Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 23 March 2004
Tuesday, 23 March 2004
for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
2. Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Iwi Consultation
3. Local Authorities—Alternative Funding
4. Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title
5. Obesity—Students, Hawke's Bay
7. Security—Residency and Citizenship
8. Retail Industry—Skilled Workers
9. Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—OECD Rating
10. Tuberculosis—Patients, Auckland Hospital
11. Traffic Infringement Notices—Policy
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to ensure that all children develop basic literacy skills?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Despite the fact that New Zealand’s 15-year-olds rate third in the OECD in literacy, I am not satisfied with the performance of students at the bottom end. Today I announced that primary and intermediate schools will be taking part in targeted programmes aimed at lifting the literacy skills of around 35,000 students. We are almost doubling the number of secondary schools involved in literacy development projects, involving an additional 16,000 secondary students. The Government is now investing around $43 million each year in targeted literacy programmes. It is a clear commitment that this Government has made to what is a top priority.
Lynne Pillay: How does this approach to literacy development differ from previous approaches?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This Government is committed to an education system that works for all children. We have targeted our investment in areas like literacy and numeracy, based on comprehensive research and evaluation. This approach differs from the haphazard approach of the previous Government, which included halving operational funding for resource teachers of reading, cutting reading recovery in many areas, and a basic belief on the part of the previous Government that brown children could not learn to read.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can he claim any real commitment to addressing New Zealand’s serious literacy problem when in 1999 he dumped nationally consistent assessments in literacy, abandoned clear literacy goals, and that the $43 million he boasts of amounts to 0.5 percent of his budget; and is it not true that today’s announcement is just a reaction to the fact that Dr Don Brash has made an issue of literacy, and the Minister is trying to catch up?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I certainly have not read about it. What is important is that this Government has decided to introduce a testing system that works, through assessment tools for teaching and learning (asTTle). The Opposition might like to recognise that the system it has modelled its approach on—that of England—was dumped last week by the Brits because it is useless.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is he confident the Vision Hearing Screening Programme is operating effectively to ensure that children’s vision and hearing problems are identified early and do not impede their acquisition of basic literacy skills; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, because not enough people are doing that work in schools. Clearly, if students have not had their eyes tested in the way they should have, and cannot see blackboards and cannot read text, then their literacy will not improve. It is an issue the Government is focused on.
Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Iwi Consultation
2. RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections: What is the spending breakdown for the $1.3 million spent consulting iwi over the new Spring Hill prison in the north Waikato, and how many Mâori were consulted?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): The projected cost of the Spring Hill prison is approximately $250 million. The $1.3 million spent on iwi consultation covers a 4-year period. To assist the member, I have a breakdown of the cost in the form of a table that I will table at the end of the question. Of that money, $875,000 has been spent on the procurement of specific services, and $438,000 relates to 48 marae hui and other meetings throughout Waikato-Tainui. It is not possible to say how many Mâori have been consulted, but it is a large number. I consider the $1.3 million figure to be excessive, and I have asked for more information about the consultation costs for not just this prison but also the other three regional prisons currently under development. I have also instructed officials to advise me of any proposed consultation commitments in the future, so that I can assure myself that the commitments are fully justified.
Rodney Hide: On what date did he learn that his department was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on consulting with Mâori, and what action has he taken to put a stop to the gravy train?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot recall the precise date, but as I have advised the member, as far as any future commitments are concerned those proposals will need to come to me to be justified.
Martin Gallagher: Why is the Spring Hill Corrections Facility in north Waikato required?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Currently, 600 inmates from the region are serving their sentences as far away as Invercargill. In order to reduce reoffending, it is important to bring inmates back to their local communities, as family support is a key part of successful rehabilitation. That was the answer there. In addition, this Government is putting more people in prison for longer, as part of its get-tough-on-crime campaign. That means that four new prisons such as Spring Hill are necessary, and the planning for those prisons is well under way. In the case of the Northland facility, significant progress has been made on construction.
Dr Paul Hutchison: How much has his department spent on consulting the people living around Meremere who are non-Mâori, and if he does not know that does it not indicate how little has been spent on working with the wider north Waikato community?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That member, who is the local member for the area around that site, knows that a huge amount of consultation has gone on. The reality is that millions of dollars have been spent on consultants, including lawyers, architects, engineers, and earth-moving companies. A huge amount of money has been spent on trying to get this much-needed facility up and running—a facility that ultimately, I am sure, that member will support.
Ron Mark: What concerns the Minister more: the amount of money the Department of Corrections is spending on cultural advisory services, or the increasing, exorbitant amount of money that the department is wasting on its already failing integrated offender management system, which it cannot even keep up with itself; and how much longer will we go down that path of creating Labour’s own INCIS project?
Mr SPEAKER: That widens the original question, but the Minister may comment.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: With regard to the last part of that member’s question first, the reality is that the integrated offender management system is proving to be very successful, and I would be happy to give the member a briefing on it if he so requires. As far as the first part is concerned, he will realise that consultation with a range of groups is required under the Resource Management Act—an Act that was passed by the previous National Government.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that involving the community in decisions such as establishing new prisons can reduce costs in the long term, and does he agree that community buy-in into the corrections system is essential if it is ever going to be anything more than a way to churn out angrier and more effective criminals? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hide, you know that you cannot interject while questions are being asked. You have had your one warning of the day.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. Getting reintegration into the community is very, very important if we are to try to reduce reoffending. Having the community working with the local prison and offenders is really important in order to be able to achieve that.
