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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 19 Feb. 2004

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

THURSDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2004

Questions for Oral Answer 1
Questions to Ministers 1

1. Immigration, Minister—Conduct
2. Immigration, Minister—Conduct
3. Civil Defence—Emergencies
4. Immigration, Minister—Confidence
5. Prisons—Management
6. Immigration, Minister—Conduct
7. Modern Apprenticeships Scheme—Progress
8. Primary Health Organisations—Funding
9. Retirement Savings Scheme—State Sector
10. Floods—Financial Aid, Lower North Island
11. Witnesses—Children
12. Immigration, Minister—Confidence
POO: Question Nos 4 and 12 to Minister

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Immigration, Minister—Conduct

1. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Immigration: Does she now regret her behaviour and the behaviour of her department in relation to the treatment of a sexually abused Sri Lankan teenager who was forcibly deported last Thursday?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): The Associate Minister’s decision not to intervene in the removal was justified, but I regret my handling of the subsequent media issues.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister now regret praising the care plan that the Associate Minister put in place for the girl in Sri Lanka after hearing a TVNZ reporter say that members of her family in Sri Lanka were not even approached about any such plan?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am glad that after the High Court decision, when the Associate Minister’s decision not to intervene was upheld, he still felt it was important to ensure that she was not returned to her family, but was returned to somewhere safe.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister assure the House that her department behaved properly at all times, and that it did not remove, copy, or leak any information, notes, or documents that were addressed to, or the property of, the Sri Lankan teenager or her lawyer?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That is the advice I have received.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wonder if the Minister could tell the House whether she thinks it is the obligation of the New Zealand taxpayers to look after this girl, or the obligation of her very comfortable, professional mother and family?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Refugee Status Appeals Authority considered that very question on two occasions. It said that it was not New Zealand’s obligation to offer that protection.

Metiria Turei: In sexual abuse cases should not the safety and mental health of the child be put ahead of all else, and is it not absolutely clear that the safety and mental health of the Sri Lankan girl would have been better protected in New Zealand, but is far from guaranteed in Sri Lanka where there are unknowns as to what family members—including those who abused her—might do?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Refugee Status Appeals Authority considered that very question and determined that the services were available in Sri Lanka and that the family was capable of calling upon them. They had not done so.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that it is a very traditional strategy to seek to discredit and play down the experiences of a survivor of sexual abuse, and does she also therefore regret that an Associate Minister in her Government—which seeks to portray itself as women friendly—used this strategy to try to undermine the girl’s experiences of repeated sexual abuse by male relatives when he said that some men had been a little bit unkind in their treatment of her; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have discussed that matter with the Associate Minister. He did not intend to downplay what had occurred. He, in fact, looked very carefully at her case in making the decision not to intervene. He agonised over it.

Keith Locke: Given the Minister’s use of the media in this case, does she now regret attacking the lawyers for using the media, and being willing to do so when institutions here in this country failed this poor girl?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I regret the way I handled this matter.

Hon Richard Prebble: In clarification of Mr Locke’s last point, does the Minister agree that this House is entitled to know whether a person who is publicly applying for residence in New Zealand is telling lies? As MPs, are we also entitled to know whether the lawyer who is appearing on media every night is engaged in a public relations campaign; if that is so, does the Minister now realise that she should tell this House—that is why she has parliamentary privilege? I invite her to consider whether her proper course of action should be to table that letter in this House. We are entitled to know whether people coming to New Zealand are telling lies, and whether their lawyers are running truthful public relations campaigns.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I did attempt to table the letter yesterday, but that was declined me in this House. But on Tuesday I did table the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision. I commend all members to read it.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot seek leave, but can I invite the Minister—now that we understand what the letter is, and everything else—to make the application to table the letter?

Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister wants to seek again to table that particular letter, she can do so; but only the Minister can do that.

Immigration, Minister—Conduct

2. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Immigration: Does she stand by her response on Morning Report on 18 February that she did not put potentially legally privileged notes, relating to the 16-year-old Sri Lankan girl recently deported from New Zealand, into the public arena; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): No, because I accept it was misleading.

Judith Collins: When she told the media this morning that she was technically correct when she denied putting the documents into the public arena, how can that statement be correct when in the very same interview today she admitted to giving the Dominion Post a copy of the same information? Just how reckless with the truth can this Minister be?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is in order.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I made it very clear that I gave it to the Dominion Post after the TV3 item had screened, and it asked me for a copy of it. The Dominion Post was the only other media organisation that asked me for that, at that stage. With regard to the first part of the question, I regret making the impression that I was not responsible for releasing the information to TV3—I was responsible.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What does the Minister make of the Sri Lankan girl’s lawyers’ claim that the documentation was given to their client—one who apparently was unable to read English, and spent all her time crying in the corner in a state of utter depression? In what circumstance would the Minister believe that that is a true story from the lawyers for the Sri Lankan lady?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I explained yesterday how I understood the matter was referred to the Mt Albert electorate office. It was from that office that it was sent to me.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of various claims about the origin of the document, and how it came to end up, at least temporarily, in her possession, does the document she released contain a fax header number; if so, whose number is it?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, it does not.

