Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 11 May 2004
Tuesday, 11 May 2004
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
1. Student Visa
2. Crimes Act—Repeal of Section 59
3. Parole—Violent Offenders
5. Taxation—Top Tax Rate of 20c
6. Heritage—Government Stewardship
7. Tainui—West Coast Harbours and Waikato River
8. Defence Force—Deployment
9. Prison Officers—Inappropriate Relationships
10. General Practitioners—Primary Health Care Strategy
11. Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern)
12. Holidays Act—Reports
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Student Visa System—Review
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he agree with the former Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel’s statement: “No, I do not consider there to be a need to review the student visa system. I consider that the current system facilitates the entry of genuine students while managing the associated risks.”; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): By and large the student visa system is working well to facilitate the entry of genuine students, who are an important part of New Zealand’s export education industry. However, I am aware of some issues relating to the temporary entry system generally, and I have asked officials to look at this as part of a wider Immigration Act review, which is currently being considered.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What happened to these comments made on 11 April last year after substantial parliamentary questions by New Zealand First, when the previous Minister said: “For example, it has enabled us to think more broadly about better using the information we gather when we experience adverse outcomes, to improve our decision making at the front end. An outputs focus has us counting the number of removals of overstayers; an outcomes focus has us identifying those who pose a risk of overstaying and managing that risk at the outset so we have fewer overstayers to remove.”; and what on earth happened to that?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not a hundred percent sure what happened to all of that, but what I can say is that there are some issues, and I think the member touches on them. That is why we are going to have a review of this issue—there are some concerns that need to be addressed.
Dianne Yates: What is the process when a temporary permit expires?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: When a temporary permit expires, the person either renews the permit if he or she wants to stay in New Zealand, or leaves voluntarily—which most do, actually. If people do not do this they must appeal against the removal within 42 days of the permit expiring or face removal. One of the issues I am looking into is how we can make this removal process more robust.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister give New Zealanders an assurance that he will change the law so that immigrants who commit serious crimes when they are here on temporary visas or during their first 5 years of residency will be automatically deported?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am reviewing the Act. The issues the member raises are under consideration. Changes that need to be made to the Act will be brought before Parliament in due course.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the fact that we have 20,000 overstayers—an apparent laughing matter to the previous Minister—is it not a fact that “managing risk” is a nonsense term, when the truth of it is that we have people entering this country on temporary permits who have no intention of leaving and who make up that 20,000, and that no woolly “outcomes focus” or so-called improved decision-making at the front end will minimise the huge problem that, according to him, his officials are struggling to cope with—which he made public last week—and why on earth have another review; how about doing the job?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is important to say right from the outset that the vast majority of people on temporary permits do obey the terms and conditions of the permits, and leave when the permits expire. There are a number, though—as the member has outlined—who do stay and there are some who do come deliberately with the intent of not going home. Those are the things I want to address, which is why we are looking at what changes need to be made to the Act—so we can act on that sooner.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a press statement in respect of a temporary permit holder whose permit had expired and who, despite the fact that he should have been deported from this country, went on to commit a murder on our roads.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Crimes Act—Repeal of Section 59
2. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “I for one cannot accept that it is fair and reasonable for the law to allow a defence for those who assault children.”; if so, when will her Government repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes. The Government will not be considering the matter again until after an evaluation of the positive parenting programme launched last week.
Sue Bradford: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the SKIP: Strategies with Kids—Information for Parents programme announced last week was indeed the same campaign that the Government originally promised children’s rights campaigners last year, and how does she respond to comments from Beth Wood of Unicef New Zealand and Roger McClay, the former Commissioner for Children, that they are deeply disappointed with the programme?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that research shows that the most effective parenting uses love, nurturing, and strong boundaries, and that is the focus of this campaign.
Judith Collins: Can the Prime Minister explain why the taxpayer-funded, $10.8 million, anti-smacking SKIP campaign does not once mention physical punishment; if so, would she care to advise the House of her thinking?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The campaign is about promoting positive parenting. There are alternatives to physical discipline, and no doubt with the money that will be spent over a 3-year period on positive parenting projects, and on strengthening existing parenting programmes, we can make some progress.
Murray Smith: Does she accept that the vast majority of New Zealand parents consider that the occasional moderate spanking of a child is an acceptable method of child discipline, and that there is a world of difference between that sort of discipline and the child abuse that leads to the hospitalisation and even the deaths of children?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The problem is that the law does allow a defence of reasonable force in an assault on a child, but it does not allow such a thing in an assault on an adult. Unfortunately, the benchmark cases are seeing people acquitted after taking a belt to children in a rather violent way, attacking children with a hosepipe, hitting a kid on the buttocks with a piece of wood, and hitting a daughter with a doubled-over belt. Those are all cases that have been to court in the last 2 to 3 years that have resulted in acquittals, and that is the concern I have. I believe the Minister for Social Development and Employment has acted responsibly in getting up a campaign on positive parenting that has been well consulted on with community groups.
Stephen Franks: Why is the Prime Minister tolerating something she thinks is neither fair nor reasonable, when all parties in this House, other than ACT, have said they will support a change to section 59 of the Crimes Act?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I do not believe that is correct. Obviously I cannot speak for other parties, but I have seen a range of statements from other parties that do not indicate that what the member said is correct.
