Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 25 March 2004
Thursday, 25 March 2004
for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Sentencing—Get Tough on Crime Campaign
2 Business—Growth Strategy
3 Supreme Court—Judges' Tenure
4 Accident Compensation Corporation—Rehabilitation
5 Primary Students—Compulsory National Testing
6 Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Iwi Consultation
7 Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Cases
POO: Question No. 6 to Minister
8 Business—Economic Policy
9 International Arts Festival—Domestic Representation
10 Foreshore and Seabed—Iwi Consultation
11 Genetically Modified Food—Liability
POO: Question No. 8 to Minister
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Sentencing—Get Tough on Crime Campaign
1. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his statement to the House on Tuesday that “this Government is putting more people in prison for longer, as part of its get-tough-on-crime campaign.” if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Yes. My comments were based on the Ministry of Justice annual update of forecasts of prison population released earlier this month, predicting there will be around 7,400 people in jail in 2010, an increase of 20 percent. The forecasts say that the predicted increase is a reflection of legislative changes, such as the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act. Other initiatives undertaken by the Government, such as more police and improved resolution rates, are also having an impact on prison numbers.
Marc Alexander: How does the Minister reconcile his comments with those of Brian Davis, national organiser of the Corrections Association of New Zealand, who has stated: “to suggest that the increase is due to the tougher sentencing is a nonsense.”, and is not the real reason for this high demand the fact that the Government is actually doing less to reduce crime when it has cut rehabilitative programmes like Corrections Inmate Employment?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The second part of the answer is just not true. When it comes down to the two of them I would probably prefer to rely on the information from the Ministry of Justice.
Martin Gallagher: Does the Minister have any evidence that the worst offenders are facing now longer prison sentences than they otherwise would have in the past?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The worst offenders are now receiving the harshest sentences ever handed down. Triple murderer William Bell last year received a minimum 30-year prison term, and Bruce Howse was sentenced to 25 years non-parole. This year two double murderers, Joseph Samoa and William Johansson, have been given minimum non parole periods of 22 and 23 years. This shows that the Government has listened to the call for tougher sentences and acted.
Nandor Tanczos: When will the Government move to reduce the huge costs of incarcerating prisoners, and of building and maintaining prisons, by ensuring that there are enough resources for adequate rehabilitation programmes in the prisons, and by developing strategies to deinstitutionalise inmates on release in order to reduce reoffending?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Of course, the Government would be looking to try to reduce the cost of prisons and taking people in and incarcerating them. Rehabilitation programmes are really important, as the member points out, and there are some discussions around the Budget that hopefully might show some of these things in due course.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it a fact that, despite the Minister’s claims, the Department of Corrections itself is forecasting fewer sentenced inmates on average in virtually every adult inmate category this year, and is it also a fact that under this Government’s legislation a rapist sentenced to 9 years in jail can qualify to apply for parole after only 3 years?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In relation to the first question, the Department of Corrections has certainly made similar predictions to what the member has said. However, the Ministry of Justice is the official forecaster of figures, done independently of me, and I am sure the member would appreciate the fact that those figures should be done independently of the Department of Corrections and the Minister of Corrections. As far as the second question is concerned, people can do a third of their sentences, but the reality is that judges are now setting non-parole periods, and offenders are not just being released automatically at two-thirds—unlike under that previous member’s Government.
Ron Mark: How many of the people whom the Government anticipates it will imprison are people who have been released on parole—like Mr Jarden, Mr Bell, and Mr Carroll—and have gone on to reoffend, and does he not agree that part of the problem is this Government’s rather lax attitude towards those people; and can he give the House an absolute assurance that the gentleman by the name of Abraham Neho, who kicked a Mozambican refugee to death in Christchurch and has recently been released on parole, having spent only 2 years in prison, will not be another such person who goes on to reoffend and will have to be locked up again?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The answers are: I am not sure, no, and I have not heard about that case.
Stephen Franks: Can the Minister confirm that I have this right: that he is pleased that there are more people in prison, locked up for longer; if so, why does he not support truth in sentencing and lock up a whole lot more for a whole lot longer—in other words, for the sentences the court gives them?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot say I am particularly pleased that we are locking people up longer, but we certainly are because that is what people are demanding. As far as the second question is concerned, we think that the Government has got it about right.
Marc Alexander: How does the Minister expect the public to believe his tough talk on criminals when the increasing use of home detention contradicts the whole concept of tougher sentencing, because those who would otherwise go to prison are lounging around at home to save the Government money by keeping the number of incarcerated down?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, it is hard to know how to answer that. As the member knows, people are doing longer sentences as a result of this Government. Home detention is an effective way of not only incarcerating people at home but also reducing reoffending. It has very, very good reoffending rates, compared with people who have been in prison. What one needs in this particular portfolio is a balance of measures, and that balance is being worked on all the time.
