Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 17 March 2004
Wednesday, 17 March 2004
for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Genetically Modified Wheat—Monsanto
2. Civil Defence and Conservation, Ministers—Confidence
3. Social Development, Ministry—Legal Action
4. Community Education Courses—Members of Parliament
5. Taxation—Corporate Tax
6. Terrorism—Residency and Citizenship
7. Paid Parental Leave—Evaluation
8. Employment Relations Act—OECD Rating
9. Gangs—Proceeds of Crime Act
10. Mâori Youth Contestable Fund—Recidivist Offender
11. Petroleum Conference—Ministerial Announcements
12. Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Rights and Title
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Genetically Modified Wheat—Monsanto
1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Is she satisfied that there is adequate information available to New Zealanders who wish to make an informed scientific submission on Monsanto’s application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand to approve food derived from genetically modified Roundup-tolerant wheat for sale in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): Yes. The application is at the initial assessment stage—stage one. The initial assessment requires the applicant to include information of studies and tests relevant to the application and the product. It is a four-stage process, which enables public consultation in two of the stages, and takes up to 1 year to complete.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How does the Minister expect New Zealanders to comply with the authority’s specific request for comment on the scientific and food safety aspects of the application, when they have been told they have to come to Wellington at their own expense and then pay $25 just to look at the only New Zealand copy of the scientific data on which the application is based; and why, in this modern world, can it not be placed on the website*?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The reason it is not placed on the website is that the application is about a foot high. It is available to members of the public here in Wellington. If they would like to come in and photocopy it they could have every bit of information they like.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Did the Minister, or any of her officials, or anyone else representing New Zealand ever agree to this method of making the scientific data available so that only people who could afford an airfare to Wellington could see it, or is this just another way that key decisions affecting the New Zealand public have been delegated to unaccountable, unelected overseas authorities?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The process that is used in any application has been in place for a long time. I am surprised that, if the member is so concerned about the process, she has not raised it in all the time that we have had Food Standards Australia New Zealand* in operation, which is a number of years. It is a four-part process. It is open and transparent. There are two stages in which the public can be part of that consultation. This very initial stage is not about whether there should be approval for this assessment, but whether it should even proceed with a food standard.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister outline the time frame for dealing with the applications?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. The time frame, as I said in my initial answer, can take up to 1 year. Unlike the information that was put out by the Greens—where they said this was a hasty process; a rather rushed process—there are four stages to it. It takes up to a year, and it is the same time frame that has been taken on every food standard that we set. It is no different for this one than it is, for example, for the standard that is being drawn up for country-of-origin labelling.
Sue Kedgley: How can the public have confidence in the safety of genetically engineered food if they are not able to readily access the research, the studies, and the tests on which their safety assessments are based?
Hon ANNETTE KING: As I said, there are four parts to this process. There is the ability to see the scientific risk assessment after the public consultation, and after the draft assessment report has been drawn up. Then there is further public consultation. They get to see all the scientific assessment that is being prepared. I suggest that the Greens look on the website at how to make a submission. It sets out the four-part process, exactly what happens, and what scientific evidence will be available at what stage.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister saying that because there is one later stage where the public can have input, that this stage is not a real consultation but only a sham, or is she saying that the data will actually be on the website for the second stage? Anyway, does she think it is acceptable that we have learnt today that the sole copy of the scientific date, which submitters have been advised can only be inspected in Wellington, will not be in the country for another week—7 days before submissions close?
Mr SPEAKER: That question was too long and had too many parts to it. The Minister can comment briefly.
Hon ANNETTE KING: The process is not a sham. It is the same process we have used to set all our food standards since we have had the joint agency in operation.
Civil Defence and Conservation, Ministers—Confidence
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Civil Defence; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because they are both hard-working and conscientious Ministers.
Dr Don Brash: How can she say her Ministers are conscientious and hard-working, when they have both sat on their hands and done nothing to intervene to prevent the imminent lahar from Mount Ruapehu’s crater lake, despite warnings from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, several engineering reports, and Department of Conservation reports stating that the lahar will be twice the size of the one that killed 151 people at Tangiwai, and could now happen as early as November this year?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Contrary to the assertion in the member’s question, the advice the Government has from the Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is that the set of measures that are now being put in place, including the lifting of the State Highway 49 bridge, adequately address the risk-to-life issue, while recognising, of course, that such risks are not totally predictable and cannot be eliminated in a dynamic environment. A lot has been done.
Dr Don Brash: Why did she and the other members of the Cabinet policy committee reject the advice of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management that said that this risk to life “is above that which society would consider acceptable, especially given that practical means of reducing the risk by intervening at the crater rim are available”, and will she now be accepting responsibility for any loss of life that occurs as the result of the inaction of herself, the Minister of Conservation, and the Minister of Civil Defence?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That advice was given, I understand, before the decision was made to raise the State Highway 49 bridge. Since that time the Cabinet policy committee has put a great deal of thought and time into working with officials on the issues, and the advice we have had from the Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is, as I have stated—that the range of measures being put in place reduce the risks to an acceptable level.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wonder whether the Prime Minister has contemplated consulting Dr Brash, and asking him to speak with his previous Mâori affairs spokesperson, whose family, of course, gave the *national park to this country without any charge whatsoever, in an endeavour to obtain some sort of rapprochement between Tuwharetoa and the Government’s concerns.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I thank the member for his suggestion. I had not considered that course of action, because in recent weeks Dr Brash has shown he has not the slightest intention of taking any notice of anything Georgina te Heuheu says.
