Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 18 May 2004
Tuesday, 18 May 2004
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
1 Auckland Central
2 Tertiary Education Organisations—Standards
4 Television New Zealand—Charter Funding
5 Civil Union Bill—Introduction
6 Nuclear-free Legislation—Amendments
8 Labour Market—Reports
9 Community Employment Group—Advice to Ministers
11 Tertiary Education Commission—Consultation
12 Transgenic Sheep—Environment, Whakamaru Farm
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
Auckland Central Remand Prison—Review
1. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Has he decided to conduct a review of the Auckland Central Remand Prison; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): The Department of Corrections has a plan in place to manage the incorporation of Auckland Central Remand Prison into the Public Prisons Service. All innovations and variations in practice at Auckland Central Remand Prison will be reviewed with a view to retaining them where they could bring a quality improvement to the Public Prisons Service.
Marc Alexander: What is the point of conducting a review of the management of Auckland Central Remand Prison after the Minister has decided to revert it to State control; or is he just trying to help the Greens in their cynical attempt to pull a fast one over Mâori, who are genuinely saddened by the loss of the first genuine partnership between a prison and tangata whenua?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can reply to that in so far as it relates to his own responsibility.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The member is not right. The review is being conducted before the management changes hands, not after.
Martin Gallagher: What is the rationale for the Government deciding to take the administration of the Auckland Central Remand Prison back into the public sector?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Labour Party made it clear in two election manifestos that the management of Auckland Central Remand Prison would return to the public sector. [Interruption] That is right; we keep to our pledges. This is consistent with our belief that punishment and incarceration should be the responsibility of the Government and should not be contracted out to private operators for a profit.
Ron Mark: Why would this Government hand over the management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison to the managers of the State’s Department of Corrections, when the Auckland Central Remand Prison, under current management, has not had one reported case of inappropriate relationships between prison officers and inmates, and we now learn that the State system, by the Minister’s own admission, has had 17 such cases?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have said in this House before, the Auckland Central Remand Prison has done some good things and some not so good things, and that is the purpose of the review. It has performed well in some programmes, and that is why we are doing the review—to make sure that the good parts of those programmes are carried over into the State sector, if and where appropriate.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is there a difference between the power to deny liberty and the job of carrying out those orders?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The power to deny liberty rests with the Government or the State. Therefore, it is appropriate that the role of the State, which incarcerates people—
Hon Member: Whereabouts?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In prison. The Government sees it as a core role to incarcerate people and to take their liberty.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that a review of the Auckland Central Remand Prison was first raised with him many weeks ago by the Green Party—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. There will be no interjections during questions. That is the one warning today. I will ask the member to start his question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The reason I said “No” is that every member of this House knows that that is demonstrably untrue. My colleague wrote to that Minister, and to the Prime Minister, a full year ago on this matter, in June 2003. So for a member to say “weeks ago” is saying something that he knows not to be true. We all know it not to be true, and someone should object—and I am objecting.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is absolutely incorrect. I tell the member that there will be no interjections during question time while a question is being asked. That is because I believe that all 119 members—at the present time—have the right to ask his or her question freely. I do not mind a bit of interjection in the reply. I ask Nandor Tanczos to start again.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Frankly, it is not good enough for the leader of New Zealand First to say that a question is simply not true. If he thinks that, then he should have raised a point of order on the basis that all questions can be authenticated. I think we now have a situation where there has been a misuse of the point of order, in that the House is left with the impression that Mr Tanczos, who was asking the question, was saying something that is not true, and that is definitely out of order. I think that Mr Peters should be asked to withdraw that statement.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I have dealt with the matter, and I have warned the member that he is not to do it again, or he will leave the Chamber.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that the matter of a review of the Auckland Central Remand Prison was first raised with him by the Green Party a number of weeks ago—and if the honourable member would care to actually listen to the question, that is what he would have heard—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This member is stating something that is not true, and now he seeks during his question to challenge me. If I was inappropriate in my behaviour, then I apologise; but surely he should be stopped from going down the path he seeks to go down.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot make that assertion. However, he is right on one point: I ask the member to ask his question and not refer to the comments I have already ruled on.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question I raise with you is: when Mr Peters repeatedly questions the truth of my statement—when I am making a statement about the discussions between the Green Party and the Government without regard to New Zealand First—how am I supposed to assure this House of the truth of my statement if I cannot address it in my supplementary question?
