Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 6 April 2004
Tuesday, 6 April 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
2. Benefits—Future Directions Package
3. Health Services—Targeting
4. Border Control—Fingerprinting and Photography
5. Holidays Act—Review
6. Refugees—United Nations Convention
7. Waitangi Tribunal—Government Policy
8. Youth—Training and Work Initiatives
9. Community Service—Attendance
10. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Statutory Obligations
11. Mâori Television Service—Ratings
12. Westhaven Marina, Auckland—Sale
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any proposals for an increase in defence spending?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): New funding has been approved to address market relativity in pay for defence personnel. Yesterday my colleague the Hon Mark Burton announced the preferred tenderer for the $500 million project to equip the Navy and civilian agents with the new ships. Those proposals can be met from within prudent budgetary provisions.
Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister received any further reports on increases in the defence budget?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I am aware of a statement made by Mr Simon Power that we should match Australia’s defence spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP). That would be an increase of about $1.5 billion per year, which would certainly leave no room for cuts to the corporate or to the top tax rate.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that defence spending as a percentage of GDP is tracking downwards under this Government, from 0.9 percent of GDP this year to a projected 0.72 percent of GDP in 2008, compared with 1.99 percent of GDP in Australia?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will have to learn more about how Budget projections are done. There is a large annual contingency element in out-years that is not allocated to specific votes. Therefore, we cannot possibly make those kinds of projections for any individual vote.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister recall that in 1988 the then Minister of Defence, Mr Tizard, promised that the transactions in which the Government was engaged would see contracts go to New Zealand; if so, how come the Burton announcement is that the $500 million contract is to go to Tenix, an Australian-owned company?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I understand it, it is anticipated that some of the work under the contract will be done in New Zealand. As I recollect, in terms of the 1988 contract, more was done in New Zealand than under the original agreement.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister consider that the existing procedure for funding defence capital purchases is adequate, or is he prepared to look at new and innovative ways of funding such purchases, such as lease arrangements, taking items off balance sheets, etc., on the assumption that unless such a change is considered, schools and hospitals will beat defence requirements every time?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: However one goes about it, at the end of the day the Government is going to be paying the money. I am not terribly keen on any form of creative accounting that takes things off balance sheets, by and large. One usually wakes up a few years down the track when it comes back and bites one, in some form or another.
Benefits—Future Directions Package
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that the Future Directions Package will “significantly increase direct income support and incentives to move from welfare benefits into paid employment”; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes, because the statement is correct.
Dr Don Brash: Why then has the head of the Labour Market Policy Group stated in written advice on the Future Directions Package that the Government’s plans would result in “lessening the incentive to paid work”, and why has the Government totally ignored this advice?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have not. I think the documents the member has date to mid-January 2004. There was a great deal of further development to the package after that date. On Budget night the member will find that a good deal of the money he is proposing to spend on the rich will be spent on low to middle-income families.
Hon Mark Gosche: What other proposals has the Minister seen regarding welfare and worker protections?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen proposals for abolishing the statutory minimum wage, abolishing the unemployment benefit, reducing benefit levels, cutting entitlement to the pension, and dismantling worker protections. We look forward to Dr Brash explaining the details of those proposals that he has put forward.
Sue Bradford: Has the Minister seen any of the research on the outcomes of American workfare and time-limited benefit programmes over the last 10 years, and can he confirm that a Labour Government will not move towards such initiatives?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government tends very much to prefer the use of carrots to sticks. The American workfare proposal tends to shift problems from one state to another. They are also starting to run into difficulties when some of their time-limited periods run out and they do not know quite what to do about some of the people left as a consequence.
Hon Richard Prebble: When looking at incentives to encourage full-time work, did the Government consider the fact that it would be possible to give every full-time worker a $100-a-fortnight tax cut, which would cost $4 billion—that is, two-thirds of the surplus—and that that is a lot easier to administer, and fairer, than fiddling around with income-support payments?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If applied immediately, that proposal would leave an approximately $5 billion cash deficit this year, and a multi-billion dollar cash deficit the following year. If the member went through 1984 to 1990 trying to get the deficits down and would now blow them out again, he has learnt nothing from history.
Dr Don Brash: For the bulk of the money in the Future Directions Package, why has the Government opted to make no distinction between those in work and those not in work, thus failing to increase the incentive to move off benefits into paid employment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is incorrect. The incentives have been substantially increased but, unlike the previous National Government, we will improve the position of working low to middle-income families without pushing beneficiary families further into poverty.
