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Questions & Answers For Oral Answer Thurs March 4


Questions And Answers For Oral Answer Thursday, 4 March 2004

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER 1

Questions to Ministers 1

Superannuation—Costs 1

Health Funding—Race-based Statistics 2

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Climate Change Policies 2

Economic Development—Limited Employment Locations 3

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species—Enforcement 4

Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title 4

Child, Youth and Family Services—Community Services 5

Finance, Minister—Confidence 5

Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Fines 6

Reports—New Zealand Nurses Organisation 6

Treaty of Waitangi—Public Education 6

Floods—Government Assistance 7

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Superannuation—Costs

1. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Finance: What is the estimated increase in cost in New Zealand Superannuation over the next 40 years and what measures has the Government taken to prepare for the increase?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): In 40 years’ time, net spending on New Zealand superannuation as a proportion of the gross domestic product will roughly double; increasing from 3.6 percent now to 7.3 percent. The Government is preparing for that increase by setting up the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which, according to the latest estimates, will contribute around 34.8 percent of total New Zealand superannuation costs.

Mark Peck: Would the Minister tell the House what the purpose of the fund is?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: To ensure that New Zealand superannuation is viable from age 65 at 65 percent of the average wage for a married couple into the future. Otherwise, we are asking the generations under 50 to pay for a benefit they will never receive. Dr Brash may think that is fair. We think it is unfair and divisive.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So it is all right now for a Minister, in an answer, to express an opinion on behalf of another member? Is that what you are accepting?

Mr SPEAKER: I have to say that if I ruled out every single thing like that, I would be ruling out things all day. If the member wants me to do that, I am happy to abide by a much tougher regime. I thank the member with regard to that, and I will rule the last sentence of the answer out of order.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was expressing my opinion, not an opinion on behalf of some other member over there.

Mr SPEAKER: That is right, and that is why I will listen very carefully.

John Key: Does the Minister stand by his statement of 28 October 2000 that: “We recognise that changes in life expectancy and medical science may lead some future government to consider raising the age above 65 but would expect that any such review would be 25 to 30 years away”; and does he accept that he himself made those comments because the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, at the very best, pre-funds only a small fraction of the significant increases that the ageing population presents?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Dealing with the last point, 35.8 percent, in terms of the current level of New Zealand superannuation, would represent something like $125 per week to a married couple. From Mr Key’s perspective, that may be a small amount of money. For those presently retired, it certainly is not.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you will probably rule that the Minister addressed the question, but he has addressed the question by ignoring it. The question asked whether he stands by his own comments, which are that there will be changes to national superannuation in 20 to 30 years’ time.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked whether he stands by his comments. He could perhaps give a one-word answer to that.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I not only stand by my comments but also say there is also absolutely no reason, for the foreseeable future, to change the age of eligibility—unless, of course, one abolishes the Superannuation Fund to pay for tax cuts for people like Mr Key.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I warn members that there are too many points of order that I think are not points of order. This had better be a point of order.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You earlier ruled that it was improper for Mr English to make any improper inference, in respect of a question he asked yesterday. Yet twice today we have heard Dr Cullen make inferences of a negative nature about colleagues on this side of the House that were totally unnecessary in answering the question.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not correct. It was about unlawful conduct, not about comments that members can make in the course of vigorous debate.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that his current superannuation fund is not secure in the future in its present form and could be utilised for any pet project, if, for example, a National-ACT Government gets in; and can he also confirm that the only way to really secure it is to put it into private accounts?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The only way to really secure it is to keep voting for those parties that support it.

Rod Donald: Did the Minister take, then, National leader, Bill English’s, statement during the third reading debate of the New Zealand Superannuation Bill on 10 October 2001 that: “We support Part 1, because New Zealand can afford the payment of 65 percent of the average wage to married couples at age 65.”, as a firm commitment on behalf of his party; and does he take Dr Brash’s statements yesterday, in relation to lifting the age of entitlement to those under 50, as breaking that commitment and therefore the consensus on superannuation?

Mr SPEAKER: Neither of those questions is in order because neither relates to the direct responsibility of the Minister.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Under the New Zealand Superannuation Act, I have responsibility for parties signing up to the schedules of the Act, which are in Part 1, which is what the member refers to.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can have a go at rephrasing his question, because I am being generous, but he had better relate it to the responsibility of the Minister.