Marc Alexander: How does the Minister reconcile his statement in the House yesterday that: “I think the Department of Corrections is doing a fabulous job in very difficult circumstances.” with the fact that in the past few weeks five Waikeria Prison officials have been stood down for physically bullying a fellow officer, a second inmate has been found dead at Rimutaka Prison, and Amnesty International has been asked to investigate the condition of State-run prisons, and is it not about time he conceded that private prison management is doing a better job?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The answer to the first question is “easily”, and to the second one, the private prisons have been doing a pretty good job, but it is the view of this Government that the incarceration of people should be the responsibility of the State.
2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government reconsider its growth strategy in light of the “Business Herald”’s survey of small to medium business chief executive officers, which showed that 94 percent of respondents were convinced New Zealand did not have a growth strategy to sustain business success?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No.
Gerry Brownlee: Will the Government revoke its claim to be in partnership with business, or will it accept the opinion of 70 percent of business leaders, who say that employment relations legislation, Treaty of Waitangi issues, and holidays and resource management legislation as currently proposed by the Government will lower economic growth; and can we expect more U-turns on those proposals?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cast the member’s mind back to 2000, when some of the same people said that there would never be another job created in New Zealand. The same people have been creating jobs ever since.
Mark Peck: Has the Government received any reports on its policy direction from international agencies, and what do they state?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government has received a very large number of reports. For example, the ratings agencies have raised New Zealand’s credit rating since the Government took office, the World Bank rates us as one of the easiest places to start a business, the OECD says that our compliance costs are not high by international standards, and an IMF report out soon is expected to comment positively on the Government’s policy mix.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister agree with 79 percent of business leaders, who say that unresolved Treaty of Waitangi issues are having a negative effect on economic growth, and does he accept that Government dithering over the issue for the last 9 months has made the negative consequences substantially worse?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The foreshore and seabed issue, if that is what the member is referring to, is not at heart a Treaty of Waitangi issue. Apart from that, none of those at the meeting I was at today could point out which Treaty of Waitangi issue had stopped them from hiring an additional person for their business.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister cannot assume that someone is asking something that was not in the question. I would have thought that although the Minister did, eventually, come to an answer that vaguely related to the question he was asked, he should have begun it in that way. Mr Speaker, I think it is unacceptable that you allow a Minister to start an answer with an inference.
Mr SPEAKER: If I did not allow that, I would be ruling out about half the questions and half the answers.
Gerry Brownlee: Perhaps you should start.
Mr SPEAKER: The member previously invited me to toughen up a great deal on an issue. I was very appreciative of that. I will take note of what he has said.
Mark Peck: How has New Zealand’s growth rate compared with that of other OECD countries since this Government took office?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Growth in New Zealand equalled the OECD average in 2000, and has exceeded it in every year since. As I said this morning, this survey of a somewhat hand-picked sample shows the triumph of lack of hope over experience.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister surprised that the opinions of the 75 percent of industry leaders who suggested that Treaty of Waitangi issues are holding up growth in the New Zealand economy are in line with the advice that he got from Treasury last October, when he was told exactly the same thing; and does he now regret not doing more about settling some of those issues when he had a chance 6 months ago?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is very important to settle Treaty of Waitangi issues, both historical and ongoing ones. The one sure way of making certain that that does not happen is to try to pretend that the Treaty of Waitangi does not exist, as the Opposition does.
Supreme Court—Judges' Tenure
3. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Attorney-General: What are the tenure arrangements for judges appointed to the Supreme Court?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Attorney-General: Judges of the Supreme Court, like other judges, have permanent tenure until the age of 68. They can be dismissed for incapacity or misconduct on a motion of Parliament, but this has never happened. The system emphasises the independence of the judiciary, and the strong convention that judges are not subject to political manipulation.
Darren Hughes: Can judges also be removed by legislation?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No judge has ever been removed by legislation. However, if appeals to the Privy Council were to be restored, as promised by Dr Brash on the Holmes programme, the Supreme Court would have to be abolished by legislation, with the loss of what are widely acknowledged to be the best legal minds in the country. That would be bizarre, although we might find some sort of precedent for that in Zimbabwe.
Richard Worth: Is the Attorney-General not aware that in a number of Western democracies, courts have been closed down and the judges reabsorbed into the legal system; and why would it be any different in this case, because Supreme Court judges have tenure as High Court judges under section 20 of the Supreme Court Act?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is correct that Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges—both categories of judges—have tenure as High Court judges, but I assume the member is suggesting therefore that the five best judges in the country would be made High Court judges doing lesser cases. That is equally absurd.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What bush lawyer gave him the advice that if the Privy Council were restored, these people would automatically be lost to the judiciary system, when that is not the case?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There are five Supreme Court judges. If the Supreme Court were to be abolished, the Court of Appeal is currently fully tenured by judges and they would have to become, as the previous questioner suggested, High Court judges. To suggest that the five most experienced and skilful judges in the country would become High Court judges is, frankly, a stupid idea.