Dr Don Brash: Why in its Future Directions Package has the Government chosen to ignore OECD advice that in-work payments need to be significant to create a real incentive to move off benefits into paid employment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said to the member, he is relying upon one document from mid-January. He will have to wait until 27 May to find that policy has long since overcome the proposals at that time.
3. TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Health: What evidence has she seen to show targeting health services and funding to people with high health needs is working?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I have seen the report from Statistics New Zealand on Mâori life expectancy, which shows that, after years of a widening gap between Mâori and non-Mâori mortality rates, the trend has been reversed. I endorsed Dr Tony Blakely’s comments on this report: “It is likely that the bi-partisan efforts of both the 1996-99 National-led and the 1999-2002 Labour-led governments to assist Mâori development generally, and more specifically in the health services, have helped.” Most New Zealanders, I believe, will be very pleased with this outcome.
Tim Barnett: When were the first steps taken to proactively develop Mâori providers?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The first contracts were signed in 1992. Between 1993 and 1997 the number of Mâori providers increased from 30 to over 200. The policy directions were set in 1993, including “resource allocation priorities which take account of Mâori health needs and perspectives”. I believe we ought to be celebrating those improvements in Mâori health, not criticising them as Don Brash has done. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot say that. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I stand, withdraw, and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better not be discussing that point.
Gerry Brownlee: No, it is not that point, at all. I simply ask that you again advise the House what our remedies are when a Minister stands up and misrepresents, very deliberately and quite explicitly, comments made by another member in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the remedy is in debate, because I have never yet heard one party accept what another party has said. After all, this is part of party politics. It is part of the genuine cut and thrust of debate in this House.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does she agree, as average life expectancy is increasing for all New Zealanders, regardless of race—1.4 years for females and 1.9 years for males—that improving Mâori longevity is to be expected, and what is her view of the summary by Statistics New Zealand that diabetes, smoking, and poverty contribute to the Mâori - non-Mâori differential; so National’s view of targeting programmes that meet these health needs, regardless of race, is how to best maximise improved health for all New Zealanders?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Targeting diabetes, smoking, exercise, obesity, and poverty is what is needed in health, and that is exactly what this Government is doing. Unfortunately, Mâori are overrepresented in those statistics, and I can only believe that that member then believes we ought not to provide any targeted assistance for those people because they need it more. What else does she mean if that is not what she means?
Heather Roy: When she is targeting people with high health needs, why will she not target individuals with high health needs, rather than targeting racial groups?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In New Zealand the greatest weighting in health funding is done on age, not on race groups as the member said. So when we provide funding for all the under-sixes, it is provided by age not by the individual young child. When we provide it to the over-65s, it is to all over-65s, not Mr Smith or Mr Brown, because we know that young people and old people have more health needs than those who are in the middle age group.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to look at how the Minister answered that question, and maybe go back over the Hansard, because the specific question related to racial groups, not to an age group. The Minister gave a very good exposition about why over-65s should get more money and why under-sixes should get more money, but that was nothing whatsoever to do with the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister addressed the question to my satisfaction.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware there is a major dispute developing between physiotherapists and the Minister for ACC, and does she share the view that if it continues the way it is going, there will be a severe effect on the health services of this country and on the health budget; if so, what is she doing about it?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That question is best addressed to the Minister for ACC. However, I am aware of the difficulty. I am also aware that the Minister of ACC is dealing with that issue.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table Statistics New Zealand data that shows that Mâori - non-Mâori differential partly reflects diabetes, smoking, and poverty.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek to table the latest figures, from 2000, of the percentage prevalence of cigarette smoking in New Zealand, which show that 49 percent of Mâori smoke, compared with 22 percent of others.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek to table the statistics of age-standardised death rates that show that ischaemic heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, hypertensive disease, other heart disease, and all diseases attributed to smoking are much higher in Mâori.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of fairness I seek to table evidence from the Department of Statistics that states that 14 percent of non-Mâori survive beyond 65 years, and less than half of 1 percent of Mâori survive beyond 65 years.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Border Control—Fingerprinting and Photography
4. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Customs: Does the Government have any plans to require all United States citizens visiting New Zealand to be photographed and fingerprinted; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): No, because it is not considered necessary in the New Zealand context.
Keith Locke: Why is the Minister not opposing the fingerprinting of New Zealanders entering the United States, when he knows that most New Zealanders see fingerprinting as being something one does to people who are accused of a crime, not to law-abiding New Zealanders?
Hon RICK BARKER: What the United States decides to do about its border security measures is for the United States. What New Zealand decides to do about its border security measures is for New Zealand, and we respect each other’s position.