Rod Donald: Could the Minister please confirm that under schedule 4 of the New Zealand Superannuation Act, parties are invited to confirm with him their commitment to Part 1 or Part 2 of the Act; and did he take the statement in the House on 10 October 2001 from then National Party leader, Bill English, that: “We support Part 1, because New Zealand can afford the payment of 65 percent of the average wage married couples at age 65.”, as a commitment under schedule 4 of that Act, and has Dr Brash reneged on that?

Mr SPEAKER: Everything is right, up to the last four words.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I did, and indeed I wrote to all party leaders inviting them to sign up to Part 1 and/or Part 2. The National Party declined to sign up to either Part 1 or Part 2.

Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister advise the House of which parties have formally signed up in support of the part pre-funding of future pensions through the New Zealand Superannuation Fund; and has he received any advice concerning the National Party’s intentions in relation to that fund?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. Labour, Progressive, and United Future have signed up to both Part 1 and Part 2, and the Green Party has signed up to Part 1, the level of payments. The National Party stated that it would abolish the fund, although this morning Dr Brash said that he had not yet made up his mind on that.

John Key: Does the Minister agree with John Tamihere that the age of eligibility for New Zealand superannuation needs to be lifted from 65, along with the introduction of means-testing—a position endorsed by the Retirement Commissioner—and if he does not consider that there is a risk, why has he proposed in the Public Finance (State Sector Management) Bill that Treasury report to Parliament every 4 years on the costs and risks of demographic population changes?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because the latter covers a very wide range of Government spending, not the least of which is health spending, of course, which is highly demographically related. I refer the member to the letter that Mr Tamihere wrote to the Timaru Herald, correcting the story that it carried.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister considered any reports by any political party leader promising that a future Government led by him or her would not move quickly to lower the age of eligibility for national superannuation; if so, what conclusions did the Minister draw?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have. The conclusion I drew is that when people indicate they might do something, they usually end up doing it much faster and much more nastily than they previously said. I witnessed such events in 1991 and 1999, in that regard.

Health Funding—Race-based Statistics

2. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: Does she believe that race-based statistics provide a basis for race-based health funding; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No. That is a hypothetical question, as funding is based on need.

Heather Roy: Does that mean that the Minister rejects the arguments of the Wellington school of medicine, and, indeed, now rejects her entire funding formula?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, because the Wellington school of medicine’s research stated that both income and ethnicity needed to be considered in allocating health resources.

Steve Chadwick: What recent reports has she seen regarding the influence of ethnicity on health outcomes?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Recent independent research released by Dr Tony Blakelystated that both socio-economic status and ethnicity needed to be considered when we are looking at allocating health funding. I think it is a very timely piece of research, indeed.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why has the Minister paid only lip service to those working at the front line of primary care, with a small pilot of the Care Plus health card,

and why does she not base all funding on that card, which uses income and high health needs—not race—to offer cheaper care to the individual patients most in need, rather than fund primary health organisations on the basis of location and race?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In respect of the last comment the member made, primary health organisations are not funded on the basis of race and geography. However, I am pleased to tell the member—and I know she will be happy about this—that the Care Plus project rolls out around all the primary health organisations in New Zealand from 1 July. By that date all our over-65-year-olds will be funded so they have lower-cost care, along with all our under-18-year-olds and all the people who have chronic health needs. That is good news for New Zealanders.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Do ethnically based statistics offer information for us to be able to assess how well health policies are impacting upon different groups within our nation, and, therefore, lead to modifications in those policies?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes.

Deborah Coddington: Why does the Government not pay for what is actually wrong with each person, rather than indulge in racial stereotyping?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That question is a nonsense. I think one of the best examples of that was given this morning on the radio by Dr Gay Keating from the Public Health Association, when she said that for years we have been funding males between the ages of 15 and 20 at a higher rate than females of the same age. Why? Because they are more often in car accidents, and die because of that. We do not cut out funding the treatment services just because that happens. We fund them based on need.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which party in Government was the first to introduce race-based policies for health delivery; and are its members still in the House?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Many of the members of the party that introduced those policies are still in this House. They have had a conversion, I presume, because the first year that explicit weightings for ethnicity were included in the funding formulae of the regional health authorities was in the funding formulae of 1993-94.