Hon Ken Shirley: Did the Minister of Civil Defence give the same advice to her and her Cabinet that he gave to the House yesterday, and I quote: “The engineering advice that this Government has accepted says exactly that by interfering now we will make the future possibility of a lahar greater.’’; and in view of the fact that the engineering report says the exact opposite to that, why does she continue to protect that Minister?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Cabinet policy committee*, in its prolonged consideration of this matter in recent weeks, looked at a number of intervention options. I want to stress that all that matters to us is that we have in place the best set of preparations we can. Therefore, we took advice on whether a trench should be built, on whether there should be sluicing, on whether there should be siphoning, and on whether explosives should be used to trigger a lahar. In the end, we were not convinced of the efficacy of any of those measures. I might point out that, on the construction of a trench, the advice we had was that it would probably make a future lahar bigger and, therefore, more dangerous.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does she reconcile her enthusiasm for photo opportunities on the 50th anniversary of the Tangiwai disaster, and with recent flood victims in the Manawatu, with her Government’s refusal to take the common-sense approach recommended by the Ruapehu District Council* and by the Manawatu Horizons Regional Council of doing a very small amount of work at the crater rim; and does the Prime Minister put greater weight on cultural and environmental sensitivity than on the views of the local people whose lives and property are at risk by this Government’s inaction?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What the Government has put weight on is properly weighing all the options. I note that at an earlier point the Minister—and I want to pay him credit here—while himself favouring the engineering options, said that one could not ignore the issues of the iwi and one could not ignore the fact that the crater was in a national park. I want to assure the member that neither of those two issues would have stood in the way of intervention, had we been persuaded that intervention was the right thing to do. We have not been persuaded, and we have it on the advice of the *Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management that all reasonable measures that could be put in place have been.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, in the last 4 years, have the previous Minister, Sandra Lee, and the current Minister, Chris Carter, consistently stated that the issues of environmental and cultural sensitivity were the major reasons for not proceeding with the engineering works, but, lo and behold, after Don Brash’s Orewa speech, suddenly the tune changes and there are a lot of other reasons why the Government will not do the necessary engineering works?
Mr SPEAKER: I have warned members about interjecting while questions are being asked. Every member has the right to ask his or her question in silence, and I caution the member concerned. She knows who she is.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat that the uppermost consideration in the Government’s mind is what is the best way of dealing with this dynamic natural environment. What I would say is that we have put in place a lot of measures that have now led the Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management to back entirely what the Government is doing. I might say that we have acted, and file memos in the Department of Conservation show that the previous National Minister, Dr Smith, kicked the issue off until after the 1999 election.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the full report that was prepared on my instructions, as Minister of Conservation, in 1999, and that stated it would be at least 5 years before there was any risk, and there was ample time to make a considered decision on the lahar.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this point of order in the spirit of Standing Order 361, which deals with the issue of a Minister quoting from a document. I realise the Prime Minister was not quoting directly from the document, but as the Minister has said there is now engineering evidence to support the Government’s view, and given the great interest in the matter, I invite the Government to table this engineering evidence.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting the official advice that it is now impossible to clear the *National Parks Act and Resource Management Act provisions with the lake filling so quickly, I wish to seek leave for the Ruapehu Crater Lake (Lahar Prevention Works) Empowering Bill in my name to be placed at the top of the Order Paper on the next members’ day, and for the House to give leave for that bill to be taken through all stages.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What is the procedure if a Cabinet Minister comes into the House and starts quoting information to the House that is then not made available to the House—not allotted to the House in evidence? Do you see my point? The Prime Minister is relying on a piece of information that she has there. We notice that there is a green Cabinet paper in the pile of documents she has in front of her. We saw her pull it out and read from it. Why has it not been tabled?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member should have made a point of order at that time. If the Prime Minister was quoting from an official document, then members can ask to have it tabled. That is perfectly in order. The sheaf of notes she used to answer the question do not have to be tabled.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask that the Prime Minister does table the green Cabinet paper that she was reading from during her answer.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am only too happy to table the document, because I understand it has already been released to the Opposition under the Official Information Act.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the Prime Minister tabling the actual document?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am tabling the minute, which is what I read from.
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will table the minute she read from.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think, for clarity, it was the technical report that was quoted. I tabled the Cabinet minute yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: There are too many points of order and people do not know the Standing Orders. The Prime Minister was asked, as she was quoting from a document, whether she would be happy to table that document, which she has done. As far as her tabling the rest of the sheaf of notes is concerned, that is not within the Standing Orders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What we have just seen is a very good example of a total waste of Parliament’s and taxpayers’ time and money. [Interruption] Points of order should be heard in silence.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct, and people will be leaving the Chamber. Points of order will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point is simply this. Parliamentary question time is very valuable time. There are other parties in this Parliament that are sincere about getting information out in front of the public—not just constant point-scoring and wasting everybody’s time. That was a very good illustration. I want to know, Mr Speaker, whether you are prepared to give some sort of ruling as some sort of guidance for the National Party, in particular, as to how its members might better order their time in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: Although the point is an interesting one, if I were to rule everything out in that regard I would love it, because it would make question time very, very simple and very short, and I would be able to get my afternoon tea more quickly.
Social Development, Ministry—Legal Action
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is the Ministry of Social Development contemplating legal action against any individual or organisation at present; if so, against whom and what for?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Ministry of Social Development has referred 1,124 cases to the courts in the year to date. The ministry prosecutes benefit fraud wherever it is possible and appropriate to do so. In accordance with its zero tolerance policy on staff fraud, the ministry prosecutes staff frauds in every case, and seeks to recover all funds taken. In spite of the substantially improved detection capability, which might be expected to have thrown up an increased level of fraud, the number of staff frauds in the ministry has decreased, from 18 in 2000-01, to two in the current financial year to date, out of a total of more than 5,000 employees.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does his ministry intend to take action against CIO magazine, because in an email to all his ministry’s information technology staff, the chief executive officer, Peter Hughes, stated that he was “going to deal to it and going to take action over it”, referring to an article published by the magazine that described the ministry’s SWIFTT computer system as “so complex, that its outer layers are so fragile and the level of risk is great.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I anticipated that the member may want to go in this direction, because of a press release put out just before question time. I want to reassure the House that the mainframe* has been replaced within the Ministry of Social Development. It has been replaced so that the ministry has sufficient capacity. It is reliable. There is a modular plan to upgrade software through the system. A governance process has been in place since we have been in Government. There is absolutely no doubt that this system will deliver for beneficiaries and superannuitants. I would urge the member not to cause concern amongst those groups. They will get their money. The computer system is one that is reliable.