Keith Locke: Why is the Government appearing to do the bidding of the Bush administration by putting a chip in our passports containing either fingerprint details or facial recognition characteristics, or both?
Mr SPEAKER: That does not relate to what is happening in this House or to the Minister, so the question is out of order.
Hon Peter Dunne: Did the Minister or his officials have any discussion with representatives of the United States Government about the implications of the changes that that Government is proposing for entry into the United States; if so, what advice did his officials give, or what comments did they make, to the United States?
Hon RICK BARKER: Normally, passport documentation is governed by a number of international conventions. New Zealand is working through those international agencies to establish a new set of criteria. One of the issues for the modern era is that people are assuming other identities, and we want, like other countries, to be certain that a person who presents himself or herself at the border is the person he or she actually claims to be.
Mr SPEAKER: I might have been a bit tough on Mr Locke. I would like to give him the opportunity to restate his question, and I want him to relate it to the Minister’s responsibilities.
Keith Locke: Why is the Minister, in the action of putting a chip in our passports, appearing to do the bidding of the Bush administration in that those chips will contain fingerprint details and, possibly, facial characteristic details?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Rick Barker may answer in so far as it relates to his portfolio.
Hon RICK BARKER: The passports are subject to international agreements. The international agreement is changing in terms of what is required in a passport. New Zealand will follow the international trend, because we want New Zealanders to have passports that are acceptable across other borders.
Keith Locke: Could the Minister elaborate which international agreements he is talking about?
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please restate the question; the Minister can then make a comment. Would the member please ask the question in relation to the question that was originally asked.
Keith Locke: Could the Minister explain which international agreements he is talking about, and could he also guarantee that the Bush administration will not misuse the data—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have said that every member in this House is entitled to ask a question under our democracy, and to ask it in silence. The Minister is not responsible for what the Bush administration does, in the way that the member phrased his question. The first part of the member’s question was in order and may be answered.
Hon RICK BARKER: I thank you, Mr Speaker, for not making me responsible for the Bush administration. I do not have all the details with me, but I will supply the member with a written answer within the next 12 hours.
5. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Labour: Does he intend to review the new Holidays Act; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): The Government will not be reviewing the policy principles underlying the new Holidays Act—for example, 4 week’s annual leave for all employees from 2007. However, I am monitoring the Act’s implementation.
Hon Roger Sowry: Why will he not review the Act, given that it has now become apparent that many businesses, especially those in the retail and hospitality trades, will either have to close or pass on their costs to customers—in price increases ranging between 10 and 30 percent—given that many already operate on a low margin and cannot afford the extra costs that opening on public holidays is causing due to that Act?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen some of the reports that the member talks about. I have seen a report from a restaurateur who is not against his employees getting a little more, I have seen some reports that state some employers may close, and I have seen some reports that some may put a surcharge on. It is up to the individual business owner to make that decision.
Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House what reports he has seen about other changes that may be in store for employees under the Holidays Act?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen media reports that indicate some individuals want to repeal the 4 weeks’ annual leave provisions under the Act. One such individual is Don Brash. Clearly the message to New Zealand employees is that Don Brash wants to take a holiday—theirs!
Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister seen the results of a survey by the Hospitality Association that shows that more than half of those who responded over the Easter holiday issue will either bring in a surcharge, employ fewer staff, or not open at all, and how happy is he with that as an outcome of his legislation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have not seen the full survey that the member talks about, but I have seen, as I say, indications that there may be a surcharge. Of course, that is not unusual around the world. Australia has similar kinds of surcharges, not just for public holidays but for Saturdays and Sundays, given that it used to have much higher penal rates. Those used to be in place in New Zealand, but are no longer there as a result of decisions taken by the Government during the 1990s.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that 4 weeks’ holiday, and more, is specified in the Governor of the Reserve Bank’s employment contract; and is that consistent with some of the speeches we have been hearing around this country?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a nice try, but the Minister is not responsible for that.
Hon Mark Gosche: Can the Minister name any restaurant or pub in New Zealand that dropped its prices for its customers when penal rates were completely done away with in the industry, as a result of the Employment Contracts Act?
Mr SPEAKER: Similarly, the Minister is not responsible for that, either.