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the member’s word, as I accept every member’s word when he or she is speaking. I now ask the member to ask his supplementary question, and I will have it heard in silence.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that the matter of a review of the Auckland Central Remand Prison was first raised with him by the Green Party a number of weeks ago and that a review was agreed to at that time?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I can confirm that as part of the discussions around the Corrections Bill, the Green Party raised the issue of the review. As part of our general agreement we agreed that this would be a good idea, and I want to thank the Greens for their support on this very important principled matter.
Heather Roy: Has the Minister visited the Auckland Central Remand Prison since becoming Minister of Corrections in May 2003; if yes, what did he learn that concerns him; if not, what does he think his concerns might be?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I visited the Auckland Central Remand Prison a couple of weeks ago. I had a good discussion with the staff there and made it clear that this was not an issue around some of the programmes that were being run. It was a point of principle with the Government that locking people up and taking away their freedom was the role of the Government.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree with comments made by Mr Eru Thompson of Te Iwi Whânui Trust that the public service needs to have “direct and ongoing sustainable relationships with the local hapû of the respected areas”, and can he confirm that the Greens’ negotiations with the Government in respect of the Corrections Bill have been at least partly to ensure a statutory basis for just such relationships?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, yes and yes. I do agree with that statement, and if that person would like to have a look at what is happening in Northland he will see a formal relationship between Ngâti Rangi and Ngâwhâ prison. Secondly, the ability for it to engage local communities in programmes and policies of a local prison are specifically incorporated in a Supplementary Order Paper negotiated between the Greens and the Government.
Marc Alexander: Why, on the one hand, is the Minister ignoring the pleas of seven northern iwi not to change the management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison, when, on the other hand, he was prepared to approve the $1.5 million spent by the Department of Corrections to consult with Mâori over the new Waikato prison—what is the point?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Taking away people’s freedom—locking them up in prison—is the role of the Government; that is the reason.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having put the issue into contention, how many of the people in the management of the Department of Corrections have lost their job as a consequence of 17 inappropriate relationships, about which the Minister spoke in his amended answer to Parliament today; and does he think that the Mâori people have sunk so low that they need the help when it comes to the penal policy of some Hungarian immigrant?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Of the number that I raised before, one was formally dismissed. I am not certain about the last part of the question.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister making a decision to shut off the private management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison before conducting a review because it is run by a multinational, as the Greens believe; if so, will his Government also reject the views and work of other multinationals, such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations, Greenpeace, and the Red Cross?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I say again, the review will be conducted prior to the change of management, not after. It is just a matter of policy and principle that the role of locking up people and taking away their freedom is the role of the Government. That is what the legislation will do.
Nandor Tanczos: I seek leave to make a personal explanation to the House as a result of the comments made by Mr Peters.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to make a personal explanation. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I considered raising a point of order at the time, but I thought that if the Green Party did not object, then why should I. People can be members of Parliament only if they are New Zealand citizens. Every MP is an “honourable member”. I think it is deplorable that we are now setting the standard whereby a member can get up in a question and question another member’s right to be in this House, and to make representations, on the basis of his or her nationality—and I am making no derogatory remarks about someone being part-Hungarian, or whatever. What I am saying is that members should be addressed as honourable members, and I really think that you, Mr Speaker, should have pulled Mr Peters up at the time. Now Mr Peters does not allow a personal explanation. I think you should ask Mr Peters to withdraw those comments.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If you have the advantage of hearing the tape and reading the Hansard, Mr Speaker, you will know that Mr Prebble’s protest is totally meaningless and is based on fiction. I said nothing of the sort in respect of any member of Parliament. However, if some member decides the glove might fit, then so be it. But I did not—[Interruption] The Hansard will not show anything of the sort, and he is required to address the Hansard.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member a specific question. In his remarks did he refer to any member of Parliament sitting here?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, I did.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened, and I too heard the remarks, although I did not quite catch them. However, I could see they were not very flattering, and I very nearly raised the matter. The member did not raise an objection at the time, and Mr Prebble is perfectly correct in the point he made. But objection having been raised—leave having been denied to make a personal explanation—I now ask Mr Peters to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to know when it has become part of the Standing Orders that you have the right to pry into someone’s mind as to what he was thinking when he made a comment, although his words did not specify, in any way or in any clarity, a personality involved in what he may have said, and then demand in this House that he speak his mind on what is a private matter. That surely is not part of the Standing Orders, or of any constitutional precedent. I understand that silence in this business is not to consent in the way you sought me to do so. I have told you what the truth was, because it is part of my private feelings on the matter. The fact of the matter is—if you want to know what I mean—I get slightly upset when the “great white hope of the Mâori people” happens to be somebody whose policies, in my view, are the direct enemy of the Mâori people, and that is why I said what I did in that way. But I did not specify in my Hansard whom I was talking about; neither could I have said anything on which Mr Prebble could base a point of order, and that is a fact. Now you are asking me to impart to the House what I was thinking privately, and that surely cannot be what democracy is about in the 21st century.