Deborah Coddington: Why should taxpayers have to pay for consultation with local Mâori over the prison, when presumably that is what they pay the local Mâori MP for—or has he just not bothered to talk to Nanaia Mahuta about Mâori concerns over the prison?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can personally report that that local Mâori member is a very, very hard-working member on behalf of her constituents. She is extraordinary in the amount of work that she does in order to represent constituents who are in prison. The fact is that consultation is required under the Resource Management Act, an Act that was passed by the previous National Government.
Heather Roy: How does he justify spending $1.3 million on consulting Mâori, when the Department of Corrections told prison neighbour Lynne Mills that it was not its policy to pay for consultation, despite the department picking her brains about land stability, flooding, social considerations, and so on—or is this one rule for Mâori and one rule for everyone else?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, it is most certainly not that. A range of people has been consulted on this prison. Some are paid, like lawyers, and some are not, like local members of the community.
Deborah Coddington: Will he investigate his department’s consultation with 61-year-old Lynne Mills, which involved his department bullying her not to take court action by threatening to make the council reverse her small subdivision if she opposed the prison—or does he think that is acceptable behaviour?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is highly emotive language from that member. Anybody can take court action under the Resource Management Act. The reality is that this prison is a much-needed facility. There will always be difficulty because everybody wants people to be locked up, but no one wants prisons to be in his or her own backyard. It is really important that we proceed with this facility as quickly as we can.
Gerrard Eckhoff: What work did Mr Tom Moana do for the department to justify his payment of $131,753.14 in just 1 year, and how many Mâori consultants were employed?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is a good question. As I have advised the member, I am seeking more information on that and on other matters relating to the consultation around this particular project.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why has the Minister twice in his answers blamed the former National Government for the Resource Management Act, when in 1999 a comprehensive reform bill was introduced but rejected on the instruction of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment; and why will this Minister now not take responsibility for the mess caused by rejecting those sensible amendments? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I want to warn members. This is the only warning I will give to that member, and it is the final warning for the House. There must be no comments while questions are being asked. Everyone is entitled to ask his or her question in silence.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I question the relevance of that question. The question itself was about responsibility for the Resource Management Act. This Minister has no responsibility for that Act.
Mr SPEAKER: In terms of the second part of the question, the Minister has some responsibility. He can answer that part.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I was not blaming the National Party; I just stated the fact that it introduced that legislation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said that National introduced the Resource Management Bill.
Hon Paul Swain: No.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Those were his exact words. That is not correct. I seek leave of the House to table the Resource Management Bill, which was introduced to the House by Geoffrey Palmer in 1989.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that bill. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Paul Swain: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on it; it was a point of order asking for leave.
Rodney Hide: Is this not another Labour Government U-turn, with the Minister blaming his department for spending $1.3 million on consultation when this Government and those Ministers authorised that consultation and those payments?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is not a U-turn. I am not blaming officials; I am just seeking further information.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I put it to you that it is really unsatisfactory for a Minister who has received a question under notice, so it has not been sprung upon him, to come along to the House and say—and I would quote him exactly—it is “a good question” and he is seeking more information. The Minister did not even make the offer, as Ministers usually do, that when he has got the information he will table it with the Parliamentary Library or will send it to the member. No, he just said it was a very good question and he was seeking more information. I put it to you that that is a totally unsatisfactory answer, and that the Minister should at least give an undertaking to the House that when he has obtained the information that one would have thought he would know about the $1.3 million, he will make it available to members.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I said right at the start that I would table the breakdown. I then said I would get further information. I am happy to provide the member with it when it is available.
Mr SPEAKER: The other point I would make to the member is that the last question asked whether the Minister was satisfied—whether the Minister was satisfied to some extent—or whether there was a U-turn or something like that, and he said there had not been a U-turn. It is the previous question that the member has actually talked about. Having cleared up the point with—[Interruption] The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for interjecting while I am speaking.
Hon Roger Sowry: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the member I listen very carefully to the questions and answers in this House, and I hope to ensure that sufficient answers are given. On that question, when the Minister clarified the point that he will table information and give the additional information required, I would have thought that addressed that particular issue.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. After question time I invite you, as you often do, to look at the Hansard record of what has just occurred. I think you will find that there is a danger of the Speaker getting into justifying answers given by Ministers. This is the second week in a row that members have seen you, as Speaker, stand and interpret an answer, and give that interpretation to the House. I invite you to look at that. I think the precedents being set are unhelpful.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think the member makes quite an interesting and a fair point, but it is the exact reverse of what happens when members of the Opposition keep asking the Speaker to try to state what the Minister’s answer should be, as opposed to simply judge whether the question is being addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: That is exactly right. The question was addressed, and I left it at that.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt, but this follows on from that point. We are having difficulty with written questions, and indeed with oral questions, where Ministers say yes, they will table information, which is where we have got to, but it is not clear whether it will be tabled this afternoon, tomorrow, next week, or next year. It would seem to me to be helpful if the Minister would indicate—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said that at the end of this question, he would seek leave to table it immediately.