Sue Bradford: Does the Prime Minister seriously believe that a campaign to stop parents hitting their children can actually achieve that aim, if the campaign is so soft and insipid that it never uses the word “smacking” or anything like it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I believe that a well-designed campaign like this one, which has been extensively consulted on with relevant community groups, can have an impact, over time, on attitudes towards positive parenting.
Sue Bradford: How does the new SKIP: Strategies with Kids—Information for Parents programme address the United Nations’ criticism of New Zealand that we refuse to repeal section 59 and continue to allow our children to be hit, while we continue to make it a crime to assault adults?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Like the member, I am concerned that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has singled out New Zealand for criticism, because of the law as it stands here at the moment. It is a matter of record that most other Western countries have moved on this issue, and the Government would like to see a development in public attitudes towards the discipline of children, which would see the sort of cases that I am referring to, where people have been acquitted, deemed completely unacceptable.
3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Justice: What reports has he received of serious violent offenders being released on parole and committing serious crimes within a few days of their release, and is he intending to make any changes to better safeguard the public from such criminals?
Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Minister of Justice: I have seen various reports of serious violent offenders reoffending. The laws passed under the National Government in 1993 automatically released serious violent offenders after serving two-thirds of their sentence. The new law passed in 2002 better safeguards the public, with longer sentences being imposed, and public safety now being the paramount consideration—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The odd interjection is all right, but that went far too far. I want to hear what the Minister is saying.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was having trouble hearing the statement, which I found to be quite controversial, so could you ask the Minister to start from the beginning again, please?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think the Minister can summarise what he said, and conclude.
Hon RICK BARKER: The new law passed in 2002 better safeguards the public, with longer sentences being imposed, and public safety now being the paramount consideration in every decision of the Parole Board. Offenders can now be kept in prison right up until the last day of their sentence when they pose an undue risk. Unfortunately, even keeping inmates in jail until the last day of their sentence cannot guarantee that a person will not go on to reoffend.
Hon Tony Ryall: In the case of Arthur Gray, a career criminal with a lengthy record of violent offending who was found guilty of attempting to murder a 19-year-old tourist in Nelson only 11 days after being released on parole, why did the Minister claim that this man’s parole was “appropriately managed”?
Hon RICK BARKER: Yes, I am concerned about offenders who reoffend, whether they have been released on parole or have finished their sentence. The Department of Corrections does its best within prisons to minimise offenders’ likelihood of reoffending. The Parole Board does its best to deny parole to those people it believes are likely to reoffend. Many people are currently released under the old law, and are automatically entitled to parole at two-thirds of their sentence.
Ron Mark: After totally supporting the Parole Act of 2002, how can this Minister have any confidence in the Parole Board, which is, as he has just said, legally bound to consider the safety of the community as being paramount in any decision related to the release of an offender, after the board’s decisions to release William Bell, Anthony Roma, Gary Isherwood, and Arthur Gray into the community, who all went on to violently reoffend within days of their release? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I will not warn any member again about interjecting while questions are being asked. Three people have done so already, and that is it for today.
Hon RICK BARKER: Yes. I do believe that the current law is superior to the one that it succeeded, in that the Parole Board now has public safety as its paramount consideration. Without going into a particular case, I would suggest to the member who raised the question that if the member has concerns about the Parole Board’s decision in a specific case, he should raise those specifically with the chair of the Parole Board.
Stephen Franks: Why does the Minister not deal with the problem of violent offending on parole by simply providing for a period of supervision at the end of every sentence, instead of leaving a position where every sentence is probably a lie at the time that it is delivered?
Hon RICK BARKER: Having a period of supervision at the end of a sentence would be, in my opinion, equivalent to a parole. Some people have said that we should be getting rid of parole periods, but parole has been part of our criminal justice system for 35 years because it is seen as being more effective in reintegrating offenders than simply allowing them to go free the moment they have finished their sentence.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister intend to make the Parole Board more accountable for its decisions, in light of the fact that 86 percent of the prisoners that it decides to release on parole reoffend within 5 years—a failure rate that would not be tolerated in any other organisation and that undermines the board’s claim of public safety as being its objective?
Hon RICK BARKER: The only way that one can guarantee that people will not reoffend after they have been released is to incarcerate them for the rest of their natural life.
Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Government initiate a formal inquiry into the parole supervision of Arthur Gray, given that he was released with minimal supervision—apparently to live in a Nelson backpackers—despite his long record of violent offending, and given that because of his early release he stabbed a young tourist within centimetres of his heart?
Hon RICK BARKER: I have not got any specific advice on Arthur Gray, whom the member raises, but I certainly will make some inquiries.
Hon Tony Ryall: With over 55 percent of violent offenders being reconvicted within 2 years—and knowing that Taffy Hotene killed Kylie Jones while on parole and William Duane Bell slaughtered the Mount Wellington - Panmure Returned Services Association workers while on parole—when will the Government realise its soft parole policies are a complete failure?
Hon RICK BARKER: I reject emphatically the assertion in that question. This Government is very concerned about public safety. I say to the member, who knows this very well, that the Government has changed the rules, for example, on preventative detention. There is now a wider range of crimes that people can be held for on preventative detention, and the age has been lowered. That is out of a concern for public safety. We have improved the quality of the law.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table an answer to a written question where the Minister of Corrections states that Arthur Gray’s supervision was “appropriately managed”.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that written question. Is there any objection? There is.
4. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What recent reports has he received on New Zealand children’s literacy?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have seen a report that shows that our 15-year-olds are third in the OECD for reading literacy. Another report shows that in 1996 approximately 11 percent of 9 and 10-year-old students performed well below average in oral reading, but that has already reduced to 6 percent. Unfortunately, we still have some progress to make in the adult literacy area. There is at least one dithering person who cannot even read the lines that Murray McCully writes for him.
Mr SPEAKER: The last part of that answer was not appropriate to the answer that was given.
Lynne Pillay: What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that all our students develop essential literacy skills?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As indicated before, we are doing well in literacy, but we can do better. Our Government is investing $43 million in targeted literacy programmes this year alone. We are investing in high-quality teaching resources, reading-recovery resources, reading-recovery programmes, and teaching tools such as asTTle. In stark contrast, during National’s time in Government it halved the operational funding for resource teachers of reading—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a longstanding Standing Order that says Ministers are responsible for their portfolios. Twice, in the answers to both the primary question and the supplementary question, this Minister has gone on a “merandering” course of using them just as an opportunity for cheap political shots.
Mr SPEAKER: No. In the answer to the first question there was a point that I ruled out. There was nothing wrong with what the Minister said in the first supplementary answer. He can compare Governments.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In stark contrast, during National’s time in Government it halved the operational funding for resource teachers of reading, cut reading-recovery funding in many areas, and cut—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: An interjection was made then, and the member will withdraw and apologise. He is very lucky he is not leaving the Chamber.
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are some challenges left, as was shown by the “merandering” member for Nelson about a minute ago—
Mr SPEAKER: No. That part of the answer is out of order. The Minister should know better.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One presumes that it was on the tip of your tongue to invite the Minister of Education to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If members, on a question that asks about literacy, invent words like “merandering”—instead of “meandering”—they have to expect some come-back from the Minister of Education.
Mr SPEAKER: I have never heard of the word “merandering”.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Dr Nick Smith made a reference to me. He will now withdraw and apologise—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: —and leave the Chamber.
Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.
Gerry Brownlee: I think I was in the middle of a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: That is right, and the member made an unparliamentary comment during your point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: I want to say how angry the National Opposition is at the way in which this question has been handled by yourself, from the Chair. Firstly, the Minister chose to deliberately antagonise by straying into an area that was inappropriate, and, belatedly, you pulled him up. Then he engaged in delivering a series of what he tried to convey to the House were facts, but were wrong. When that was pointed out by my saying exactly what he was, I willingly accepted your advice that I withdraw and apologise—that is the parliamentary way of doing things. Then there was the deliberate antagonising of Dr Smith, who has every right to be upset because of the Minister’s reckless use of the truth in describing the period when he himself—that is, Dr Smith—was Minister. It appears that there is a harsh standard applied to us, and a very lax standard applied to Government members.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, I say that we have started question time today, as with the rest of the year, with certain members of the Opposition—I need not point to them—believing that they can mount a verbal barrage if they do not like what is being said—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: That member is the acting Leader of the Opposition. For that reason, all that I will ask him to do this time is withdraw and apologise, but I tell him he is on his final warning.
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second thing is we are not new to the debate in this Parliament to the extent that someone who has grossly made a mistake—unless he were referring to the famous Miranda case in the United States—is allowed to escape the consequences. That is part of parliamentary debate.
Mr SPEAKER: I required an unparliamentary term to be withdrawn and apologised for. The Minister did not use an unparliamentary expression; he was facetious in part of his answer, and, of course, I then immediately pulled him up and said that that part of the answer was inappropriate and would be struck out.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is one other issue here that is important. Dr Nick Smith made an inappropriate comment about you and he was asked to withdraw, to apologise, and to leave the Chamber—and correctly so. But I remind you that, as Chair of the House, you also made a remark that caused Mr Smith some offence, and, unfortunately, that is one of the reasons why he responded. It may be that you want to reflect on that, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: I will certainly reflect on it, but I want to say that he was told to leave the Chamber because he had made an interjection while another one of his colleagues was on a point of order.
Taxation—Top Tax Rate of 20c
5. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: What would be the estimated revenue reduction if the rate of income tax, including company tax, was cut to a top rate of 20c, and how does that estimate compare to the expected operating surplus?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The estimated cost given in written answer 5540 to the member’s colleague Rodney Hide was about $5.5 billion a year. This is a very similar size to the projected operating surplus for the current year, but that, of course, does not make provision for large elements of capital expenditure.
Hon Richard Prebble: Is it not a fact that the Minister is actually saying to the House that he could reduce the rate of income tax and company tax for everyone in the country to $5.48 billion, and that as the operating surplus is $7.4 billion there would be a $2 billion surplus; surely the Minister can see that there is no better way of helping working New Zealanders or small business than to reduce income tax in the Budget to 20c immediately?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Now I now who wrote the New Zealand Herald editorial a couple of days ago. The final operating surplus will not be $7.4 billion. As the member well knows, we have passed the provisional tax payments, so tax revenue is high at this point compared with final revenue versus expenditure. Secondly, if the member’s policy were followed, the Government would be running a cash deficit this year of over $5 billion. Within 5 to 6 years that would lead to a doubling of the gross debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, and all that he did from 1984 onwards would become totally stupid because we would be back where we started.