Darren Hughes: Would there be any other problems associated with the abolition of the Supreme Court?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. Frankly, that idea is absurd and unworkable. First and foremost, it would rely on New Zealand regaining access to the Privy Council. Currently, there are 15 countries with access to the Privy Council. When the small Caribbean States withdraw this year, there will be five. Of those five, Tuvalu and Kiribati have not had an appeal in 20 years, and New Zealand trying to retie the apron strings to the United Kingdom would make us the laughing stock of the world.
Accident Compensation Corporation—Rehabilitation
4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for ACC: What has been the total cost to the Accident Compensation Corporation, in each of the past 3 years, for private providers of rehabilitative services, such as Alpha Consultants?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): I am advised that the total cost to the Accident Compensation Corporation in each of the past 3 years for vocational rehabilitation is $19,637,000 for 2000-01, $24,064,000 for 2001-02, and $23,221,000 for 2002-03. Work preparation programmes commenced 14 months ago, and expenditure was $910,914 for the 2002-03 year.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm or deny that private providers of rehabilitative services for the Accident Compensation Corporation, such as Alpha Consultants, are paid a bonus for every accident victim who is transferred from being a client of the corporation to being a client of the Department of Work and Income?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No. I imagine that, as is the standard case in Accident Compensation Corporation contracts, the individual providers are given additional money if they have successful outcomes. Transferring a claimant from the corporation to Work and Income is not a successful outcome.
Dave Hereora: Does the Minister have any information on the effectiveness of job skill programmes such as those provided by rehabilitative services such as Alpha Consultants?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The 6-week programmes focus on people’s psychological, physical, and vocational needs. According to a Waikato study of work preparation programmes undertaken in that area, 65 percent or more are back in the paid workforce or actively job seeking within 3 months of completing the programme.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why, after 4 long years of a Labour Government, are over 30 percent of long-term claimants dissatisfied with the Accident Compensation Corporation, and what is she going to do about the corporation’s standards and quality control that have allowed vulnerable, injured people to be subjected to bizarre treatment and non-professional providers?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I agree with the concerns of the member that having only 83 percent of claimants satisfied with the corporation is not enough, and I intend to continue the improved level of claimant satisfaction that has been shown over the last 4 years.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does a woman with a bad shoulder need a teapot of salt water up her nose, and how many reports are there of accident victims who found that nonsensical treatment, such as she received, so degrading they could no longer bear to attend those courses—and, as a result, the Accident Compensation Corporation no longer has to pay them the compensation they are rightly owed?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As was confirmed in the radio interview with Dr David Rankin from the corporation this morning, that particular practice was not appropriate for the provider to be offering, even though it was on a voluntary basis. The majority of claimants on that course voluntarily asked to use nasal irrigation, and subsequently continued to use it privately, but that practice is no longer being continued by that provider.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister seriously expect us to believe there are New Zealanders out there volunteering to have nasal spray up their noses from teapots of salt water; and, more important, is that not just an attempt by the Accident Compensation Corporation to shift people from its books on to another department’s books, and why is she allowing this practice to continue?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As the member will know, a number of New Zealanders do suffer from sinus irritation, and that treatment is considered one of the non - drug-related treatments helpful to people. The majority of claimants on that course voluntarily undertook the treatment, but it is not considered appropriate for the provider to be offering that treatment within the funds provided by the corporation, and the practice has now stopped.
Primary Students—Compulsory National Testing
5. NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Tainui) to the Minister of Education: Has he received any reports on the compulsory national testing of primary school-aged children?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes, I have seen reports that England will drop compulsory testing for 7-year-olds, because it is too stressful for young children and teachers. Research shows that the introduction of national testing leads to a dumbing down of education, and puts young children through unnecessary stress. It can result in teachers preparing pupils just to pass tests, rather than giving them a good understanding of what they are learning.
Nanaia Mahuta: What are the effects on children of compulsory testing, and what is the better alternative?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: A survey of parents in England found that two-thirds of 11-year-olds showed signs of stress in preparing for the tests. Students were reduced to tears and lost sleep. A much better alternative is the world-leading literacy and numeracy test, AsTTle, introduced by this Government. AsTTle assesses students’ knowledge, and gives parents and teachers rich information about how students are doing against national standards. AsTTle also enables teachers to then properly target their teaching to address any weaknesses.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the prime purpose of assessment to enable parents to make simplistic comparisons between schools—as some would have it—or is it to provide insight into how well children are progressing relative to their peer group, and to suggest the most appropriate learning activities, in order to facilitate further progress?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Certainly, the latter. I think the key is to think of it as assessment for learning, rather than assessment of knowledge.
