Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 5 May 2004
Wednesday, 5 May 2004
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
1 Foreshore and
2 Foreshore and Seabed—Legislation Negotiations
3 New Zealand Superannuation—Rates
4 Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Review
5 Paraparaumu Airport—Sale
Question No. 6 to Minister
6 Foreshore and Seabed—Mâori Affairs, Minister
7 Public Trust—Enduring Powers of Attorney
10 Tertiary Education Commission—Student Enrolments
11 Industry New Zealand and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise—Grants
12 Competitiveness Yearbook—New Zealand Ranking
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
Foreshore and Seabed—Public Access
1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Does he agree with the Waitangi Tribunal when it said, in respect of the foreshore and seabed, that claimants and the Crown agree: that the public generally should have access to the foreshore and seabed except where this causes harm; that it should not be sold; and that customary rights in the foreshore and seabed exist and need to be recognised and protected?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): I am aware of the section in the tribunal’s report that pointed out that there is some common ground between the Government’s policy and the position taken by the claimants. The Government’s view on the access issue is that it should be as of right.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is he confident that Mâori agree that the Government’s proposals protect customary rights, when outside Parliament right now 20,000 sons and daughters and mokopuna of Dame Whina Cooper are protesting against this Government’s unjust legislation to extinguish customary title?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Dame Whina is a wonderful woman, but I doubt whether she had 20,000 mokopuna by herself. However, my estimate of the crowd would be somewhat lower than that. Clearly, there is considerable concern amongst Mâori about some issues in this bill. I am sure that if they proceed through the select committee process, legitimate concerns can be addressed and will be well understood.
Dr Wayne Mapp: What is the potential cost to taxpayers of the claims for fee simple title over nearly 3,900 kilometres of coastline that are currently before the Mâori Land Court, and which, of course, can now be subject to compensation under the Government’s foreshore and seabed bill?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The applications before the Mâori Land Court are for customary land status. Fee simple title would flow from that potentially—[Interruption] If the member can understand that small point, there is progress after some months. However, what the bill provides for is not any application with regard to fee simple title at all. But in relation to territorial customary rights applications to the High Court, which would trigger redress, of course—[Interruption] Is the member suggesting that the removal of the capacity for recognition of those customary rights should be done without the capacity for redress? It is fascinating that the National Party is now arguing that any form of territorial rights be removed without any form of redress.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to consider very carefully the way Dr Cullen answered the latter part of that question. It seems to me that he was asked a very straight and simple question that he then chose to overly complicate. He then took an opportunity, after a heckle from one of his own crew, to avoid answering at all. I wonder whether we might get a simple answer as to what it will cost to compensate Mâori for the Government’s proposals over the seabed and foreshore.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That was not the question. The question was a different one. The question was based upon a false assumption.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to rule on the point of order. For a start there were a large number of interjections in the second person, which I presume related to me. They came mostly from the member’s side, and they were out of order. I do not mind some interjections during question time. I like to have a free flow. However, interjections have to be reasonable and in the right person. The Minister did address the question.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister agree that the most effective way to guarantee public access to the seabed and foreshore, as this bill does, is to ensure that it remains in Crown ownership—exactly as New Zealand First has been advocating now for some months?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, I think that Crown ownership is the simplest legal procedure to ensure that—coupled, of course, with a statutory right of access. It is possible to have Crown ownership without a statutory right of access.
Rod Donald: How can the public of New Zealand be sure that Crown ownership will not lead to the foreshore and seabed being sold to overseas owners, when a simple majority in a future Parliament could overturn the no-sale provision? We all know that New Zealand Governments have the sorry history of selling off parts of the foreshore.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: This country’s constitution is founded upon the theory of parliamentary sovereignty—a matter I might discuss somewhat further in a coming special debate on a Monday in a couple of weeks’ or so time. The essence of parliamentary sovereignty is that no Parliament can bind its successor. The issue the member raises could be raised about almost anything else, including the Human Rights Act, the abolition of capital punishment, or the existence of the Green Party. But it need not worry—this Government is not going to abolish the Green Party.
Dail Jones: Can the Minister confirm that the main way to ensure New Zealand ownership of the public foreshore and seabed is to support New Zealand First at the election, because it is our policy that such New Zealand-owned assets should not be sold to overseas interests—unlike the National Party, as indicated by the interjection just now.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and that interjection is the only interjection that member will make during the asking of questions.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will understand that my preference would be that people will vote for the Labour Party to ensure continued public ownership of the foreshore and seabed. I shall see him on the hustings above or on the high-tide mark.
Metiria Turei: Why did the Government reject Green Party proposals—such as amendments to the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act—when those amendments would have provided for a collective customary title where those rights still exist, as well as ensuring negotiated public access to the foreshore; and would that now provide a way out of the corner into which this Government has backed itself?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In fact, the Greens’ original position was that the foreshore and seabed should be held in the commons. This view subsequently underwent a somewhat strange change to “Mâori collective customary title”. However, that would not be a sufficient protection, nor does it avoid the issues around confiscation, rights and redresses that the member seems to think, because there is a world of difference between that and what is now available under the Ngâti Apa decision. If the member had been meeting with Te Ope Mana a Tai, she would realise that one of the issues it was pursuing was the right of economic development on the foreshore and seabed.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister name any other group in society, apart from Mâori, who have had their property rights forcibly replaced by a weakened right of consultation; if not, is this not an example of racial discrimination against Mâori?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Parliaments over a very long period of time in New Zealand have changed a number of property relationships and property issues—sometimes with and sometimes without consultation; sometimes with and sometimes without compensation. There is nothing unique about the processes being followed here, other than the care being taken for the better recognition and protection of customary rights and ancestral connection.