Gerry Brownlee: In light of the Minister’s admission that she misled the media and the New Zealand public, and her acceptance that the public will have concerns about her credibility, will she resign her ministerial warrants; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I made it clear to the Prime Minister this morning that if she had lost confidence in me I would offer my resignation without reservation.

Simon Power: Why should anybody have any confidence in anything that Minister and the Immigration Service may say, and do, in light of her serious abuse of the ministerial office, and the “lying in unison” incident?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I believe I have been a very good Minister of Immigration. Yesterday was a lapse in judgment. It was a mistake, and I have fronted up and apologised for it.

Hon Roger Sowry: Does the Minister believe that the New Zealand public should have confidence that when she next gets into a tight situation, she will not once again trundle around the press gallery with documents leaked from personal files?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That does not reflect the correspondence I have had from the public today.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether the Minister believed that the public should have confidence in her, given her treatment of confidential information. When I was the Minister of Social Welfare, if a Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Service case had gone public and I had trundled around the press gallery with a piece of paper on it, that would have been seen as an outrage. That is why I asked that question of the Minister. She did not address or answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought she did. She did not accept the member’s premise.

Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table an affidavit by the girl’s lawyer, Carole Curtis, dated today, as well as a letter from the lawyer dated today.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Quite frequently, when people stand in this House and attempt to table documents, you are quite hard in terms of making sure that the member indicates to the House what is in them. Now would it come as a shock to the House, for example, if the affidavits that Ms Collins wants to present contain material quite unrelated to this case? Surely the member tabling a document should be required to say what is in them.

Mr SPEAKER: If any member from any party other than the member’s own party had asked for a further explanation, I would have sought it. No one objected, so the documents were tabled.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As long as I have been in this House, when a member seeks to table a document following the Standing Orders, they are also required to state briefly what the document covers. That has been the normal course of action. I note that the member who sought to table the documents is a relatively new member. I do not think she has attempted to table an affidavit before in the House. I just ask that the same procedure as usual be followed.

Mr SPEAKER: The same procedure will be followed. The documents are now tabled. Any member, and any member of the press, can come up and get copies of them.

Civil Defence—Emergencies

3. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Civil Defence: What steps have been taken to address the current civil defence emergency, and what advice has he received regarding ongoing weather prospects?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Civil Defence): The Government is committing millions of dollars through a range of Government agencies. These include a number of one-stop shops that are being established to coordinate Government assistance. Transit has been working to restore roads and bridges, and will continue to do so. The civil defence emergency operations centre has been activated in the basement and is also working with areas impacted by the floods. Recovery managers have been appointed, and various emergency services and volunteers are working closely with civil defence staff. Defence forces personnel and assets have been made available. I have been advised that the weather prospects over the next 24 hours are not good in the affected areas, with the possibility of up to 100 millimetres of rain in some of these areas, and this could have a devastating effect.

Darren Hughes: What reports has the Minister seen about the money the Government has committed?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have seen a number of reports, but I must say I have also seen erroneous reports that have been circulated. They appear to have been an attempt to grandstand and score cheap political points. These false reports—

Simon Power: Get out of the helicopter!

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The guilty squawk—appear to be an attempt to grandstand and score cheap political points. These false reports—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will please be seated. I will not have all those interjections in the second person. The Minister is entitled to give an answer, then members can ask supplementary questions. I do not mind the occasional interjection, but they must be in the proper person. [Interruption] I now warn the member that if he interjects again when I have said that, he will leave the Chamber immediately.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I will start again. I have seen a number of reports, but I must say erroneous reports have been circulated. They appear to have been an attempt to grandstand and score cheap political points. These false reports about a mere $20,000 have been circulated by Simon Power, when in fact millions have been committed. He is adding more misery to those who are already suffering.

Simon Power: What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Police to aid those farmers trying to shift stock and who have reportedly been clamped down on by local transport officials for overloading stock, and logging too many hours in their logbooks?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The issues that are raised are safety issues. Overloaded trucks on bridges where there are washouts at the moment could cause them to tumble over, but the person the member is talking about, John Seymour, of Seymour Transport, had a discussion with the police and is well satisfied with what the police told him.

Brent Catchpole: What initiatives is the Minister taking to ensure the availability of sufficient machinery and manpower locally, and where necessary brought in from outside the area, to effect speedy repairs to stopbanks, and to essential services such as roading, water supply, gas, and bridges, to ensure the health and safety of the people in the area affected by the flood damage?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government is taking every reasonable step to get that there. Every request is being answered, and I am sure that with the goodwill of the local people, the volunteers, and the companies involved, power, gas, telephones, and housing issues are being met. The one-stop shop is answering concerns of the local community. This Government cares about these people, and will continue to provide services.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister state what, if anything, is being done in light of incidents of looting that have occurred in flood-stricken areas of late, and will he ensure that the full force of the law will be brought down on these scumbags who take advantage of people facing arguably the lowest point in their lives?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: People who burgle homes that are empty in an emergency are, indeed, scumbags, and the police will take every action to make those people responsible come before the courts.