Question No.4 to Minister
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a New Zealand Herald article of this day, where a participant in the Accident Compensation Corporation programme is calling the programme degrading, and wanting to know what would happen if he suffered from bowel problems.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Iwi Consultation
6. RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections: Why did he dismiss barrister and solicitor Irene Kereama-Royal’s letter as the concerns of a “disgruntled former employee” of the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust, and how many people from each marae attended the hui for the planned Waikato prison, paid for by the Department of Corrections?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): I did not dismiss her concerns. I received her letter in July last year and looked into her claims. I was advised that her concerns related to, among other things, her lack of involvement in the consultation process, and an internal employment dispute within the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust, which is still unresolved. With regard to the numbers of people attending marae hui, I am advised that over 700 Tainui people attended such hui.
Rodney Hide: Did the Minister rely on his own department for that advice; and why would he not treat seriously the claims of a woman of her experience and qualification that his own department had bought off a select group of Mâori who had no mandate to represent their people, to push this prison through?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I did not just rely on Department of Corrections’ officials; there was direct discussion with Tainui. I think it is important for the member to know that the Tainui parliament, Tekaumârua, voted to enter into a consultation agreement with the Department of Corrections, and mandated the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust as the consultation agent. That is significant in that there was a high level of support given to consulting with the department.
Georgina Beyer: What scrutiny has there been of the consultation process to date?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Independent environment commissioners appointed by the Waikato District Council and Environment Waikato heard 17 days of evidence at a public hearing on the Spring Hill prison application at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003. Those commissioners accepted both the department’s evidence and the adequacy of the consultation process. This case is set down to be heard again in the Environment Court in May. I consider that people have had ample opportunity to have their views heard on this issue.
Nandor Tanczos: What action will the Minister take, regardless of the veracity of these particular complaints, to ensure that under his watch consultation with tangata whenua is a genuine attempt to find out what they think, rather than an expensive means of picking who agrees with the department?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I reject the last part of the question. The consultation on this issue has been very wide and extensive.
Deborah Coddington: Can the Minister confirm that his officials knew by December 2001 that Mr Tom Moana was being charged with fraud, yet continued to contract him through to April 2002; and that Tom Moana received $131,000 for attending just four hui?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As far as I have been advised, the facts that the member points out are correct. It is one of the issues I am looking into as part of a report that is due to me shortly from the department.
Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister confirm that, when he made his comment that Mrs Kereama-Royal was a “disgruntled former employee”, he was unaware that the personal grievance happened after she had first written to the Minister; and is the Minister able to give the House an assurance that no consultancy fees, as listed on the schedule that he tabled in the House, were actually paid to people who were at the same time employees of the Department of Corrections?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I was advised that the person who had written to me in July had already left, and my understanding was that there was already an employment dispute going on. As far as the second question is concerned, I have been advised that there was a clear separation between people employed to organise hui, and those who had contracts with the organisation, but that is another matter that I am looking into as part of the report.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm that one of the people at the heart of this controversy, Mr John Hamilton of Jagcon, is the same person who was investigated in 2001 as a result of his gaining a $200,000 contract from the Department of Corrections 2 days after he had left its employment; and that he also is the person who was accused of offering Mrs Beadle $150,000 to drop her objections to the Ngawha prison, and who was overheard by Department of Corrections staff to have said, when preparing to go to Waikato: “I wonder how many beads and blankets this will take.”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have not heard those claims, and make no further comment on them. As far as the first question is concerned, I am aware that Mr Hamilton was involved as a former employee and received a contract. When we look at the complexity of the nature of the work that is going on, with four new prisons being built around the country, I think he is doing a good job.
Hon Ken Shirley: In light of the Minister’s claim on radio this morning that paid consultation with iwi is a requirement under the Resource Management Act, will he advise the House which section of that Act he was relying on, because I believe that his Government is shovelling out millions of taxpayers’ dollars when no such requirement exists under the Act?
Mr SPEAKER: The final comment was not part of the question. It was just a remark made. The first part was the question, and can be answered.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Under the Resource Management Act consultation is required with local Mâori. I think it is sections 5 and 6—I am not sure—but there is certainly a requirement. It has been part and parcel of the Resource Management Act since 1991.
Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that, for the Waikato prison, $1.3 million was paid to Mâori for consultation, and a very small sum—and perhaps the Minister can tell us what it was—was paid for Pacific Island consultation; but no money was paid to any other group for consultation; if so, how come Mâori get $1.3 million and everyone else gets next to nothing?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, funding was paid to a large number of consultants, including lawyers, tax accountants, etc. A lot of consultation was undergone. However, the whole issue is now under consideration by the Government.
Rodney Hide: Could the Minister give a date when he will be receiving this report from the Department of Corrections, and, given that it is Mr John Hamilton who has overseen the payments and bullying that have gone on through the resource management planning process that has been revealed, does he not think it appropriate that someone independent be brought in to make the investigation, particularly given that the Minister has been kept in the dark, apparently, by his own department?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, and no.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked for a date. I do not understand how saying “No” can be addressing the question.