Heather Roy: How do healthy, wealthy Mâori need more health funding than poor, sick non-Mâori; and if they do not need more funding, why do they get it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: A Mâori does not get more funding under any formula. The formula is applied to all people within a geographical area. So Mr Ngata does not get more money than Mr Smith. The member fails to understand how funding formulae work.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Climate Change Policies

3. NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Tainui) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: Is the Government making any progress with climate change policies designed to encourage businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): Yes. Business has responded very positively to a tender for projects to reduce emissions, which can be rewarded with carbon credits. The Government is now working through contracts with businesses for 15 cleaner energy projects, including wind farms, hydroelectricity schemes, and industrial heat plants.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain what benefits businesses get from adopting these technologies?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Businesses that adopt cleaner and more efficient energy technologies can cut costs, reduce waste, and get more control over their energy needs. The Projects to Reduce Emissions programme offers them the extra benefit of tradable carbon credits in return for their investment.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why is the Government so intent on imposing a carbon tax that will cost all New Zealanders, particularly our vulnerable export sector, when Government policy is based on the dubious rationale found in its preferred policy package of 2002, which states: “The area of climate change is uncertain. We know the world has a problem. But it is unclear exactly what will happen with the climate, to whom, and over what time frame.”; why put our export sector at risk with policy based on this uncertain waffle?

Mr SPEAKER: That question was too long, but I will allow the Minister to comment.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I thought there were only four or five people in this country who clearly held the view that climate change was a fake idea. I am surprised to learn that we now have an addition to that, and I would say to the member that the fact that the science is uncertain does not alter the fact that the direction of the science is very clear indeed. We have a problem in front of us.

Economic Development—Limited Employment Locations

4. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he stand by his answer to question 5 yesterday, in relation to limited employment locations, that “I also reassure the House that every locality on this list is there as a result of consultation. It has taken place over the last 3 months with people in local areas, and that is why they support this policy.”; if so, why?

Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Minister for Social Development and Employment: The answer is yes, because consultation was an integral part of Work and Income producing and refining the limited employment localities alert list. Localities were placed on the alert list using the criteria of the number of current job seekers, the number of job placements made in the last year, the local employment opportunities, and the availability of public transport for travel. Consultation was undertaken on the resulting provisional alert list with a number of localities. Some were added and some were taken off.

Sue Bradford: How can the Minister really believe that local districts have been properly or adequately consulted when Garry Moore, the Mayor of Christchurch and chair of the Mayors Task Force for Jobs, says that he is ropeable that there has been no genuine consultation at all with him or the task force, at any stage, about the whole basis of the limited locations policy?

Hon RICK BARKER: There is a bit of confusion here. This is not about the Mayors Task Force for Jobs. Consultation was undertaken with local councils, regional councils, and other local communities.

Georgina Beyer: Does this policy stop people moving to limited employment localities if they have a job offer?

Hon RICK BARKER: No. If someone has a job opportunity in these areas it has no effect on them, whatsoever. If they have a means of commuting to or from the job, there is no problem. The limited employment localities policy is simply designed to ensure that unemployed people have the maximum chance of securing a job. In 1999 there were 164,000 on the unemployment benefit. There are now just 81,000. This Government has been very successful.

Katherine Rich: Where was the evidence to back the policy of a tidal wave of unemployed people moving to places like Becks, Lauder, Patearoa, or 120 of the other no-go zones, which, in October 2003, did not have one single resident registered and drawing the unemployment benefit?

Hon RICK BARKER: There are a number of people who are registered as unemployed in these areas. What we are saying to people is that if they are living in an area where there are job employment prospects, and they decide to move to an area where there are no job employment prospects, then this is a lifestyle choice and the Government, via the taxpayer, should not fund it.

Bill Gudgeon: Does the Minister accept that these areas, which are perceived by some as no-go areas, would create social classification, and that New Zealanders would become economic refugees in their own country?

Hon RICK BARKER: Certainly not. New Zealanders were economic refugees in their own country in the 1990s. Hundreds of thousands of people were unemployed. This Government has spent its whole focus on getting people into a job. I repeat: in 1999, 164,000 people on the unemployment benefit; now, 81,000 people. This is a very, very good result.

Dr Muriel Newman: Why is it that a married couple on the unemployment benefit cannot move to a limited employment locality, but a sole parent on the domestic purposes benefit can; and how does he respond to criticisms that his policy discriminates against couples?

Hon RICK BARKER: The policy does not discriminate against couples. That is a ridiculous statement. The policy discriminates against people who are on the unemployment benefit. One of the tests for the unemployment benefit is that people are to be ready, willing, and able to take on work. So people who worked but move from an area where there are employment opportunities to a place where there are none have failed the test for that. That test simply does not apply to a person on the domestic purposes benefit.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister explain the logic of encouraging people who are unemployed to go to areas where there is no employment, and then paying them an unemployment benefit when they do so?