Georgina Beyer: What action, in addition to legal action, did the Ministry of Social Development take in relation to the $1.9 million staff fraud for which the offender was sentenced last Friday?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As soon as the chief executive officer of the Ministry of Social Development knew of the fraud last year he immediately moved to freeze and seize the person’s assets and dismissed her from the Ministry of Social Development. He introduced new controls to the ministry in response to the methods employed in that fraud, conducted a Ministry of Social Development - wide audit to ensure him that no other similar frauds were under way*, and commissioned an independent and external review of the ministry’s system of controls in the light of that fraud. The results of those reviews were released last week, and provide assurances that the ministry has a good system of controls, along with recommendations for improvement that the ministry has implemented, or is implementing, in full.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister concerned that the indecision and costs around the upgrading of the ministry’s benefit computer system have all the hallmarks of another computer system in the recent political past known as INCIS*, in that the SWIFTT system has not been, and is not, documented, hence no one person can claim to know exactly what it does, including the Minister himself; if not, will he make the documentation available to the House and prove that my questions is otherwise from what I say?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I do have confidence in the system used by the Ministry of Social Development. I am afraid that the member may be misled in relation to this debate. When we became the Government there was substantial debate about the computer system. The Government replaced the system. There is now a modularised approach to how we are upgrading the software. There is no risk to the system. People will get paid.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the truth, would the Minister please let us have the documentation to support his answer to my last question, and does he not agree that modifying the SWIFTT system over a period of 5 years would be a waste of time, given the likely advances in technology that would occur over such a time frame*; if so, why has he not already ordered its replacement, and if not what information has he received to suggest that a 5-year patch-up job is appropriate, and could we please have the documents tabled?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Minister may answer two.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I mentioned before, we have replaced the system. It has been upgraded. What we are dealing with now is a modular approach to rewriting software. For example, as members of the House know, come Budget time we will be announcing major changes to the benefit system. That will require an upgrade and change in the software, to be able to handle what is happening. So I am afraid that the member has simply been misled. I am perfectly happy for the Ministry of Social Development to brief the member directly on this matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the March 2004 publication of CIO, and also the Peter Hughes threat that he sent to all staff as to what he would do.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Community Education Courses—Members of Parliament
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Is he aware of any community education providers that may have enrolled at least one member of Parliament in a community education course; if so, how will he establish whether that enrolment met the criteria for Government funding?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I am aware that Mr Ron Mark told the House yesterday that he had filled out some forms offering a course of language tuition at the *Eastern Institute of Technology.
Hon Member: In English?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, in English, as the member inquired. The *Tertiary Education Commission is investigating the Eastern Institute of Technology and will hold discussions with it regarding the validity of its student enrolment data.
Hon Bill English: Will the Minister be applying the same kind of auditing interest to *Tairawhiti Polytechnic, and has that polytech been instructed by any of his agencies to remove any reference to the *singalong course from its website and to answer telephone queries from journalists and the public by denying that it ran the course last year, even though he paid it $11 million to do so?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am afraid that the last figure the member has put into play is something he must have made up himself, because no one else can find that figure. In relation to—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can say that the member was inaccurate. That is the way he should have said it, rather than in the way he said it. I ask him to withdraw and apologise, and then to start the answer again.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise. The information, I think, is inaccurate. I advise the member that during the assessment of Tairawhiti Polytechnic’s interim profile late last year, some issues were identified in its category 5.1 provision. That caused the Tertiary Education Commission to conditionally approve the institution’s interim profile while these matters were worked through last year. The issues related to specific anomalies in a range of programmes around the Mâori studies department concerning documentation relating to course start dates and end dates. To resolve that matter Tairawhiti Polytechnic has agreed to an external audit. The terms of reference for this audit are currently under discussion. The Tertiary Education Commission is proposing that the audit cover classification 5.1 enrolments, which are the enrolments the member is talking about.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What requirements are there upon a tertiary education provider when claiming enrolments for funding purposes, and how have those requirements increased recently?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: A provider has to follow funding guide requirements. Under recent changes part of the enrolment procedure for a student is to get a national student number. In doing that, evidence of identity and eligibility has to—and I emphasise “has to”—be established if the student is to receive funding. The Tertiary Education Commission also does random audits to ensure compliance with that process.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Does the Minister believe that it is appropriate for recruitment officers for tertiary education institutions to be signing up every Tom, Dick, or Harry at hamburger bars late at night, and that the Government should pay for every signature those recruiters get, regardless of whether Tom, Dick, Harry, or Ron Mark finishes the course; and is that a good use of taxpayers’ money?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I understand it was a Ron on this particular occasion, and no, of course, I do not—but I note also that neither does the institute of technology in the Hawke’s Bay. The institute itself has said in a press statement that it does not recruit students in that way, and that if that did happen it would condemn it. The institute is itself trying to find out whether this matter has any basis, in terms of staff doing that kind of thing. I would say that Mr Mark is confirmed as being enrolled, although to say any more about that would be to indicate things that perhaps Mr Mark would not want to have discussed. But I say that members who enrol in these courses—I am advised by the Eastern Institute of Technology—receive immediately in the mail material that tells them how the course will run and what they are required to do. I suspect that Mr Mark received that, and maybe he would like to tell us why he did not complete the course.
Deborah Coddington: Is it correct that the Minister received a complaint about a tertiary education provider called the Hikurangi Learning Centre** that alleged that the chief executive officer, Sarah Burkhardt**, was falsifying the attendance records of students by claiming for students who had dropped out of the courses, and that he has know about that since December last year; if so, what confidence can this House have in him in light of his recent answers that rorts like that will be immediately investigated?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Complaints about providers are made all the time. When we get complaints we immediately investigate to see whether there is any substance to them, and we act. There is no way that this Government, unlike the previous Government, will allow money to be misspent in any way. We want to spend it in a way that advances education in this country.
Hon Bill English: When the Minister said publicly that some community education courses were “of debatable quality”, did he mean twilight golf, coffee making, the singalong course, all three of those, or other courses that we do not know about yet?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: One of the things that the member may like to know is that the—
Hon Bill English: Just answer the question.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am just going to walk through the twilight golf course, for example, and tell—[Interruption]
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am actually interested in the answer, and I cannot hear it.