Rodney Hide: No, I am sorry, that is not correct. He will table material that is helpful with regard to the primary question at the end of question time, but when he was asked “a good question” by Mr Eckhoff, he said he would table answers to that question—but when? It would be helpful if he could say whether it will be 10 o’clock tonight, tomorrow, next week, or next year.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am happy to table the information as soon as I have it.
Rodney Hide: That is the point.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have asked for further information. I cannot give it to the member before I get it. I am sorry; it just does not work like that.
Rodney Hide: This is the Minister of Corrections, who is the boss of his department. Surely to heaven he has not said to the Department of Corrections that it should find the information out when that is convenient. Surely he will have given his staff a timetable, so—given that we get very few questions—why can he not come to this House and say he will have the information by the end of the week?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not obliged to table anything. He has said he will, and he has said he will do so when he receives the information. I am sure there can be a subsequent question about that on another occasion.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of sorting out any confusion in the mind of the public and the media, is it the Minister’s contention that the Resource Management Bill was drafted when Richard Prebble and his colleagues were in the third Labour Government, and the bill was passed by Nick Smith and his National colleagues, and if that is what they did not intend from foreseeable, predictable Waitangi industry graft, why did they do that in the first place? Is that his view?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Those were two very good questions. In answer to the first one, I can absolutely confirm what the member has said, and I therefore find it quite difficult to hear some of the outrage about this matter now. I presume that some of the issues that have arisen now go directly back to that policy, when members of both the ACT and National parties supported each other in Government.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When a member from the National Party asks a question about the Resource Management Act you say that it is not relevant, but when Mr Peters gets up and makes some statements that is apparently in order. It is just as relevant as it would be for me to ask what the point was of changing the Government, if a National Government was to pass a Geoffrey Palmer, loopy bill.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way, Mr Prebble: if what you say was correct, I would have been wrong, but in actual fact—as I consulted with the Clerk—I did allow the question concerned.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely it is in the interests of this House, the country, and the media, in particular, that any issues of the type of huge confusion that we are hearing about on this matter—in particular, issues to do with responsibility and culpability—be sorted out now.
Hon Richard Prebble: The difficulty with the question is that it has been asked of a person who was not a Minister. If the member really wants to come and ask me, I am quite happy to tell him about it. I thought that I had delayed the resource management legislation right after the election, and the member could have knocked me over with a feather when the previous National Government passed it.
Mr SPEAKER: It is interesting how history reveals itself. I want to move on now.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to give some consideration to the issue that with written questions, and now with oral questions, Ministers are answering by saying that they do not have the information. They answer questions within the specified time, and then they say that when they get the information they will get back to the member. Written questions of that nature that I asked last year still have not been answered. I know that Ministers and departments have the material—they are just waiting for a non-embarrassing time to release it. I do not see how this Parliament can hold the executive to account if Ministers can say that when they get the information, they will give it to members. I think that when we put a question down to be answered and the Minister does not have the material, there should be an expectation that a time frame for providing it is given. Otherwise, what is the point of asking questions? I ask you, Mr Speaker, to give a considered ruling on that.
Mr SPEAKER: I quote to the member Speakers’ ruling 148(3),.the last sentence of which states: “…Ministers are under an obligation to the member concerned to follow up with a full reply as soon as possible thereafter.” I will take the member’s advice and look at this issue. Mr Swain wanted to put something down.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Hansard record from 1991 showing that the Hon Winston Peters did indeed vote for the passage of the Resource Management Act.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I seek leave to table the breakdown of the iwi expenditure around consultation that the member asked for.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Local Authorities—Alternative Funding
3. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Minister of Local Government: Is the Government considering alternative sources of funding for local authorities besides property rating; if so, what alternatives has it identified so far?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): At its December 2003 meeting, the central government/local government forum agreed that a working party be established to review and assess the merits of any additional funding arrangements for local authorities that might be found necessary. The working party has begun its task and is due to report progress to the next meeting of the forum. It is expected that the working party will have completed its task in time for the December 2004 forum meeting.
Paul Adams: Does the Minister agree with the comments of the Auckland Regional Council chair, Gwen Bull, this morning that rates based upon the value of a person’s property are archaic, and that we have to find other ways of funding; if so, why is it that in the year since the last rates revolt, we have seen not one single, useful proposal from the Minister to address the very real concerns of the long-suffering Auckland ratepayer?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The raising of revenue by territorial authorities is a complex issue, which is why the Government has agreed to participate with local government in working through this issue.
David Parker: Does the Local Government (Rating) Act provide greater flexibility for local authority rating?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes. The new Local Government (Rating) Act gives local authorities rating tools that are more flexible than was the case in the past. The new provisions for targeted rates enable local authorities to better match the users of a service with the means of rating for that service.
Jim Peters: What has been the response of the Minister and his department to the persistent submissions by the Far North District Council and mayor regarding the GST exemption on the core property rate under the Local Government (Rating) Act?