Hon RICK BARKER: There is certainly no logic to that, but that seems to be what some people in this House think there should be. This Government is saying that if there are employment opportunities in a person’s hometown, and they decide to move to a place where there are not, then that is a lifestyle choice, and they should fund it, not the taxpayer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from the Minister’s comments that the Labour Government belatedly now supports the community wage introduced by New Zealand First when last in Government, and why are we wasting all this time slowly getting back to that sound policy?

Hon RICK BARKER: This Government certainly does not support the community wage concept. What this Government does support is opportunity for people. This Government has put an enormous amount of resource and effort into giving people training and opportunity to get employment. That is why, when this Government came into power, there were 164,000 people unemployed, and there are now just 81,000. We have been very successful.

Sue Bradford: Will the Minister consider scrapping the limited-location list, following emerging evidence from areas as diverse as Banks Peninsula, Kaiaua, Blackball, Christchurch, and the far north, that there was no genuine consultation in those places with the mayors or anyone else, and that many of these places, in fact, do have opportunities for employment?

Hon RICK BARKER: No, we will not consider scrapping the list, but what we will do is consult with people over time, and as places show that there is opportunity for employment in those areas, we will amend the list.

Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister seen the claim from the Greens that, including Mâori with ancestral links to areas within this scheme “abrogates the treaty at a fundamental level”; if so, can he advise the House where, in the Treaty of Waitangi, employment guarantees are contained?

Hon RICK BARKER: I have seen the claim, I do not agree with it, and the member is quite right, it is not in there.

Sue Bradford: Is there any chance that the Government will consider taking the proactive and positive advice that came out today from the Dunedin City Council, and consider creating must-come zones instead of no-go zones for the unemployed?

Hon RICK BARKER: We certainly do support a very proactive approach. The member will be delighted to know that the Government has put in a mobile employment fund; we are going into rural and remote areas seeking out job opportunities for people. We are very positive about getting people into employment. That is why unemployment has fallen in this country by over 80,000 people.

Sue Bradford: Why is the Government putting so much focus on its limited employment locations policy, which affects, according to the Ministry of Social Development, around 1 percent of the unemployed, and not on doing a whole lot more to help the 40 percent of the unemployed who are aged under 25?

Hon RICK BARKER: The member will be delighted to know that we will focus on those under the age of 25. I am looking forward to seeing those statistics fall dramatically over the next 12 months. We are focused on getting people into employment. That is why we have many partnerships with industry—such as the driving industry, Hotel Association for training, etc. We have so many work programmes going on, we are struggling to find people to fill the courses.

Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 5.

Sue Bradford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe we can have another supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has had four.

Sue Bradford: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can have the other one, but that cuts back the number further down the track. The member can have one, if she wishes. That is her right.

Sue Bradford: Has the Minister been receiving training from his colleague the Minister of Education on how to get offside with those local communities and their civic leaders, and is there a Government master plan to close down rural and provincial New Zealand and move everyone into the big cities?

Hon RICK BARKER: Quite the contrary; the Government has been spending an enormous amount of time and money in making sure that remote locations in rural and provincial New Zealand get the full attention of Work and Income.

We have spent substantial sums in training courses and getting people into employment, and that is why unemployment in this country is half what it was when this Government came into office.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species—Enforcement

5. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Customs: Does his department assist with enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): Yes, the Customs Service works with the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in a very successful cross-agency arrangement, known as the Wildlife Enforcement Group, to ensure that no protected species under the New Zealand convention are smuggled in or out of New Zealand.

David Parker: Was the Wildlife Enforcement Group involved in the recent interception of native orchids that were about to be smuggled out of New Zealand?

Hon RICK BARKER: Indeed, it was, and that is a very good example of the work this group does. In addition to the New Zealand agencies involved, the Czech Customs Service and Environmental Inspectorate resulted in Czech nationals being intercepted at the border with a total of 362 individual plant specimens, including 93 orchids—a number of which had been removed from national parks in flagrant breach of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The two smugglers were convicted and fined, and that sends a clear message to would-be smugglers that this country does not tolerate that sort of behaviour.

Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title

6. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Can she explain why she believes “Mâori already have customary title over the whole coastline.” given that the Court of Appeal expressed “real reservations about the ability for the appellants” in the Ngâti Apa case to establish Mâori customary title?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes. The Court of Appeal was referring to an exclusive title. The Government, in its foreshore and seabed policy, uses the term “customary title” to describe when a Mâori group has an ancestral connection only to the foreshore and seabed. This customary title does no more than acknowledge that ancestral connection.