Mr SPEAKER: There is far too much senseless interjecting. I will hear the Minister’s answer in relative silence.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: All these courses take place within the community adult education field. The *Tairawhiti Polytechnic offers a course of 3 hours in total for six nights on golf for beginners, essentially, and it attracts $40 per student for providing that course. The Tairawhiti Polytechnic is considering whether it should do that course again. In relation to the course that is called “singalong” by the member opposite, the *Eastern Institute of Technology has today outlined publicly in the media how the course runs, the material it mails to people, and the quality checks it puts in place. The member may like to take that course because the course, at $225 per student, is aimed at getting people into Mâori language. In relation to people who may well get a qualification for working in a restaurant that may include something like knowing how to make themselves a very good cup of latte—which, undoubtedly, Mr English would like to drink—once again those courses are of use to people in terms of getting a job. In each case I urge the member to consider the courses in question, but I as Minister am very interested in making sure that all courses make a contribution. When I find them to be dubious, they will not happen any more.
Deborah Coddington: On what date did he refer the alleged fraud by the Hikurangi Learning Centre, which is provider-owned by a Mâori trust that advised him and Te Puni Kôkiri on Mâori involvement in tertiary education, to the police?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I did not bring the details of that particular case with me, but I am happy to provide them to the member if she approaches me later.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Minister suggesting to the House that he refers so many of these courses to the police that he cannot remember them?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In his answer to the question the Minister said that he was happy to provide the details to the member if she asked him later. I am interested in those details, as well. If Ministers do have such details and are happy to provide them, it is normal for them to provide the details to the library so that all members can see them.
Mr SPEAKER: In terms of written questions that is the case, but as far as the offer the Minister has made is concerned, I understand that he said he would get the details and give them to the member concerned.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have intervened very quickly for the Minister, but I just ask you to reflect on your own former career as a Minister. Referring a matter to the police is not a question that happens idly, and the suggestion the Minister gave to the House that he could not remember whether he had referred that case to the police is just not credible.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is often the case that Mr Prebble has not repeated exactly what members have said in the House, and he has done that in this case. I said that if the member would like details about that particular institution I am happy to provide them. I did not say anything about the police.
Mr SPEAKER: I will rule on the point of order now. As far as I am concerned that matter is not a point of order. The answer the Minister gave is open to criticism, but that is not a matter for a point of order.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have an interesting situation here. The Minister was asked a very exact question: on what date did he refer the case to the police? He is now saying that if the member wants details he will let her know later. What is the point of having question time? I presume that the real answer is that he has not referred the case to the police, and that is the one piece of information he does not want us to know.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: We need the question to be repeated accurately, as well. It was about when the Minister did something, and he replied quite properly—since this was a case that was not part of the principal question—that he did not have the information with him. If the member thinks Ministers come down to this House with every possible piece of information for every possible supplementary question about every possible course in the country, then he should realise we would all look like Richard Northey coming in here.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is criticising the Minister’s answer. That is not a point of order.
Hon Bill English: What is now the Minister’s position—is it what he said 4 days ago, that a number of these courses are “of dubious quality”, or is it what he said today, that they are “valuable and contribute to employment”; and what is his opinion of an institution that signs up stray members of the public in hamburger bars late at night, gets paid for a course, and does not make sure that the MP completes that course?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Anybody who signs up Ron Mark in a hamburger bar without him fully knowing what he is signing up for, and so on, would take great exception to that, and so would the institution—as it has said it has. The institution does not regard that as proper behaviour. I was reminding the member previously that before he jumps in and condemns these courses, as his predecessor Max Bradford did, he may like to know what they are. Some courses are, however, of dubious quality, and I have said that where they exist they will not exist for long.
5. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received about the impact of a cut in the corporate tax rate to 30 cents?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Apart from a rough fiscal cost of $500 million, I am advised that the principal beneficiaries will be offshore investors, for whom company tax is the final tax paid, as opposed to local shareholders and businesses, for whom it is, in effect, a withholding tax.
Clayton Cosgrove: What would be the effect of cutting the corporate rate to 30c while retaining a top personal rate of 39c?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It has often been said that the primary effect of creating a large gap between the two rates would be to create “a big incentive for people to register companies to run their business rather than trading in their own name, and that significantly increases compliance costs.” My source for that advice is Dr Brash’s interview with The Australian only last month.
Dr Don Brash: How does the Minister reconcile that answer—and indeed his released statement today that if he cut the corporate tax rate “the entire benefit would end up in foreign hands”—with the OECD’s advice that cutting the corporate tax rate for foreign and domestic investors would be advantageous for the New Zealand economy?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can do so a great deal easier than I can the member’s own statement today that the priority is to cut the corporate tax rate and that for low to middle-income families, when only a year ago he said that we should cut the top personal tax rate only.
Mr SPEAKER: I am getting sick of this yelling and shouting. The Minister can give an answer. There is plenty of time for more supplementaries, and the Minister will address the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that some of the frustration on this side of the House comes about because Ministers, and not just this Minister, can make highly controversial statements that are of a completely political nature attack-wise—I expect that all comments in this House are of a political nature—before there is any intervention from the Chair. For the Minister to say that he could reconcile his answer to the question a great deal better than the member who asked it, and go on to talk about Dr Brash’s comments, is completely unacceptable and will lead to disorder.
Mr SPEAKER: It will not lead to disorder, because people will leave if they start saying things like that. The member did not make a point of order, at all. If we take politics out of this Parliament, I really wonder what is left in it.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government does not regard the OECD as the repository of all wisdom on these matters. The fact is that in an imputation system such as New Zealand has, when one cuts the corporate tax rate, the benefit goes very largely to foreign owners of shares and to foreign owners of New Zealand businesses.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree that a cut in the corporate tax rate will provide both an incentive for shareholders to retain and build the capital of their companies, by allowing the after-tax returns to go to shareholders, and encourage both New Zealand and overseas investment in our companies?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I do not, because one of the features of New Zealand’s economy is that there is a large payout of post-tax dividends, as opposed to retained earnings. All that would do therefore is increase the earnings that go overseas, and reduce the amount of imputation credits available for the payment of subsequent personal tax.