Hon Richard Prebble: I am not quite sure if I am the “great white hope of the Mâori people”. I would like to think so. Speakers, in the whole time I have been in the House, have, when hearing remarks regarding someone outside the House—if they are made under members’ free speech and they have been asked whether they were referring to a member of this House—will not pull members up on it. We all heard—not just you, Mr Speaker. So I strongly support your right to make that statement of Mr Peters, because if he was not referring to anyone outside the House, then my objection would be overruled, but if he was, he is required to withdraw and apologise. I say to Mr Peters, through you, that I think it would be a good idea for him to stop, before he makes matters even worse for himself.
Mr SPEAKER: I am going to rule on this matter. I want to thank Mr Prebble for saying almost precisely what I would have said. Ever since I have been in this House a Speaker has been perfectly entitled to ask that question, and I have heard former Speakers many times do what I have often done myself. The point Mr Prebble made is exactly correct.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to make it clear that I in no way take offence at being called Hungarian, or at my South African ancestry being declared, because I am extremely proud of both. But I agree with Mr Prebble’s point, that my right to contribute was being questioned on the basis of my ethnicity.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and I think the member knows that.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I tell Mr Mark that this had better be a point of order.
Ron Mark: Here is a second point of order. What right do you have, before I even open my mouth, to issue me with a censorship?
Mr SPEAKER: Please give the point of order, or the member will leave.
Ron Mark: The point of order is this. Given that New Zealand First has a member in its caucus who is, and can be, described as a pommie immigrant, and given that there is a member in this House who could be described as an Australian immigrant, when do we suddenly take a negative inference at a person being described as a Hungarian immigrant, a pommie immigrant, or an Australian immigrant? Where precisely in the Standing Orders does it state that the joining of those two words is an offence and should be taken offence at, and that a member who says those words should be held to censure? I did not hear anything in the drivel I heard on my left that justifies that.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is wrong. I tell him quite specifically that members in this House should be referred to as members or honourable members. I do not care what a member’s ancestry is; that is his or her business. All members in this Parliament are properly elected, because they are on an electoral roll and they are New Zealanders. That is where the matter ends.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How is it that you could find an offence in a reference to someone’s ancestry, of which the member has just told us he is proud? If he is proud about it, and he is not in any way offended about it, why on earth are we wasting the time of the House?
Mr SPEAKER: I was not wasting the time of the House; I think others were. People are entitled to be very proud of their ancestry, and I hope they are. However, that is it—when we are having question time, let us get on with the questions.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was going to ask whether you were going to throw out those people who spoke during the point of order; but I guess that is asking a bit too much. My point of order is this: when I was denied an opportunity to make a personal explanation in this House not too long ago, why did I not receive the same degree of defence that seems to be apparent here today? Can you answer me that, Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and the member knows it.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take that as a personal reflection. To the best of my knowledge, I have never denied any member, ever, the right to make a personal explanation.
Marc Alexander: Why is the Minister bothering to conduct a review of the Auckland Central Remand Prison when he has already predetermined a decision, when we already know that the prison has consistently surpassed the required standards of the number of assaults, drug tests, and complaints in monthly audits, is cheaper to run that a State prison, and has received performance bonuses for every quarter since it opened, yet under public management we have witnessed the disgrace of suicides, sexual liaisons between guards and inmates, and the infamous “goon squad”, as well?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because if there are good things going on there, we should make sure they continue.