Mr SPEAKER: There were a number of legs to the question, and the answers to two of them could have been “Yes” or “No”. The Minister chose to answer those two. He is entitled to.
Rodney Hide: My question, and you can go back to Hansard, asked for a date.
Mr SPEAKER: I always allow two questions to be asked. If members add stuff, if they add legs to the question, then of course the Minister can comment in the way he did.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to think very seriously about the rulings you are giving that allow Ministers to escape off the hook at question time. I believe that in giving those rulings you are bringing this House into disrepute.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not. I take full advice on all those sorts of issues, and the member knows full well that I did so on this occasion. I certainly did not do that, and I object to the member’s comments. He will now stand, withdraw, and apologise for the implication he made at the end of his question.
Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem is this. Time after time we come down to this House to ask supplementary questions. It is not a matter of whether the answers address the question; they do not even come close. But you always give rulings saying that that is satisfactory. The public of New Zealand do not think it is satisfactory. It might be OK, sitting in this Parliament, to say it is satisfactory, but I suggest that if we want Parliament to be treated seriously by the people of New Zealand, then we have to be—[Interruption] There we go again. I am interrupted all the way through a point of order, and you do nothing. What is the point?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer the member to Speakers’ rulings 141(5) and 141(6). Indeed, you have been very generous. You have allowed two questions to be asked in a supplementary question. The traditional Speakers’ rulings are that only one question should be asked—Mr Speaker Arthur in 1984, and Mr Speaker Algie in 1963. The member asked a question, then added two more questions, and expected to get three answers. Well, two is greater than traditional tariff.
Mr SPEAKER: If members ask multiple questions, they run the risk of Ministers answering the parts that they regard as less important. They have to tighten their questions. As far as I am concerned, I have probably been more lenient and generous about the asking of questions than any preceding Speaker that I have heard in the time I have been in this House.
Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Cases
7. JANET MACKEY (Labour—East Coast) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): What is she doing to ensure multiple-agency care placements are managed effectively?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): Last week I had the pleasure of launching a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and five social service agencies that will ensure that no multiple placement to the same caregiver occurs without the consent of all the agencies involved with that caregiver.
Janet Mackey: How does the memorandum of understanding affect those who are placed in care?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The memorandum of understanding sets down clear procedures to safeguard the interests of the person being placed in care, and preserves the integrity of an existing placement. It also ensures that information is shared between agencies and improves the support offered to caregivers, which in turn will have a positive impact on the quality of care.
Katherine Rich: How will this initiative, if at all, reduce the over 5,300 children on the unallocated case list waiting to see a Department of Child, Youth and Family Services social worker, and can she assure the House that as a result of the present review of that department no child will be deleted from the unallocated case list without personal contact being made with the child or the family first?
Hon RUTH DYSON: That supplementary question gives me the opportunity to correct an incorrect figure that was given to the select committee this morning. The figure of around 5,300 was not correct; it is around 4,700. In answer to the second question, that member received a categorical assurance this morning from the acting chief executive, from the acting general manager social worker operations, and from me as Minister that there is no intention, no directive, and no action to delete inappropriately from the unallocated cases. It is irresponsible of that member to continue to allege something that she received an assurance this morning is not correct. To repeat something that is not true does not make it any truer.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that this multi-agency accord is a good start, but it simply does not go far enough to address the more imminent concerns of Department of Child, Youth and Family Services staff and other agencies that there is a dire shortage of caregivers available in the first place, such as those required for 17 children in Southland as at 6 March this year; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I do agree that this memorandum of understanding will not directly address that. But it will certainly offer more support for caregivers, and reduce the confusion and overlap that there is currently between multiple placements.
Question No. 6 to Minister
RODNEY HIDE (ACT): I seek the leave of the House to table the letter from Irene Kereama-Royal that the Minister dismissed as a matter of personal grievance.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I might advise that the Minister requested me on radio this morning to seek leave, and I suggest that I seek it again.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the member have the writer’s permission?
RODNEY HIDE: I am saying that the Minister invited me to table—
Mr SPEAKER: It is irrelevant as to what happen earlier—
RODNEY HIDE: Yes—big say on the radio, but not now.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is one word away from leaving. He is lucky I am generous. Leave was denied, and that is all there is to it.
8. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe the Government’s current economic direction has the endorsement of the business community; if so, what evidence does he have to support his view?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Some surveys show that business is not putting its mouth behind the Government, but the same surveys also show that business is putting its money behind the Government by continuing to invest, expand their enterprises, and employ more staff. The member must decide which is the more important.
John Key: Does the Minister think that the Government is failing in its self-proclaimed top priority to “engage with business leaders”, when only 2.8 percent of businesses surveyed think the Government’s business partnership model is working; if so, what does he intend to do to improve this statistic?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Putting aside the question of who actually hand-picked the sample, I refer to where seven times the number of businesses were going to engage in more capital expenditure than less over the next year, 11 times were going to engage in more information technology expenditure than less over the coming year, and more than four times were going to increase their staff as opposed to reducing it. I will be satisfied if those numbers continue year on year into the long-term future as I remain Minister of Finance.