Rodney Hide: In light of the Minister’s answer that it is better to keep the company rate and the top personal rate of income tax the same, does he now regret opening up a gap by lifting the top rate of personal tax to 39c, and does he not agree that the best policy would be to drop the company rate of tax and the top rate of personal income tax to 30c so that the economy will prosper?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member has totally misquoted what I said in answer to the first part of the question. The point I was making was that Dr Brash said only a month ago that there should not be a large gap, and today he announced a policy to widen it.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There seem to be two rules, because whenever Opposition members get up to make a point of order or to ask a question, we get shouted down, and you do not seem to do anything.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I will not have that sort of comment made in this House. The member will give his point of order, and that is it. It will be heard in silence.
Rodney Hide: The Minister in no way addressed the question I put, which was whether he regrets lifting the top personal tax rate. I assume by his silence that he must do, but I would much prefer to hear it from his own mouth.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That part of the question depended on the first part of the question, which was factually inaccurate.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I made a point of order, and I would like you to rule on whether Dr Cullen addressed it, because in my view he came nowhere close to it.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister took issue with the basis of the member’s question. If members put facts into their questions, they invite that.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a matter of public record that Michael Cullen, as Minister of Finance, put the top personal tax rate up to 39c in the dollar. He is now trying to hide from that fact and not answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, he is not, and there is a general debate after question time during which any comment like that can be made. I say once again—be seated while I am on my feet—that the Minister took issue with the basis of the member’s question. If members put facts into their questions, they invite that. The Minister is entitled to do that.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The ACT party does not have a slot in the general debate. I ask you then for some guidance. I will put the question directly: does he now regret putting it up to the top rate of 39c?
Mr SPEAKER: Occasionally parties do not have a slot in the general debate, but that is not the issue here. If the member wants to ask that question as a further supplementary, he can. There is the ability to do that within the allocation that that party has been given. If the member wants to ask that, he can, but the Minister addressed the previous question.
Terrorism—Residency and Citizenship
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is he confident that no potential terrorists have been granted New Zealand residency or citizenship since the year 2000?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): I am advised that current immigration policy and procedures provide rigorous checks on character and background for all people applying for residence. I am also advised that the Director of Security* has not made a recommendation for revoking permanent residence since the year 2000. However, as the director of the Security Intelligence Service has said, neither he nor anyone else will ever be able to guarantee that New Zealand will never be the victim, or the source, of an act of terrorism.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why were the three foreigners, who were turned down for citizenship and described by Security Intelligence Service head, Richard Woods*, as “clearly individuals of security concern”, allowed to gain residence in New Zealand; and why on earth are they being allowed to stay here in this country?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As to the reason, the member should go directly to the head of the Security Intelligence Service. As far as citizenship is concerned, that is a matter for my colleague. As far as residence is concerned, I have asked for a report from officials on the cases that have been raised, to see whether, in fact, there are any outstanding matters that we need to consider.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have a problem here. That Minister and the staff in his department are in charge of immigration and the various applications of people who come to this country. To ask me to go the head of the Security Intelligence Service is simply wrong. As the Minister, he surely must know, for the simple reason that he would be privy to information himself, as his department must be now. He must know what the answer is, and he should be required to answer me in this House.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The member asked for the reasons why the director declined citizenship. That is not something that is part of my responsibility as Minister of Immigration. That is for the Minister of Internal Affairs. The responsibility for citizenship and passports is not the responsibility of the Minister of Immigration, which is the point I was trying to make to that member. My responsibility is around residency, which is why I answered as I did the second part of the question. The member asked about residency, which is an immigration issue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Taking the point of order further, I asked him how those people gained residency, which is a responsibility that he as a Minister has. If he had fulfilled that responsibility properly, he would know about the other information, which he surely should have been privy to before any grant of residency was given.
Keith Locke: The Security Intelligence Service has a recommendatory role to the Minister of Immigration. It does not make any decisions itself. So the Minister should be at least in receipt of the recommendation, or the content of it, and be able to comment on that question.
Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister had been asked whether he had been advised by the Security Intelligence Service, then he could answer that question, if he wished to do so. That is a perfectly legitimate question. When I heard the Minister’s reply to the member’s question, I regarded the first part as not strictly an answer to the question. In the second part of the answer, in which he said he was investigating the matter and had asked for a report, he addressed that part of the question.
Lynne Pillay: What checks are undertaken when any person applies for residence in New Zealand?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: All persons applying for New Zealand residence have undergone a number of screening processes for health and character. Where the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service has concerns about an applicant, it has the ability to comment on the person’s application. However, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service may at no stage recommend that the permanent resident status of cases, such as those that are being mentioned at the moment, should be reviewed or revoked.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the Minister, following this investigation, consider revoking the residency of the three people who, in the words of the director*, are a security concern and could be using New Zealand as a “safe haven” to “lie low”, given the enormous risks of international terrorism?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are two ways that revocation could be considered. The first is on direct advice from the Director of Security. I have spoken to him today and he has advised that he is not making a recommendation of revocation. The second matter might be whether, in fact, people have given false information as part of their residency application. That is part of the reason we are investigating the applications that were made for those residency applications.
Keith Locke: How will the Minister assure us that in these three cases the SIS* is not acting as political police and restricting the democratic right of well-settled, law-abiding refugees to get a passport and travel overseas to promote democracy in their original homeland, even if a particularly repressive Government, such as the Algerian Government, gets upset about this and puts some pressure on the New Zealand Government?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister cannot answer the question in terms of the SIS because he is not the Minister concerned. He can answer it in terms of his own portfolio if he wishes to comment.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I rephrase that question?
Mr SPEAKER: The member had quite a good opportunity to put his question. I am pretty generous with the member. If the question is very brief and to the point he can do it. This is one exception that I am making.
Keith Locke: Can the Minister assure us, on the basis of the information he has received from the SIS on these three cases—
Mr SPEAKER: That is it. The member has asked a question and the Minister can answer that part of the question.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The only information I have had from the director of the SIS is his recommendation that the residency applications not be revoked.