Dr Wayne Mapp: What then is the point of the Government’s foreshore and seabed proposals, which state that Mâori will have the opportunity to apply to the Mâori Land Court for customary title, if the Minister believes that Mâori already have customary title?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The point of the Government’s policy is that the Court of Appeal decision would have provided an exclusive fee simple title, if the Act had not been amended. The Government’s policy is therefore to make clear that there is public access to the foreshore and seabed, and that is why it was necessary to clarify that customary title in future will relate to the ancestral connection only.

Russell Fairbrother: Is the concept of ancestral connection being incorporated in New Zealand law new?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No. In 1998 and in 1999 the Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations and the Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations used a similar concept. These regulations allow for a specific area to be notified as the group’s rohe moana—put simply, a group’s rohe moana is that part of the foreshore and seabed to which there is an ancestral connection.

Dail Jones: Why does the Minister, in her important position, continue to disagree with Chief Justice Elias of the Court of Appeal in the Ngâti Apa case, paragraphs 9 and 14. The Chief Justice made it clear that Mâori customary land is held by Mâori in accordance with tikanga Mâori as set out in the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, which requires the establishment of links such as ahi kâ, and does she know for certain that Mâori have links with ahi kâ to enable them to make any customary claim; if she does, can she tell the House what they are, and if she cannot, will she apologise to the country for misleading the House, the country, and creating racial disturbance in New Zealand?

Mr SPEAKER: There were four questions there. The Minister may answer two of them.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The purpose of the Government’s policy was to ensure that the Court of Appeal decision, which would have denied public access to parts of the foreshore and seabed, did not do so. The purpose of the policy was to remove the ability of the court to be able to provide for an exclusive private title.

Stephen Franks: Does she stand by her claims yesterday that the whole seabed and foreshore issue is about customary rights that do not, from a Mâori perspective, need legislation, and will she now undertake that if her legislation ever emerges, it will not create new race privileges never before recognised in our law?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, I can give the member that assurance, because they will be customary rights that will be recognised, and whoever has a right to those customary rights will be able to exercise them.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can she explain why today’s New Zealand Herald reports that she appeared ambivalent about whether the Government would stick with the term “customary title” in the proposed legislation; and is it true that the Government is considering abandoning the concept?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am not responsible for the interpretation that the New Zealand Herald makes to any comment I might make. But as I pointed out, there is no change in our policy.

Dail Jones: Why is the Minister failing to accept the views of the President of the New Zealand Court of Appeal, as expressed in paragraphs 101 and 102 of the Ngâti Apa case, when he says: “Under the common law all land is held by the Crown upon the assumption of sovereignty. Title is obtained by grant or other alienation from the Crown. With the exception of Crown land reserved for Mâori, land not alienated from the Crown may have the status via the Mâori customary land or Crown land. There is no ‘default’ status. It is one of the other.”, or does she believe her view is superior to that of the President of the Court of Appeal?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: If the Court of Appeal decision were to stand, then New Zealanders would have been denied the right to be able to have access to the foreshore and seabed.

Stephen Franks: I ask the Minister to review her answer to the last question, when I asked for an undertaking that no new race privilege would be created not previously known to law, and to tell us just why it is that this legislation is covering the whole coastline when the Court of Appeal said it would be rare, if ever, that common law would give customary use rights a recognition in title?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: If the Court of Appeal decision had been allowed to stand, it would have been possible for Mâori customary land status to be given that would have resulted in an exclusory title. That has been the whole purpose of this policy. That is why it was important to change it, because, as the member well knows, that would have created a property right, which would have given a right to deny people access to the foreshore and seabed.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made no attempt to answer the actual question. She repeated the stated purpose of the Government’s policy, but did not answer the question, which was why this legislation covers the entire coastline when the Court of Appeal said it would be rare, if ever, and would rely on the establishment of customary use rights.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address some of the question. If she wants to add to it, she may do so.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The point is that whether it is whole or part, the principle remains the same. Also, on looking at the Act, it could have been interpreted by the Mâori Land Court not to be in a few rare cases.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government is intending to abandon the concept of customary Mâori title in its proposed legislation?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: In the sense of an ancestral connection, no.

Dail Jones: Why should any political party in this House give any support to Labour Party foreshore and seabed legislation when the Minister makes statements such as “Mâori already have customary title over the whole coastline.”, and when legislation will presumably be based on that statement, which is misleading and giving grave concern to many millions of New Zealanders in the race relations area today?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The public should have confidence in this Government’s approach to that policy, because it will guarantee that they have a right to go onto the foreshores and seabeds of this country.