Georgina Beyer: Have members of the Government been to see firsthand the flooding?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. Yesterday the Prime Minister and I travelled through the affected region. We went to places like Tangimoana, the Waitotara Valley, and Waverly, amongst others. Early this week I also inspected the affected areas, as I will do again tomorrow. We had actually spoken to victims and volunteers and answered their questions, rather than just grandstanding to the media like Simon Power did.

Hon Steve Maharey: Can the Minister say whether the member for Rangitikei has represented his constituents’ interests directly to Ministers, such as myself, who are responsible for funding assistance to the area, or has he avoided doing that on behalf of his constituents?

Mr SPEAKER: In so far as the question relates to Ministers, the Minister may answer.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to have a look at the question that was asked and tell us how on earth it could possibly relate to the Minister. It is just cheap political stuntsmanship.

Mr SPEAKER: That is why I sought advice. The question was asked specifically to Ministers and will be answered in so far as what representations to Ministers have been made. That part of the question can be answered but nothing else.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can a Minister have responsibility for whether another Minister has been talked to? To answer that question, the Minister of Civil Defence has to say whether he knows whether Mr Power has talked to—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is the only warning today.

Hon Roger Sowry: —every other Minister. That is clearly something that the Minister of Civil Defence will not know.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say this. This is a civil defence issue, and, of course, that goes beyond the Minister of Civil Defence. I am inclined to suggest to the Minister that this is a very brief answer, indeed, because it is a question that was given as a specific question and can have a very specific, brief answer.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking you to look at this again. The question was asked of him as to what representations have been made to Ministers. We know that the fellow has done very little about the problem up there, and we are supposed to accept that what he has done over the last few days is ring his mates to ask whether Simon Power called.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that was not a point of order, and he knows he was doing that to make a political point. He has made it, and I think, on reflection, that I am going to move on.

Immigration, Minister—Confidence

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: How many times has she told the House that she has confidence in her Minister of Immigration and does she still hold that view?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Fifteen times in the last year, including three times when confidence was expressed in all Ministers. But clearly the current issue has not been handled to her usual high standard.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How did the Prime Minister lose two of her answers? It is 17 times.

Hon Paul Swain: Why did you ask the question then?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wanted to be told the truth; that is why I asked the question. Given that it is 17 times, and that they included, for example, the event in 2000 of blaming the officials, then the “lying in unison”, and the “Puff Daddy” PR scheme, and now this issue of having the ability to explain documents, yet lying about them, or—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —I apologise—grossly misleading the media about them, about when would the Prime Minister think that this Minister is not conscientious or competent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I said 15 times in the last year. We did not go back beyond that point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that it was 17 times in the last year, and not 15, that the Prime Minister has endorsed that Minister and said she was hard-working and conscientious, what is conscientious about making a statement to the media that is demonstrably and palpably not true, and what does it take in the Labour administration for someone to be fired for straight-out incompetence?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly, as I said, the Minister’s handling of the current issue was not up to her usual high standard. Equally clearly, yesterday in the House she attempted very early on to correct the impression she had left, but was denied leave by a member of the member’s own party.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it was National.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, it was denied by Ron Mark.

Hon Richard Prebble: Would he comment on those 15, or 17, questions, and is it not the reality that the Rt Hon Winston Peters has been attempting in question time for the last 3 years to destroy the Minister of Immigration, with no success, and yesterday, Judith Collins, a junior National Party back-bencher, asked one question and now the Minister is toast. Where is the fairness in that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I understand that Miss Collins used to head the Casino Control Authority. Maybe she learnt something about luck in that respect.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister think it acceptable for any of her Ministers to release personal information about individuals without their permission; if not, why is Lianne Dalziel still in her job?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The information was made available to the Mount Albert electorate office from the lawyer’s own office, and that is clear. It was sent over—[Interruption] I am not interested in an affidavit from the lawyer. It came from the lawyer’s office, including the cover sheet on the Refugee Status Appeals Authority document, which I have here. It is correct to say also that permission was given for the release of information into the public arena in that context—not the material that was sent to the office. I am happy, therefore, to seek leave to table the cover sheet.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer that has just been given to the House by the Deputy Prime Minister does serve to exacerbate the situation somewhat, and it might cause us to reflect a little bit about where we go from here. It seems that the Minister of Immigration was able to engage in a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday morning after being on the Morning Report programme, and then go on the Sunday show—

Mr SPEAKER: This is debating the answer.

Gerry Brownlee: No, it is not.

Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Gerry Brownlee: It is quite simple. The Prime Minister was asked a question about the acceptability of an action. What Dr Cullen then did in his answer was suggest that they knew the source of this letter all along, yet there are three documented cases, three televised interviews with the Minister of Immigration, saying that she had no idea what the source of the information was. If the validity of question time is to be upheld, members answering questions must be truthful.