Hon Chris Carter: The Government has no plans to remove GST from rates.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Government considering levies on parking spaces to help fund transport infrastructure, and waste-to-landfill levies to fund zero-waste initiatives, to ensure that those who create expensive problems for local government also pay to help solve them?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Those two areas of transport and environment raised by the member are not areas I have responsibility for, so I am not aware of what decisions have been made in respect of them.
Paul Adams: What is the Minister’s reaction to the suggestion of a local rain tax, mooted this morning by experts on National Radio, to pay for stormwater upgrades; and suggestions having reached such a ridiculous point, does he think it about time that the Government did something to shore up local government funding shortfalls?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The greatest cost for local government is infrastructure cost, and no Government in the history of New Zealand has given more for the development of infrastructure in our territorial areas than this Government.
Paul Adams: Why will the Government not consider removing GST—that tax on a tax—from local rates bills, thus providing an instant saving of 11 percent to residential ratepayers, in light of indications that Auckland’s ratepayers are to suffer another increase in rates this year to cover just the basic facilities?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The removal of GST on rates would not lead, of course, to a drop of 12.5 percent in people’s rates bills, because local territorial authorities base their income on goods and services as they move through usage within the territorial areas. So if local authorities lost revenue from the removal of GST, they would have to recoup it in other ways.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague’s question mentioned a figure of 11 percent, whereas the Minister’s answer referred to a figure of 12.5 percent. We seek further clarification of that differential.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I was making the point that the removal of GST would not lead to a significant fall in rating bills, because local authorities would have to recoup their lost revenue in other ways. The only way they can do that at present is through rates.
Gerry Brownlee: Surely, you will not accept that as an answer. This House well knows that GST collected by a local authority is not revenue.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not judge the quality of answer; I judge whether the question has been addressed. It was.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said that if GST were lost at the collection point by local authorities, then they would have to make up the difference. That is an absurd answer for a Minister to give, as it is the Inland Revenue Department that collects GST.
Mr SPEAKER: That might be the member’s opinion, and it might be other members’ opinion, but the answer addressed the question, which, of course, can be alluded to by way of statement or comment.
Ron Mark: I seek leave of the House to table the United Future – Labour heads of agreement, which shows quite clearly that United Future had no interest in that matter at the time of the coalition negotiations.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to ask an urgent question of the Minister of Finance.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title
4. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Will Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed include a Mâori customary title, given her statement that “Mâori already have customary title over the whole coastline.”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): The proposed bill will give an option for the recognition of ancestral connection. With regard to the final wording to be used in the legislation, the member will have to wait until the bill is introduced.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Minister still stand by her statement that Mâori will have no more rights under the Government’s proposals than they already have under the Resource Management Act, given that on 17 December the Government said it intended to legislate a menu of enhanced participation options, including devolved management, membership on hearing committees, and the establishment of whânau, hapû, or iwi committees?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: With regard to the details, the member will have to wait until the bill is introduced into the House.
Dr Wayne Mapp: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a specific question about whether she still stood by her statement. She simply told me to wait for the legislation. How does that address the actual question asked, which was: does she stand by her statement?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The answer is simple. Since the policy is yet to be finalised in its detail, it is not possible to answer questions about the final detail.
Mr SPEAKER: I am put in a position where I have to judge whether the question was addressed. It was. It might not have satisfied the member, but that quite frequently is the case with answers.
Mita Ririnui: Will the legislation give Mâori the right to pursue their customary rights?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, it will.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister consider that the award of a symbolic customary title, and the ability to participate in decision-making processes, is a fair exchange for the loss of both property rights and rangatiratanga; if so, why?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The matters that the member has raised are important and fair, and the way in which they will be expressed in the legislation will soon be known.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister concede that the term “customary title” has attracted some confusion, given that the real power will rest with a customary right; if so, is the Minister—as part of the ongoing policy-development process—looking at alternative ways in which the concept that underpinned the original idea of a customary title might be better expressed?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. That is correct. The term “title” is, of course, understood within the land transfer system in a different way than it is understood within customary title jurisprudence under customary lore. It is true that confusion has arisen because of that.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the Government’s proposals for the consultation, whatever it might be, amount to the co-management that was apparently envisaged by the Minister of Mâori Affairs just 2 weeks ago?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I understood the Minister of Mâori Affairs, he said that discussions were taking place, and, of course, we would have to wait until the bill is introduced to see how those ideas are expressed in the legislation.
Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister able to give the House any clear indication of when that legislation might be expected?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: It could not come too soon for me; but, yes, in the very near future we will be able to clarify precisely what is in the legislation.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will this legislation that is to be introduced very shortly include powers for the High Court to investigate Mâori customary rights, and will such power include the granting of Mâori customary title?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The legislation will address issues of jurisdiction relating to the High Court and the Mâori Land Court.
