004; 953 people were removed, which means that 164 remain. These include people awaiting travel documentation, as well as those individuals whose removal orders have been cancelled on humanitarian grounds or by order of the High Court. For example, the recent Haji case is a case where the High Court has effectively prevented the removal order from being executed at this stage.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I tell the Minister that I was referring to deportation orders, which is the original 17, and I want to know how Saied Ghanbari, an Iranian illegal immigrant who has had a deportation order since June 2003, who has had trespass orders and a protection order placed on him for violent, abusive, and threatening behaviour, and who is an alleged P user and a carrier of weapons, is still residing in this country, when the Immigration Service has been given all the details for him to be arrested, but has said that it cannot do that until the police are free to help it obtain this man and send him home from whence he came.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have often told that member that if he provides some information ahead of a question in the House, I can come down with actual information. The member also knows that the immigration officials do not have the power of arrest; they need to have the police arrest someone for them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact of the matter is that the Minister said that there were 17 deportation orders, five of which could be subtracted, and none of them includes this person. I do not think it is my job to do her job; otherwise, give me the car and the house and I will start doing it properly.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave an answer that was within the Standing Orders.

Social Development—Reports

10. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has he received on the impact of Government measures to ensure all New Zealanders have opportunities to achieve their potential?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Last week I released the latest “reducing inequalities” monitoring reports, which showed improved outcomes for Mâori, Pacific peoples, and New Zealanders generally. The reports show improvements in core areas such as disposable income, employment and unemployment rates, proportion with school qualifications, and tertiary education participation. The reports also demonstrate that programmes targeted to meet particular needs of particular groups are having a real impact, leading to improved circumstances for all New Zealanders.

Georgina Beyer: How are “reducing inequalities” programmes targeted?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: They are targeted to address particular disadvantages and need—for example, programmes to boost school libraries in low-decile schools, housing programmes to address dangerous rural housing, and adult literacy programmes to upskill adults. These programmes are very similar to ones run by the National Government when it spent $19 million on a Mâori employment strategy, $6.5 million on Pacific peoples employment initiatives, and employed people in the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to get the right balance of people there.

Judith Collins: How can the Minister support years of race-based funding, when his own ministry’s report that he has just referred to shows that 26 out of 48 relative trends for Mâori and Pasifika peoples in those indicators are getting worse, not better, despite the extra funding, or is this just another example of a Government’s spin being a case of lies, damn lies, or statistics?

Mr SPEAKER: The last comment is marginal, but the Minister can comment on the question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This Government supports needs-based policies. We target our policies to address the needs of people on the basis of age, gender, region, ethnicity, and disability, and we have found that if we do that, we have a great deal more success. Right now, after 4 years of this Government, we are cleaning up the social deficit left to us pretty well.

Larry Baldock: How has the Government ensured that all New Zealanders have the opportunities to achieve their full potential, in light of a recent report that documented cases of child prostitutes as young as 10 years of age, universal drug abuse amongst those who start younger than 16, and the comment by the Commissioner for Children in today’s Dominion-Post that the problem has become worse since the passage of the Prostitution Act—the Act that was supposed to eliminate all child prostitution?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On the last comment, I want to say that we need to be careful about how we measure something that once was criminal and now is not. It is going to be talked about a lot more now than it used to be. This Government is the only Government in the history of this country that holds itself accountable by measuring its progress on social issues. We can tell we are doing better because we measure the progress. That is what the social report is about; that is what “reducing inequalities” reports are about. No other Government has done that. We hold ourselves accountable and we are doing better.

Mâori Health—Spiritual Healing

11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Does she believe spiritual healing offers a better health outcome for Mâori than improved access to elective surgery; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Funding of elective surgery is a key priority for this Government. Although I have no personal experience of the value of spiritual healing, I do not believe that spiritual healing and conventional treatment are necessarily mutually exclusive. I am aware that there are some people who get great strength from prayer, for example, or from traditional healing methods, be they Chinese, European, or Mâori. I am not prepared to mock spiritual values that people believe add to their overall healthiness.

Dr Lynda Scott: As the Counties Manukau District Health Board has a lower intervention rate for cataracts compared with other Auckland district health boards, and has raised the bar to get general surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology, and ear, nose, and throat surgery, does the Minister think it is appropriate to use scarce health dollars—and the Counties Manukau board has a deficit of $47 million—to fund a Mâori health strategy that includes alternative Mâori medicines and spiritual healing, which has never been shown to improve health outcomes?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to say that the Counties Manukau board is one of the Auckland district health boards that has received an additional $5 million for elective surgery and, come the new orthopaedic project, will receive more. But I do not think I could do any better than quote from the Hon Georgina te Heuheu, who in 1999, as Associate Minister of Health, said: “Having health services Mâori feel comfortable with in using is an important part of addressing health statistics between Mâori and Pâkehâ. If the value of traditional Mâori healing clinics encourage people to seek advice early, that is a very good thing for everyone.”

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you have already said this to members, but I think the Minister of Health should take some notice on the basis that it is a health issue. She should turn her microphone towards herself and speak into it. What she does at the moment is she turns it away, rocks in her seat, then moves towards it and blasts us out. I am sure Occupational Safety and Health would be quite concerned about the voice level when she does rock towards the microphone. It should be turned towards her, and then she should speak in a nice calm way.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has made a valid point.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister clarify whether the Government currently funds spiritual needs in hospitals?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. This Government, like its predecessor, provides funds towards the hospital chaplaincy service—a Christian-based healing service that provides spiritual help to everybody who wants it. We fund it to the tune of about $1.2 million a year. That is slightly more than the amount we fund Mâori traditional healing, which was first funded in 1995, and was funded every year that National was in power, right until it left.

Heather Roy: Will the clinical efficacy of Mâori massage and prayer be assessed using the same standards demanded of doctors; if not, why should Mâori accept sub-standard health-care?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not believe that Mâori would accept sub-standard health-care. However, like those who like acupuncture, naturopathy, or maybe osteopathy, they will decide whether there is some value in it. But I can tell the member that traditional Mâori healing was assessed and reviewed in 1996. On the basis of that assessment, the previous Government believed it was worthwhile continuing to fund it every year. The outcomes of that review were interesting in that doctors themselves—I think it was 61 percent of doctors—said that they would be prepared to refer their patients to traditional Mâori healing services.

Dr Lynda Scott: As Mâori are overrepresented in the hospitals’ top ten conditions, including asthma and diabetes, will the Minister explain how Mâori getting taxpayer-funded massage, spiritual healing, and karakia will reduce the number suffering from the effects of diabetes and asthma?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not believe that it would necessarily reduce the incidence of diabetes, and I do not think anyone is claiming that. But I think there would be many people in this House who believe that the power of prayer, for example, helps a lot of people feel a lot better about the condition they have. I find it strange that the member would want to mock that.

Petroleum Exploration—Reports

12. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East), on behalf of MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Associate Minister of Energy: Has he received any reports on recent interest in petroleum exploration in New Zealand?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): On Thursday I was pleased to announce that 13 petroleum exploration permits have been awarded in the Taranaki region involving over $130 million in new investment. This was a competitive bidding round with 23 bids received and exploration permits awarded to local and international companies, including some that are new to New Zealand.

H V Ross Robertson: What other work is the Government undertaking to ensure New Zealand remains an internationally competitive destination for petroleum exploration?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Although comparative economic reviews show New Zealand’s permit allocation and royalty regime to be one of the most favourable in the world, the Government is actively involved in dialogue with the Petroleum Exploration Association of New Zealand and other potential explorers to identify and to consider additional changes to the broader investment framework that may increase petroleum investment.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT—SUBJECT TO CORRECTION AND FURTHER EDITING)


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