Child, Youth and Family Services—Community Services

7. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Does she stand by her statement in last year’s report on the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services’ funding of community activities that “We remain committed to the provision of quality services to meet community needs and to work collaboratively with communities to achieve positive outcomes for children, young people and their families.”; if so, why?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): Yes, I do stand by that statement, and the reason why is contained in the question itself.

Murray Smith: Why should the public believe that her department is committed to community solutions, when a volunteer grass-roots organisation like the Porirua Te Rongopai Morehu Trust, which provides parenting programmes, youth activities, and other assistance to needy families, is told by officials from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services that its funding will be completely cut, and that youth activities will instead be mostly left to those organised by gangs, because “The gang scene has changed considerably in recent years and their work amongst young people should be viewed more favourably.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have no information at all that would give me confidence that the so-called quotes that the member is attributing to a staff member of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services are correct. But I would say to the House that all community organisations in New Zealand need to recognise the fact that the baseline review did say that, despite the high quality of the services being provided by many organisations through the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services funding, it would not continue in that way in the future.

Moana Mackey: Can the Minister give examples of how the Government is providing quality services to meet community needs, and working collaboratively with communities?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I can. Government funding of community service providers was increased by 6.4 percent this year. In addition to that funding, the department purchases services from community providers, including approximately $30 million for care services, and we are increasing funding for family group conference plans.

Katherine Rich: Why does she maintain such confidence in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services when she has confirmed to me that in February 1,209 notifications had not even been entered into the department’s computer, and therefore were not counted in the unallocated case list; and how can she be confident that there is not another potential notification, like that of Ron Burrows, sitting in someone’s in tray, unentered?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am very pleased to be able to confirm to the House, and to that member in particular, that despite the fact that the notifications had not been entered on the database, they had been actioned. That gives me confidence in the staff of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

Murray Smith: Is the Minister aware that the same gang youth leaders who appear, with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services’ endorsement, to be providing activities for young people in Porirua are also actively scouting for fresh recruits for their gangs, and, in light of this, how can she condone the use of gangs for the provision of community and youth work?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As I indicated in my answer to the initial supplementary question from that member, I do not have any information that gives me confidence that his allegations have any basis at all.

Murray Smith: How can the Minister justify taking money away from preventive services offered by voluntary community groups, such as the meagre $8,000 that has been denied to the Porirua Te Rongopai Morehu Trust, when the only way to stop the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services from continuing to be the broken-down ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is for it to get involved with the families well before they reach crisis point, and is that not one of the statutory obligations of her department?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, it is, and I can confirm, as I indicated earlier, that it is completely untrue that, as the member alleges, we are moving away from early intervention and prevention services. That is reflected in the fact that this year we have increased our funding to community providers by 6.4 percent.

Finance, Minister—Confidence

8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Finance; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, for many reasons. One reason is the work he has done to guarantee New Zealand superannuation for the future. I note the National Party is signalling no firm commitment to superannuation for future older New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister concerned that we now have New Zealand’s largest January trade deficit since 1986 and a continuing adverse exchange rate; and how can she retain confidence in a Minister of Finance who adopts the Don Brash policy of doing nothing—unlike every other First World economy in those circumstances?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I retain confidence because neither I nor anybody else blames Dr Cullen for the fall in the US dollar.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the Prime Minister rule out the possibility of Dr Cullen—or her Government, in fact— interfering in the exchange rate of the New Zealand dollar?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only refer the member to Dr Cullen’s own many statements on that subject, in which he said it is unwise for a Government to ever say never.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that every other country in the world has to have regard to the falling rate of the US dollar, why is it that whilst every other First World economy does take steps and has machinery in respect of the highs and lows of currency fluctuations, she and her Government have adopted the Don Brash policy of doing nothing?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I note that the member issued a press statement yesterday offering to help to bring down the exchange rate of the dollar, and I suggest he makes his suggestions known to the Minister of Finance.

Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Fines

9. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Labour: How does the introduction of a good faith fine of up to $10,000 on employers, as proposed in the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, help achieve his stated purpose of the bill “to build productive employment relationships in the workplace”?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): The bill does not propose a good-faith fine for employers alone. It proposes a maximum fine of up to $10,000 for any employer or union that engages in serious and sustained breaches of good faith. Providing penalties for serious bad-faith behaviour is entirely consistent with the bill’s purpose to build productive employment relationships in the workplace.