Hon Roger Sowry: What advice does the Minister have for groups such as the disability service provider IHC New Zealand, which noted during the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee hearings on the bill that the legislation will cost it $12 million per annum, and which simply cannot close its doors on holidays, as other businesses can; and what consideration does he expect his colleagues to give to that when negotiating IHC New Zealand’s contract?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, I am advised that IHC New Zealand did make a submission but indicated that the cost would be something like $1.3 million, not $12 million or whatever figure the member mentioned. Secondly, I have talked to my colleague the Hon Ruth Dyson, who said that the IHC New Zealand contracts, for example, are due to expire on, I think, 1 July. I am sure those matters will be under consideration during the renegotiation of the contracts.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was hesitant to contest your decision on my question, but if the IHC New Zealand question is relevant, then so is mine. It is an example of an employment contract that refers to holiday pay. I was just pointing out the blatant inconsistency and incongruity of some of the speeches made in this country in respect of a contract that I would regard as epitomising the best of industrial relations in New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: I judged that the IHC New Zealand question was directly related to the question that was originally asked, but the member’s question was not. That was my judgment.
Refugees—United Nations Convention
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Is New Zealand still a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture), on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, does he not agree that Zaoui fits the description of persons deemed unworthy of international protection, as per article 1(f) of the1951 convention, and will he provide me today with the up-to-date, all-up costs of having Zaoui in this country?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I point out to the member that the Minister in charge of the implementation of the convention in New Zealand is the Minister of Immigration. I advise him to set down a question for that Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question has gone to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Surely, the ministry can provide me with his answer. To duck now and tell me to go to the Minister of Immigration, when I am talking about a convention that has costs attached to it, is unfair, and I invite him to answer my question properly.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I agree with the member, and I ask the Minister to give an answer.
Hon JIM SUTTON: I would point out that the details of a particular case, if that is what is required, should be directed to the Minister of Immigration.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On this question, I advise the House that Mr Peters asked a similar question last week around the Zaoui case. Surely, in preparing for this case, the Minister should have looked at the Zaoui case in relation to the refugee convention.
Mr SPEAKER: That was not what the original question talked about.
Tim Barnett: Has the Minister seen any reports on New Zealand’s handling of refugees and asylum seekers?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I have. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said during his visit here last month that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees holds up New Zealand as a model for others to follow in our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
Keith Locke: Is it not true that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, in its lengthy determination of the Zaoui case, did refer back to that specific provision in the 1951 convention referred to by Mr Peters, and fully cleared Mr Zaoui of being a security risk under that particular clause?
Hon JIM SUTTON: If the member has a question about a particular case, it should be referred to the Minister of Immigration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I remind the Minister of his responsibility to uphold the convention, and therefore answer this question: how will he be responding to the Belgium Government’s official complaint, and France’s dissatisfaction, with respect to the New Zealand Refugee Status Appeals Authority’s decision on the Zaoui case that made a mockery of their judicial processes, even though this New Zealand authority is a much inferior authority, and will he allow the farce over Zaoui to continue to cause embarrassment internationally to this country?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I point out to the member that a process is under way and that will be followed through.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table the report of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority in the Zaoui case.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My concern with regard to question No. 6 is that last week we put it to the Prime Minister, whereupon they promptly referred it to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We have sought to do that again today on this issue, and now I am being referred to the Minister of Immigration. I am being given the bum’s rush, and I think it is unfair. We are entitled to know the answer to this question, given that he is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and it is his job to uphold the United Nations convention we have signed up to.
Mr SPEAKER: I will have a look at what the member says.
Waitangi Tribunal—Government Policy
7. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What principles does the Government apply when deciding whether or not to accept the findings of a Waitangi Tribunal report?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): The Crown has a duty to act in the best interests of all New Zealanders. That is the primary guiding principle.
Stephen Franks: Why should we not conclude from her non-answer to my request for principles that the Government has no principles on treaty questions, or that it does have principles but it cannot tell us because they boil down to “the political need at the time”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I did answer the question. The primary guiding principle is the principle of acting in the best interests of all New Zealanders.
Mita Ririnui: When were the Crown’s principles developed?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Crown’s principles were developed by the previous Government, and have been adopted by this Government in the interests of certainty and consistency of decision making.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How will the Government’s proposals on the foreshore and seabed meet the Minister of Mâori Affairs’ view that Mâori have co-management of all the foreshore and seabed in New Zealand, and how does that meet the Minister’s statement that the Waitangi Tribunal has to consider the interests of all New Zealanders?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The primary question asked about the principle that guided the Government, not the tribunal. I cannot talk for the tribunal, but I can talk for the Government. The guiding principle there is the principle of acting in the best interests of all New Zealanders. Principles such as working together in co-management arrangements would seem to be ideally fulfilling that criterion of “all New Zealanders”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What date, exactly, did the previous National Government develop these—
Dr Wayne Mapp: We didn’t.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh yes, it did.