David Parker: What does the New Zealand Herald survey show about business intentions over the next 12 months?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It shows, as other surveys have shown, a very positive outlook in terms of expenditure on new capital equipment, on information technology, and on new staff. Those are the things that actually count for ordinary New Zealanders—jobs and incomes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With regard to an endorsement of the business community, what was the comment made last Wednesday at the announcement of a certain party’s policy on business, and could he regard that as a ringing endorsement or otherwise?—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member repeat the question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the issue of an endorsement by the business community, has he received any reports, as Minister, of a policy that was first announced on Wednesday last week, and could one regard those reports as signifying a ringing endorsement or otherwise?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as the reports are concerned, the Minister may comment.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have, indeed, received reports, including reports from business leaders that state that last year Dr Brash said that lowering the top tax rate was crucial to growth, and last week he said it was not so important after all. This morning, in front of the same people, he reaffirmed that he was going to lower the top tax rate in the first term if he got the chance—a double U-turn!
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister indicated to the House that he had reports that would back up the comments he made. Members on this side of the House know that what he said is absolute dribble and wrong. We would like to see the reports he is quoting.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order I can rule on, and the member knows that.
John Key: Does he expect that his comment this morning that business leaders are “curiously ill informed” will help the confidence of the 82.2 percent of business leaders who think the Government’s partnership with business is not working; and does he acknowledge that it might be better for the Government to start listening rather than criticising its so-called partners?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is useful if everybody listens. When business people tell us that more of them think the immigration policy is negative than positive, when all their leaders have been praising the immigration policies followed by this Government, clearly, listening is a two-way process. When business tells us that we are not doing enough on bilateral trade agreements, and the Chinese Ambassador announces that we were probably first in line for one, they clearly are not listening.
John Key: Does he stand by his comment this morning that “rational analysis has recently been absent from the general tenor of business comment”; if so, how does he then characterise the advice he received from his own Treasury department, which echoes the call of businesses for lower tax rates to improve investment and economic growth?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I note that when this Government put up the top tax rate, it was told that it would stop economic growth in its tracks. For 4 years in a row we have equalled or exceeded the OECD average in the same way that, under President Clinton, 8 years of continuous economic growth followed an increase in the top tax rate, yet President Bush lowers it and has one of the worst results in terms of 2 years of economic decline.
John Key: Does the Minister acknowledge that a statement from business leader Rod Deane that “compliance costs are just becoming formidable” is consistent with all the advice given by the Small Business Advisory Group on that topic, and if he will not listen to business, Government-established advisory groups, or his own department, Treasury, who on earth will he listen to?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I shall answer that with another question. Will the member, or anybody, listen to Rod Deane, private citizen, senior businessman, saying that there should be less regulation, or Rod Deane, the chairperson of Telecom, saying that there should be more regulation to protect that business?
Mr SPEAKER: I will now ask the Minister to address the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I would suggest that Mr Rod Deane, as he has long done in many cases, often speaks from self-interest.
John Key: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek some clarification. Will it be normal that Ministers will be able to make comments and general statements before they actually answer questions?
Mr SPEAKER: No, and that is why I made him answer the question.
John Key: I seek leave to table the summary of the chief executive officers’ survey of small and medium businesses in New Zealand that shows, amongst other things, that 94.1 percent of all New Zealand businesses do not believe that this Government has a growth strategy.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I seek leave to table the same survey, which shows that the vast majority of businesses are more likely to be investing in growth for the future than disinvesting.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table authoritative business opinion as a result of last Wednesday’s announcement, which proves that they have found it totally underwhelming.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek clarification then. We do not want to block the member tabling something. Of course every member should be able to table something when he or she wants to. Unfortunately, the current member has a well-established habit of seeking to table something, the House grants him leave, but he never fronts up with it. I wonder whether we can have some assurance from him that that portfolio of comment will be tabled.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My challenge to Gerry Brownlee is this—if I table the evidence, which I will, will he resign from Parliament?
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is one all.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
International Arts Festival—Domestic Representation
9. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: How did the Government support the presentation of New Zealand works in the 2004 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): Over the past 4 years the Government has significantly increased support to Creative New Zealand, Te Papa, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, all of which supported or presented works in the festival. Creative New Zealand specifically supported 12 productions in the festival, and gives ongoing support to at least six further organisations that participated in the festival, which, in turn, makes a huge contribution to Wellington and to New Zealand.
Dianne Yates: What reports has she received on the impact of increased Government support of the arts on the New Zealand programme in the festival?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: As a result of the major funding boost to Creative New Zealand, the Black Grace Dance Company has been made a full annual client of Creative New Zealand. That company tells me that the extra funding it now receives allowed its choreographer, Neil Ieremia, to develop more substantial work that received critical acclaim, attracted the interest of international media, and attracted festival bookings from agents at the festival. It has also had great reports from its attendance at the Perth International Arts Festival. So arts can be exported as well.