Hon Roger Sowry: What specific behaviour by employers between the passing of the Employment Relations Act in 2000 and now has made it necessary to introduce such a tough punitive regime against employers?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the member might know, the ability for unions and employers to engage in good-faith bargaining has been, by and large, very successful. However, there have been reports of bad-faith bargaining. The idea of this clause in the legislation is to attempt to do something about that.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister may not have heard the beginning of the question, which was: “What specific behaviour by employers …”. I thought he was coming to that with his answer. He did not get to that. He is nodding that he did not hear that. Perhaps he would like to—

Hon PAUL SWAIN: What I did say was that there had been reports of bad-faith bargaining, and I went on to explain why that was.

Hon Mark Gosche: Does the Minister envisage a large number of fines for serious and sustained breaches of good faith?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. Surveys have shown that most employers, employees, and unions understand the value of good-faith bargaining in trying to build productive employment relationships in the workplace. As with most legislation, maximum penalties are always reserved for the worst offending. In this case the penalties are for serious and sustained breaches only. Those cases are likely to be very rare indeed.

Hon Roger Sowry: Why have the threat of a $10,000 fine hanging over employers’ heads if the Minister cannot give the House a specific example of why it is needed and if, in response to a question from his own side, he said he does not envisage it being used very often?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: There is lots of legislation in this House that reserves penalties for the worst-case scenario. What I did say was that the chances of this penalty being used are rare, but it is important that where there are sustained and long-term breaches of good faith, there be some ability to do something about it.

Reports—New Zealand Nurses Organisation

10. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does she support the introduction of mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios as proposed by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation in their report Nursing the system back to health; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No. I support the principles of the magnet hospital programme, a programme that the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and the Ministry of Health introduced me to in November 2002, and that has been shown to work in those countries that have introduced it.

Sue Kedgley: Is she aware of research from the University of Pennsylvania that found that every additional surgical patient in a nurse’s workload increases the risk of death by 7 percent; and in light of the compelling evidence that nurse-to-patient ratios can affect patient safety, why will she not accept the nurses’ sensible proposal for mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Because there are a number of ways to address this issue, and, as I just said in my primary answer, I support the magnet hospital programme, which, where it has been introduced, works extremely well and produces things such as reduced mortality rates for patients in hospital, lower rates of nurse burnout, lower rates of needle stick injuries for nursing staff, higher rates of nurse job satisfaction, and higher nurse ratings of quality care.

Lynne Pillay: When will magnet hospitals be implemented?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Hutt Hospital was the first to embark on the magnet hospital project. It has already applied to be surveyed by the magnet surveyors, comprising American and New Zealand experts, towards the end of this year. If it passes the survey, it will be the first officially accredited magnet hospital in New Zealand.

Sue Kedgley: Given that it will be many years before magnet hospitals are in place throughout New Zealand, what is the Minister’s response to Senior Staff Nurse Ruth Love, from the National Women’s Hospital, who said on Monday on the radio that she often finds herself looking after eight to 10 patients on a shift, and said: “You are basically running all day. While I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping someone, when you can’t care for them in a way that you feel is safe, you go home feeling dissatisfied. It is very demoralising, especially when it’s day in and day out.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Although the Hutt Hospital will be the first to be accredited as a magnet hospital, next year, following the survey, I need to tell that member that a number of hospitals around New Zealand have moved into the magnet programme. I expect to see it multiply very quickly around New Zealand—not in a number of years.

Sue Kedgley: Is she aware that the introduction of minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in Victoria, Australia, resulted in an influx of nurses who had previously left the profession because of understaffing and burnout, and will she concede that the nurses’ proposal for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios will make nursing a whole lot more attractive to nurses who have left the profession as a result of burnout and stress; if so, why will she not respond positively to the nurses’ very constructive proposal?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I responded very positively to the Magnet New Zealand hospital proposal, which the New Zealand Nurses Organisation brought to me—along with Dr Linda Aiken, who had done the research on it—and I accepted it as a proposal for nurses in New Zealand, because it had a whole lot of advantages for nurses and for patients. So, in fact, I have accepted a proposal from the Nurses Organisation. That organisation has subsequently said it would like to have minimum mandatory ratios. The research is not strong to show that that is the best way to go.

Treaty of Waitangi—Public Education

11. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs (Social Development): What specific work is she currently involved with in relation to public education on the treaty and treaty clauses in legislation, and what briefings or meetings has she had in relation to this work with the Coordinating Minister, Race Relations?