Clayton Cosgrove: Is it possible to provide for current Government expenditure with a tax cut proposed of that size?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. As I said, it required borrowing something over $5 billion this year, or equivalent cuts to spending on health, education, law and order, or other Government services. There is no fiscal free lunch.
John Key: Does the Minister think New Zealand businesses would prefer a cut in the company tax rate, or more corporate welfare of the sort handed out by Jim Anderton and Jim Sutton yesterday?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It depends which ones they were—the ones who got the corporate tax-rate cut or the ones who got the assistance to expand. What is clear is that the taxation of the New Zealand corporate sector as a whole is significantly lower, both as a proportion of revenue to the companies and as a proportion of GDP, than in nearly all other Western countries. That is because we do not have a capital gains tax, we do not have a classical system on corporate taxation, and we do not have payroll taxes.
Rodney Hide: In light of the Minister justifying putting up the top rate of tax to 39c to raise an extra $400 million that he said his Government needed, in view of an operating surplus of $6 billion or $7 billion, why will he at least not drop the top rate of tax down from 39c to 33c—or is this just another tax to spite the rich?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, but the member’s bid for a tax cut of nearly $60 a week will be overtaken by a Budget package that will give the couple in Waihi mentioned in the Sunday Star-Times a great deal more than that.
6. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: Does she stand by her statement that: “It is important that the Government is seen to lead by example in the way it cares for its heritage,”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): Yes, Government departments have in their care a large number of heritage properties. Last week I announced that the Government is developing a best-practice approach for managing those departmental properties.
Sue Kedgley: Does she believe that the Government is leading by example when a Crown agency, Transit New Zealand, deliberately and systematically allowed a large number of heritage buildings in Wellington’s historic Te Aro precincts to deteriorate over a decade or more, refusing repeated requests to undertake basic structural maintenance, and threatening community groups and conservation architects with trespass when they offered to do the work for free?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Transit, of course, is not a Government department and is not covered by the policy. Transit acquired those buildings in central Wellington for the sole reason of being able to facilitate building a road if it ever got permission, which it finally did after about 30 years of talking about it.
Sue Kedgley: Is she concerned that under her watch as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage that same Crown agency, Transit New Zealand, having neglected heritage buildings, also plans to remove at least five heritage buildings that are not even in the way of the planned inner-city bypass, despite repeated requests from the Environment Court to reconsider; and, if she is concerned, what will she do as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage to try to save these buildings from unnecessary destruction?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage I take a great deal of notice of what the Historic Places Trust has to say on these matters. I note that in 2002 the trust approved the bypass, subject to the relocation and restoration of the historic buildings. Of 23 declared heritage buildings on the bypass route, I am advised that five will remain in place, 16 will be resited and restored, and one will be reconstructed using other materials.
Sue Kedgley: How can her Government credibly claim to be leading by example in the way it cares for heritage when under her watch as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage two of the most historic precincts in Wellington are about to be destroyed, 15 listed heritage buildings demolished and relocated, and a heritage “Disneyland” of buildings cobbled together from different sites created to make way for an inner-city bypass?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In the old days, before heritage was taken seriously, I expect the buildings would have been bowled. As I said, the Historic Places Trust has worked for a solution that it considers acceptable. The result is, as I said, that of these 23 declared heritage buildings, five will stay where they are, 16 will be resited, and one will be reconstructed using other materials.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is she concerned that the Historic Places Trust has never declined an archaeological authority for a major State highway project, despite the impacts on heritage values, and will she tell her board that it has her political support to stand up for the values in its Act?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Historic Places Trust does indeed stand up for the values in its Act. I understand that is part of the permission it was required to give. It also required Transit to carry out archaeological research on the properties.
Tainui—West Coast Harbours and Waikato River
7. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What is the current status of negotiations, if any, between the Crown and Tainui over the West Coast harbours of Kawhia, Aotea, Raglan, Manukau and the Waikato River?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: In 1995, the then National Government settled one part of Tainui’s claim for $170 million. What was missed out at that time, which includes the matters referred to by the member, requires a further settlement. The Government is in preliminary discussions with Tainui about the settlement of the omitted matters.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister understand Nanaia Mahuta’s statement that “The Government will need to work hard to retain the confidence of my electorate and strengthen their relationships with Tainui waka.” to mean that the seabed and foreshore around the harbours of Kawhia, Aotea, Raglan, and Manukau will have to pass into fee simple title under the ownership of Tainui?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the foreshore and seabed legislation, as I have said many times, does not pre-empt any future treaty settlements one way or the other.
Mahara Okeroa: Will the discussions with Tainui about its outstanding historical claims be slowed down by the foreshore and seabed legislation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, such claims are not affected by the proposed foreshore and seabed legislation. The legislation provides for a forward-looking regime for the recognition of existing or surviving customary rights and interests. It also addresses any potential effects on existing customary rights and interests resulting from the vesting of full title in the Crown—it does not affect future treaty discussions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Who was in Government when the Tainui settlement was effected, who was it who gave Tainui to believe that those outstanding matters would be later dealt with, and who gave Doug Graham a knighthood for doing all this?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The then National Government, in the same way that it vested the ownership of Lake Taupo and the water column above it. And, of course, that Government also vested title to Lake Ellesmere in Ngâi Tahu as part of the Ngâi Tahu settlement.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest of respect, that must have been a mistaken answer by the Minister. That cannot possibly be true, given what I have been reading around the country.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That is a point of political scoring, and it does not always come off.