Hon Peter Dunne: What advice can the Minister give the House regarding the possibility that there may be other people in New Zealand who have previously been the subject of such a recommendation from the director, which has not been acted upon by the Minister of Internal Affairs at the time, and who may hold permanent residence in New Zealand, not withstanding the fact that applications for citizenship have been revoked; is he acting on those cases as well?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The first point that I want to repeat is that citizenship is not the responsibility of the Minister of Immigration. The only point that I can advance relating to residency status is that there has been no request for revocation from the Security Intelligence Service since the year 2000, which was the time of the member’s question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has the Minister not read New Zealand: The Right Choice**, an Immigration Service administration document that I am holding? Chapter 5.5 sets out what his responsibility as Minister is with respect to security matters; in that light does he have confidence in the system of the New Zealand Immigration Service* given that the head of the SIS has publicly identified New Zealand as a potential safe haven for terrorists; and given that he has only four staff involved in investigating immigration fraud and corruption, how can he give us an assurance that in New Zealand we are safe?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are a number of questions in there. But can I repeat what the director of the SIS says, which is that he can give no guarantee, and nor can anyone else, that we will not be the victims of terrorism, because that is the way of things at the moment. But we do our very, very best to keep New Zealand and New Zealanders safe and secure.
Paid Parental Leave—Evaluation
7. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Labour: What were the key findings of the Department of Labour’s evaluation of the paid parental leave scheme, and what actions is she taking following those findings?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Labour): The evaluation of the current 12 weeks’ paid leave shows positive feedback from both employers and employees. The scheme has increased employees’ well-being*, and their feelings of being appreciated, while employers have benefited from better staff retention. Following this I was delighted to announce with the Prime Minister recently that the eligibility and duration of paid parental leave is to be extended.
Helen Duncan: Will the Minister outline to the House how the paid parental leave scheme is being extended?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The leave period will extend from 12 to 14 weeks, phased in over 2 years. Parents will also be able to take paid parental leave if they have been in the same job for at least 6 months, rather than 1 year as at present.
Sue Kedgley: Why is it considered too difficult to extend paid parental leave to self-employed mothers, when the Government already extends Accident Compensation Corporation cover to self-employed mothers?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The principles of paid parental leave are to assist parents to bond with their new baby and to offer financial support and job security to those parents. The delivery of those principles to the self-employed is my No. 1 priority piece of work in this area.
Helen Duncan: Who will benefit most from the extension to the scheme?
Hon RUTH DYSON: This will be equally beneficial for families and for businesses. Because businesses have to compete internationally for skilled employees, it is important that New Zealand employees’ quality of life matches that of other developed countries; so the scheme will also be of benefit to our country as a whole.
Employment Relations Act—OECD Rating
8. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Labour: Has he received any reports that state that the proposed amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 will help achieve the Government’s stated goal of returning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD per capita income tables; if so, who were those reports received from?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): I have received a range of reports on that matter from officials and others. As the explanatory note of the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill says, the bill is designed to promote productive employment relationships, which should lead to increased employee involvement and commitment at the workplace level. In turn, this should result in increased productivity and investment in human resources and should ultimately lead to improved employment growth and the distribution of earnings.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, we have a limited number of questions. This question was given this morning in writing to the Minister, and it is quite specific. It states: “… if so, who were those reports received from?”. The Minister got up and said he has received the reports “from officials and others”. For a question that he had notice of in writing, that answer is not anywhere near specific enough. It requires us to ask again, to use up questions, to receive information that we should expect now, given the preparation time that the Minister has had.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might like to define the term “others” a little more fully. The rest of the answer is in order.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are a series of others. One would be the *New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, for example.
Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister seen the December 2003 OECD country report on New Zealand, which devotes two pages to talking about the risks to higher productivity posed by the Government’s moves towards more and more rigid labour markets; if so, why is he still persisting with this flawed legislation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen those reports. I also note that growth in New Zealand since the time of the Employment Relations Act has been pretty good—not as good as what we would ultimately like, but not bad, even compared with growth in the years under the Employment Contracts Act.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister taken any particular steps to boost workplace productivity; if so, what?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. I have recently announced the establishment of a workplace productivity work group to look at ways of improving workplace productivity. Although economic growth rates have improved over the past 15 years, this has largely been driven by stronger employment growth rather than improved productivity. Current economic conditions, such as skill shortages and relatively high labour participation rates, suggest that improvements in productivity will be the key to lifting economic growth even further. A highly skilled workforce will enable New Zealand to be more productive and competitive in the global economy, and contribute to economic growth.
Peter Brown: If this bill is principally aimed at productive employment relationships, as the Minister has just suggested, what is the reason for denying non-union people the right to have a collective contract if they so desire?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Collective contracts, by definition in the Employment Relations Act, are those negotiated by unions.
Peter Brown: In Australia they don’t.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am sure this is a matter that people are making submissions on. I think the member is a member of that select committee, and I am hoping it will come back with recommendations in due course.
Sue Bradford: Has the Minister read any reports that indicate that countries with higher disposable incomes per capita, like Austria, Norway, France, Switzerland, and Australia, actually have less flexible wage-bargaining processes than New Zealand currently does; and does the Minister believe that current reforms will boost both incomes and productivity in this country?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen some reports on, particularly, productivity growth and economic growth in countries throughout Europe with more inflexible labour markets, but I think there are a whole lot of factors to economic growth—not just the labour market. We have to try to maintain a balance between the rights and ability of people to get decent incomes, on the one hand, and the flexibility that is required in a modern international labour force.
Hon Roger Sowry: Does the Minister agree with his colleague the Hon Mark Gosche, who commented last week that the $763 million that the Government provides to low-income workers as income support was, in fact, “a subsidy for business in order to allow them to keep wages low”, and is that the sort of logic that is behind the amendments to the Employment Relations Act?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen that comment, and I have not yet had the opportunity to discuss it fully and frankly with my colleague. I think the point the member was trying to make, ultimately, was that if we have productive employment relationships, we have productive firms, and if we have productive firms, we have, hopefully, a productive nation.
Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister seen the comments made by Simon Carlaw of Business New Zealand at the select committee hearings on the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill that the cost of employment-related issues to business in 2002-03 was conservatively costed at about $665 million, or 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, and would increase to between $865 million and $995 million; if so, how can he allow this bill to continue?Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen that statement in that report. I note that Mr Carlaw* says that that is what he thinks, and he is asking people to prove him wrong. I will take it up with him this afternoon when I meet him, and I am also writing to him to get the methodology, the research, and any modelling that has been done by Business New Zealand* to come to those figures, so that we can include them in our general consideration of the bill.