Obesity—Students, Hawke's Bay
5. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: What new action is the Government taking in response to the study of almost 900 Hawke’s Bay schoolchildren which reveals that the number of obese children has more than trebled in the past 11 years?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The following are some of the actions undertaken in response to the growing obesity problem in New Zealand: the development of the New Zealand Health Strategy, which identifies nutrition and diet as priorities for district health boards; the carrying out of the first-ever child nutrition survey, which first identified the growing problem; the release of the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action strategy—and New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to have a strategy in this respect—and the development of an inter-sectorial approach across health, education, and Sport and Recreation New Zealand.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that if we want to reduce childhood obesity and encourage children to eat healthy diets, we need to control the advertising of unhealthy food on television; if so, will the Government legislate to remove such advertising around children’s programmes; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government has no intention of legislating to ban advertising on television. I do not believe that behaviour would change just by our banning advertising on television. A multi-sector approach, involving communities, homes, and families, is needed—more than just banning television advertising. When we look at this problem, we have to look across the whole sector.
Russell Fairbrother: What action has been taken on the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action strategy?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That is a very good question, because a lot of action is taking place on that strategy. As I said, we are one of the few countries in the world to have such a strategy, and it is something that the World Health Organization recommends. The implementation plan for the strategy, which will be released in May, sets out concrete action to be taken by a range of agencies and organisations. For example, we have already undertaken a pilot—free fruit in low-decile schools—and it will be evaluated; and the Minister of Education and myself are planning a major initiative to build on the Health Promoting Schools strategy in the near future.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister, having focused on cigarette smoking, with all the millions of dollars she spent on it, have a sense of conscience that she should have spent more time on diabetes, on young children who are overweight, and on this issue, rather than her asking a bunch of academics questions that we all know the answer to?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member makes a good point: this is a serious issue. Diabetes and obesity are serious issues. The research is showing that obesity is an issue that has been growing rapidly over the last decade. We certainly will put into it the same attention as we have put into trying to reduce the consumption of tobacco, which, after all, kills around 4,700 New Zealanders a year.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that the responsibility for child obesity lies squarely with parents, not food manufacturers and retailers; if so, can she assure the House that her Government will support parents making informed choices, rather than taxing or banning certain kinds of food; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The answer to the second part of that question is “Yes”. With regard to the first part, it is a parental responsibility, but I think we all have a responsibility to provide some of the tools that parents need to be able to make those informed choices.
Sue Kedgley: Further to the Minister’s response to the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and given the Government’s action about vending machines selling cigarettes, does the Minister agree that the presence in schools of vending machines selling fizzy drinks normalises and encourages the consumption of unhealthy food by children, and will she be calling on her ministry to develop national guidelines on vending machines that schools must follow; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Guidelines for vending machines in schools are being developed in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. I cannot recall what the first part of the question was.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek the leave of the House to ask the Minister whether it was 470 people who are alleged to have died from smoking, not the 4,700 she said, or that there is not even one death certificate that establishes that a death was from smoking.
Hon ANNETTE KING: The answer is that 4,700 New Zealanders die from smoking-related diseases each year, and that evidence is available.
Nandor Tanczos: Given that the Minister said that she was unable to answer fully the last question because she could not remember the first part, I ask permission for my colleague Sue Kedgley to repeat the question so that the Minister can remember the first part and answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member did not say whether that was a point of order or a supplementary question. I took it as a supplementary question. He should have said—
Nandor Tanczos: I said it was a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask Sue Kedgley to ask the first part of the question again.
Sue Kedgley: In the first part of my question I asked whether, further to the question of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and the Government’s actions to restrict vending machines in respect of smoking, the Minister would then be seeking to etc., etc.
Hon ANNETTE KING: In fact I did answer that question.
Sue Kedgley: Will the Minister follow the lead of the British Food Standards Agency and develop guidelines for the food industry on reducing the amount of fat, sugar, and salt in food that is marketed at children, and then identify for consumers which foods do not meet those guidelines; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think we have probably gone a step further. In fact, we mandatorily require labelling of fats, sugars, and salt in our food. Any food in New Zealand that is able to be labelled must carry a label identifying it. That has been done under the joint food code between Australia and New Zealand.
Sue Kedgley: Has the Minister actually read the new initiative by the Food Standards Agency in England, which goes far, far further than our nutrition guidelines, which are actually very hard for people to understand, and is she aware that they will be simple guidelines that say: “These are foods that are high in fat, high in sugar…” and so on, and that identify very simply for consumers which foods are unhealthy for children to eat?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am totally confused by that member’s question, because she came to my office with a basket of goodies to congratulate me on the labelling regime that we had put in place to identify fats, sugars, and salt in food, because it is so comprehensive.
6. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: Has she received any reports on nutrition in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I have received a number of reports on nutrition, the most significant being the child health nutrition survey released in November 2003 in which the growing obesity problem was identified. Yesterday, the Hawke’s Bay report that was released backed up that survey.
Steve Chadwick: What are some of the actions that are being taken to address this serious issue?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have already canvassed a number of the solutions in previous answers. There is no easy, takeaway solution. We favour a multifaceted, community-led approach similar to that that was shown at the weekend at Porirua’s Creekfest, an event that over 10,000 people attended. It was organised by health providers, who showed the range of healthy foods people could eat and how they could have an active lifestyle.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with Sir John Krebs, the Chair of the Food Standards Agency in England, that unhealthy foods should not be sold or promoted in schools, and will she therefore be calling on her ministry to develop healthy eating guidelines that all schools must follow; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The health-promoting schools do develop guidelines, and, as I said, there is a major initiative between the education and health services in that respect. But I think we would do better to listen to some of the New Zealand community health workers, who said that we would do far better to work with communities than to bring in a large hammer to hit people over the head with.