Hon Ken Shirley: Has his Government given any assurances or promises to Tainui leading up to Nanaia Mahuta’s statement in the House last week that she and Tainui would stay with Labour; if so, what are the details of those promises or assurances?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and the Minister of Finance met with Tainui once, and the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations met with Tainui a further time. Assurances were given at those meetings that the foreshore and seabed legislation does not pre-empt any future treaty settlements and negotiations—that is all.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister aware of the comments this morning on Mana News by Tainui chief executive, Hemi Rau, who was suggesting that these assurances given by Ministers to Tainui will see them hold ownership of the seabed and the foreshore?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Obviously I am aware that Hemi Rau was also quoted as saying that they were reminding the Government that what was promised in their settlement legislation of 1995 was the right to negotiate for ownership of those harbours.
Gerry Brownlee: Will the Minister give this House an assurance that the Tainui people will not end up owning the foreshore and seabed of those four West Coast harbours?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Treaty negotiations do not take place in this House by way of supplementary question and answer; they consist of sitting down and negotiating. I am sure the member is capable of finding out more about the progress of those talks from within his own caucus.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an extremely long answer to a question that should have been answered “yes” or “no”. Is it reasonable that we should be given an extra supplementary question over our allocation to try to tease that information out of the Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: No. I thought the Minister addressed the question. The member cannot demand a “yes” or “no” answer to a question. That has been ruled on hundreds of times.
Hon Ken Shirley: In an expansion to my earlier question, does the Minister expect the House to believe that Nanaia Mahuta pledged her support, and the support of Tainui, to this Government without any assurances or promises whatsoever of actions by this Government to meet their needs?
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest to you that that was not a reply to the question. We are in an interesting situation, because the Minister appears to be giving an assurance to the House that no assurance has been given in order to get a member to pledge support to the Government. When put to the test, I think he might be trying to get away from that first answer. Of course, if the Government has actually been pledging taxpayer resources to an MP in order to keep that member onside, then that is a matter the House has a legitimate interest in knowing about.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That last point had nothing at all to do with the question asked by the member’s colleague Mr Ken Shirley. No suggestion has been made in any question so far that any money had passed hands. The only time I am aware of that ever happening in this House was when Alamein Kopu was essentially bought into supporting the previous Government. As to the question itself, I had already told the House that Tainui was given an assurance that nothing in the legislation affected future treaty settlements. The question itself was therefore based upon a false premise.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the question. I did not think that the reply the Minister gave initially addressed it sufficiently. The Minister has now made a statement at the end of his point of order that does address it. Perhaps the Minister might care to read that into the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am prepared to reaffirm yet again that the Government has told Tainui—as, indeed, it has told everybody else in the country—that nothing in the foreshore and seabed legislation pre-empts any future treaty settlement. It actually cannot do so. That is the nature of the sovereignty of Parliament.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take this opportunity to point out that in a previous answer the Minister misrepresented the position of a previous Government. We would not negotiate with the Tainui people, because we were not prepared to give away the ownership of the seabed and foreshore.
Mr SPEAKER: As the member well knows, he is making a point—not a point of order.
8. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Defence: Has he received any recent reports about New Zealand Defence Force deployments?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): Yes. I have received a number of reports relating to our various deployments around the world. They show that our servicemen and women continue to enjoy international respect for their skills and training, and for their ability to work effectively with their counterparts, as well as, of course, with the local people of the countries they are working in. We should all be very proud of them.
Jill Pettis: How are decisions about such deployments made?
Hon MARK BURTON: This Government’s defence policy framework clearly states that our defence and security decisions will be based on New Zealand’s own assessment of what action is considered to be in our best interests. What a contrast to the appalling policy of blindly deploying New Zealand servicemen and women, without reservation and when and wheresoever another country dictates, advocated by the National Party spokesperson.
Keith Locke: Does Government policy allow for prisoners taken by our SAS troops in Afghanistan to be handed over to American jurisdiction, when reports demonstrate that the treatment of detainees by American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay does not meet the requirements of the Geneva Convention?
Hon MARK BURTON: New Zealand is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and New Zealand forces are required to observe all its provisions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I note that Mrs te Heuheu has something that looks like an off-white flag, and I wonder whether she was bringing it down to Mr Power.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, but I am getting very tired of the member. This is his final warning for the day. That was not a point of order, and the member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for wasting the time of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw and apologise.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer my question. My question was not about New Zealand troops’ treatment of prisoners; it was about New Zealand troops handing over prisoners to American jurisdiction and how they would be treated by Americans.
Mr SPEAKER: That may have been the question in the point of order, but I thought that the Minister did address that question in his answer.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I really have to defend Mr Locke. He asked a very clear question, which was not about whether New Zealand observes the Geneva Convention—I guess that we would all think that was so. The clear question the Minister was asked was whether New Zealand SAS troops in Afghanistan have handed over prisoners to the United States. I would have thought that if the Minister knows the answer to that question he should be able to give it.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. I think, on reflection, that the member is right, and I think the original point of order was valid. Perhaps the safest way to do this is for the member to re-ask the question.
Keith Locke: Does Government policy allow for prisoners taken by our SAS troops in Afghanistan to be handed over to American jurisdiction, when reports demonstrate that the treatment of detainees by American forces in Afghanistan, and also in Iraq in Guantanamo Bay, does not meet the requirements of the Geneva Convention?