Gangs—Proceeds of Crime Act
9. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that the Proceeds of Crime Act 1991 is proving successful in arresting the growth of criminal gangs?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): No, and there is limited evidence internationally that such legislation by itself actually has that effect. What I do want to see, however, is reform of the existing legislation to maximise the extent by which assets can be stripped from gangs and organised crime—assets that clearly derive from criminal activity. The process is already under way and should result, later this year, in new legislation both strengthening conviction-based confiscations and introducing civil forfeiture.
Marc Alexander: Why is it that for the past 8 years the courts have been asked for only 25 forfeiture, penalty, or restraining orders a year for the detention of assets belonging to gangs and other offenders, when we know, for example, that the Mongrel Mob alone has around 6,600 members; and how is it possible for this soft-on-crime Government to claim that it is doing anything to combat the wealth, growth, and increasing organisation of such gangs when it is seizing such a pathetic amount of their assets?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There are two types of assets that can be confiscated under the legislation. One relates to tainted property, which is property that has been used in the commission of a crime. In fact, 122 forfeiture orders have been issued on that. The one that has been used less often is the pecuniary penalty order, which has been used only 14 times. That is to confiscate the proceeds of the crime itself. It is because of my discontent with that level of confiscation that I am currently considering a civil forfeiture regime. Officials have been in Australia last month looking at that. Next month I will be in the United Kingdom and Ireland looking at the regimes in those respective countries.
Martin Gallagher: How much has been confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1991 over the last 7 years, and how does this compare with amounts collected or taken in under various overseas models?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Assets in the vicinity of $8.3 million have been returned to the Crown under the Proceeds of Crime Act since 1995, but, interestingly, the biggest-ever return under the Act was last year when $3.7 million of assets were taken. That sounds OK, but if we compare it with New South Wales, for example, which is slightly larger than us, we see that it took in excess of $84 million in New Zealand dollar terms under its civil forfeiture regime. That clearly demonstrates to me that there is scope for changing the legislation and looking at civil forfeiture as a way of bringing more assets in from organised criminal gangs.
Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister confirm that he asked for his first report on the Proceeds of Crime Act in early 2000, and that every year he has been in office he has promised to introduce amendments by Christmas, and that he has done it again this year; and is this not just another case of, with Mr Goff, Christmas never comes?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I cannot confirm what the member said, because it is simply not true. What I can confirm is that in 9 long years of a National Government not only did National not introduce decent proceeds-of-crime legislation, but it did not even promise to. Nor did it put into effect anything that might have led the country down that path. It was 9 years of doing nothing, and now that member criticises a Government that is being proactive in this area and will act on it.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister ever heard of Veronica Guerin, the Irish investigative journalist who was assassinated on 26 June 1996 by Dublin’s gangsters as a result of her fiercely exposing organised crime and the assets that criminals accrued; if so, why, given the clear successes of the Irish Proceeds of Crime Act and the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau, which was set up in 1996—4 months after Ms Guerin was assassinated—is he still dithering and wasting time?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I am not familiar with that particular case. I am, however, familiar with the fact that the Irish have run a regime for a considerable period of time, as has New South Wales. It seems to me that the decision to be made is the nature of the regime to be put in place. I want to look at the existing experience of countries that have run those regimes, which is most effective, and which will best fit New Zealand’s circumstances. That is what the ministry and I are currently engaged in doing.
Marc Alexander: What specific range of proposals will the Government initiate, as the present Proceeds of Crimes Act is in no way useful, given that it nets a mere $280,000 per month while a burgeoning 95 percent gang-controlled, $800 million P industry is swamping our cities and killing our kids?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think the member overstates the case in saying that the Proceeds of Crime Act is in no way useful. He heard me just a moment ago indicate to the House that it has returned $8.3 million over the last 7 years. Is it good enough? I have also answered that question—the answer is no. Will it stop the production of methamphetamine? Unfortunately, notwithstanding the promotions that have come out of Western Australia about the money that has been seized, which is actually only about $2.9 million, there is no evidence from any of these regimes that such legislation stops criminals engaging in criminal activities. What it does is take their assets, but we also have to have proactive policing to deal with the criminals. That is why we have put $6 million into squads of police to crack down on meth labs. That is why we closed down 200 of them last year.
Marc Alexander: When will the Minister concede that ordering his Ministry of Justice to tinker with the Proceeds of Crime Act will never be an effective substitute for real get-tough-on-gangs measures, such as the gang asset forfeiture regime based on the Western Australian model, as promoted by United Future?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Unfortunately the member did not listen to any of my preceding answers. I indicated that not only would a conviction-based regime be strengthened because there are inadequacies in it, but that we are also considering a civil-forfeiture regime. In terms of what model we use, the Australian Federal Government, looking at both Western Australia and New South Wales, decided to enact federally the New South Wales model, which has operated more effectively over a longer period of time. That is one of the models I am looking at at the present time.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table three documents. The first document is a profile of Veronica Guerin, which might please the Minister.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Ron Mark: The second document is a press release giving details of the annual report of the Criminal Assets Bureau of Ireland.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Ron Mark: The third document is an article dated 6 February 2003 about the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau crackdown on criminals.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table annual reports of the Minister of Justice, Mr Goff, studying the proceeds of crime legislation for the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and this year.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mâori Youth Contestable Fund—Recidivist Offender
10. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Was a grant made via the Mâori Youth Contestable Fund, as reported, for a 15-year-old recidivist offender well known to police to purchase a computer as a “carrot” for not reoffending; if so, did she continue to reoffend afterwards?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): No. However, over 50 young offenders, often with drug and alcohol problems, learning difficulties, and histories of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse have, over the last 12 months, been assisted through the fund to address their problems and engage constructively in our country.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not correct that this young offender was given this computer by an agency contracted under the Mâori Youth Contestable Fund in Christchurch because she was a young Mâori offender, and if she had been a non-Mâori offender she would not have qualified, and is this not the worst form of race-based policies?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No.