Security—Residency and Citizenship
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Is the Government reviewing any previous applications for residency or citizenship due to security concerns; if so, how many?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The Minister of Immigration advised the House last week that he had sought a report from officials on cases where residency had been granted but citizenship denied. He received a report this morning on four cases of that type—three from the last financial year and one from the year before. Immigration officials confirm that no issues of security concern were raised when the residency applications were being processed, and the Security Intelligence Service has not recommended that any further action be taken.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that post-September 11 the Americans went back over all applications to their country over the last 4 years as a security measure, and why have we not done the same in this country, given the number of frauds being pointed out to her Minister of Immigration year in and year out, month in and month out—one can surely have no confidence in what is going on in respect of security measures in this country?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: We have not been advised that it is appropriate to go back through the many, many applications for permanent residence that would have been received over the years. As the member knows, the migration quota is set—plus or minus 5,000—at a figure of around 45,000 per annum, and has been for some years; it has just not seemed necessary to go back and review all those applications.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the Prime Minister be instructing the Minister of Immigration to review the immigration legislation to ensure that he has enough power to revoke the residency of persons who, in the words of the director, are of security concern?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is possible to revoke residency, as the member knows, and there are criteria set out in the Act that involve revocation on grounds of there having been an administrative error, fraud, or the supply of false and misleading information. I understand that the 1998 amendments to the Immigration Act enable the Director of Security to issue a security-risk certificate if he were to pursue revocation on security grounds. To date only one security-risk certificate has been issued—the one extant over Mr Zaoui—and this has revealed quite a number of process problems that I am very keen to have reviewed once that particular case is completed.
Hon Matt Robson: What provisions for natural justice exist at present when an application for residency or citizenship is refused, and are there any plans to review the present legislation to ensure that natural justice is provided to all applicants?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that people who have not been approved for permanent residence, having already got status in New Zealand—such as refugee status—or those who are declined for citizenship, do have the right to lay a complaint with the Inspector-General and he will look at those cases. I understand that in the four cases I referred to in the first answer, where citizenship was denied after residency had been granted, all four cases did lay complaints with the Inspector-General. He did not uphold any of their complaints.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Government has allegations from a very authoritative source of an al-Qaeda operative being in New Zealand in 1996, would it not be wise for the service—and every other agency concerned with our security—to be checking out who that person possibly met at the time that person arrived, and sort out any unidentified arrival at that time, rather than giving assurances that our country is safe when we all know that it cannot possibly be, given our slack Immigration Service?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The allegation in the book by the Pakistani journalist was that that particular individual had entered on some kind of business visa. If we were to trawl through all temporary visas going back right through the 1990s, that really would be a Herculean task. In addition, we have no evidence at all that that man ever came here, nor does Australia. Australia is now following up through its mission in Pakistan—and this will be useful for us as well—to see whether it can get any further detail. But no known alias used by that man has seen him under that alias in New Zealand.
Retail Industry—Skilled Workers
8. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment: What initiatives is the Ministry of Social Development undertaking to assist the retail industry meet its need for skilled employees?
Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment): Tonight I will be launching Work and Income’s latest industry partnership, this time with the fast-growing retail sector. The partnership is already operating in Auckland and Wellington, and will be extended to the Bay of Plenty, Christchurch, and central regions. It helps retail businesses recruit and train staff they need, and ensures that more people move from a benefit into a decent job with a career ladder. This will lead to long-term real jobs.
H V Ross Robertson: What, if any, other initiatives has the Government undertaken to assist industry to meet its skill and labour force needs?
Hon RICK BARKER: There are other partnerships between the Government and industry. Work and Income already has programmes with the hospitality industry and truck operators, and negotiations are under way with the banking, supermarket, and transport industries, as well. By working with industry and unions to address training and skill needs, we aim to get another 2,500 people into work as part of the overall Jobs Jolt package of an additional 22,000 jobs.
Katherine Rich: When there are well over 7,000 people in the Waikato region at a time when there are reports of fruit rotting on the vines because no one will pick it, does the Minister admit that, rather than being a Jobs Jolt, it is not even a jobs nudge; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: That member could not be more wrong. I have been to Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, and I intend to go to the far north to Kerikeri, and despite having a record low of unemployment—when this Government came to power there were 164,000 people on the unemployment benefit; there are now 81,000—and a huge crop, none of those three regions has reported a jobs shortage.
Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—OECD Rating
9. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Labour: Who are the “others”, apart from the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, he was referring to when he stated in the House last week that he had received a range of reports from “officials and others” stating that the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will help achieve the Government’s stated goal of returning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD per capita income tables?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): As I advised the House last week, I have seen a range of reports that say good workplace relationships assist in productivity and job growth. Commentators such as Rod Oram note that the Employment Relations Act has made good progress with the Government’s objectives of promoting a more cooperative, less adversarial workplace, thereby fostering skills development and innovation, which will help in developing businesses and their workforces. The World Bank emphases that countries with highly coordinated collective bargaining tend to have lower unemployment and shorter strikes than uncoordinated ones do. All these factors should lead to sustained economic growth.