Mr SPEAKER: I have warned the member, and that is the only warning this question time. Please start again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What date or year does the Minister ascribe to the development of the National Party’s principles on the Treaty of Waitangi and to what does she attribute its latest road to Damascus experience, on this issue?
Mr SPEAKER: The member can answer for the previous Government, but not for the National Party.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The previous Government published Crown proposals for the settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims. As a result, a discussion process took place. Although the fiscal envelope proposals were rejected, the framework was adopted, which did include a series of six principles. Those principles are contained in the document Healing the past, building a future as they were contained in the Crown proposals for the settlement—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What year?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: In 1995.
Metiria Turei: When was the last time the Government accepted in full the recommendations of a Waitangi Tribunal report?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I cannot answer that question. What I do know is that each Waitangi Tribunal report is considered in full. If, in fact, it is consistent with the principles we apply, then those recommendations are adopted.
Hon Ken Shirley: Aside from the general principles, does her Government apply written criteria when evaluating the merits or otherwise of the tribunal’s recommendations; if so, what are those criteria?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The principles that are applied are those set out in Healing the past, building a future. I am quite happy to read those out if the members are interested, but it would probably take longer than is normal. So I seek the leave of the House to do that.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to do that. Is there any objection? There is not.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: At page 28, under the heading “Crown guidelines for the resolution of historical claims”, the guidelines that are followed are as follows: firstly, “the Crown will explicitly acknowledge historical injustices—that is, grievances arising from Crown actions or omissions before 21 September 1992”; secondly, “Treaty settlements should not create further injustices”; thirdly, “the Crown has a duty to act in the best interests of all New Zealanders”; fourthly, “as settlements are to be durable, they must be fair, achievable and remove the sense of grievance”; fifthly, “the Crown must deal fairly and equitably with all claimant groups”; sixthly, “settlements do not affect Mâori entitlements as New Zealand citizens, nor do they affect their ongoing rights arising out of the Treaty or under the law”; and, finally, “settlements will take into account fiscal and economic constraints and the ability of the Crown to pay compensation.”
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although that was all very interesting, my question asked whether, aside from the general principles, her Government has any written criteria. What the Minister has just done is read the principles that the Crown generally follows, but I want to know whether the Government has any written criteria it follows in evaluating the merits or otherwise of the tribunal’s recommendation.
Mr SPEAKER: Did the Minister want to add any point?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: We do have Crown negotiating principles that are set out on page 30 of that document, and they are considerably longer than the ones I have just read out—and I am prepared to read those out, as well. I suggest to the member that the document sets out the answer to the point he raises.
Gerrard Eckhoff: How can the public have confidence in the Waitangi Tribunal when clearly this Government picks and chooses which reports are acceptable to it and which are not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Crown adopts those recommendations from the tribunal that are consistent with the principles I have indicated.
Stephen Franks: If the Government holds that the principle “the best interests of all New Zealanders” trumps the Waitangi Tribunal report, why not tell the tribunal now, for example, that it will never be in the best interests of all New Zealanders for race to decide ownership of our native plants and animals, so the tribunal need waste no more time on Wai 262; or does she think race should decide that issue?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government considers the recommendations of each report on its merits. We do not prejudge it before we have in fact read the report.
Youth—Training and Work Initiatives
8. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment: What initiatives has the Government implemented to encourage young people into training and paid employment?
Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Government has a number of initiatives to get and keep young people in work. These include working with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs, developing training and employment partnerships with industry, placing young people in industry internships, the Modern Apprenticeshipsscheme, skills training courses specifically for young people, and general support in the workplace.
Georgina Beyer: What has been the result of those programmes in terms of reducing youth unemployment?
Hon RICK BARKER: In March 1999 there were 46,140 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 on the unemployment benefit—about a third of the total recipients. As at March 2004 that number had been reduced to 22,949, which is a reduction of almost 50 percent in the number of young people on the benefit. Those are good results, but the Government expects better for our young New Zealanders, so Work and Income is working to intensify its focus on reducing youth unemployment even further.
Judith Collins: Is the Minister aware of reports of young people entering into multiple training schemes with no realistic likelihood of paid employment at the end; if so, what initiatives is he aware of to end this very new cycle of dependency?