Metiria Turei: Does the Government believe in one rule of law for all; if so, in the interests of consistency, will it now be expropriating the property rights of non-Mâori who own parts of the foreshore?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Nobody who has fee simple title to any part of the foreshore and seabed, however that arose, is having those property rights expropriated. The Government’s position is that it will seek to negotiate over time with any such owners. I want to place very clearly on the record that the notion that that is somehow racially based is nonsense. Some of those private titles are held by Mâori.
Foreshore and Seabed—Legislation Negotiations
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is she negotiating with, or has she instructed any member of her Cabinet to negotiate with, any members of Parliament on any aspects of the seabed and foreshore legislation; if so, with whom are these negotiations taking place?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm media reports that the Government is prepared to horse-trade even greater concessions to Mâori in the Foreshore and Seabed Bill in the hope of securing Ms Mahuta’s ongoing political support, and will she tell the House what further concessions are under discussion?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I can confirm is that a bill was tabled in this House on 8 April and that bill will be voted on in a first reading tomorrow.
Stephen Franks: Are the provisions for ancestral connection orders in the bill up for negotiation or modification by this House; if so, will the Prime Minister ensure they are confined to areas where the common law might have granted property rights, instead of blanketing almost the whole coast in feudal privileges to obstruct?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is familiar with the processes that a bill goes through in this House. I have already advised Dr Brash that a bill has been tabled. That bill will be voted on tomorrow. It will go to a select committee, and submissions will be made. The committee will consider and deliberate on the bill, and it will come back to the House.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How does she ever expect to get cooperation from hapû and iwi on the Government’s ocean policy, the aquaculture legislation, and the marine reserves bill if the Government persists with this very unpopular legislation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government has a duty to govern for all New Zealanders and from the outset, when the Court of Appeal decision arose, the Government made it clear it would govern for all New Zealanders. That meant it upheld the birthright of every New Zealander to enjoy and have access to the coastal marine area, but the Government also said from the outset that it would respect the customary position of Mâori.
Dr Don Brash: Why would Nanaia Mahuta have stated toTV3 yesterday that she believed that there was still “room to move” on the—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is one of those questions where it seems immediately there cannot be responsibility by the Minister. Why would another member have said something about a matter for which the Prime Minister has responsibility?
Mr SPEAKER: I will listen to the question in its entirety, and then I will judge that. So far there is nothing yet that the Prime Minister has to answer. But if the member is going to tie that into something, then of course he will be able to do so. For my sake, anyway, could the member start the question again.
Dr Don Brash: Why would Nanaia Mahuta have stated to TV3 yesterday that she believed that there was still “room to move” on the seabed and foreshore legislation, if she had not received some indication from the Government that it was prepared to negotiate, and can the Prime Minister tell the House just what room to move the Government has under discussion?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would assume that Ms Mahuta, as a member of Parliament with 7½ years’ experience, was referring to the select committee process, during which everyone can make their views known. Dr Brash, as a member of very little experience who has probably never sat on a select committee, would not know that.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why does she not just walk down the steps and say to the thousands outside, Mâori and Pâkehâ: “We hear your distress. Let’s put this on hold. Let’s sit around the table together, and work out a solution that will meet the needs of all New Zealanders”— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hide is to leave the Chamber. I warned people about interjecting. The member will start her question all over again.
Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One presumes you also heard—because I heard it clearly, and I am not far from you—the senior Labour whip interject at the same time. She can put on whatever face she likes, but she certainly interjected.
Mr SPEAKER: Did the member interject?
Jill Pettis: No.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s word will be accepted. Please restate the question.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the member, who I think may well be now engaging in one of those exercises that the Hon Ruth Dyson engages in, said that she did not interject because—
Mr SPEAKER: Come to the point of order.
Hon Roger Sowry: She called out, but in her mind perhaps it was not an interjection. Perhaps it was just something friendly she was shouting out.
Mr SPEAKER: I asked the member whether she had interjected, and she said “No.” Her word must be accepted. That is part of the rules of this House.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It really comes down to which member’s word you take, because a number of members on the Opposition side of the House heard the senior Government whip say in a loud voice: “Let’s all hold hands.” That was the interjection. It was a derogatory comment directed at Jeanette Fitzsimons, and I do not see how it could be seen as anything other than a heckle of at least the same magnitude as Mr Hide’s.
Mr SPEAKER: The member should know from the Standing Orders that members always accept the word of a member about that member’s action, and that is where that matter ends.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem now is that, in view of the fact that you have accepted one member’s word, you are now saying that the word of Mr Sowry, who has made a statement, and Mr Brownlee, who has also made a statement, is not to be accepted. There are a number of members in this House who will stand and say they did hear that statement by the senior Government whip. The fact is that we now enter into a real problem of whose word you take. In this case, you have decided to take the word of the Labour member against the word of National members.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I have not. I am taking the word of the honourable member to whom I asked an explicit question. There is a way of proceeding in this House around that, and the member knows how to do it.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why does the Prime Minister not just walk down the steps, and say to those outside, Mâori and Pâkehâ: “We hear your distress. Let us put this on hold and sit around the table together to design a solution that builds on our common ground, and that meets the needs of all New Zealanders.”; and would that not start the healing process, and give her enormous mana?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I suggest that to do what the member suggests would cause a great deal more distress to most people, who want to see the issue moved on. We hear the concern being expressed, but my message is that we must govern in the interests of all New Zealanders to get a fair balance, which is what we are striving for.