Dave Hereora: Can the Minister advise on some of the key objectives of this fund?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Some of the key objectives of the fund, which reflect the broader aims of the department for all children and young people, are to improve skill development leading to education, training, and employment.
Judy Turner: Can the Minister confirm whether it is *Child, Youth and Family Services policy to provide expensive taxpayer-funded rewards for youth reoffenders before they have demonstrated behaviour showing they have turned from a path of crime; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: My understanding is that there is generally a requirement for a commitment to improved behaviour before any engagement with the offender takes place.
Hon Tony Ryall: How does the Government justify this $10 million race-based fund, which is only for young Mâori 10 to 16 years of age who have been regularly committing offences escalating in severity, and does she support taxpayers’ money under this scheme buying these young offenders computers, gym memberships, sports shoes, and music lessons?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes I do support the purpose of the fund, which is to reduce the level of reoffending, to maintain contact between the young person and his or her family, to ensure that the young person accepts responsibility for offending and is held accountable, and to ensure that he or she has skill development leading to education, training, and employment. In my view, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders would support that, rather than what the member is proposing, which is that if one has a young offender one should do nothing.
Ron Mark: Is the Mâori Youth Contestable Fund not just another trendy rehabilitation programme, which, like so many similar programmes, is costing taxpayers an absolute fortune for no effective result; such as, for example, the faith-based unit run by the Department of Corrections that has just seen a faith-based member murder one of his fellow inmates—a highly successful programme!
Hon RUTH DYSON: No.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is the tender documents for the Mâori Youth Contestable Fund, which makes it clear that this $10 million fund is not available to non-Mâori.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Tony Ryall: The second document is a confirmation from the Minister that such a grant as I described is consistent with the rules of the scheme, even though she denies it.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Petroleum Conference—Ministerial Announcements
11. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Associate Minister of Energy: What announcements did he make during the New Zealand Petroleum Conference held in Auckland recently?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): During the Petroleum Conference I was pleased to announce the commencement of the offshore Northland block offer, which will run for 9 months. Research by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences* on the Northland Basin is showing signs that there is significant potential for North Sea - sized oilfields and gasfields to be present in that area.
Mark Peck: How did this year’s conference differ from previous years?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Remarkably. The 2004 Petroleum Conference demonstrated that there has never been a better time to explore in New Zealand. Conference participation was up considerably, by over 25 percent, on previous years, and over 500 delegates were registered. During the conference Contact Energy* and Mighty River Power* also announced their intention to establish an $80 million fund to accelerate exploration for new gas resources. That initiative, along with the new Northland block offer, is excellent news for the industry in New Zealand. Overall, I have to say it was a conference that was really buzzing.
Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Rights and Title
12. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What is the difference between Mâori customary title and Mâori customary rights to the foreshore and seabed, and does he still believe that customary rights flow from customary title, as he was reported as saying on National Radio* on 24 June 2003?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): Customary title, as proposed in the Government’s policy framework,* enables the title-holder to participate in Resource Management Act* processes. A customary right relates to customary use. Back in June 2003, I had in mind customary law as defined by the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act*.
Stephen Franks: Does the Minister agree with the Hon Margaret Wilson’s recent advice to this House that “Mâori already have customary title over the whole coastline.”, and that the customary title comes because “According to Mâori customary rights, they have a connection with particular areas of the coastline.”, and that “... does not lead to legislation from their perspective.”, as she concluded, and what exactly does the Minister think customary rights should give that Mâori do not already have?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I agree, because Mâori have the ancestral connection.
Russell Fairbrother: What solutions does the Government propose with regard to Mâori customary title and Mâori customary rights to the foreshore and seabed?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Government has proposed to create a new and unified framework that integrates all rights and interests in the foreshore and seabed. That contrasts with the Opposition, which has come up with no construction solution. It seeks only to divide all New Zealanders in this great nation.
Gerry Brownlee: Notwithstanding* the answer the Minister has just given to the previous question, can he confirm that the Government’s new position on customary rights, outlined yesterday by the Hon Michael Cullen—to leave open the High Court’s jurisdiction to determine the extent of Mâori customary rights—represents a very significant weakening of the public domain access and use, as promised by Margaret Wilson, by himself, and by Helen Clark?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Government is working to finality, and Cabinet decisions will be announced soon.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree that customary rights and the rights of all New Zealanders can coexist, as is evident in the management of Lake Taupo and *Okahu Bay, and in the recently negotiated Te Arawa lakes agreement; if so, will the Government consider co-management of the foreshore and seabed?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, and yes.
Hon Peter Dunne: Is it correct that the Government’s position is that where customary rights are to be granted, they will be for specific activities that have been the subject of reasonable continuity in terms of their use back to 1840, and that there will not, in that sense, be any new customary rights granted under the Government’s proposals?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, that is correct.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What is our remedy if a Minister has contradicted himself during the course of question time?
Mr SPEAKER: That can be debated, but not during question time.
Gerry Brownlee: Three aspects have come out of the Minister’s answers in question time today that are new to this House. Accordingly, I seek leave for there to be a debate on those matters immediately after question time today.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been sought for there to be a debate. Is there any objection? There is.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Will the Minister now explain just exactly what new rights Mâori will have with customary title that they do not already have under the Resource Management Act, and if there are to be no new rights, exactly what is the debate on the foreshore and seabed all about?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Let us be quite clear on what customary rights are to tangata whenua*. They are customary rights handed down to us by our ancestors.
Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have a further supplementary question, but before I ask it, I suggest that the Minister in his last answer made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: That may be the member’s opinion. It is not mine.
Stephen Franks: Does the Minister agree with the Hon Trevor Mallard, who was reported on 26 February as saying “The fact that rights are not associated with title is something the public doesn’t understand, and it will be vital to race relations in New Zealand that that understanding is achieved.”, or does he adhere to his earlier answer that he agreed with the Hon Margaret Wilson who said something quite different, and if he adheres to his earlier answer and Margaret Wilson’s answer, why would Mâori be so concerned to get customary title when it confers no extra rights?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may answer two of them.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are days that I agree with Minister Mallard and there are days that I do not. Most certainly the difference in the sense of suggestions between the Attorney-General and the Minister of Education is a different issue. Cabinet will be informing members as soon as it can on the decisions.
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)