Dianne Yates: What is the value of the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts to New Zealand?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The financial information for this year’s festival is not yet available, but in 2000 the International Festival of the Arts generated $39.7 million for the Wellington region. It also makes a huge contribution to tourism, to audience development, and artistic excellence. International media and festival booking agents also attend it. It is contributing a great deal to our economy.
Foreshore and Seabed—Iwi Consultation
10. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Will Maori co-management of the foreshore and seabed, which she stated “will be addressed in the bill” to be introduced on this matter “in the near future” still include enhanced participation options, including devolved management, membership on hearing committees, and the establishment of whânau, hapû, or iwi committees?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Justice: Legislation will provide for the relationship between the recognition of ancestral connection with the foreshore and seabed, and its management under the Resource Management Act. Details will be announced at the appropriate time following completion of the policy.
Dr Wayne Mapp: If the forthcoming bill does not include all of those things that I mentioned, what in fact would be left of the Government’s proposals of December, what could have been done to secure the votes of the Mâori caucus, or has the Government simply written them off and is relying on New Zealand First?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. Two may be attempted.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand First has yet to receive a full briefing on the policy, and has made no position clear, in terms of the Government’s legislation in this respect, at the Mâori caucus committee; but it certainly has shown an intelligent interest in the matter, unlike some parties. The Mâori caucus committee has been well consulted on these matters. The one thing that does require change immediately is the National Party’s website on the issue, which is a tissue of fabrications.
Russell Fairbrother: Will all New Zealanders be able to enjoy their existing rights of access to the foreshore and seabed under the Government’s proposed legislation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes.
Metiria Turei: Is the Minister aware of any examples of management over coastal areas being devolved to Mâori under section 33 of the Resource Management Act, a similar process to that outlined in the Government’s foreshore and seabed proposal?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I think there are some examples. I think Sir Hugh Kawharu has referred particularly to the examples that involve his own people, and they have worked well, as far as everybody is concerned.
Stephen Franks: Given the answer to Mr Mapp’s first question, which was “Wait for the bill.”, is the Government discussing co-management or membership of committees, or the other matters Dr Mapp raised, with any Mâori outside this Parliament; if so, when will the 85 percent of other New Zealanders be invited to comment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is continuing discussions with a large range of groups, including public access groups, groups like Fish and Game, and so on, outside Parliament. There have also been direct discussions with a number of Mâori groups, notably Ngâti Porou, who hold a particularly special position in terms of their relationship over a long period of time.
Hon Peter Dunne: When the legislation is finally introduced, will the Minister confirm that all of the measures contained within it will then be referred to the special select committee that has been established, and that everyone who has an interest for or against any of its provisions will then be in a position to make submissions on those matters, and have those heard by the select committee?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. It is intended to refer the legislation to the special select committee. There is no intention to place a special time limit on the hearings of that select committee. We expect, obviously, a large number of submissions, and when the member has been here a bit longer she will learn that select committee process in New Zealand actually is an important process of consultation with the wider community.
Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has outlined a number of groups that appear to be informed of the matters on which Dr Mapp questioned. When we consider the answer Dr Mapp was given, and the answer that a number of Ministers have given over the last few days or weeks, which is effectively “wait and see”, or “wait for the bill”, could you rule on whether that is an adequate answer, when it makes it plain that this House is almost the only place where Ministers will not tell what is being proposed or how the conversations are developing?
Mr SPEAKER: As the member well knows, or should know, I do not rule on the adequacy of answers.
Dr Wayne Mapp: When the Minister of Mâori Affairs referred 2 weeks ago to co-management of the entire coastline, surely the Minister acknowledges that that is quite different to the section 33 Resource Management Act process, which relates to very narrow parts of the coastline, and therefore surely the bill will have to be narrow to avoid the statement of the Minister of Mâori Affairs?
Mr SPEAKER: I assume those are questions, and I will rule them in. “Surely” is not quite a question word, but I will allow it to be considered.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In most of the country, the foreshore is a particularly narrow part of the coastline, but going beyond that fact, what will be provided for is the ability for a range of involvement to occur. What would be appropriate in some areas would not be as appropriate in other areas, and that is the reality of what happens at the present time in many circumstances.