Stephen Franks: From the Prime Minister’s answers to the previous supplementary questions about the scope for change or negotiation, in which she said that was in the hands of House, are we to take it that she is acknowledging that she no longer controls enough of a majority in the House to determine what those outcomes may be?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is familiar with parliamentary process. When bills come in and go to select committees, Governments—and, I hope, Oppositions—give those who make submissions the courtesy of listening to what they say.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that her bold assertions that she has the numbers to pass this year’s Budget are based on the presumption that Mrs Turia and possibly Ms Mahuta will be out of Parliament contesting by-elections at that time; and can she tell the House when she will be able to identify a certain majority and deliver stable Government?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of that question is out of order. I will allow the member to rephrase it, because it has nothing to do with the original question. Could the member rephrase the question, in light of the primary question that he asked at the start? [Interruption] I am asking only one member to ask the supplementary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member clearly needs some time.
Mr SPEAKER: There are to be no interjections during a point of order. That point of order was a frivolous one.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It seems clear to me that the question is about the capacity of the Government to negotiate with members to seek support for legislation that it has before the House.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct on the seabed legislation, but not on the Budget. This question is about the seabed legislation—that was specifically mentioned in the question. The member may wish to ask a supplementary question. I will allow him to do so.
Dr Don Brash: Let me try to rephrase the question. The Prime Minister has asserted that she has sufficient support to pass legislation in this House. How long does that seem likely to take place, and is she basing that on the assumption that Ms Mahuta and Mrs Turia will be out of the House contesting by-elections over the next several months?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My confidence is based on the absolute certainty that a clear majority of members of this House prefer a Labour-led Government.
New Zealand Superannuation—Rates
3. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received from other political parties that New Zealand superannuation will be retained at 65 percent of the average wage for a married couple, from the age of 65?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I sought an undertaking to this effect from all parties in 2002, when I asked if they would sign up to the provisions of the New Zealand Superannuation Act. The National Party would not sign, and replied that its position “will be made clear in its public statements.”
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister received any further reports enabling him to clarify National’s position?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the Minister does have responsibility for parties’ views under the New Zealand Superannuation Act. He can answer that question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Leader of the Opposition is on record that National will review the age of eligibility—if not in 5 years, then almost certainly in 10 or 15 years. In my long experience on this issue, “review” has never meant an improvement in the situation.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister aware of the National Party’s clearly stated superannuation policy involving a commitment to no change—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the right honourable Prime Minister to stand, withdraw, and apologise for that interjection.
Rt Hon Helen Clark: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister aware of the National Party’s clearly stated superannuation policy involving a commitment to no change in the age of eligibility, no surcharge or means test, and no change to the relationship between New Zealand superannuation and the average wage for 2020 for all New Zealand citizens; and does he acknowledge that one of his own colleagues—John Tamihere—is on the record saying that “universal superannuation is not sustainable” indefinitely?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The fact the member asked the second part of that question casts some doubt about what he meant by the first part of it. I am aware that what the member just said bears a remarkable similarity to the National Party’s 1990 election policy on superannuation, which was followed by an increase in the surcharge, a lifting of the age, and a reduction in the level of payment.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the first part of my question required a simple yes or no answer and in no sense could the Minister be construed as having answered that question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Speaker—[Interruption] Many are called, but few are chosen. Speaking to the point of order, I point out that the answer I gave was an elaboration of the first part of the question, which was that I am aware of certain statements made by the member. If he wants me to elaborate further, the conclusion is that anybody under the age of 50 should be very, very scared indeed about a National-led Government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I wish to seek leave. I note that every single question asked by Government members yesterday and today has been about National policy, as if we are the Government, so I seek leave of the House for the Opposition to sit on the Government benches so we can answer these questions.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. As one who has sat on both sides of the House, I know what the feeling is on both sides.
Peter Brown: Can I take it from the Minister’s response that he is determined that superannuation will remain at 65 percent at age 65 and be universally paid out, and that there is no chance he will consider increasing the percentage in the next Budget?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The Government is committed to maintaining the relativity band between 65 and 72.5 percent of the ordinary average-time weekly wage. The priorities in the Budget will be for low to middle income earners. To the couple on the front page of the Sunday Star-Times all I can say is: “Hang on, help is on its way.”
Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Review
4. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Labour: Is he contemplating any changes to the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill given the public interest in its outcome; if so, in what areas?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): I am meeting with employer and employee groups to discuss the issues arising from the bill. I will consider any changes that the select committee recommends in due course.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that many people in this country—business people and employees—are quite happy with the current Act; therefore, will he tell the House, if he is aware of that, where the pressure is coming from to make such significant changes as this bill does?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am aware that a number of people are happy with the current Act, which is somewhat at odds with what a number of those same people said when the Employment Relations Bill was initially introduced. I heard at that time that some people were saying that growth would go down. Actually, it went up. The same people also said that unemployment would go up. It went down. As a result, I say that predictions often do not turn out to be true.
Dianne Yates: With whom has the Minister met to discuss the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have met with Business New Zealand on a number of occasions, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions on a number of occasions, the Business Roundtable, and some of New Zealand’s major employers. I will continue to meet with other groups, while the select committee hears submissions, to obtain the best range of perspectives on the bill.
Hon Roger Sowry: Noting that the Minister has not met, according to his last answer, with the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), has he been advised, therefore, of the unanimous vote of 230 businesses in Auckland in favour of a resolution that “rejects the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill and asks that it be referred for genuine good faith tri-partite consultation between Government, employers, non-union employees and unions, in accordance with the spirit of being a member of the ILO.”; if he has heard of that resolution, what action, if any, does he intend to take?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I suspect that organisation will tell me those things tomorrow, when I meet with it in Auckland.
Paul Adams: Will the Minister contemplate changes to the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill in light of the incorrect claim in the explanatory note that compliance costs to business are likely to be relatively insignificant, yet anyone who takes on a new business or contract will face increased costs when the liability of the old workers is factored into the price?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am sure there will be changes to the bill. That is the nature of select committee processes. Of course, compliance costs are some of the issues that I understand the select committee is looking into.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister acknowledge that one of the main aims of the bill is to provide collective contracts for more employees, and that the simplest way of achieving that is to remove the union monopoly that is in the current legislation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Certainly, one of the aims of the bill is to promote good workplace relations. It is certainly the aim of the Employment Relations Act to promote collectives. How those are to be achieved are the issues that I understand the select committee—of which the member is part—is considering at the moment.
5. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has he received on the sale of Paraparaumu Airport?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): I have received the report of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee into the privatisation of the airport by the previous National Government in 1995. The report identified a long list of errors, failures, and contradictions. It is an indictment on the Government of the day, and an even sloppier process than the privatisation of the railways.
Darren Hughes: What failures in Government processes around the sale does the committee’s report identify?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Heaps of them, but the two worst are that, first, the objectives of the sale were never a condition of the sale—almost unbelievably—and, second, that it was sold for a song.
Peter Brown: When can the House expect the formal Government response to this inquiry; will it be quicker than the shipping review, which, thus far, has taken only 4 years?
Hon PETE HODGSON: My understanding of the Standing Orders is that the Government ought to respond within 90 days. We are in day 2.
Question No. 6 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): My question is directed to the Minister of Mâori Affairs, who may be better placed to answer the question later in the afternoon when he returns from other parliamentary duties. I therefore seek leave to have the question held over.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the Government can transfer questions to other Ministers, but in this case it seems that the question is so personal to the Minister that it would be quite ridiculous for anyone else to be able to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Then the member does not ask it. That is the only other alternative, and that has occurred while I have been in the Chair and while my predecessors have been in the Chair.
GERRY BROWNLEE: All right, we will give it a go.
Foreshore and Seabed—Mâori Affairs, Minister
6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Does he stand by his reported comment that he will leave Parliament if the foreshore and seabed legislation does not work out the way he wants for Mâori; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Minister of Mâori Affairs: This legislation will deliver the best possible deal for Mâori.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister of Mâori Affairs agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that the hîkoi marchers are “wreckers” and “haters”; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Prime Minister did not state that all the hîkoi marchers were “wreckers” and “haters”, but amongst the leadership were people who have indicated that they want to wreck the sovereignty of New Zealand.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree with the Waitangi Tribunal that the Government’s proposals behind the foreshore and seabed legislation put Mâori “in a class different from, and inferior to, all other citizens”; if not, will he explain to the thousands of Mâori and Pâkehâ outside the walls of this House today, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. In answer to the second part of the question: “As I’m currently out there I can’t be in here to explain it.”
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. “As I can’t be here because I’m out there and I can’t explain.”! We cannot be treated to that sort of answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I was just contemplating that and getting some advice. That answer is out of order.
Gerry Brownlee: What exactly will the Minister be measuring to determine whether the foreshore and seabed legislation has worked the way he wants for Mâori?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Minister has already measured that, and he is convinced that we have legislation that will deliver the best possible deal for Mâori given the make-up of this House.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is where we get into quite a bit of difficulty—that is, when the Government treats the right of the Opposition to question Ministers in such a cavalier fashion. The opening question asked the Minister whether he stood by his reported comments. Those comments indicated that he would leave Parliament if it did not work out. The comment has now been made on behalf of the Minister that he has already looked at it. It has not even come before the House yet, but he has decided that it is so good that it has worked anyway. It is quite unacceptable for the Hansard record to carry that sort of series of answers. It does not make sense in the first place, and it comes because the Government has made a decision not to have Parekura Horomia in the House today.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that last point is out of order. The other point is also out of order. I have no intention of asking Hansard to change what has been reported. I do not think the member would want that either.
Gerry Brownlee: No.
Mr SPEAKER: No, of course not. The answer stands. It addressed the question. I am not responsible for the quality of the answer.
Stephen Franks: Is the Minister aware of any discussion on the allocation of aquaculture areas as part of this or a further package; if so, when will he know what any aquaculture area deal will deliver, and the cost?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Aquaculture and foreshore issues are separate.
Public Trust—Enduring Powers of Attorney
7. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister responsible for the Public Trust: Is he satisfied the Public Trust exercises sufficient care in administering enduring power of attorney; if so, why?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister responsible for the Public Trust): Responsibility for the supervision, direction, and management of the affairs of the Public Trust rests with its board. Accordingly, I do not have, nor would I expect to be provided with, information on operational matters such as these. The Public Trust is required by its legislation, however, when managing and administering estates and in fulfilling any other fiduciary obligations, to act in an independent manner free from any direction or instruction from the Crown. The legislation governing enduring powers of attorney actually lies with the Minister of Justice, but I am willing to assist the member in any communications he wants to have with the Public Trust, if he wishes.
Larry Baldock: Is the Minister aware that the Public Trust has implemented the recommendations of the Law Commission report of April 2001 entitled Misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney, which recommended that the Public Trust should seek independent legal advice before assisting to grant enduring power of attorney where the donor is over the age of 68 and married, and the person being granted enduring power of attorney is not the spouse?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: If the member wants a response from the chief executive of the board of the Public Trust as to what effect it has given to those recommendations, I am happy to assist, or he can write to the Public Trust directly.
Larry Baldock: I thank the Minister for his assistance. Will he give this House an assurance today, then, that he will look into the matter of the Public Trust’s management of the case of Mr Alefounder of Tauranga, an 89-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who was assisted to give power of attorney to Mrs Alefounder’s stepson without Mrs Alefounder being consulted, with the result of the Public Trust’s actions being that it has enabled her stepson to withdraw funds from the deceased’s account and leave Mrs Alefounder with a debt?
Mr SPEAKER: The question is a long one, but I will allow the Minister to comment briefly.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I reiterate that operational matters on individual estates are the affairs of the chief executive and the board of the Public Trust. If the member wishes to get a response from the Public Trust on a specific case like that, then I will assist him to do so, or he can write directly to the trust.
Larry Baldock: Is the Minister aware of Age Concern’s claims that 25 percent of all people who have granted enduring power of attorney, or who, like Mrs Alefounder, have seen their spouses grant enduring power of attorney, are being financially, emotionally, and materially abused, and that the Government review of this issue, to be released later this year, is happening too slowly; and will he give this House an undertaking that he will look into that and see that it is speeded up?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a Public Trust issue, but the Minister can comment briefly on it if he wishes.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I said, the legislation governing enduring powers of attorney is really the affair of the Minister of Justice, but I am also aware that my colleague the Minister for Senior Citizens is investigating aspects of elder abuse, including those that the member has outlined, and a report for recommendation and possible action will go to Cabinet and the Government in due course.
8. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT), on behalf of Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT), to the Minister of Finance: If the Government was to adjust the income tax thresholds to take into account the movement in inflation since the thresholds were fixed, what would the $38,000 and the $60,000 thresholds be adjusted to?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Based on a starting point of when the current thresholds came in, on 1 April 2000, to 1 April 2004, $42,900 and $66,100 respectively.
Hon Ken Shirley: Will the Minister then concede that Labour’s election promises contained in its glossy pamphlet headed “We will deliver”, with the airbrushed photograph of the Prime Minister, have now been broken—specifically, “No rise in income tax for the 95 per cent of taxpayers earning under $60,000”—and how many taxpayers now earn more than $60,000?
Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Minister can answer two of them.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because, indeed, people’s incomes have increased under the Labour Government. The effect of any change on those people earning over $42,900 up to $60,000-odd would be $11.31 a week, and on those earning above $60,100, $18.35 a week. That would be the amount—the $11-odd—that the couple on the front page of the Sunday Star-Times would have got from indexation. Under the Government’s Budget package they will receive many times that amount of support.
Janet Mackey: Has the Minister received any advice on the cost and advisability of inflation-adjusting the income tax scales; if so, what did it say?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Treasury and the Inland Revenue Department reported on the issue in March of last year, and at that point the estimated cost was around $400 million—it will undoubtedly be considerably more now. They advised against indexation, saying that, given the complexities of changes to the tax scale and interactions with social policy, it was better to make large changes occasionally, taking account of all relevant factors, rather than making frequent small changes.
John Key: Does the Minister of Finance acknowledge that, on top of the $450 million of additional revenue brought in by bracket creep, his Government has increased the tax burden on all New Zealanders by more than $1 billion a year; if so, why will he not give all New Zealanders some tax relief in the Budget?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: One of the reasons is that most of his colleagues keep calling them increases in Government spending at the same time.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the fact that, through overtaxing New Zealanders, this Government is running a multibillion dollar surplus, what is the Minister’s response to the editorial in the Sunday Star-Times stating that the reason working families in New Zealand are struggling is that they are paying too much tax?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will yet again attempt to explain the difference between an operating surplus and a cash surplus. Let me assure the member that when the Budget is presented she will find some projections of cash deficits, but I do not intend to repeat some of my predecessors’ mistakes by borrowing large sums of money for current consumption so that future generations can live more poorly as they pay it off.
Gordon Copeland: Is he prepared to look further at indexation of the tax brackets on the basis of fairness, the resultant boost in family incomes, and the above-forecast surplus this year in the Government’s accounts of some $740 million?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will take the last question first. The above-forecast surplus is because of the above-forecast growth. If one spends an extra surplus as soon as growth is higher than forecast, one quickly ends up with what is called one-sided Keynesianism, and that leads down a very long road of increasing debt.
9. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Housing: What is the Government doing to ensure New Zealanders have access to decent and affordable housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): Since 1999 the Government has committed an extra $2 billion through Housing New Zealand for the provision of decent and affordable housing in New Zealand.
Last week we released a discussion document to help inform on the next 10 years of housing strategy. We also launched 37 refurbished houses in Auckland under the programme for Auckland housing. Since 1999 we have increased the number of State houses by 4,000, with 4,000 more planned, reinstated income-related rents for 56,000 low-income households, and invested in help for low and modest families to buy their own home.
Moana Mackey: What alternatives are being proposed to this Government’s approach of investment in decent, affordable housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In stark contrast to the record I have just outlined, we have proposals for the selling of State houses to the highest bidder, as was done in the 1990s when 13,000 were sold—a paltry 20 percent going to the tenants in them. We have proposals for time limits on social housing so a house will never be a home, and a return to market rents, even though they were leading the cost of houses upwards. Those proposals come from both David Carter and Wayne Mapp of the National Party.
Hon David Carter: Is the Minister concerned that his Government’s housing policy has seen tenancy turnover in State houses decrease from 33 percent to 15 percent in the last 3 years, and does he believe it appropriate for State houses to be occupied by families with incomes in excess of $100,000 a year, net of tax; if not, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The answer to the first part of the question is no. What the Government wants to see is people stabilise in their homes. For example, we had such turnover that local schools were in some cases threatened with closure because they could never guarantee what their roll would be from day to day, because of National’s housing policy. The answer to the second part of the question is that we do try to ensure that as people reach a level of income where they might like to buy a house, they can buy one. For example, the mortgage insurance scheme is targeted heavily at those tenants who can move from a State house, buy their own house, and move into the private market. That was not done by the National Government in the 1990s.
Brent Catchpole: Is Housing New Zealand Corporation building new housing stock or is it simply buying housing stock from the private sector, therefore reducing that stock available to people in New Zealand and thereby making it impossible for people in need of housing to get into housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Since 1999 the Government has built 4,000 new houses, and it is currently in the process of building another 4,000 new houses. In the Budget we will make projections of more new houses. We are building new houses.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister clarify some of his answers? How many families are on the State housing waiting list now, and how many does he expect to be on the waiting list in a year’s time?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are currently about 12,000 people on waiting lists all over New Zealand, which is just a little fewer than the 13,000 houses the National Party sold.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did ask how many the Minister expects to be on the list in a year’s time.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can speculate if he wishes. He is not forced to.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It would be difficult to make a projection here today, but, of course, what the Government wants to do is ensure that we have enough housing stock to meet the needs of all people who cannot afford to pay a market rent or to buy their own house.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister noted the difficulties that first homeowners are now suffering in purchasing their first home as a result of such policies as immigration and an increase in the market price of houses, and if he has noticed that, is he going to announce—or will he consider—a policy that allows people to purchase their State home so that they may finally get a home of their own?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I have noticed that it is difficult to get a first home buyer into a house because of house prices. No, we do not intend to introduce policies where people will buy their own State home, for the exact reason that was asked over here: we want to increase State housing stock, not reduce it.
Tertiary Education Commission—Student Enrolments
10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he think the Tertiary Education Commission has done a good job of ensuring that “student enrolments are concentrated in areas of high performance and high strategic relevance.”, as he said it would in February 2003?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Tertiary Education Commission has made steady progress since its establishment in January 2003. To fund strategically, it has needed to get charters and profiles in place. Charters have been completed, and profiles will be able to be used from the academic year 2005. We have already seen strategic funding decisions in the Private Training Establishments Strategic Priorities Fund. We have seen it in aviation; we have seen it in the area of industry training, and in apprenticeships. Clearly, a strategic approach to tertiary education funding is the way to go, and I understand that every party in the House agrees with that.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware there have been substantial increases in enrolments in community education courses that have no qualification and no assessment, and is he aware that the Tairâwhiti Polytechnic enrolled 47,000 people in community education, which is more than the population of Gisborne; that the Christchurch Polytechnic enrolled—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Some people are very, very lucky that I am generous today—very lucky indeed. The member will start that question all over again, and no one from his own side had better comment.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of the strong growth in enrolments in community education, where there is no assessment and no qualification, and is he aware that the Tairâwhiti Polytechnic enrolled 47,400 people last year in community education, which is more than the population of Gisborne; that the Christchurch Polytechnic enrolled 96,600 people in its community education programmes, which is almost 1 in 3 of all Christchurch residents, and that overall last year almost 1 in 9 New Zealanders were enrolled by polytechs in community education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The answer to the first part of the question is yes, I am aware. In answer to the second part of the question, that is one of the reasons we have moved to limit spending in the area of $5.1 million. In answer to the implicit part of the third part of the question, I would say it is lucky we have a Labour Government, because we have the tools to do this—unlike the National Government, which did nothing.
Jill Pettis: How do the funding rules now in place already differ from those put in place by the National-led Government in 1998?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We have moved away from National’s hands-off model of funding tertiary education. Providers can no longer include computers and other sweeteners in their student loan purposes. The student loan scheme can no longer be used for overseas travel, unless it has been specifically approved. Providers can no longer set whatever fee they like. Private training establishments funding has been capped and the capital component removed. The funding of the Performance-based Research Fund means that research is now an accountable area of funding. Restrictions on growth to limit them to 15 percent in 1 year have been put in place, and we have capped aviation training. In other words, we now have the ability to handle our funding in the tertiary area strategically. In answer to Mr Power’s question about the student loan, I understand that Lockwood Smith was out the other day saying what a wonderful scheme it was.
Deborah Coddington: Does he think that the Tertiary Education Commission has done a good job, when under his watch it has given out more than $111 million in a year to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa, which under the auspices of waka-building courses has spent $2 million on a state-of-the-art catamaran with double caterpillar diesel engines, which is sitting up in Auckland at the maritime museum waiting to take students for rides?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think that during the period of the last year—the Tertiary Education Commission was established January 2003—it has made very good progress. It will ensure that this country has a strategic investment in tertiary education. I repeat, I do not know of anybody in the House who disagrees with that.
Marc Alexander: Why does the Minister think that the Tertiary Education Commission has ensured that student enrolments are concentrated in areas of high performance and strategic relevance when there is no specific budgeting for the number of equivalent full-time students, leading to the blowout in funding for community education courses, and when equivalent full-time student funding is calculated without taking into account the actual cost of running the courses?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not want to repeat two of the answers I have already outlined during question time, because the member obviously was not listening to those. In summary, the commission has been going for about a year. It needs two key tools—charters and profiles—to be able to fund directly what is happening in a university or any other tertiary institution. Both of those tools are either developed in the case of the charters, or are about to be developed in the case of the profiles. In the second area I outlined during other answers to questions, I pointed out how many areas already have strategic funds. Industry training, modern apprenticeships, private training, etc. already have strategic priority funding.
Hon Bill English: Just what strategic tools did the Minister use to make sure that community education funding rose from $13 million in 2000 to $105 million last year, and enrolments in community education rose from 85,000 in 2000 to 465,000 last year, when these courses are, as he has said himself, of dubious quality?
Hon Steve Maharey: As the member knows, 5.1 funding for community and adult education was introduced by the National Government in 1991. When we noticed that this fund was growing to such a large extent last year, we took the opportunity to, firstly, change it. We can only change it from academic year to academic year, so we moved immediately to do that. But I say to the member that adult community education is a tradition in this country that has gone back for a good 100 years. We have funded informal community kinds of education as the first step into tertiary education. We will continue to do that into the future, because we have the ability to do it. We will do it within a capped fund and it will be more strategically focused.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister support the comments of the departing head of the Tertiary Education Commission, Dr Andrew West, that student enrolments and vocational training should be encouraged, and that universities should take in only the academically most able; if so, will he consider raising the requirements for university entrance in light of the move towards a performance-based funding model and away from the current emphasis of “bums on seats”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The whole point of the reforms is to move away from what the National Party used to call “bums on seats”. Universities set their own entrance standards. That is why they exist—to set their own entrance standards. As to whether I agree with Dr West’s parting comments, those are comments I myself have made—that we need to ensure that young New Zealanders make a choice. It means that they understand fully that it is as good to go through industry training as it is to take on a polytechnic course or some other kind of full-time institutional study.
Hon Bill English: Given that the Minister has spent 5 years now talking about steering the tertiary sector, why is the end result of all that talk that the lowest-value courses in community education have grown vastly more than any other type of course, including the growth in trade education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Growth in areas like Modern Apprenticeships, for example, has gone from zero to 7,000 at the present time. So growth rates in areas like industry training, which have gone from 86,000 to 150,000 at the end of what we are doing at the current time, will be a 100 percent increase in funding. I think this Government has ensured that what we are doing is making best use of our tertiary education funding—unlike the shameless policy followed by that previous National Government, which simply funded bums on seats.
Industry New Zealand and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise—Grants
11. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What grants, including assistance for regional partnerships programmes, have been allocated by Industry New Zealand and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise since 1 January 2003?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Since 1 January 2003 New Zealand’s trade development agency—New Zealand Trade and Enterprise—has approved 802 grants, including 47 under the Regional Partnerships Programme, for a total investment of $42 million.
Hon Matt Robson: Why does the Labour-Progressive coalition Government use taxpayers’ money for these grants, instead of just letting the marketplace alone determine the fate of regional and industry sectors?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: This Labour-Progressive coalition Government knows that the benefits of business development flow across the whole economy benefiting more than just individual companies or individual projects. By getting in behind these business opportunities we are encouraging them to do more in the interests of supporting the wider economy than they otherwise may have done. We believe that Governments have a responsibility to play a strong role as a partner for industry and regional development, and that our role includes clearing impediments to development as well as supporting innovative and successful companies to embrace market opportunities that arise.
Tim Barnett: Can the Minister give some practical examples of how taxpayers get value for money from grants made since January 2003?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I will just give a couple of brief examples from the Waikato—a Government stronghold. Earlier this year I had the privilege of opening the Waikato Innovation Park, a world-class centre for live sciences, which benefited from the Regional Partnerships Programme. That park represents a collaborative approach involving the Government, research and educational institutions, Tainui, and business representatives. The same is true for the second example—New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. It has worked alongside Pacific Aerospace Corporation for a number of years, introducing them to potential buyers in a variety of markets, including the United States, South America, Europe, South-east Asia, and the Middle East. The company is now looking at the potential to gain export orders in excess of $440 million over the next 10 years to benefit this country’s trade account. Those examples are among those that we on this side of the House are extraordinarily proud of, and they stand in stark contrast to the sterile approach of the previous National Government.
Mr SPEAKER: The answer was too long.
Competitiveness Yearbook—New Zealand Ranking
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister for the Environment, noting that the just-released International Institute for Management Development World Competitiveness Yearbook 2004 ranks New Zealand number 60, out of 60 economies, for its environmental laws and compliance hindering the competitiveness of business?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes. I note that New Zealand also ranked bottom on that indicator in 1999, suggesting that the business community, which is asked to rank New Zealand on that indicator, did not like the Resource Management Act any better under a National Government than it does under a Labour Government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Prime Minister tell Parliament on 12 April this year that the Resource Management Act was being reviewed, when in response to written questions since then, her Ministers have said there are no terms of reference, timetable, structure, or process for the review of that Act, and given the strategic importance of that Act for the energy supply sector, for roading improvements, and for business growth, does she not think New Zealand deserves better than a Government that, 4 years after rejecting National’s Resource Management Amendment Bill, continues to ignore the problems the Act is causing?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Ministry for the Environment has continued to work on improvements that may be made to the Resource Management Act, and the Cabinet is currently considering what the process may be for bringing that to some finality. It is hard to see how New Zealand’s ranking on the environment indicator that the member is so interested in could possibly be improved by an announcement the National Party is slipping out at 4 o’clock today that it is to dump the nuclear-free policy.
Dail Jones: Does it not follow from the first answer given by the Prime Minister that neither Labour nor National is capable of bringing in adequate amendments to the Resource Management Act to assist in economic development, and so it should be left to another party like New Zealand First to be given the opportunity in Government to do so, and to improve economic development in this country? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There are interjections from both sides of the House, which is out of order. But the question itself is out of order, because the Minister has no responsibility in that particular area.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My supplementary question began with the response given by the Prime Minister, when she referred to the Resource Management Act. She said that neither the 2004 review nor the 1999 review had shown that New Zealand’s status had changed in any way. My question was: does that not prove that both Labour and National have failed in so far as economic development is concerned under the Resource Management Act? I was using her own answer.
Mr SPEAKER: That is all very well, but she cannot then be asked about New Zealand First policy. It is New Zealand First that can be asked about its policy at a general election.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Prime Minister share the expressed view of her Minister for the Environment, the Hon Marian Hobbs, who described the Resource Management Act as “beautifully written and beautifully crafted”; if she does not share that view, what will she do in terms of making some amendments?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: An Act like the Resource Management Act will be kept under review. The previous Government had amendments proposed, and this Government has passed an amendment law. We are looking at what future improvements there may be. But what we will not do is to destroy New Zealand’s environmental reputation by abandoning the nuclear-free policy, and I note that the brave National Party is slipping that out under the cover of the hîkoi.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you explain to the House why, when my colleagues have introduced matters that are irrelevant in questions, you immediately stomp on them, but when the Prime Minister does so, you do not do a thing?
Mr SPEAKER: I object to that comment. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I have not finished my ruling. Please be seated. I say to the member that he overdoes things all the time, and gets himself into considerable trouble as a result. As far as I am concerned, I like to give members the opportunity to make their answers, and occasionally a political comment comes up. Now, if I were to ban all political comments—and there have been some very good ones made by the member’s own colleagues; I did not rule them out of order at all—then question time would be a very easy session indeed for me to run, as Speaker. I like to think there is a reasonable flow, and that is the way I deal with it.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question to the Prime Minister was very clear: does she agree with a statement from her Minister, who said that the Resource Management Act was “beautifully written and beautifully crafted”? Members did not have a reply to that. The Prime Minister went off and talked about another party’s policy, which is out of order, and did not attempt to address the question I put to her.
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the Prime Minister’s answer did address the question. The second part of the answer was out of order. A comment was made at the end of the answer and, as I said before, if members want me to be much tougher and to rule out all those comments, I am very happy to do so. That would make matters very easy for me.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to record the National Opposition’s concern at the tone that you have just used to remonstrate with Dr Nick Smith. We think it was unreasonable, and, given that the Prime Minister was being deliberately provocative and had been for some time, it was quite unfair.
Mr SPEAKER: I will say this to the member: I think perhaps I am in the wrong here. I want to apologise to Dr Nick Smith. I think I did make a mistake in being a bit tough in that regard.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, noting yesterday’s report that ranks New Zealand at the bottom—60th out of 60—on environmental regulation, is the Prime Minister’s Government introducing legislation tomorrow to amend the Resource Management Act through the foreshore and seabed legislation, which, according to its own commentary, states that the compliance costs for 2,500 annual coastal permits under the Resource Management Act will increase, and is it her concern that being 60th out of 60 is not bad enough?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Resource Management Act, passed in the beginning of the 1990s, made matters concerning Mâori matters of national importance under the Act, and the amendments that are in the foreshore and seabed legislation are entirely in line with that spirit. It is fair to say that New Zealand’s ranking overall on the survey the member is quoting from is actually two places higher than it was in 1999 under a National Government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, has said that the Resource Management Act is “… beautifully written and beautifully crafted…”, but that her new Associate Minister for the Environment has said “It is convoluted and difficult …”, can she advise the House which of her Ministers represents the Government’s policy with regard to the Resource Management Act?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I assume that all those who voted for that legislation in 1991 thought it was well written and well drafted. However, as time goes on Governments want to look at how such Acts work in operation, so amendments have come forward, and more amendments will come forward, to that Act.
End of Questions for Oral Answer