Hon MARK BURTON: In the hypothetical situation raised by the member, if detainees qualify for prisoner-of-war status, and not all of them do, then the Geneva Convention would apply and the expectation would be that appropriate action was taken. If they do not qualify for prisoner-of-war status, then they are still entitled to certain other provisions. On the other hand, if prisoners were taken by a PRT patrol in Afghanistan, they would be handed over to the Afghan Transitional Authority. There are a multitude of possibilities, all of which are hypothetical in the circumstances.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I realise that other members probably know, but I wonder whether the Minister could tell us what a PRT is.
Hon MARK BURTON: That is the provincial reconstruction team based in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister given any consideration to the failing credibility of the coalition forces in Iraq as a result of revelations of the abuse, rape, and torture of Iraqi prisoners, and if he has, at what point does he see himself making recommendations to the Prime Minister that New Zealand should withdraw its troops?
Hon MARK BURTON: I have looked with dismay—like every member of the House, I am sure—at the revelations of the treatment of some Iraqi prisoners of recent times. However, I point out to the House again that New Zealand is not there as part of the coalition force. New Zealand is in Iraq as part of the humanitarian aid reconstruction team. We are there under a UN mandate. We will be there as long as the engineers sent are able to undertake the duties they have been sent to perform.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect very carefully on that answer, which in no way addressed my question to the Minister. My question specifically asked him: at what point would he see himself making recommendations to the Prime Minister to withdraw our troops? He never touched on that.
Mr SPEAKER: That was not the whole question. It was part of the question. I thought that the Minister did address the question.
Hon Peter Dunne: How relevant is it to the security and safety of New Zealand defence personnel deployed in Iraq that they are not part of the coalition, given that a New Zealand civilian working in a recovery capacity, presumably with no association to either the New Zealand forces for the coalition forces, has just been killed in a drive-by shooting?
Hon MARK BURTON: I shall answer the last part first. The Government has repeatedly warned civilians of the extreme danger of going into what is a war zone equivalent. For civilians it is more dangerous, not less dangerous. There is no guarantee of secure support for them. In the case of New Zealand’s personnel, we deployed them as part of a humanitarian aid reconstruction team. They will be there as long as they are able to perform those duties. If the point arose—to go back to Mr Mark’s earlier question—that they were not able to perform those duties for a sustained period, obviously at that point we would have to review whether it was worth being there.
Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister saying that the terrorists and others who are causing havoc in Iraq at the moment make the distinction between coalition forces and New Zealand forces who are not part of the coalition, and that therefore our people are at lesser risk as a consequence?
Hon MARK BURTON: At no point has the Government suggested that this is other than a dangerous environment. Our personnel are there for the purpose of aid and reconstruction, under a UN mandate. That is the purpose for which they are there. Of course, it is a dangerous environment. We have always said so.
Prison Officers—Inappropriate Relationships
9. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: How many female prison officers have been interviewed, counselled or disciplined for having inappropriate relationships with male inmates since Labour came to office in 1999?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): The public prison service employs around 500 women corrections officers. I am advised that in the period since December 1999 five female staff have been investigated for inappropriate romantic or sexual relationships with male inmates. Of those, one was dismissed, one resigned, two were not proven while the staff members were employed, and one case is still under investigation.
Ron Mark: Do the figures he has quoted include the Invercargill case reported in the Southland Times on Saturday, the case reported in the Waikato Times on Saturday regarding Ms Geena Wickes and the rapist William Sinamoni, the case of Raewyn Houia and David James Shepherd, the six cases that are alleged to have happened within 6 months in Waikeria Prison, the two cases that are alleged to have occurred in Paparua prison, the three cases that are alleged to have—
Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the point.
Ron Mark: —at Paremoremo, or have those—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This member has a frequent habit of asking extraordinarily long questions that are more like speeches. Most other members know there is a limitation on questions. There is no need to go into every case in that kind of question.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the member, and he had got to the point where I wanted him to finish. I hope that was the end of what he was saying. Was that the end?
Ron Mark: Yes. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know the question is embarrassing, but if I were to ask you to do a word count on some of the questions that have already been asked today I am very confident that my question, which has only one clause remaining, would be shorter than some of those questions. I object to being interrupted and sat down, simply because my question is embarrassing.
Mr SPEAKER: Just a minute. That is why I allowed the member to go on and ask his question. If he has one clause to go, I will allow him to complete it.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is an important matter, and the practice keeps happening fairly frequently. I refer you to Standing Order 364(1): “Questions must be concise and not contain—(a) statements of facts and names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated,”. That question could simply have been summarised as: “Given the number of cases in which there have been relations …”. The list of names was not strictly necessary, surely, in that kind of question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The problem with the response from Dr Cullen is that we have just been told there are only five cases, and my colleague has recited a litany of way above five cases. We want to know where the Minister is getting his information from, because what is being asserted by my colleague is public knowledge now.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and that is a perfectly valid comment to make. That does not really relate to the point of order. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 142/3, which goes back to 1969: “It is irregular to preface a supplementary question with the words ‘Is the Minister aware’ and then proceed with a massive statement of fact.” I allowed the member quite a lot of latitude, but he had got to the edge of my tolerance. I just say to him that his last sentence had better be very brief, indeed.
Ron Mark: Do I get to repeat the whole lot?
Mr SPEAKER: No, you do not.
Ron Mark: —or have those cases been kept from the Minister on the basis that many were never formally investigated?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In the information I have there were two additional cases, but they were before the time frame that the member asked the question about. I can assure the member that any allegations of improper relationships between corrections officers and inmates are taken seriously. If the facts are proven, the officers are dismissed.
Georgina Beyer: What is the appropriate role that women corrections officers play in the public prisons system?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Women corrections officers play a very important role in our prisons. Given that many male inmates have violent and negative attitudes towards women, positive role models from women in positions of authority help in changing those attitudes. It is also important that the make-up of corrections officers reflects the profile of the community that inmates are returning to.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister heard the recruiting advertisements running on the Breeze that state in part that the Department of Corrections is seeking “new people, positive people for a new prison, a new approach, a new style of management”; if he has, can he tell an aspiring 21-year-old beauty therapist who may be considering a career in the department what changes to selection, staffing, monitoring, and training he has implemented, in order to protect vulnerable female prison officers from male inmates who, by their track records, have acquired doctorates in manipulation—or does he not care about that?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister can answer two of them.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have heard of those advertisements. I think they are fabulous advertisements. They encourage more people to get involved in the corrections service, and I hope the member supports that. In reality, women corrections officers are needed in prison. This is the 21st century, not the 19th century, and I suggest the member gets with the programme.
General Practitioners—Primary Health Care Strategy
10. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister of Health: Is she confident that the number of general practitioners in New Zealand will continue to be sufficient to achieve the Government’s six key directions under the primary health care strategy; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, I am confident that there will be sufficient general practitioners to achieve the Government’s primary health care strategy’s key directions, because we have increased the annual number of medical trainees by 40, with an emphasis on the areas of general practice, rural general practice, and mental health. Further, the College of General Practitioners programme has been oversubscribed, with 90 applicants for the 55 places available. I would also note that New Zealand now has 323 more general practitioners than in 1992.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of the New Zealand Medical Association’s finding that the number of general practitioners has decreased by 6.5 percent in the last 5 years and is already at crisis level in many areas, and, if so, can she give the New Zealand public a guarantee that this drop in general practitioner numbers will not leave them waiting days to get an appointment; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I am aware of the report, and I can advise the House that over the 10 years prior to the report’s dating, the number of general practitioners actually increased in New Zealand. In 1992, there were 2,594 active general practitioners, and in 2002 the numbers of active general practitioners had increased to 2,917—an increase of 323. I can assure that member of our commitment to ensuring that the training places available for doctors and the support through the Clinical Training Agency of the College of General Practitioners’ programme is carried on.
Steve Chadwick: Are the key directions of the Government’s primary health care strategy dependent only on the provision of services by general practitioners?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, they are not. A key component of the implementation of the strategy lessens the reliance of primary health care on general practitioners. We are now seeing nurses and nurse practitioners taking a greater role in primary care throughout New Zealand, and the Government has supported those initiatives by providing for scholarships targeted at nurse practitioners and rural nurse practitioners.
Dr Lynda Scott: What part do the following play in the trend of reducing general practitioner numbers and an increasing reliance on an overseas-trained workforce: negative work conditions, as outlined by the New Zealand Medical Association report, or a Government whose ideological primary health organisations are driving doctors to leave, due to the biggest change in New Zealand’s primary care delivery since 1938?
Hon RUTH DYSON: It is unfortunate that the member continues to portray life in New Zealand for health professionals as being something that is not attractive. In fact, although the report gave the 2001 ratio of active general practitioners per 100,000 of population, it did not compare this ratio with previous years. According to workforce data published in New Zealand Medical Practitioners 2000, the number of active general practitioners for every 100,000 people rose significantly—from 58.2 per 100,000 people in 1980 to 82.6 per 100,000 in 2000. New Zealand is doing well when compared with other OECD countries.
Heather Roy: Is the Minister aware that the number of general practitioners dropped from 3,159 in 1998 to 2,917 in 2002, at the same time as the population has continued to rise; and are her new primary health organisations not just a backdoor route to making general practitioners State employees?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, I totally reject that member’s assertion. As I explained to the House in answer to an earlier supplementary question, over the 10 years prior to the report being completed the number of general practitioners in New Zealand increased from 2,594 in 1992 to 2, 917 in 2002, an increase of 323.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware that only 27 percent of general practitioners surveyed by the New Zealand Medical Association last year intended to be practising full time in 4 years time, and that fewer and fewer graduates see general practitioner work as an attractive option, and will she seriously address the association’s warning that heavy workloads, stress, medico-legal concerns, falling remuneration, and compliance costs are contributing to the loss of general practitioners; if not, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The Government is committed to ensuring that the support that has previously been lacking in both training and ongoing support for general practitioners is addressed. This is obvious from the increase in trainee numbers and the support of the Clinical Training Agency’s ongoing programme for postgraduates. There were some alerts raised in the report that the Government will give serious consideration to, and they are also reflected in the work of the Health Workforce Advisory Committee.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware that only 14 percent of Auckland’s medical graduates—surveyed recently—had considered becoming a general practitioner, yet 20 percent more graduates are leaving to go overseas, and does she concede that a failure by her Government to introduce a bonding scheme that deals to student loans is a major factor behind this exodus; if not, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am pleased to advise the House that research is currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Education and Statistics New Zealand to assess the impact of student loans. The conclusion of this study is expected in the next month. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research examined the net migration of health practitioners in 2002. The institute’s data showed that the outflow of medical practitioners was matched by an inflow of overseas-qualified medical practitioners.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table an analysis of New Zealand’s general practitioner workforce, showing that in 1998 there were 2,931 active general practitioners and 2,538 in 2002.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern)
11. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Labour: Following his scheduled meeting with the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) in Auckland last Thursday, will he be instructing officials to work on changes to the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): I have met with a range of organisations—including the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) last Thursday—to clarify issues relating to the bill. The bill is currently before a select committee, and I look forward to the committee’s report, including any recommended changes, in due course.