Hon Roger Sowry: Can the Minister state to the House who the others are who have specifically told him that passing the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will achieve higher growth? I note that the examples he gave were about employment relations in general and not the bill.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have advised the member, the purpose, the objective, of the employment relations legislation and the reform bill is to promote good workplace practice. It follows on from that that if we have good workplace practices, we have high productivity, and then growth. Rod Oram, for example, and the World Bank all talk about the importance of good workplace practices when it comes to promoting job and economic growth.
Helen Duncan: Has the Minister received any reports from leading companies about New Zealand’s industrial relations framework, compared with that of Australia?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen a report of an interview with Ralph Waters, chief executive of Fletcher Building, who often tells people that while he worked in Australia he probably spent 20 to 30 percent of his time on industrial relations issues. He stated that he did not think that he spent 20 or 30 seconds on industrial relations while working in New Zealand. That puts the employment relations regime of Australia and New Zealand into perspective.
Hon Roger Sowry: Does the Minister believe that Rod Oram and the World Bank have stated to him that by passing the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill we will achieve greater growth?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I am not saying that. What they are saying is that to have productivity and growth it is important to have good workplace relationships, which is the objective and purpose of the bill.
Hon Roger Sowry: Now that the Minister has admitted after three questions that Rod Oram and the World Bank were not the “others” that he referred to in Parliament last week, can he now answer the primary question and tell the House who are the “others”, other than the Council of Trade Unions, who told him that the passing of the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will lead to New Zealand climbing up the OECD ladder in terms of growth?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I said to that member, the objective of the legislation does state that it is about improving workplace practices, thereby leading to growth. It is the relationship between this legislation and growth that is critical. Numbers of commentators have said that if there is to be economic growth and workplace productivity, there need to be good workplace relations. That is what this legislation is aiming to pursue.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Members in this House are required to rely on the word of a Minister. Last Wednesday, in response to an oral question, the Minister stated that he had received reports from officials and “others” stating that the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill would help achieve growth. When asked who those “others” were, he responded in a supplementary answer that the Council of Trade Unions was one of those. Now in response to four questions he has been unable to outline anyone else who was part of that “others” group. Mr Speaker, I ask you whether there can be a situation whereby a Minister has given an answer in the House stating that he has had reports from “others” and then the following week refused to answer a question on who those reports had come from.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The questions last week were about what reports I had received relating to the Government’s objective of economic growth. I said that we had received a range of reports linking the importance of good workplace practices with economic growth. I have now given a couple of examples outside of the Council of Trade Unions who say that good employment relations are important in achieving economic growth.
Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 145/1, which states: “The House and public opinion arbitrate on the quality of an answer to a question. It is not the Speaker’s role.”
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I agree that it is not your role to arbitrate on whether an answer given by a Minister is satisfactory. However, your role is to make sure that the answer given is accurate. The Minister, by way of point of order, did not portray what happened last week accurately. The question last week was on what reports he had received on a specific bill, not on whether he had received reports. The first question was whether the Minister had received reports. The Minister stated in this House—and we are required to believe him—that he had received reports from officials and “others” on the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill. When asked in a supplementary question who the “others” were—the plural—he stated that it was the Council of Trade Unions. This week, when questioned on who the “others” are, the Minister has failed to give any “others” on that particular bill, which is what the question relates to. When asking the question I am required to submit the detail of last week’s answers. We have done that. Mr Speaker, I am asking you to rule on whether the Minister can get away with saying that he has received reports, when, clearly, he has not.
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker is not responsible for accuracy. That is over to members. I do not think the Speaker should put words into a Minister’s mouth. The Speaker cannot do that, or judge the quality or accuracy of an answer. Accuracy is something that requires a judgment, and that is up to Parliament and to the public at large. I am concerned with whether the Minister addressed the question. He did.
Tuberculosis—Patients, Auckland Hospital
10. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: How many people infected with tuberculosis are currently patients at Auckland Hospital, and, if there are any, how many of those patients were born in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Auckland Hospital treats all tuberculosis patients from the region. Currently, five people are in Auckland Hospital with TB, four of whom were born overseas.
Barbara Stewart: Does she consider there is any relationship between the increase in the number of tuberculosis patients treated by the public health system—particularly in the Auckland region, which has a reported increase in tuberculosis of 20 percent for the past year—and the fact that Auckland is frequently the first destination of refugees and immigrants, who have not been tested for infectious diseases prior to arrival?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There is no doubt that there is a correlation between the increase in tuberculosis cases in Auckland and new migrants and refugees. However, the member will be aware that changes have been made that take effect from this month in terms of immigration screening for tuberculosis.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does she accept that TB is considered a Third-World disease, plus an indicator of poverty and overcrowding; if so, is the 20 percent increase in TB cases—up to 243 in Auckland alone last year—not indication that this Government is failing miserably to deal with the issues of poor health, housing, and overcrowding due to poverty?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Certainly, tuberculosis is related to poverty, overcrowding, etc., as the member outlined. I am pleased to say that this Government is doing a lot to address those issues. However, if we look at the number of tuberculosis cases in New Zealand going right back to, say, 1996, we see that the numbers fluctuate. In 1999 they reached 214. They then dropped to 177, so they have fluctuated.