Mr SPEAKER: I certainly hope that is the case, and I accept the word of members. The Minister chose to answer the question in the way that he did, and it certainly addressed the question. It might not have been what the member wanted, but there is an opportunity—[Interruption] If the member is happy about it, then I wonder if we could carry on.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When a member asks the leave of this House to table a particular document, one would expect that the document tabled would be the document the Minister has asked to table. The document that was tabled by the Minister is not a cover sheet. It is not from the lawyer’s office. It is, in fact, a copy of the document the lawyer gave to the little girl.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The letter is the letter from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority to the lawyer, and that is what was given. That is what she both doodled the guinea pig on and wrote her media strategy on.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to rule on the point of order. If the member feels that the House has been misled, there is a way she can deal with that, and she should do so.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to Mr Prebble’s question and the fact that, clearly, it is beginning to emerge that the confidentiality issue was waived by the girl’s solicitors—and that is a key point here—how was I to know that Lianne Dalziel would take a cap gun, turn it into a howitzer, and turn it upon herself?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: All I can note is that on the all the previous occasions the member has sought to express no confidence in the Minister because somebody has been allowed to stay in the country. This time, when somebody has left, he seems to again want to express no confidence in the Minister.

Prisons—Management

5. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he consider that the privately managed Auckland Central Remand Prison delivers a lesser standard of management, with lower outcomes, than State-managed prisons; if so, why?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): No. All prisons in New Zealand, including the Auckland Central Remand Prison, are Government-monitored, and on the whole are well managed.

Marc Alexander: In light of the fact that the privately managed Auckland Central Remand Prison achieves a yearly saving of $29,000 per inmate, yet the Minister’s continued ideological objection to private prisons means that such facilities will close, has he informed the Minister of Finance that his decision forfeits a potential saving of half a billion dollars to the taxpayer per year; if so, what was Dr Cullen’s response?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, I do not agree with the figures. It is important in this debate to compare apples with apples. My understanding is that when the costs of remand prisoners in the private prison are compared with the costs of the prison service around the country, one finds that the public prison service is about $7,000 cheaper per inmate. Secondly, the reality is that the Government thinks that incarcerating people, taking people’s liberty away, should be the role of the Government, not the private sector.

Martin Gallagher: Why has the Government decided to take the administration of the Auckland Central Remand Prison back into the public sector?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The taxpayer funded the building of the Auckland Central Remand Prison, and the previous National Government turned the state-of-the-art facility over to the private sector to manage. Labour made it clear in two election manifestos that the management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison would return to the public sector. That is consistent with the Government’s belief that punishment and incarceration should be the responsibility of the Government, and should not be contracted out to private operators to make a profit.

Ron Mark: Is it not the case that a man described as a serious security threat to our country—a man who has had a security risk certificate issued against him because of his terrorist links—Mr Ahmed Zaoui, has been transferred from the State-run maximum security prison of Paremoremo to the medium-security Auckland Central Remand Prison, because it is safer, better run, and more secure, and will stand up better to Amnesty International’s investigation, or is it because the Minister does not consider Zaoui to be a threat?

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question is inaccurate, because the security risk certificate is not applied under any terrorism criteria in the Immigration Act, but under national security criteria. It does not refer to terrorism.

Mr SPEAKER: I had a look at the question. Mr Mark showed it to me. That can be something that is subject to debate in question time, but I allowed the question.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. The reason why he was transferred was after discussion. He needed to be kept in prison and it was felt that that prison was more appropriate.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister think that the positive performance indicators of the remand prison are due to it being privately managed, or is it some other factor, given that the operator, Australasian Correctional Management, has been the subject of numerous allegations in Australia, including allegations of poor management, unsafe working conditions, substandard services, and child abuse, according to Dr Louise Newman of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have been advised that there have been concerns expressed about Australasian Correctional Management facilities in Australia. However, the reason why the Government has decided to return the prison to the public sector is not a concern about the management; it is a concern about the importance of the Government being responsible, ultimately, for the incarceration of individuals in New Zealand.

Marc Alexander: How did the Minister respond to the chair of the Pacific sector of his own party, who said that outlawing private prison management would remove “innovation and excellence from the prison system”; is that proof that not all members of the Labour Party have succumbed to the dogma that stands in the way of common sense?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In the Labour Party we encourage people to have a wide range of views. The important point about this issue is that although that prison has introduced some innovation, I can also tell the member—as he will see if he is prepared to go and visit other prisons—that there is a huge amount of good work and innovation being done in public prisons around New Zealand.

Marc Alexander: What can the Minister say to the six northern iwi who have invested so much time and energy into developing rehabilitative prison programmes in partnership with the Auckland Central Remand Prison, other than: “Sorry, all of your hard work has been a complete waste of time.”?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Those programmes will continue under public management.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that the Government’s opposition to the Auckland Central Remand Prison is based on allegations that it is merely “a ‘claw in the door’ for this ‘golden vulture’”, the multinational The Wackenhut Corporation, which is apparently guilty of sadism, violence, and sexual abuse—concerns expressed by someone who should loosen the ties on his oft-worn tea cosy?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No.

Immigration, Minister—Conduct

6. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Immigration: Is it acceptable behaviour for her or her staff to distribute personal information or notes relating to individual cases to the media, and what confidence can the public have that their personal immigration information would not be made public without their express permission and knowledge?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I accept that in this case I made a mistake. The public can be confident that I have learned from the experience.