Metiria Turei: Given the Minister’s answer that existing Resource Management Act processes are working well, what then is the point of the Government’s proposal, which sets up an additional and very costly process for achieving exactly the same outcome as the Resource Management Act, and will the Government consider instead resourcing the existing processes for Mâori and local government to work together better?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latter issue is a legitimate one, and the Government has indicated a desire to try to improve practices in that respect, but it would need movement on both sides to achieve efficient outcomes. On the former matter, I am afraid I must give the member the same answer: she will have to wait until the policy is finalised before I will be able to comment more clearly on that. I do not think she will be too disappointed with that part of the outcome.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm, in the interests of public information, that every precedent or example of management where Mâori are concerned, with regard to Mâori having a right of management control and interest, that is in the legislation today was put there by a National Government?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can indeed, in terms both of the Resource Management Act, obviously, but also in terms of some specific matters in relation to treaty settlements. I am surprised the National Party seems to be completely denying its past in that respect.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Minister’s answer to my last question mean that Mâori will have co-management in some way over the entire coastline, as was requested by the Minister of Mâori Affairs?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, the legislation will provide for the connection between the recognition of ancestral connection and its relationship to the procedures under the Resource Management Act, with the regional councils obviously having the final say in matters.
Genetically Modified Food—Liability
11. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: Will the Government follow the lead of the United States state of Vermont and introduce legislation that holds biotechnology corporations liable for unintended contamination of conventional or organic crops by genetically engineered plant materials; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Agriculture), on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture: No, because we already have liability provisions now.
Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister saying that in the event that a conventional or organic crop becomes contaminated by GE pollen or plant material, the biotechnology corporations should be able to sue individual farmers for unintentionally growing the corporations’ seed; if so, why?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, I am not saying that. What I am saying is that under the current provisions of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, the strict civil liability rule enables individuals who may claim that they have been harmed by GE crops to seek compensation, without needing to prove negligence, for harm caused by activities involving those new organisms. Those liability provisions are in place for individuals who may feel they have been detrimentally harmed by those crops.
Jill Pettis: Does the Minister have confidence in the system put in place for deciding whether GM crops will be planted?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes. The system was devised after a comprehensive royal commission investigation into genetic modification. GMOs cannot be grown in New Zealand without the approval of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, and all applications are considered on a case by case basis, with consideration given to the national interest.
Hon Brian Donnelly: If it is the Government’s intention not to allow local government units any say on whether GE crops are grown in their territories, why does the Government not spell that out clearly in legislation, rather than putting local authorities at risk of making a decision based on the recent Dr Royden Somerville advice and then facing huge litigation costs?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: My understanding is that local government will not be liable in any way for any such claims of liability.
Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister aware that Western Australia is to ban the growing of all genetically engineered crops in that state so that its farmers will obtain a market advantage for their crops, and why is this Government unwilling to give New Zealand farmers a similar advantage?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: This Government considers that there may be advantages in the technology in the future. That is why it has put in place a very robust process of consideration through the Environmental Risk Management Authority, where all the interests of producers in the country—both now and in the future—will be considered before any approval is given.
Ian Ewen-Street: In that case, would the Minister support any move by New Zealand local authorities to protect their local farmers and provide economic advantage to their region by declaring themselves to be exclusion zones for the growing of GE crops; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I think it is considered by all that we do not know enough about all the aspects of GM. That is why we would not expect local authorities to have the wisdom to make such decisions, and thereby to make themselves liable for them. That is why, at this point, they will not be liable. The decisions will be made by Environmental Risk Management Authority, and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act currently has liability provisions within it.
Ian Ewen-Street: Can the Minister name one genetically engineered food product that could be produced in New Zealand for which there is any consumer demand in any of our major export markets?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not a market expert. There are a number of crops grown internationally—canola, maize, soya beans—that all have market potential. In Spain, the market price for GM and non-GM maize is exactly the same. There are market opportunities for those crops, and I am sure the member will be conscious of that.
12. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he stand by the principles, enunciated in last year’s discussion document, that the system of student support should ensure “equity and fairness” and “consistency with the wider social assistance system”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Yes.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does he think that it is fair and consistent with the wider social assistance system to maintain the parental income thresholds for student allowances at 1992 levels, which were set at $28,079 of combined parental income to qualify for a full allowance, and which is, in today’s salary terms, the equivalent of $38,166; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Government is committed to improving the student support system. As the Prime Minister indicated in her statement to Parliament: “This year’s Budget will provide for more students to qualify for allowances from the 2005 academic year.” I think that I can go that far without breaching any Budget secrecy, but it would be inappropriate to go any further.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister think that it is fair and consistent with the wider social assistance system to require student allowances to be based on parental income until students are aged 25, when parental income testing is not applied to those aged under 25 who are on the dole and who might be just as reliant on parental support yet, in comparison, are getting money for doing nothing?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I can see the member’s lack of comfort with this situation. One of the things one does in Government is set priorities. To equalise by bringing the levels and requirements up, and having what would effectively be a universal student allowance equivalent to the unemployment benefit, would cost $5.5 billion over 4 years, and, frankly, I can think of better things to do with the money.
Question No. 8 to Minister
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Because the matter was raised by Gerry Brownlee, I want to make it very clear that I have tabled four lots of evidence to support my request for leave; and will Gerry Brownlee resign?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that was not a point of order.
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)