Hon RICK BARKER: Far from there being a new cycle of dependency, this Government has reduced youth unemployment by a staggering 50 percent. This Government has focused entirely upon training and programmes that lead to employment, such as rebuilding the Modern Apprenticeships system, which the National Government scrapped 10 years ago.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question to the Minister was whether he was aware of reports of young people entering into multiple training schemes with no realistic likelihood of paid employment. Members got a diatribe about the Labour Government, and I do not think he addressed the question. I would like him to address the question, please.
Hon RICK BARKER: No, I am not aware of those programmes. What I am aware of is just good programmes getting young people into work, and the results show.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that many young people are employed casually, with little or no commitment from their employers, and will the Minister tell the House whether he is happy with this type of arrangement?
Hon RICK BARKER: Of course the Government would prefer young people to be employed in full-time positions with secure employment. That is why the Government has committed a substantial sum of money and substantial effort into securing, for example, the Modern Apprenticeships system. We are engaged with industry, the retail sector, and so on simply to gain full-time, secure employment, good wages, and good skills for our young people. This Government will not ignore them like the last Government did.
Judy Turner: Why has the number of people under 25 on the sickness benefit increased by 32 percent since the year 2000, with young people on the invalids benefit climbing by 27 percent over the same period, and what is this Government doing to ensure that people who should be embarking on careers are not embarking on a life of dependency instead?
Hon RICK BARKER: It is true that the number of people on the sickness benefit and the invalids benefit has gone up, but it is also true that the total number of people on a benefit in New Zealand has dropped by some 45,000. This Government is concerned to see that that improves even further, and we have three key policies—case management, innovative employment assistance, and vocational service—to help those people get into employment.
9. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: What was the total muster of people on community work for the week ended 7 March 2004, and how many physically reported for community work during that week?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): I am advised that 16,954 offenders, including those subject to enforcement action, were serving a sentence of community work at 7 March 2004, and 5,252 of those offenders reported for community work during the week ended 7 March 2004. However, given that not every offender has to report every week, a better indicator of reporting is the monthly figure. That shows that 9,808 offenders reported in the month ended 7 March 2004.
Hon Tony Ryall: What does it say about Labour’s new sentence of community work that his official documents show that the numbers reporting at centres around the country are dropping month by month to a situation where, in March, 22 percent of the people in Manurewa on community work turned up in the first week, 33 percent of those in Manukau did, 21 percent of those in Otara did, 27 percent of those in Rotorua did, and an appalling 23 percent of those in Masterton did?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, although the member has information from monitoring reports, he has to remember that they are not the official monitoring reports that come through to the department. Secondly, the member has to recognise that the community work numbers are pretty much the same as—actually a bit better than—those for the old periodic detention sentence. The third thing the member should remember is the difference between sentences during the period being measured—the completion rate is the important one. The best analogy is that we never measure a rugby game by the half-time score—only the full-time score.
Hon Tony Ryall: No one is on the paddock—that is the problem.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will not even be in Parliament in a moment.
Hon Tony Ryall: Yes, I will be.
Mr SPEAKER: I meant in this Chamber.
Martin Gallagher: Further to the Minister’s previous answer, how does community work compare with the old sentences of periodic detention and community service, in terms of compliance and enforcement?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Community work is a new sentence. Early statistics show that completion rates are at least as good as those under the old sentences of periodic detention and community service. For the member’s information, between 1 July and 30 December last year, for example, over 1 million hours of community work were completed. That means that 85 percent of sentence hours that had to be worked were worked. It is important to acknowledge, however, that a tough line should be taken with those offenders who blatantly disregard the sentence. I applaud those judges who are sentencing those offenders to prison.
Mr SPEAKER: There were too many interjections during that answer, but the answer was too long. I call the Hon Paul Swain—Mr Ron Mark.
Ron Mark: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the compliment! I think I will be taking the Minister’s job in the very near future. Does the Minister seriously believe that it was a good idea to abolish periodic detention, a sentence that had a compliance rate of 75 to 80 percent, and replace it with his soft option of community work, given that on 7 March, of the 476 people who should have reported to the Kingsley Street Service Centre, Christchurch, only one in five—that is, 20 percent—actually did?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There were two things there. Firstly, as the member knows, it is not a requirement that everybody report every week. For example—
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the answer in a lot more silence than I have been hearing it.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: For example, somebody who has a community work sentence and works on a fishing-boat may not be able to be there every single week, so he or she comes up with an agreement to do the sentence over time. That is the first point, which was the half-time/full-time analogy that I was trying to give the member before. The second point, as I have said before, is that the figures relating to this new sentence are as good as the figures for the old periodic detention and community service sentences of the past.
Ron Mark: Rubbish.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am sorry but I am telling the member that they are.
Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.
Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister explain how Parliament can get honest information when, for example, the Masterton office is reporting a compliance rate of 73 percent for the week in question but in actual fact only 27 percent of the people who should have turned up actually did?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am trying to explain to the member the difference between the reporting sheets that are used by local people for their own information, as opposed to the information that comes through centrally. I also say to the member that it is the difference between the compliance rate and the completion rate. The completion rates, to date, show that the figures are just as good as those under the old periodic detention system.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware of the widespread concern of the Department of Corrections staff who administer community work about the integrity of the reporting system that his ministry has approved; if he is, what will he do about it in order to rectify a situation in which he can say there is a compliance rate of 73 percent, when only 27 percent of people turned up in the week in question?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not aware of “widespread concern”, as the member says. There is certainly debate within the department about the issue. What am I doing about it? I am very happy to table my media statement, which indicates that I have now asked the department for better reporting on compliance, completion, and enforcement rates.
Ron Mark: When will the Minister finally realise that much of the advice he has been given from his own department is not accurate and does not, in any way, reflect the views and the real, on-the-job experiences of Department of Corrections staff who are responsible for administering community work and are suffering on a day-to-day basis in trying to make it work; why will he not get off his backside, go and talk to some of his own staff, and get the real oil on the problems with community work, instead of pretending that they do not exist?
Mr SPEAKER: That question was far too long and there were three parts to it. The Minister can answer the first two.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the second part, I already have, and in answer to the first, that was the reason why I issued the media statement recently.
Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Statutory Obligations
10. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): ): Is she satisfied that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is capable of meeting its statutory obligations under its current structure; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): Yes, in light of our commitment to implementing the comprehensive recommendations of the baseline review. It is a tragedy that this level of analysis on the structure, management, and function of the department was not undertaken before it was established in 1999.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that the department’s current emphasis on the recurrence of abuse in serious cases is coming at the expense of preventing abuse in the first place—as evidenced by the fact that 99 percent of unallocated cases are at the lower criticality levels—and does she agree that only a dual-intake process, as suggested by United Future, would demonstrate that the Government is serious about breaking the cycle of abuse in its infancy; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: That recommendation in the United Future policy last week is entirely consistent with the recommendation in the baseline review to establish the family support services overview and leadership role within the Ministry of Social Development.
Moana Mackey: What is the Government doing to ensure that Department of Child, Youth and Family Services systems and front-line staff consistently deliver best social work practice?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As part of the implementation of the baseline review recommendations, and the $120 million additional investment in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, nearly 90 additional social workers have been employed this year, and a further 56 are to be employed in 2004-05. The department’s systems and regional management are being strengthened, and it is also developing a demand management strategy to ensure the safety of our children.
Judith Collins: Does the Minister agree that no matter what structure she imposes on the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, it is her own lack of leadership that has led to a culture of mediocrity permeating the department?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, but I will continue to listen to that member’s very constructive criticism.
Sue Bradford: What steps is the Government taking, if any, to ensure that children and young people in statutory care have a safe way of seeking help, should they be subject to abuse or violence at the hands of the very people who are supposed to be caring for them?
Hon RUTH DYSON: There are very tight protocols—which, in my view, are being complied with—in terms of the response that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services makes to any potential abuse within a caregiver situation. That allegation is immediately investigated, and, as was the case with the caregivers’ family recently described in the New Zealand Herald, the caregivers are immediately removed from that family home.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that public confidence in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services continues to be very low; if so, does she agree that unless the system is overhauled in order to relocate the statutory mandate for preventative work to a separate family support service, then potential cases of child abuse will continue to turn into serious cases with tragic consequences, further dragging down the department?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I do not believe that restructuring, on its own, would help the department to ensure that public confidence was restored, but I support the recommendation of the baseline review that the department focus more on its core functions and stabilise its operations.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware that initiatives to emphasise preventative work with at-risk families through differential intake in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have reduced the demand for crisis services; and does she concede that that approach is the best way to fulfil Mick Brown’s 2001 plea to reduce unallocated cases to zero as soon as possible?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I believe that that is a constructive proposal.
Judy Turner: Would the Minister consider piloting a system, such as that proposed by United Future, that differentiates immediate child protection concerns from broader family support needs by creating the new role of family support coordinator and trialling it at a local level; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I do not think it would be helpful to introduce yet another new system when a comprehensive review of the work of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services came up with a comprehensive range of recommendations, which we have agreed to implement.