Judith Collins: How can anyone have confidence that the Minister will not leak personal immigration information, given her denial yesterday of any knowledge of the leaking of the document and her new admission today that she personally delivered it to the Dominion Post?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have already explained, in answer to a previous question, that I gave the information to the Dominion Post after the TV3 item had screened. The question related to the information being in the hands of TV3.

Judith Collins: Can the Minister prove that the documents she leaked to the media this week were provided to the Prime Minister’s electorate office by the girl’s lawyer; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That is the advice I have received from the electorate office.

Gerry Brownlee: If the document tabled by Dr Cullen is verified as coming from the source he has named—and therefore, permission was presumably given for its release—why did the Minister, after meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday, continue to deny all knowledge of the document’s source—or was she led to believe that it simply came via the tooth fairy?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to enquire of the member what the authentication is for the supposed denial. If it is the television clip, that was pre-recorded some days ago.

Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the question.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The television clip, which will be screened this Sunday, was recorded at around 11.15a.m. yesterday. It was not until 1 o’clock yesterday that I established how the electorate office had obtained the material. It is true that I wanted to protect the source—not the electorate office, but whoever had given it to the electorate office. When I discovered that the document came from the lawyers’ office itself, I felt that I did not need to offer that protection.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think that the point of order from Dr Cullen was particularly helpful, and I do not think it has helped the Minister. We expect to be given honest answers in this House. We do not expect a Minister to give us the sort of talk that we have just heard. We know that the Minister met with the Prime Minister after Morning Report yesterday. The document was leaked the night before. Is the Minister trying to tell us that she leaked this document, having no idea where it came from?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have ruled on that matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Minister whether it is her view that the issue of the privacy, or confidentiality, of client-solicitor relationships was waived by the lawyers in question; in that event, why on earth did she say something that was not true, and how many times in the past in this House has she done that?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am aware that individuals or their authorised representatives can impliedly waive the right to privacy by making their case public. I am aware that Judith Collins’ signed authority from the Sri Lankan teenager and her grandmother only authorises her to release sensitive and privileged documents to the media if it is her belief that the release of confidential documents would assist them both.

Simon Power: Why would anyone ever believe the Minister again when she is asked to comment on immigration cases—she says that she cannot comment on individual detail, but has demonstrated that she is quite prepared to leak that type of detail to the media?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In the covering letter from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority—which was annotated with notes from the lawyer—I took out the names of the individuals. I did not breach their privacy.

Hon Richard Prebble: Given the seriousness of the allegations and the credibility issues that they raise, is the Government prepared to see that an independent inquiry is set up to look into this matter, and is the Minister prepared to repeat to this House the statements that have been reported in the media in her name: that if it turns out that any of her officials in the department have behaved improperly, she will resign? What is the answer to those two questions?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In respect of the first matter, that is something that I believe the Prime Minister will look at. In respect of the second question, yes.

Modern Apprenticeships Scheme—Progress

7. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What reports has he received on the progress of the Modern Apprenticeships scheme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): It is all good news. The latest figures show that the Modern Apprenticeships scheme continues to expand, reaching 6,259 trainees across 30 industries in December 2003. The figures start at the time when the first graduates from the scheme complete their training. A total of 215 young people have now completed their modern apprenticeships, gaining industry-recognised and nationally recognised qualifications—in most cases, with 3-year certificates.

Helen Duncan: What initiatives does the Government have in place that help prepare school students for a modern apprenticeship?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are 126 schools around the country now participating in the very popular Gateway programme. It provides structured workplace learning for senior school students. In 2003, 2,608 students participated, and the Tertiary Education Commission has contracted for 4,000 students to be involved this year. Of course, we have plans to increase that even further.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that the Modern Apprenticeship Training Act requires that particular regard be given to the needs of women, and, given that only 6.6 percent of modern apprentices are women, is it not equally true that the Minister has grossly failed to ensure that the requirements of his own legislation have been met?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I thank the member for his interest in that gender-based policy, and point out that one of the issues we obviously face is that 26 of those occupations are what are called “traditional male areas of work”, such as plumbing, and so on. We have been doing our best, and we have just renewed our programme with the equal employment opportunities person, by the name of Judith McGregor. For example, in the round of contracts coming up next, coordinators will be required to meet targets for that gender-based policy of ensuring women come into core areas of apprenticeships.

Hon Peter Dunne: Was the head of the Tertiary Education Commission, Dr West, expressing Government policy—or intended Government policy—when he said that parents and students should look at vocational training programmes such as Modern Apprenticeships ahead of entry to tertiary education, and that universities should be limited to those who are academically most able to benefit from them?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Dr West was certainly representing the Government accurately when he said that we would like parents to look afresh at the range of options, many of them work-based, where young people might find themselves getting an education more suited to their needs and careers in the future. We currently have a skills crisis in this country, and Dr West was pointing out that we need young people to come through industry training to provide skills for our industries in the future.