Hon TARIANA TURIA (Associate Minister of Maori Affairs (Social Development)): I am not currently involved in any specific work in relation to public education on the treaty and treaty clauses in legislation. I have had one briefing with the Minister of State Services about the Treaty of Waitangi Information Programme. I have not had a specific meeting with the Coordinating Minister, Race Relations.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister accept that her lack of effort in the area of public education on treaty and treaty clauses in legislation has led the Prime Minister to sideline her in favour of the Hon Trevor Mallard in the role of Coordinating Minister, Race Relations?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: No.

Mahara Okeroa: Could the Minister tell the House what she has done as the Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs with delegated responsibility for treaty education?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I initiated a proposal to proceed with the development of a policy and programme of public information on treaty issues, as foreshadowed in the coalition manifesto relating to treaty education. This proposal went before Cabinet in July 2001. Subsequent to this, Cabinet approved the Treaty of Waitangi Information Programme in May 2003. The Minister of State Services is responsible for that programme.

Rodney Hide: In light of her responsibility for public education, does she believe that the Hon Trevor Mallard is a culturally appropriate Minister to be coordinating race relations when, as Minister of Education, he publicly supported Hagley Community College using taxpayer money to build a mosque that Dr Ashraf Choudhary declares to be needs-based, but then privately condemned the board for spending money on the mosque and declared that spending to be “ill-advised”; if so, why does she believe Trevor Mallard to be a culturally appropriate Coordinating Minister, Race Relations?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may comment on the question in relation to her portfolio, but not on whether the person is suitable appointed. That is a job for the Prime Minister. The Minister may comment on the second point.

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I am unsure about what the second point was.

Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps Mr Hide could restate the part of his question that does not relate to the suitability of Mr Mallard for appointment, because that is the job of the Prime Minister. There was another part to his question. If he wishes to rephrase, I will allow him to do so.

Rodney Hide: I will rephrase it and help the Minister. Does the Minister believe that she can work with the Hon Trevor Mallard, given his flip-flops on the mosque and in light of his cultural inappropriateness; if so, why?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I am more than confident that I can work with the Hon Trevor Mallard.

Gerry Brownlee: Would it be fair for the House to conclude, as the Minister has done all the work she claims in the area of public education relating to treaty clauses and legislation, that her views were too extreme and too far in favour of one of the racial groups in this country, and that that has led the Prime Minister to sideline her in favour of Trevor Mallard?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Certainly not. What I do want to say is that I do not debate the politics of race.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table a letter from me to the Auditor-General, explaining the Minister of Education’s confusion over the mosque.

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

Floods—Government Assistance

12. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister for Rural Affairs: What further help is the Government providing to the communities affected by floods?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Rural Affairs): The Government has announced that it will match dollar for dollar all funds raised by nationwide flood relief appeals by the end of this month. The Government has already donated $890,000 to mayoral relief funds and local councils for upfront emergency costs. Central and local government will be the major source of funding for the restoration of public infrastructure. The Government will make a major contribution to the reinstatement of viable agricultural enterprises, upon which both the regional and national economies depend. The size and exact form of that contribution cannot yet be determined.

Darren Hughes: Is that all the help that people in flood-damaged areas can expect?

Hon JIM SUTTON: No. The Government is working through the necessary decisions as quickly as possible for the flood-affected regions. That is a huge area. It is a major undertaking, and I am proud of the efforts being made by dedicated public servants and volunteers from the community, and of the generous contributions from ordinary New Zealanders. The contribution of the Government will be commensurate with the clear desire of the public to extend a helping hand to fellow New Zealanders in their time of need.

Simon Power: Will the Minister apologise to Shane Whaitiri, who today waited for an hour for the Minister to arrive to survey an estimated $1.6 million worth of losses to his potato crop, and who was phoned 10 minutes before the Minister was due to arrive and told that he would not be attending as arranged?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I was not aware that the member was a National Party activist, but nevertheless—

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister just to answer the question.

Hon JIM SUTTON: This morning I visited the flood-damaged area. My journeys around it became delayed, because many people are suffering considerably and more time than had been expected was needed to deal with them in a decent, human way. That meant that the itinerary had to be cut short.

Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister be gracious enough to confirm that the dollar for dollar - matching proposal announced yesterday was one that United Future proposed to his colleague the Minister of Finance early last week and that has been the subject of consideration ever since that time?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am happy to confirm that the situation is as the member suggested, and that many other members have also urged the Government to act with generosity.

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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