Dr Lynda Scott: Now it’s 248.
Hon ANNETTE KING: It is true that the latest figure is the highest number we have had. Fortunately, we have put in place housing strategies and our primary health care strategy to help address some of those issues.
Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister confirm or deny the existence of a new strain of tuberculosis in New Zealand that cannot be cured by medication currently available, and at best can only be managed; if so, what is she planning to do in order to tackle this new strain?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Multiple drug-resistant TB is in New Zealand. It is not new, it has been here for a number of years, and there are very few cases. For example, last year there were 2 cases. So far this year there has not been a confirmed case, although one case is being checked out. With these cases there is a drug regime. It does require a particular type of testing of what sorts of drugs they are resistant to, and then a combination of the drugs that we have, being put together. This is harder to treat, and it does require countries to have very strong strategies and approaches to tuberculosis—which New Zealand does have.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a press release from the Waikato Times of 3 September 1998 where Annette King said that TB is a Third World disease, and blames Government policies for the outbreak.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a press release from the Dominion of 4 September 1998, where Taito Phillip Field said that Government failure to deal with policy is the cause of the TB outbreak.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Dr Lynda Scott: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am taking Mr Peters’ point. He can have a turn first.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, wait until I have had my turn. There is a little bit of impertinence around here. I ask the Minister why, when I raised this issue with my colleagues in New Zealand First during the last election, and over many, many years—
Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You said: “Point of order”. It is a supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not realise it was a supplementary question. Now that the member has started, I will have the supplementary question, and will hear the point of order after that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is usually manners around here to table all documents after the question is finished, and it has not been finished. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I thought the member was raising a point of order, but he is perfectly entitled to have a supplementary question, and of course I will hear Dr Lynda Scott after that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to ask the Minister why it was, when New Zealand First raised this issue over many, many years, on countless occasions, particularly at the last election, when the security and health of New Zealanders was concerned, the Minister and her colleagues accused us of being racist?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot answer that question, except to say that cases of tuberculosis in New Zealand have fluctuated over the years. I could read out the full list, going back to 1996. The key issue is that it is related to poverty and overcrowding. Those issues are ones that have to be addressed in a comprehensive way. They were never addressed in the 1990s, particularly under a National Government. I am pleased to say that we are addressing those issues to ensure that people do get affordable access. Unfortunately, we cannot fix those problems overnight.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a Hansard from 8 September 1998, where Phil Goff says: “What sort of Government do we have when schools in this country have cases of tuberculosis, a disease of poverty, neglect, and overcrowding?”.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a Hansard from 14 May 1998 from the Rt Hon Helen Clark, who also talked about TB being a “poverty-associated health disease” and that people had had enough of the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a letter dated 1996 when New Zealand First launched a campaign on this issue and the National Party accused us of racism and xenophobia.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Traffic Infringement Notices—Policy
11. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Has he seen the reports of the police national road safety manager stating, whereas police previously had discretion to consider circumstances such as weather and traffic conditions, they would now be encouraged to ticket anyone driving above the speed limit; if so, why is this move being adopted across all police districts, as stated by Superintendent Fitzgerald?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am assured by Superintendent Fitzgerald that he did not make the comments reported by Rachael Grunwell in the Sunday Star-Times of 29 February 2004.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister therefore saying that there is no policy in any district in New Zealand to remove discretion, and to advise officers that tickets should be issued to anyone driving over the speed limit?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am saying that nothing has changed since the Commissioner of Police introduced his policies.
Mahara Okeroa: What is the best way to avoid getting a speeding ticket?
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that is an appropriate question at this stage. I do think a foot on the brake is required.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hate to differ with you, but seeing that Mr Ryall has sought recently to make his career one of enforcement of law and order, the question being asked by Mr Okeroa is a very, very pertinent one, and I am dying to hear the answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled it out, but I will take the leave of the House, if members want an answer from the Minister. Is there any objection? There is not.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the message has to be very clear that people should not speed. If they do not, they will not get a ticket.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that Britain is doing the exact reverse to what he is advocating, and is making speed cameras much more identifiable, and making the police presence on the road much more obvious; if so, why does he not recommend to his colleagues that we follow the lead of Britain, or is it that he just wants to maximise revenue?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the member ought to go back to the time when the roads were without a lot of police. We decided to have the highway patrol, to make policing highly visible for motorists. We have gone further with the Anywhere, Anytime campaign. Speed cameras will be about, because speed causes deaths on the road.
Hon Tony Ryall: What evidence is there to support Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald’s claims that “compliance rates improve if people are given a ticket”, given the evidence last year that although a record number of speeding tickets were issued, the road toll went up for the first time in years, and the evidence this year that the road toll is already 106, compared with 92 at the same time last year?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: What is very evident is that speeding at the upper end has been reduced, and the police are now working on getting speed down across the country.
to correction and further