Primary Health Organisations—Funding

8. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: Given the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government’s policies are to be “thoroughly based on need”, will she remove the loading for funding primary health organisations that provides 20 percent extra funding for patients of the same sex, income, and age, simply because a patient is Mâori; if not, why is primary health organisations funding based on race, not health needs?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Some members have consistently failed to understand the formula for primary health organisations. There are five factors that make up the formula: the age of patients; the gender mix; the ethnicity mix; the level of deprivation in the community, using the New Zealand deprivation index; and the number of high-user health cards. The funding is allocated to the primary health organisations on the basis of those five factors, and then the benefits are spread across all patients of that primary health organisation, irrespective of race, age, gender, religion, or income.

Heather Roy: Can the Minister explain why the Minister of Mâori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, on a Minister’s salary of $195,000, is eligible for $10 visits to his doctor simply because he lives in a Mâori-loading area, while someone living in Invercargill who earns just $20,000 a year pays $50 for a doctor’s visit?

Hon Annette King: Disparaties in terms of what people have paid have existed for a long time, because only those with a community services card were considered to be poor enough to have subsidised primary health-care. However, what this Government is doing is restoring funding to subsidise primary health-care. We started with those with the highest need first, we then moved to all of those under the age of 18, and in July we are going to fund all those over the age of 65.

Steve Chadwick: Does the Minister consider funding of health on the basis of age, as is the case with the under-sixes policy, the recent under-18 policy, and the soon to be introduced over-65 policy, to be ageism rather than funding on the basis of need?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is a very good question. No, because there is obviously a link between age and the need for health care, and that is well established. The highest users of health care are the youngest and the oldest in our community, particularly the oldest. However, there may be a child of a millionaire who is receiving a free under-six visit in Invercargill; we have not been funding that policy on the basis of individual need, but across all under-sixes.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is the Minister aware that only 9 percent of general practitioners think primary health organisations will improve health care; and as the best predictors of death and illness are poverty and poor health, will she scrap the divisive race-based funding for the access formula for primary health organisations, and return to funding patients on their individual need, not on race?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The funding for primary health organisations is based on need, not on race. I would have thought a person who was a doctor would have some understanding of population health; would have some understanding of the high health needs of low-income New Zealanders, of Pacific and Mâori people in New Zealand, of older people in New Zealand, and of people who live in different parts of New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which party was it that introduced the greatest number of Mâori health providers, and what has she read since then of that party disowning its authorship of that policy?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The development of Mâori health organisations and Mâori health providers occurred in the 1990s under a National Government. In fact, I have read, very recently, comments Bill English made when he was the Minister of Health, where he said that one of National’s major achievements was to develop Mâori health providers and funding for them. I do not know why it was all right then but is not now.

Metiria Turei: Does the formula used to fund primary health organisations bear any resemblance to the Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement introduced into schools in 1995?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. In fact, the funding for primary health organisations is very like the decile funding that was introduced in 1995, then increased in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. It had six factors: income, occupation, educational qualifications, household crowding, income support, and—wait a moment—a weighting for Mâori and Pacific students.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have read the speech Dr Brash made at Orewa, and what the Minister says therefore cannot possibly be true. I want her to reflect on that and confirm whether she is telling the truth or not.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am happy to table the papers on decile funding for schools, which started in 1995, and was increased each year in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999, under the previous Government, so that the member can see that I am, in fact, telling the truth.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that the original point of order was not a point of order, and that comment was out of order, too.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It arises straight out of this point of order. The Minister says that we can now see that she is telling the truth. She just gave an answer where she said that the funding for these primary health organisations was not based on race, then she got up and said it is based on a similar formula to education, read them all out, and said that the final category is Mâori. Well, that is race. How can the Minister possibly say there is no race-based formula, then say it is based on Mâori, or are Mâori not a race any more?

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his point in his point of order.

Stephen Franks: Can the Minister please explain why Janet Mackey, who is on over $112,000 per year, can get her local doctor’s help solely because she can hitch-hike on the Mâori loading for her local public health organisation—

Mr SPEAKER: I prefer members of Parliament to be left out of this particular type of question. I am perfectly happy for any other person to be referred to. It might not, strictly speaking, be within the Standing Orders, but I would prefer that we not use members of Parliament in this way, unless it is a specific reference to a specific action that the member himself or herself has actually taken.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just remind you that I listened in this House to a Labour Opposition of which you were part, and you yourself frequently raised and pointed out to the country the fact that a member of Parliament was on a certain salary and getting this or that privilege, and a member of the public was not. In this case it is perfectly reasonable to take Janet Mackey as an example, because she happens to live in an area where the Government is giving a special loading based on race, then extending it to others who happen to live there, without extending it to other people in New Zealand who have exactly the same circumstance. Using a member of Parliament is a very good way of pointing out—because every one knows that MPs do not get the average wage—how inequitable and unjust the Government’s race-based formulas are.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The suggestion is that the question is hypothetical and is, therefore, ruled out on those grounds. The second thing is that the question implied that a member of Parliament is unwell or sick and in need of health services, when everyone knows that Janet Mackey is the picture of health. For that reason it should be ruled out, as well.

Mr SPEAKER: I refer members to Speaker’s ruling 37/6: “I cannot see that I should rule out of order a reference to the status of a member, but I should like to discourage this practice, because I believe there is a distinct danger of reducing the standard of our debates if members refer to the status and private affairs of other members.” I will not rule the question out, so I will allow the member to ask the question, if he so desires.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am obliged to you for your ruling, but I just want to draw it to your attention, and that of the House, that yesterday when Labour members of Parliament rose and said that Dr Brash, in promoting a tax cut, would personally get, I think, $168, you did not object. I say that this question is just the reverse coming back at them.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is I made a mistake. I do make mistakes. I do not claim to be perfect. I apologise. I now ask the member to ask his question.

Stephen Franks: May I begin again?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, start again.

Stephen Franks: Can the Minister of Health explain why a member of Parliament from Gisborne, who may earn more than $112,000 per year, can get her local doctor’s help for $15, solely by hitch-hiking on the Mâori loading in that public health organisation, while a poor white worker in Invercargill with exactly the same symptoms must pay $50; exactly how does that represent discriminating on needs, not race?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can justify it on the grounds that an ACT list MP in Wellington could get free under-6 care for his children because it is based on a number of factors, not just on race. This Government is moving to ensure that all New Zealanders will have affordable primary health-care, not just those who have a community services card or a high-user health card, some of whom could be millionaires.

Metiria Turei: Has the Minister received any reports or concerns from the ACT member who raised the primary question about health funding targeted by age, gender, or ethnicities other than Mâori; if not, does she conclude that this can be only a race-based attack of the most dangerous kind?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot recall having any representations from the ACT member Heather Roy in relation to any other ethnic group. I do not believe I have had any other representations. But there does seem to be a little bit of talking out of both sides of the mouth on this issue.

After all, I do have here an email that was sent by Sue Ryan, press secretary to Richard Prebble, to someone on Tuesday, saying that ACT would not cut funding for kôhanga reo. However, ACT does not really want to defend National, because National made so many mistakes, including cutting benefits in the 1990s.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could we have that email tabled?

Mr SPEAKER: Is the Minister seeking leave?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table an email dated Tuesday, 17 February from Sue Ryan, press secretary to Richard Prebble.

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

Deborah Coddington: How can she claim that Labour’s policies are based on need and not race, when the Ministry of Health website explicitly states that if doctors have a majority of Mâori and Pacific Island patients, they get 20 percent more funding than doctors with a majority of Pâkehâ patients?

Hon ANNETTE KING: They also get 20 percent more funding if they have a majority of people who are elderly or young. They get 20 percent more funding if they have a majority of low-income people, people who are deprived. I read out five factors that have a 20 percent loading based on need, not race.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do ask you to consider the Minister’s answer to that question, which in no way addressed the issue, which was the fact that Mâori have a 20 percent loading. Just because there is a loading for age does not get away from the fact that the formula is race based.

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is age based.

Rodney Hide: It is also age based, but it is race based as well.

Mr SPEAKER: As far as I am concerned, the Minister addressed the question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do apologise to you, but the Minister was calling out when I was making my point of order. Normally you assist a member who is being attacked when he or she is making a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a fair comment. I will ask the Minister to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Heather Roy: Can she deny that doctors in primary health organisations are funded 20 percent more for Mâori and Pacific Island patients than for other patients, where more than half those enrolled are Mâori or Pacific Island New Zealanders, and can she deny that this is the first time since the creation of the welfare State that central government has large-scale, subsidised doctors’ visits on a race basis?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I read out the factors that make up the formula. They actually have a 20 percent loading on each of them: age, gender, ethnicity, deprivation, and high-user health cards. They are the weightings. I notice that the member is not objecting to us putting more money in for gender, for age, or for deprivation—only for Mâori. I wonder why.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was kind enough to table my press statement, so would she now be kind enough to table the formula for primary health organisations.

Mr SPEAKER: Only if the Minister herself wishes to ask for that leave.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Can I assist the member and suggest that if he looks at the website of the Ministry of Health he will find the formula there.

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the question asked of general practitioners in the survey—“Do you think the PHO framework will deliver better care to patients?”—to which only 9 percent of 300 general practitioners said “Yes”.

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

Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table the text from the Ministry of Health website that does set out the loading for Mâori and Pacific Island patients of 20 percent more funding.

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

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have raised this question with you before, and I realise I referred to it wrongly, but I just wanted to remind the House about Speaker’s ruling 127/8, which states “Leave should only be sought to table papers that are not readily available from other sources. The tabling of a document is not an occasion to make a point; it is an opportunity to produce for the House a paper that other members may not see or may not have seen.”

Mr SPEAKER: Well, let me just say that I think many members from all parties do occasionally seek to table papers on other than a strictly needs basis. Obviously. I deprecate it, but I will not ban it.

Retirement Savings Scheme—State Sector

9. DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of State Services: What progress has been made to date towards implementing a retirement savings scheme in the State sector?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): A selection panel has selected four providers: AMP, ASB, AXA, and the Global Retirement Trust.

David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister detail the particular benefits of the public service retirement savings scheme?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It sets a good example for employers, it will help up to 100,000 people to better prepare for their retirement, and it will help the State sector to recruit and to retain good people.

Rod Donald: While agreeing with the scheme, I ask the Minister what are the retirement savings applications for teachers and principals in the State sector who are losing their jobs or seniority as a result of his destructive school merger or closure plans?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not know of one teacher, other than a principal, who has lost his or her job, other than voluntarily, under these arrangements. It is my hope that every principal who is a good principal will win a job on merit. I do not accept that member’s approach, which would allow people whom boards regard as not being up to the job, to have a job.

Floods—Financial Aid, Lower North Island

10. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Civil Defence: Is he satisfied with the amount of money given by the Government to the victims of flooding in the lower North Island, including the Manawatu and Rangitikei; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Civil Defence): Yes, because we are working to meet the needs of the community as those needs are identified by local and regional government civil defence organisations. These needs are also being addressed by Government agencies. The Government will give millions of dollars. We are working to support the victims, not grandstanding with false information as the National Opposition has done.

Simon Power: Why is the Government so reluctant to commit a substantial sum of money to bring relief to flood victims, when the Farmers Mutual Group has contributed $100,000 to the cause and has challenged the Government to match it, and at 2 p.m. today the locals have already raised $650,000, including goods and services, to help the clean-up?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am very pleased that people are contributing. When New Zealanders are in trouble through natural disasters, Kiwis are at their best. This Government is also at its best.

Darren Hughes: How important does the Minister think it is that in civil defence emergencies accurate information is given to the public?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is vital that the information that is circulated is accurate and reliable, rather than grandstanding off the misery of one’s own constituents, as Simon Power has been doing.

Simon Power: Will the Government immediately match the Farmers Mutual Group contribution, and the immediate relief of $1 million made to the Southland relief fund in the floods of 1984, especially given, as the Minister said earlier today, the looming bad weather forecast for this weekend; if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government is providing money that is needed, and we are helping with the overall situation. We are not grandstanding on anything.

Simon Power: They need the cash.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The member is rubbing his fingers again. He knows that the Government is giving millions of dollars—I have told him how, many times. I told him on Tuesday afternoon just outside the House, and then he chose to tell people something different. That tells me more about his political gumption than anything else.

Witnesses—Children

11. MAHARA OKEROA (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Courts: What programmes does the Ministry of Justice have in place to assist children appearing as witnesses in court proceedings?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): Recently I launched a new national service that will provide education support for young witnesses in criminal proceedings, and their families and whânau. This new service, called court education for young witnesses, has been developed with input from a number of agencies. It will be delivered in both the High Court and the District Courts as part of the Ministry of Justice’s services for victims.

Mahara Okeroa: How will the new service be delivered?

Hon RICK BARKER: Going to court can be a very scary experience, especially for a young child, and the child’s evidence can affect a family member. To assist children, trained victim advisers will work with them and their families before the actual hearing, to help the children to understand the court process and what is being asked of them. The information will be presented in a colourful, user-friendly range of material, with activities books. There will also be a video for the child and the caregivers. The victim adviser will show the young witness around the courtroom before the case begins, so he or she can be familiar with the proceedings. There is an example of that here.

Mr SPEAKER: Is the Minister seeking to table it?

Hon RICK BARKER: I will send a copy to every member of Parliament.

Immigration, Minister—Confidence

12. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Immigration; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because she is hard-working and conscientious Minister. As the Minister herself has said, she has not met her usual high standards over the handling of one issue.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister believe the claim by the Minister of Immigration that the document in question came from the lawyer’s office, when the Minister of Immigration herself said in answer to question No. 1 that there was no identification on the top of that fax; if so, how can she possibly know where it came from if it was not from inside her own department?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In early July the Mt Albert electorate office contacted Marshall Bird and Curtis asking for certain documents. Those documents were faxed. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority document and the covering letter were faxed slightly later than other documents. The fact that a fax number is not on the top of a document does not mean to say it was not faxed. One can actually set a fax not to have those numbers on the top.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister aware that when asked by the Press Association after the TV3 report on Monday night if she knew how TV3 obtained the lawyer’s notes, the Minister replied: “No, they didn’t discuss that with me”, and in light of subsequent revelations, does the Prime Minister believe the Minister’s answers to be technically correct, and is that acceptable for a Minister of the Crown?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister’s has accepted that she gave misleading answers. She has apologised to the Prime Minister, and yesterday sought to apologise to the House for that.

Question Nos 4 and 12 to Minister

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): I wish to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 343 to correct part of an answer I gave previously. Today I indicated that Mr Ron Mark refused leave for the tabling of a document. Mr Peters has checked with Mr Mark and has assured me that that was not the case, and that the objection was taken only by Judith Collins.

JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon): I seek leave of the House to table a facsimile document from Marshall Bird and Curtis, which clearly shows that the document is marked with the name “Marshall Bird and Curtis” and the fax number that it came from.

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

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): I seek leave to table a statement from the Mt Albert electorate office that the documents received in that office were from Marshall Bird and Curtis.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

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