Hon Roger Sowry: Now that the Minister has met with the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), is he prepared to accept the unanimous motion of 230 of its members that the Government withdraw the union-dictated Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, and enter into a process of industrial relations discussion that includes employers, non-union workers, and unions; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. I have made it clear to all the organisations I have met that the bill will not be withdrawn.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that there are huge concerns in the public arena about this bill; and if he is aware of that, does he not think it would be a genuine act of good faith to withdraw the bill and get industry players together to discuss whether there are any concerns, because the most common statement to the select committee is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am aware of concerns about the bill. I think the unions are saying it is not strong enough, and I think the employers are saying it is too harsh. The idea of a select committee process is to bring those people together, to have the select committee hear them, and to have it recommend changes back to the Government in due course.
Hon Roger Sowry: Does it surprise the Minister that the business groups he has met with have no faith in a Minister who hides behind the select committee process, when they all know that the Labour members on the select committee do whatever the Minister wants?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: If it were as easy as that, I would really enjoy the job.
Hon Roger Sowry: Why does the Minister not believe businesses such as Fisher and Paykel, and others around the country, that have said this legislation will make them less competitive?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am aware that some business groups and businesses are making claims like that. The purpose of the select committee is to get those issues out, then report back in due course.
12. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Labour: What reports has he received on proposed changes to the Holidays Act 2003?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): I have seen conflicting reports. In a recent television interview a promise was made to repeal the fourth week’s holiday for all workers. Last weekend the same person referred to the Holidays Act without repeating the promise. Perhaps Don Brash has told a US senator what his real position is.
Hon Mark Gosche: Could the Minister inform the House—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Some time ago you had Dr Cullen pull out the Standing Orders and recite for you the requirements of members asking questions. In the process he had quite a shot across the bows at Ron Mark, who was legitimately pursuing an issue on which the Government had been neglectful. Now we have a Minister standing up and totally abusing the Standing Orders that Dr Cullen is so keen to preserve. I note that members on our side of the House have had to preface every question with a question word, as a result of a similar point of order. From now on Ministers might be constrained absolutely to the requirements of the Standing Orders when they are answering their questions. Mr Swain was well outside Standing Orders with that rather childish answer.
Mr SPEAKER: The first point that I want to make is that it was the member himself who insisted we have a question word to start each question, and I thanked him for it. It is a big improvement to question asking in this House. The Minister, I thought, addressed the question, but the last comment he made was ironic, I presume, and should not have been part of his answer.
Hon Mark Gosche: Could the Minister inform the House when the 4 weeks’ annual leave comes into force?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It comes into force on 1 April 2007. It will bring us into line with Australia, which has had 4 weeks’ leave for 30 years—a point that should not be forgotten. The message is Don Brash wants to take a holiday—yours.
Mr SPEAKER: I warned the Minister once.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. National has already asked two. It is my turn now.
Mr SPEAKER: Labour is the only party that has had a supplementary question.
Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister of Labour had any communications from his colleague the Minister of Police on excluding the police from the Holidays Act 2003, given the fact that the Minister has advised, in answer to written questions, that 300 fewer sworn police were on duty on Good Friday this year compared with the previous year, and given that the Act is likely to cost between $4 million and $5 million if police staffing levels are to be maintained over public holidays?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have had some discussions with the Minister of Police. This is part of sorting out the collective agreements in discussions between the union and the employer.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister give the House an assurance that when this 4 weeks’ holiday provision comes into being the Government will reimburse organisations such as IHC for it, because it will cost quite a lot?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. As I have said before, the potential cost-increases as a result of this legislation will be negotiated with organisations that have contracts with the Government. I am sure that will be one of the issues taken into account when those negotiations are under way.
Hon Roger Sowry: Why did the Minister’s department fail to consult with the Ministry of Health at all on the Holidays Act, given that urgent work is now under way in the ministry to work out the total cost to district health boards, and given that the Waikato District Health Board has already claimed that it will cost it at least $4.5 million extra, and the Government has given it nothing?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I understand that there was a great deal of consultation that led up to the introduction of that legislation.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was a lot of consultation—the Government was in and out of the unions’ offices all the time. The question asked why his department failed to consult with the Ministry of Health; we have had an answer from the Minister of Health that says the ministry was not consulted with, and I asked the Minister why it was not.
Mr SPEAKER: I wonder whether the Minister might care to add a little.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is my understanding that all agencies and departments had input into this legislation—that is what I currently understand. But I will check back further and report back.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the annual leave provision in the employment contract of the Reserve Bank governor the same as that proposed in the Holidays Bill; if so, is there a word to describe that that rhymes with democracy?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for that.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I seek leave to table a document from the Reserve Bank website that outlines the minimum 4 weeks’ leave provision for the Reserve Bank.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
End of Questions for Oral Answer