Mâori Television Service—Ratings
11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson), on behalf of GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What advice has he received regarding the daily percentage share of the total television audience achieved by the Mâori Television Service, as measured by the Nielsen Media Research Television Ratings?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Mâori Affairs: None.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister consider it to be good value for the $45 million of public money that in the latest ACNielsen survey, which was carried out during the first week of broadcast for 7 days, for 24 hours a day, and involving 1,100 viewers, not one person—zero—was found to be watching any of the Mâori Television Service programmes.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is surprising, since I have met a number of people I know who have been watching the Mâori Television Service programmes. Of course, other people may have been watching the nightly news to see how the member was getting on with his legal problems.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister should withdraw that comment and apologise.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Apologise? He was convicted.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw and apologise.
Mahara Okeroa: What does the Minister think about the Mâori language programming that has been broadcast so far?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister of Mâori Affairs is very happy with it. The Mâori language programmes that he has seen, such as Korero Mai, are entertaining, educational, and informative. He says that even those people who can count to 10 in Mâori on the Holmes show will get something out of it.
Deborah Coddington: On what date, in respect of the Mâori Television Service, did the Minister first learn that there are two taxpayer-funded Mâori television channels; and what action did he take?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not aware of a second television channel having started up. I am aware of a special education grant to assist with the creation of such a channel. I do not know on what date the Minister became aware of that. I assume it was about a couple of weeks ago when that entered the public arena.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that, when the Minister launched the Mâori Television Service, he said it was a key part of lifting Mâori culture and heritage, does he believe that, having spent $45 million and found that nobody is watching, this is the best way in which to encourage Mâori culture and heritage?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Unlike the member, I am optimistic about the future of Mâori television. Unlike the member, I think it is actually important to support Mâori language and culture but, of course, there are many members of the House who do not take any interest in European language and culture either.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the ACNielsen survey data.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Westhaven Marina, Auckland—Sale
12. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he have any plans to stop the sale of Westhaven Marina until Parliament has passed the Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill, which decides the new asset-holding body to replace Infrastructure Auckland?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): No.
Dail Jones: Why is the Minister prepared to show no leadership as Minister of Local Government on this matter, given the fundamental importance of Westhaven Marina to Auckland—the City of Sails—and the region; and does it not make sense to halt the sale of Westhaven Marina, given the current massive reorganisation of public assets in Auckland, instead of lining the pockets of financiers, lawyers, accountants, and consultants who will make millions of dollars from the sale, with no benefit to Auckland?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Because I do not have any powers to prevent the sale.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Does the Minister have the power to prevent the sale of Westhaven Marina by Ports of Auckland Ltd?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are some people in the public who watch this televised question time. The Minister just said that he had no powers, and a question has come up from the far end of the Chamber, by way of a supplementary question, asking him whether he does have powers. That is a total waste of Parliament’s time.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can ask the question again. That is within the Standing Orders.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Further to my earlier answer, my officials advise that I do not have such powers under the Local Government Act 1974 or the Local Government Act 2002. Nor would I have those powers under the proposed Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill currently before the House.
Keith Locke: Even if the Minister does not have that power, would it not be wise for him to advise stopping the sale, in view of the fact that Auckland Regional Holdings has a much broader mandate than Infrastructure Auckland—that is, a mandate to manage assets and own them in the long-term interests of Auckland—and Auckland Regional Holdings may actually want to purchase the Westhaven asset at very little cost, because it would just be shifting the asset from an 80 percent - owned subsidiary to the holding company itself, namely, Auckland Regional Holdings?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am already on record as saying that I would prefer this asset to remain in public ownership but, as explained to this House already, I do not have the powers to force that to happen.
Dail Jones: Why does the Minister say that he has no power, when he is currently changing the law under the Local Government (Auckland) Amendment Bill in order to change the ownership of Infrastructure Auckland; and why is he failing to ensure that Westhaven Marina’s owner, Ports of Auckland, complies with the requirements of the Port Companies Act, which states that a port company is to carry out port-related commercial activities and control the ownership thereof—especially as the High Court in Auckland decided that Westhaven Marina is a port-related commercial activity, and on that basis gave Ports of Auckland ownership of Westhaven Marina, making it clear that no other party could carry out a port-related activity and control the ownership of Westhaven Marina? Why is he not carrying out the High Court decision to retain the ownership of Westhaven Marina in Ports of Auckland?
Mr SPEAKER: That question was far too long, and there were three parts to it. The Minister may comment, if he wishes, on two.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member raises some good points. It is, though, the shareholding of Ports of Auckland that is considered to be a strategic asset, not the actual physical assets, as they are owned by a publicly listed company.
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )