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Questions for Oral Answer - Thursday, 6 May 2004

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )

Thursday, 6 May 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1 Prime Minister—Māori
2 Nuclear-free New Zealand—Status
3 Race Relations—Deterioration
4 Rates—Local Government (Rating Cap) Amendment Bill
5 Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Community Education
6 Food Safety—Reports
7 Border Control—New Zealand's Reputation
8 Foreshore and Seabed—Hīkoi Concerns
9 Accident and Emergency Services—Safety
10 State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme—Implementation
11 Foreshore and Seabed—Land Confiscations
12 Dental Health—Decay in Children

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Prime Minister—Māori

1. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that she has “always been there for Māori.”; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): Yes. Labour Governments have always been there for Māori and always will be, as they will be for all New Zealanders.

Gerry Brownlee: What sort of a man goes into bat for a Prime Minister who thinks Shrek the sheep is better company than hīkoi marchers, whom she labels as “wreckers and haters”, and is forcing the Minister and his Māori colleagues to vote for legislation that people clearly do not want?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This is a great Minister of Māori Affairs who knows about fronting up to his people—having been out there yesterday—who understands tikanga, and who is an old shearer who has tossed grubby sheep around and put them down the porthole.

Jill Pettis: What has this Government achieved for Māori?

Gerry Brownlee: Ha, ha!

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I ask that member to listen very carefully. In recent times over 40,000 more Māori are now in work. Unemployment is at an all-time low, and for Māori it is at a 16-year low. Almost 900 Māori are involved in Modern Apprenticeships. We have delivered on Māori television. Members should know that a lot of Kiwis are watching it and enjoying it, and our reo will survive. So that is the thing—we have delivered.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether the Prime Minister’s statement was motivated by the comment at Ōrewa this year made by the leader of the National Party, that the Māori people were not—to quote him—“a homogeneous race”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I tend to suspect most certainly—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Very clear ministerial responsibility is needed for such a question. The member’s question was clearly out of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think there is any ministerial responsibility. The member might like to phrase his question so that he can bring it in.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I was very careful in constructing that question. I asked the Minister whether his Prime Minister’s comments were motivated by the comments at Ōrewa—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is the only warning. The next member is out. Points of order will be heard in silence, and the members know that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In a political debate, which is what this Chamber is about, how a Prime Minister might be motivated to make a comment is one of prime ministerial and ministerial responsibility. After all, this is the key issue, surely, of the Ōrewa speech; or are we to find now that the National Party intends to withdraw that very serious comment? I am asking whether the Prime Minister’s comments were motivated by that statement?

Mr SPEAKER: If the member was asking the Prime Minister that, it would be fine. But the Minister of Māori Affairs is responsible for his comments, not for the Prime Minister’s comments in that way. But what I would prefer—and I have invited him to do so—is for the member to rephrase the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Minister find, in any of his discussions with the Prime Minister since the halcyon speech at Ōrewa, any comment from her that she was concerned about the speech at Ōrewa to the effect that the Māori people, to quote Dr Brash, were not “a homogeneous race”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am certain that divisive and scurrilous speech at Ōrewa led her to think that, but in respect of the comment on the sheep, maybe she was referring to the bleating of those people in the benches opposite.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister believe that he has always been there for Māori; if so, why is he not following through and voting against the proposed foreshore and seabed legislation?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Because for a long time I have spent a lot of my life trying to make sure that our people get the best shot. That is why I am going with this legislation at this stage.

Stephen Franks: Does the Minister think that the hostility he faced yesterday was his fault, the Prime Minister’s fault, the fault of both of them, or neither of them?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I want to commend the people in the hīkoi—even my whānau who were there—because I think that they progressed and managed it very amicably. They were humbly honest. Certainly, it is nothing new to me to be sitting on the pipeline, out there in front of our people, and having to stand whatever they want to dish up to me.

Gerry Brownlee: How can the Minister stand in this House and proclaim himself to be a truly great Minister of Māori Affairs one minute, then a couple of hours later fail to vote against legislation that his people are so opposed to?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Because that member, who has spent a lot longer in this Chamber and understands the process better than I do—and a whole lot of other Māori people out there—knows that this will take 6 or 7 months to get through. I have enough nous to understand that today is the start, and there is a whole lot of finishing to it. Wake up!

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am a little concerned about that answer. Although it appears that if a Minister stands up in this Parliament and says anything, then that can be considered as addressing the question. I think the Minister of Māori Affairs has misrepresented the question that was asked of him. He was asked why he will vote for legislation that his people do not like.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question, quite specifically in my view.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that some of the hīkoi marchers were “wreckers and haters”; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Sometimes I agree with the Prime Minister; sometimes I do not. There were people who were hell-bent on doing that yesterday, but the majority of them conducted themselves in fine form, and there were good people in there.

Nuclear-free New Zealand—Status

2. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Has he received any recent reports into possible changes to New Zealand’s nuclear-free status?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I have received a number of reports, including this one released by the National Party yesterday under the cover of the hīkoi—though apparently it has been around for some months. This report states that National should repeal the nuclear-free legislation, but tell the public that the policy ban will remain.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is being reckless with the truth that is contained in that document. It does not make such a claim. I seek leave to table the document, in order that all members may know that the Minister is misleading the House.

Mr SPEAKER: There were two issues there. The first matter that the member raised was a matter of debate, but he sought leave to table to the document.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The problem with that policy recommendation is that I have received other information that Don Brash has already told an American congressional delegation that a National Government would repeal the ban by Christmas, which absolutely contradicts what he has been saying elsewhere.

Martin Gallagher: Further to the Minister’s interrupted primary answer, has the Minister had any advice, in terms of our foreign relations, about whether the recommendations in the report to be tabled will have any credibility?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have received advice that the National Party set up the Somers Commission in the early 1990s to look at this same question of nuclear-powered ships, and promised the US State Department that this was, in fact, a mechanism to lift the ban. However, apparently the then Government got cold feet in the face of strong public opposition, and reneged on that undertaking to the United States. So I suggest, in answer to that question, that this bill will have credibility with neither the Americans, who have been taken down this track before, nor with the New Zealand public, when they know that the Leader of the Opposition is being totally disingenuous about what he said on his position.

Mr SPEAKER: The last part of that answer was out of order. The Minister has no responsibility for that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I say to Mr Brownlee that far too many points of order are being raised.

Gerry Brownlee: Points of order, of course, are raised when the House is conducting itself in an unseemly manner. In this case, the Minister when giving an answer was being most unseemly in suggesting that there was a bill somewhere. I challenge him to table any bill that he thinks he has in his possession.

Mr SPEAKER: No. As I said to the member, I dealt with that by my ruling before he got up.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister’s reference to 1990 relate to reports from the National Party’s Picton caucus of that year, at which time it decided to come out opposing both nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships visiting this country, and at which time the then spokesman on defence, Doug Kidd, and the then leader of the National Party, Jim Bolger, made a claim that they had always believed in that policy?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister cannot answer that question.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister accept the fact that, in fact, New Zealand is not nuclear-free, with widespread applications of nuclear technology, including smoke alarms in our homes that are promoted by Government agencies; if he does accept that fact, then what is the reason that his Government persists with the ban on nuclear propulsion?

Hon PHIL GOFF: All New Zealanders accept the fact that some radioactive materials are used, for example, in hospitals, and that there is good reason for that. Nobody opposes that. But the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders are absolutely opposed to having either nuclear-propelled or nuclear-armed vessels in this country, and this Government, for one, will stand by its policy, based on conviction—unlike that National Opposition, which has flip-flopped all over the place over 14 years.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hesitate to challenge your ruling, but the question related to recent reports. I think, in historical terms, the last 20 years is recent. Mr Goff introduced the issue of 1990 into the debate. I asked whether the Government had received any such reports. That report from that conference in 1990 was pretty significant, because it changed the position of both parties at the time—Labour and National—on the question of nuclear-capable ships. So in that context, I ask you to think about it again.

Mr SPEAKER: I did and I have; I still think the question that the member asked was out of order.

Keith Locke: Would the direction promoted by the National Party in Wyatt Creech’s report not eventually lead to nuclear-armed ships coming into New Zealand ports, particularly given the fact that the soft Danish model promoted by Wyatt Creech in the report has actually led to nuclear-armed ships coming into Danish ports?

Mr SPEAKER: No, this is asking for comment on a particular issue that is a party point. This is not a question that can be accepted.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on it, I say to Mr Locke, and I will not re-rule on that particular issue. The member did not ask the question in order. There is a way to ask the question, but he did not do that.

Keith Locke: I asked—

Mr SPEAKER: All right, I will give him one last chance, but it must be within the Minister’s responsibility.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that, according to reports he has received on the Wyatt Creech report, the Danish model promoted by Mr Creech in that report would actually lead to nuclear-armed warships coming into New Zealand ports, because that has happened in Denmark?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think there is very little difference between the way in which the question was asked the first time, and the second. What it leaves the Minister doing is giving speculation to the House about something that has nothing to do with current Government policy. That is quite unacceptable.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister can answer only about reports he has received. But he can certainly do that.

Hon PHIL GOFF: This Government believes absolutely that the legislation is a clear guarantee to the public of New Zealand that neither nuclear-armed nor nuclear-propelled ships will come into this country. The alternative policy of saying: “We will repeal the legislation but we will keep the policy ban.” has absolutely no credibility. It is the more so because Don Brash has already told the Americans that he will repeal the policy ban, and he will have those ships here. He will just not admit it publicly. He has said it, but refuses to deny the fact that he said it.

Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister received any advice—

Mr SPEAKER: Now, I do not want to have to warn any honourable member, but there have been just a few too many interjections and, of course, there can be none while a question is being asked. The member will please start again.

Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister received any advice from either his ministry, the New Zealand Defence Force, or any branch of the United States Government that repealing that provision of the antinuclear legislation without changing the policy will in any way assuage American concerns about the operation of New Zealand’s antinuclear policy?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The advice I have received is that the Americans will simply give no credibility to a promise by a party that in Government has made those promises before, and has not lived up to them. That is why I say the National Party has credibility neither with the Americans nor with the New Zealand public—and rightly so. If there were one argument to put forward, the National Party would actually take the call and ask a supplementary question, which they have failed to do each time this question has come up in the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports that the Americans have received the comments from Dr Brash with the same sense of alacrity and déjà vu with which they received the comments from Mr Lange, back in 1984, that he would sort the matter out within 6 months of taking power?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I certainly cannot confirm that that was the undertaking that Mr Lange had given. What I can confirm, however, is that a message went very clearly from the then National Government that the Somers Commission would sort that matter out and give it the grounds to repeal the ban. Everybody knows that the National Party wants to repeal the ban but is scared to do so because, overwhelmingly, New Zealanders are in favour of keeping that ban. That ban will stay, under this Government.

Race Relations—Deterioration

3. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Given the Sunday Star-Times poll published last weekend that showed three out of five New Zealanders think race relations are worsening, does she accept any responsibility for the deterioration?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: No. I think it is those on both extremes of this debate who need to take responsibility.

Hon Richard Prebble: So can we take it from the Prime Minister’s reply that the Government takes no responsibility for headlines like the one in today’s Dominion Post newspaper: “Whites ordered off train, says girl”, which referred to a Māori woman’s announcement over a handheld megaphone that there were to be “no white people on the train”; does that not sound like South African under apartheid, and does this Government not think it should take some responsibility for that sort of disgraceful performance?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The difference is that under apartheid that was the official policy of the Government. Under this Government there is no support for those kinds of statements, at all, or for statements from members opposite that imply the Treaty of Waitangi is no more than an historical document.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Prime Minister, on reflection, think it wise to have called members of the hīkoi “haters and wreckers”, and to have said that the Māori marchers were worse company than a sheep; and what did she think that did for race relations?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The second comment was not made. In relation to the first comment, it was made in respect of certain people involved in the hīkoi, notably Tītewhai Harawira and other members of the Harawira clan. If National Party members want to associate themselves as the new chums of Tītewhai, then good luck to them.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Would it not improve race relations in New Zealand for the Prime Minister to withdraw the legislation and sit down in dialogue with Māori, on the basis of the common ground identified by the Waitangi Tribunal, to design a solution for all New Zealanders?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I think it would be much more helpful if the facts were spelt out about the nature of the legislation. Today the Government will get a chance to speak, which was denied to the Minister of Māori Affairs yesterday outside on the forecourt.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister consider that one way in which a more positive race relations environment could be engendered would be for there to be a proper and thorough study of, and royal commission on, New Zealand’s future constitutional arrangements, including the place of the Treaty of Waitangi; if she does consider that to be so, what steps is the Government taking in that regard?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government’s position is that it is useful to have a broad inquiry into the place of the treaty in the future of New Zealand. I think to broaden that out to all constitutional issues is to have too many hares running at once.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall her statement on 10 February on the relationship between Māori and Pākehā that: “Much of what has been said is divisive, destructive, and time wasting.”, and “I will always take a positive view.”; and how do her phrases such as “hīkoi of hate” and “haters and wreckers” contribute to positive race relations in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister’s comment in relation to the hīkoi was in relation to some of the leadership—those associated with the events at Waitangi, who are exactly the same people who prevented me from meeting with the northern tribes over the foreshore and seabed issue. This Government has no truck with that kind of behaviour. There were thousands of other people outside who behaved well. But if the member opposite wants to associate himself with Tame Iti blowing his nose on the forecourt, good luck to him.

Rates—Local Government (Rating Cap) Amendment Bill

4. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Local Government: Is the Government considering any steps to reduce the rates burden in light of the defeat of the Local Government (Rating Cap) Amendment Bill?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts), on behalf of the Minister of Local Government: The Government believes that rates are a matter for local government, not central Government, and has no proposals to change this as this Government believes that local authorities are best placed to make decisions about their rates. The Government does, however, recognise that infrastructure is a big cost and has provided considerable assistance in this area. An example includes a sanitary works subsidy scheme for which $150 million is planned over the next 10 years.

Gordon Copeland: In the light of the fact that in this House yesterday all parties expressed concern about the high levels of rate increases, is the Minister now prepared to accept that the suggestion of United Future of removing GST on rates stands alone as a fair and equitable solution to the problem; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER: That is not a fair and equitable solution to the problem, because local authorities do provide services. If they were not to pay GST on services, it would put them at an advantage in respect of other providers of similar services. If local authorities are to provide services, then they should pay GST.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can this Government pretend it is concerned about record rate increases when it is dumping on to councils another raft of additional costs with the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, in which the Government’s own commentary identifies significant additional costs for councils in reviewing their district and regional plans, and in recognising customary rights and ancestral connection orders; if the Government is genuinely concerned about rising rates, will the Government pay for the cost of the foreshore and seabed that falls on local authorities?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Government has ongoing discussions with local government, and I am sure this will be one of the topics for consideration if local government decides to bring it up in those discussions.

David Parker: Does central government place a straitjacket on local authorities in the way they raise revenue?

Hon RICK BARKER: No, under the Local Government (Rating) Act of 2002 local authorities have a range of funding tools available to them, subject of course to consultation with their communities. These tools include a general rate across the whole district, targeted rates, and user charges or fees, under a range of circumstances. The Local Government Act of 2002 also gave a more flexible fee-setting power.

Rodney Hide: In light of his answer, is there any quantum of rate increase that would be unacceptable to this Government; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER: Unlike the ACT party, this party trusts in local democracy. Local citizens will decide what is appropriate for them, in conjunction with their local council.

Gordon Copeland: What would the Minister say to those on fixed retirement incomes who are hardest hit by savage rate increases, to a point where they are in real danger of not making ends meet, and will he accept that this forgotten generation would best counter higher rates by allowing them to keep some of their valuable income by removing GST on rates, as proposed by United Future?

Hon RICK BARKER: GST is levied on rates because local councils provide services. This Government has not overlooked the retired generation. It was this Government that restored superannuation to the level it was at before it was cut by the National Party. This Government has injected millions of dollars into superannuitants, and will continue to do so. We have looked after them very, very well.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister telling the House that the Government has no strategy to address the rates crisis in Auckland, notwithstanding the fact that nearly all parties have expressed grave concern about it; and if the Government does indeed have a strategy, can he shed some light on it for us?

Hon RICK BARKER: I would have thought that a strategy about rates was a matter for the council and its ratepayers. It is not for central government to start running local councils.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Community Education

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Has he asked Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology how it enrolled 96,610 people in classification 5.1 community education courses in 2003; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Those are short courses and students often enrol in more than one course, so total enrolment figures inevitably involve a significant amount of multiple counting. For instance, about 72,000 of those 96,610 people are likely to reflect about 18,000 students who have each enrolled in four related computing courses. The actual number of individuals enrolled in classification 5.1 courses at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology was 35,488. I have not asked the polytechnic about its classification 5.1 enrolments, but I have involved it in meetings with the sector, and the Tertiary Education Commission has talked to it about changes in policy.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that those enrolments were obtained by offering to schools a payment of $20 per person whom they enrolled and that those schools included the Bay of Islands College; and is he aware that libraries were offered a $20 payment for enrolling students, and that people were approached in shopping malls and offered $10 book vouchers to enrol in a free course, and does he believe that that is a good use of taxpayers’ money?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am informed by officials that the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology spent $80,000 in total on book vouchers. That was largely $20 plus GST for each person who was involved. One of the things the Government has been impressing upon providers is that we do not want to see them spending money on anything other than education.

H V Ross Robertson: Is it Government policy to “trust institutions to run themselves”, and that students “do not need some dictatorial Minister in charge of tertiary education telling them what they should or should not study”, as advocated by the Hon Dr Nick Smith?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, we take a more balanced view than Dr Smith, which is not difficult. Government policy is to value institutional autonomy, so it is important to balance that with the efficient use of national resources in the national interest and the demands of accountability. Our policy is to ensure that through the Tertiary Education Commission the overall provision of New Zealand’s skill needs is met, and that students make well-informed decisions.

Jim Peters: Has the Minister fully considered the roll-on impact from likely increased numbers of students, and the tertiary funding needed for those students, as a result of the present National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualification, which now fully and comprehensively includes unit and achievement standards to level 3; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If I understand the question correctly, it asked whether we have costed the students who will come through from the NCEA. Yes, we have.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the course Cool IT, for which the Government paid Christchurch Polytechnic over $8 million, is a joint venture between Christchurch Polytechnic and Brylton Software, that Brylton Software is jointly owned by Vicki Buck, and that Vicki Buck is also the development officer for the Christchurch Polytechnic?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I am not aware of that particular connection between Vicki Buck and that company. If the member has details that he thinks constitute a conflict of interest, he knows what to do them—that is, to give the details to me. Overall I am saying, of course, that the 5.1 course classification has now attracted the attention of the Government, and the funding will be capped.

Hon Bill English: What is it about the Minister and his policy that leads polytechnics and their staff to regard community education as a gravy train they can all get on, where they can force budget blowouts and enrol literally hundreds of thousands of people in low-quality, CD-based courses for which there is no assessment, no quality approvals, no supervision, and no qualification?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is important to remember that the 5.1 classification was introduced in 1999 by the then National Government, and that we are the Government that has capped the funding. I do want to tell Mr English that this country has, for a long time, supported adult and community informal education, and this party will continue to do so.

Food Safety—Reports

6. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister for Food Safety: What recent reports has she received regarding the safety of New Zealand food?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): I have seen the results of the total diet survey, and the summaries of the animal products residue monitoring programme and the dairy monitoring programme. Of the 117,340 tests there were just nine results where the residue was over the maximum residue limit. Maximum residue limits are not safety levels. That means that 99.9934 percent of the results met or bettered the regulatory agricultural compound residue requirements. That is a wonderful result for our food industry, and it should be congratulated.

Steve Chadwick: What implications do those results have for New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As a food exporter, New Zealand depends on a solid reputation for food safety. This result gives our international consumers confidence that we produce high-quality food.

Sue Kedgley: How can she assure New Zealand consumers that our food is always safe, when recent tests have found that up to 50 percent of chicken flocks are contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which of course poses a major health risk, and given that none of the surveys that she has mentioned test our food for the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, how can consumers be confident that they are not eating antibiotic-resistant bugs with their chicken and pork?

Hon ANNETTE KING: New Zealanders can be confident that our food is as safe as any in the world, because of the very good monitoring programmes that are undertaken in New Zealand and the fact that we are vigilant when it comes to ensuring that safety programmes are undertaken by our producers of food.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked specifically about testing for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Minister did not answer my question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. If she wants to comment, she can.

Hon ANNETTE KING: There were three questions, in fact. The last part was about how we can assure New Zealanders about the safety of their food, and I have answered that.

Steve Chadwick: What were the results for our largest dairy supplier, Fonterra?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Fonterra was 100 percent compliant, and as New Zealand’s largest exporter, Fonterra’s achievement is especially important. It is important to have that noted in the House, because I am very proud of an organisation like Fonterra—[Interruption]—even though Tony Ryall, obviously, is not.

Border Control—New Zealand's Reputation

7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have any concerns regarding the reported allegations by suspected fraudsters that New Zealand is a soft touch?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Government is always concerned at any reports of such a view, but the fact that the people were caught suggests that the New Zealand border protection system is working well.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister believe that some of the outrageous final decisions of quasi-judicial bodies such as the Deportation Review Tribunal and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority are the cause for New Zealand’s reputation as “a soft touch”, and why do we have yet another Minister of Immigration who is not prepared to use the courts to veto such absurd decisions by appealing them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The issue the member raised in respect of certain recent decisions of the deportation review body caused considerable concern to the Government, and the legislation in that respect is being investigated.

Dr Wayne Mapp: When will the Government stop issuing drivers’ licences to people known to the licensing agents themselves to be illegal immigrants, given the Government’s apparent concern about fraud?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no information in front of me with which to be able to answer a question in relation to the issuing of drivers’ licences. If the member cares to put down another question to the appropriate Minister, I am sure an answer will be provided.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware of how many convicted violent criminals have been approved for residence or refugee status in each of the past 4 years; if so, what does she intend to do about it, and when can we hope she does something about?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have the numbers in front of me, but the issue the member raises has also been recognised by the Minister in charge of these matters, and the legislation is under review, with a view to bringing amending legislation to the House.

Dr Wayne Mapp: I seek leave to table answers to written questions to the Minister of Transport that show he has failed to release a report on the issuing of drivers’ licences to illegal immigrants, because of apparent privacy and human rights issues.

Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Foreshore and Seabed—Hīkoi Concerns

8. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: What representations, if any, will he be making to the Government to address the opposition to the foreshore and seabed legislation expressed by yesterday’s hīkoi?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): I have spent a lifetime advocating for Māori to Governments. I respect every everyone’s right to hīkoi, and I acknowledge that there are strong feelings amongst not only Māori but non-Māori who took part in the hīkoi. I will continue to listen and work in Government for Māori to find solutions.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister still agree with his joint statement of June 2003, made with other Māori MPs, that “the Land Wars are over, so the consent of tangata whenua is required before customary title can be extinguished.”; if so, does he consider that this consent has been given?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Land Wars are over, and this is a testing and challenging time. We expect to work through, listen to Māori, and ensure that their voice is heard in this legislation.

Russell Fairbrother: Did he offer to meet with representatives of the hīkoi yesterday?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. Yesterday, after discussions the day before, I invited the organisers of the hīkoi to meet with myself and the Deputy Prime Minister to present their take. They chose not to for now. The offer remains open to those who genuinely want to ensure our people retain the kaitiakitanga o Tangaroa, the guardianship of Tangaroa.

Pita Paraone: Can the Minister confirm that the political party with the second highest number of Māori represented in this House has worked constructively with the Government on the foreshore and seabed legislation for the benefit of all New Zealanders—Māori and non-Māori?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, I can.

Gerry Brownlee: How can this House, or Māori, have any faith in a Minister who stands here and tells us that he is prepared to listen to Māori views, but is then quoted as saying that what hīkoi protesters have to say is a whole lot of prattle? We note that he would rather hold on to his ministerial perks and privileges than cross the floor to vote as his constituents would wish him to do.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As Māori, we are far better than that member. Certainly, I know where the prattle comes from, and that invention came from there.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a New Zealand Herald article in which the Minister of Māori Affairs describes the hīkoi protesters’ comments as a whole lot of prattle.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that Herald article. Is there any objection? There is.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a convention in this House that if a member wishes to table a document, he or she should wait until the question is over. I thought it was a convention that most members respected. Twice today we have had that convention flouted, and I would ask you to re-examine it.

Mr SPEAKER: I will rule on that point. I do ask members to respect that convention. It is not a rule, but it is a convention, and I think it is a very sensible convention. We have the question and then we have the tabling. I think the member is perfectly justified in raising the matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister remember this phrase in the Resource Management Act of 1991 passed by the National Party, which concerns the protection of Māori interests: “The relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions, with their ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I remember it clearly, and I have lived begrudgingly with it, and the nonsensical compliance on the tangata whenua done by that lot.

Metiria Turei: Why will the Minister not stand by his earlier statement that “The Māori caucus is clear that customary use flows from customary title, and if the title is lost, the rights of tangata whenua become privileges granted by the Crown.”, and vote against the foreshore and seabed legislation?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: We are reading a bill today, and a whole lot of things were signed at that time. We are happy with it, and we are going forward with it for the benefit of Māori.

Metiria Turei: Why did the Minister say about the hīkoi: “Most of the people don’t even know what crossing the floor means”, when most people on the hīkoi know that crossing the floor means standing up for your principles and people?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is not the full context in which I made that comment. “Crossing the floor” means voting for Don Brash, and we will not be doing that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Firstly, I apologise for breaching the usual protocols of the House, as Mr Peters pointed out before. I am attempting again to table a document in which the Minister of Māori Affairs—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document again. Is there any objection? There is.

Accident and Emergency Services—Safety

9. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: What action is she taking to ensure our hospital accident and emergency departments are safe when the Ministry of Health’s district health board scorecard quarterly report shows that 17 out of 21 district health boards’ emergency-response times are not up to scratch?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The information now available on emergency departments is the first real information provided on how well emergency departments are performing in New Zealand. This information is also publicly available. Although the measurement tool will need refining, we are now able to benchmark for improvement. As a result, each district health board is now undertaking measures to address shortfalls in the workforce, physical environment, etc.—such as the actions taken by the Hutt Valley board and the excellent work being done by the Waikato board.

Dr Lynda Scott: What is happening to our accident and emergency departments around the country, when Canterbury District Health Board’s accident and emergency patients are banked up in corridors several times a week, seriously compromising patient safety; the Hutt Valley has an accident and emergency department described by the board chairman as the weakest link in the hospital; Wairau Public Hospital staff say the accident and emergency department is running on the bones of its backside; the Palmerston North Hospital has accident and emergency patients waiting in corridors; Wellington Hospital’s top emergency department specialist has resigned; and Waikato Hospital’s emergency department should have been upgraded years ago?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Taking the last point first, it is true that a lot of renovation needs to go on in our emergency departments—work that was not done years ago. This week the Hutt District Health Board announced that it will be doing renovations to its department. A lot of work is going on in emergency departments. The reason we know they need to improve is now we do look at the data; we collect the data, and we tell the public about it.

Dave Hereora: How well do New Zealand emergency departments compare internationally?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Emergency departments around the world are always under pressure, but the Commonwealth Fund—an independent research organisation—has identified New Zealand’s emergency departments as amongst the best of those in the five countries whose departments it compared. It compared the departments of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. We should applaud the work that our district health boards are doing, but I think we can have much better results.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with the comment made by Michael Ardagh, professor of emergency medicine in Christchurch, that patients’ safety, which is already jeopardised by overstretched resources, increasing demand, staff shortages, and poor facilities, will be further threatened by the inevitable increase in pressure that winter brings; if so, what is she doing to address this?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Canterbury District Health Board is doing a considerable amount to address the overcrowding, and this week I met with the board and some of its clinicians. The member will be pleased to know that following that meeting Professor Ardagh said:

“The issue of emergency department overcrowding is an international one. Compared with other countries Canterbury is performing well. Canterbury’s recent problems give us an opportunity to provide solutions.”

Dr Lynda Scott: Could the Minister explain what she is trying to hide by not actioning two requests from the Health Committee and four requests by me under the Official Information Act to release the latest quarterly balance scorecard report on district health boards, given that we know that a previous report has shown that 17 out of 21 district health board accident and emergency departments are not up to scratch?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is poorly informed. I do not release the balance scorecards; they are released by the district health boards. It is their data and they release it. They collect it and they release it publicly. They never had balance scorecards under the National Party Government, so they had no information to release to the public.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is the Minister proud that a whopping two of the 21 district health boards have achieved pass marks; and why does the Minister bother to conduct reviews, which cost time, money, and effort on behalf of our staff, into the performance of district health boards, when such disgraceful results have brought no action by this Minister?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can only assume from those comments that the member does not believe there ought to be reviews into actions and activities of district health boards. I totally disagree with her. Thank goodness we did have the Stent report in the 1990s to show what her National Government did to that hospital! I am pleased to say that Professor Ardagh has said that Canterbury is nowhere near the crisis it had in the 1990s.

Dr Lynda Scott: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Under Standing Order 361, relating to the Minister quoting from a document, I ask her to table the document, because she referred to the latest information now available, and I have no access to the information on the latest balance scorecard.

Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister is quoting from an official document—

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I am not quoting from an official document.

State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme—Implementation

10. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of State Services: What progress is the Government making towards implementing the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Minister of State Services: the new State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme is up and running. The Government agencies and the Public Service Association have reported a high level of interest in the new scheme from staff. Under the scheme, contributions of up to 100,000 State sector workers will be matched up to a maximum of 1.5 percent of gross base salary in the first year, and up to 3 percent for the second year.

Dianne Yates: When was the last time that State sector employees were able to join a Government-subsidised retirement savings scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government Superannuation Fund was closed to new members in 1992. This is the first superannuation initiative across Government for 11 years, and it will repair some of the damage done to the public service in the 1990s.

John Key: Why has the Minister not answered my written question submitted well over 2 weeks ago asking why the Global Retirement Trust has withdrawn from the scheme, and if the answer to my written question is that the Global Retirement Trust cannot compete with other providers—as we suspect is the case—why was it awarded the primary teachers retirement scheme without it going out to tender?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, the Global Retirement Trust withdrew for commercial reasons. I cannot give an answer to the second part of the question, as I do not have the information on that in front of me.

John Key: I seek leave to table question for written answer No. 5424 requesting information on the Global Retirement Trust.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.

Foreshore and Seabed—Land Confiscations

11. DONNA AWATERE HUATA (Independent) to the Prime Minister: Is it her Government’s intention to repeat the land confiscations of the 19th and 20th centuries; if so, is that why she did not meet the hīkoi yesterday?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: No.

Donna Awatere Huata: Can the Prime Minister explain why Pākehā are to keep freehold title of foreshore, while Māori are to be denied the right accorded to them by the Court of Appeal to have their case for ownership tested in a court of law, and does she note the similarities between this and the Validation of Invalid Titles Act from the turn of the 20th century, which legislated away Māori landowners’ right of redress to the courts for land taken without their knowledge or consent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Contrary to what has often been reported, there are only 59 private titles over the foreshore. There is frequently confusion between land that is above the foreshore, and land that is on the foreshore. One-third of the land above the foreshore is in private title, and one-third of that is held by Māori. That land is also all unaffected by this legislation. Some of the private titles over the foreshore are also held by Māori, and the provision in this bill, is that people who wish to test their territorial customary rights can go to the High Court. If it is found that the rights would have existed, there is provision then for the Government to enter into discussions about redress.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister not agree that it is somewhat ironic that in the 21st century, under her watch, the Government’s Foreshore and Seabed Bill will empower the Māori Land Court to confiscate Māori rights, just as its predecessor, the Native Land Court, did in the 1800s?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The bill does not empower the Māori Land Court to confiscate Māori rights. It provides that the Māori Land Court is to have the ability to recognise Māori customary rights in a way it cannot do today; a fact that the Court of Appeal and the Waitangi Tribunal drew attention to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it the Government’s intention to begin an education programme, as to both the facts and legal relevance of this bill, and to the points of fact as opposed to the myths and shibboleths being spread around this Parliament and across this country on this very important legislation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A certain amount of material has been distributed on behalf of Labour Party members, but not funded as a Government measure. We will continue to try to explain the actual nature of the legislation over the coming few months. I am confident that when it is passed and in practice, people will be surprised that there is practically no noticeable change in their ordinary daily lives.

Hon Richard Prebble: If the Government is looking at restitution for 19th and 20th century confiscations, is it also prepared to look at insisting on restitution for 21st century confiscations; in particular the taking of taxpayers’ money for Māori education and reading that was then used to go to fashion shows in Sydney?

Donna Awatere Huata: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not only is that question way outside the ambit of the original question, but it is simply mean and nasty.

Mr SPEAKER: The last part I will ignore, but, yes, the first part was outside the original question.

Dental Health—Decay in Children

12. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Is she concerned that over one half of New Zealand 5-year-old children living in poorer communities have dental decay; if so, what does she intend to do about this?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes, I am concerned. This Government has undertaken a number of measures to address this problem. We have a 100 percent subsidy now available for the fluoridation of water supplies. We have increased the number of dental therapists in training. For example, there were only nine, or fewer, dental therapists in training up until this year. At the end of this year, 35 new graduates will graduate. We have established mobile bus dental services, and we have made dental health a priority in the New Zealand Health Strategy.

Barbara Stewart: Will the Minister ensure that all primary schoolchildren continue to receive a regular annual dental check by the school dental service, given that the incidence of dental decay is increasing?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is certainly the aim of every region in New Zealand. At times, patients are not seen within that year. Sometimes that is appropriate—an annual recall is not necessary for everybody—but in the main, an annual recall is a good thing to aim for. However, as I pointed out, there are resource constraints in terms of dental therapists. If we train only nine per year, we will have a decreasing workforce. We have certainly taken hold of that and addressed it.

Mark Peck: What is the most effective action that can be taken to improve dental health in children?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Without doubt, the most effective action is the fluoridation of water supplies. Research carried out in New Zealand in 2000 showed that even the smallest water supplies can benefit from fluoridation. I have been a strong supporter of fluoridation throughout New Zealand, and I have been very pleased with the support I have received, particularly from our health professionals.

Dr Paul Hutchison: After 4 long years under Labour, why are so many children who were born while Mrs King has been Minister of Health seriously affected by dental decay; and after all her previous rhetoric, why does she not resign over her failure to be effective for this huge number of children?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have put a considerable amount of effort into improving the oral health services of New Zealanders. I am just really sad that the National Party in Government thought so little of oral health that it allowed the training of therapists to reduce to nine per year to replace the workforce. It is very hard to provide a comprehensive service if we do not have the dental therapists. However, we are seeing improvement in terms of the ability to provide that service, because of things like mobile services.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with comments from the New Zealand Dental Association’s executive director, Dr David Crum, that New Zealand’s very poor record of improving children’s oral health is due to the failure of parents to take adequate responsibility for their children’s health; if so, what is she doing to address the need to support and educate parents on what they can do?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Dr Crum makes a very important point. Part of the solution is to educate parents in terms of their children’s health. Dr Hutchison believes that I ought to be in everybody’s home preventing caries. That is absolutely impossible. Parents need to be involved in this process, and so do the services we provide.

Heather Roy: When the Minister started practising as a dental nurse, was the position referred to in the primary question the same, better, or worse than it is now; and how much has children’s dental decay improved over her 5 years as Minister of Health?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can tell the member that when I trained as a school dental nurse, the number of missing, filled, and decayed teeth was over five per child in New Zealand. The number is now considerably less. Unfortunately, the legacy of those years can be seen in many of the mouths we see up and down the streets of New Zealand. The position has improved, but in pockets of New Zealand, especially in areas where there is deprivation, we have much higher levels of decay.

Dail Jones: What steps is the Minister taking to encourage people to undertake dental studies by making living allowances available to students so that they are not discouraged by large student loans?

Hon ANNETTE KING: One of the first actions this Government took on becoming Government was to reduce the fees paid by dental students, which had been very high under the previous Government. We reduced them, because fees were a barrier. We are not having great difficulty in recruiting for the 35 positions in dental therapy. I think that dental students face similar problems to other students, and some of that will be addressed in the Budget.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a Daily News article of this year that demonstrates that a huge number of under-5-year-olds are riddled with dental caries.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )

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