Ron Mark: Is it not already clear to the Minister that the selection processes that the management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison use to identify people who are suitable for service in prisons must be far superior to those selection processes used by the State’s Department of Corrections; if not, we would not have the 17 cases of inappropriate relationships that he refers to, and if it is clear to him that the selection processes are more superior, will he not consider transferring some of those people who manage the Auckland Central Remand Prison into the Department of Corrections to manage the department and replace some of those who currently do?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The selection process is one of the things that will be looked into. If there are things to learn from that, then, yes, they will be transferred across.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister explain in detail exactly in what respects the private management of Auckland Central Remand Prison is failing the terms of its contract; if not, what is the harm in rolling over this contract for another 2 years; or is this a sop to ideology and to the Greens?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may answer two.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Hopefully for the final time, I will try to explain to the member that this is not about the management; it is about a question of principle, which says that people who are locked up should be the responsibility of the Government, not of the private sector.
Tertiary Education Organisations—Standards
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Is he satisfied that all courses provided by New Zealand tertiary education institutions are of an acceptable standard; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): In general, yes. All formal provision in tertiary education institutions is subject to external quality assurance from a range of quality assurance bodies, including the Committee on University Academic Programmes, the New Zealand Polytechnic Programmes Committee, the Colleges of Education Accreditation Committee, and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. This cannot ensure that every course is perfect all the time, but if there are failings, we move on them immediately. I have publicly stated my concern that not all the growth in non-formal community education is of the highest standard, or well aligned with the tertiary education strategy. That is why we have capped community education funding.
Dr Don Brash: Does he agree with the view expressed last year by Mr John Tamihere that some courses offered by wânanga were “pitched to a whole bunch of people sitting on their backsides watching Oprah Winfrey, hoping something will come around the corner”, and can he tell the House how courses like those described by his colleague are of benefit to Mâori?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I support my colleague Mr John Tamihere in his relentless pursuit of excellence on behalf of Mâori students throughout this country. Can I say that the one thing John Tamihere does not need is help from someone like Don Brash.
Lynne Pillay: What reports has he seen recently on the quality of tertiary education provision?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen one report that gives the impression that Mâori tertiary education participation growth has been predominantly in “scandalously second-rate courses that offer a fake education.” I want to tell the person who said that, that according to Ministry of Education statistics, Mâori participation in tertiary education doubled from 1999 to 2003. All of those students were enrolled in formal tertiary education, quality assured programmes through the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. I should also say that postgraduate enrolments went up 19 percent during that time. In 2002, Mâori gained almost 20 percent of all formal qualifications provided.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to this very, very serious subject and its interest to politicians over a long period of time, is he prepared to table before the House, as evidence of the belief, commitment, and credence in respect of Mâori education of the leader of the National Party, all letters, all advice, all counsel, and all communication that he personally has received from Dr Brash on this issue?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can do that immediately, because there are none.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Minister tell the House how courses such as twilight golf, aromatherapy, radio singalong, cool IT, Mâori sayings and slang, and Mâori nautical studies—as offered by institutions, including Tairâwhiti Polytechnic and the Eastern Institute of Technology—are likely to equip Mâori with the skills required to acquire high-paying jobs?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am glad the member asked that question. There are many courses. Let me just take one of them to tell the member what it is about. The course he talks about in terms of learning te reo through singing is a course that began in 1999. It involves 40 hours of teaching—10 half-hour lessons a week for 8 weeks. It was funded at the rate of $318.12 per enrolment in 2003. The polytech has advised the Tertiary Education Commission that it received almost 800 course evaluations and other forms of student feedback, and that they were all positive. These courses are very short in nature, and therefore they do not have a formal qualification at the end of them. The National Party knows this, and it is its constant attempt to try to exploit this issue for its race agenda that is causing it so many problems.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In relation to that question, I think the final part of that answer was unacceptable, and I think you should have pulled the Minister up for that. But can I just say that perhaps the Minister might like to clarify his position by telling us what language was used in those evaluations.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has not raised a point of order. [Interruption] The first part was out of order.
Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: The comment was made. I think the member used the phrase “race agenda”. That particular phrase is out of order, and I ask the member to withdraw and apologise for it.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. Would it be possible to use the term “race-based agenda”, as that terminology has been used frequently in the House by members opposite?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports from the leader of the National Party that would give one some confidence in the level of commitment and understanding in respect of Mâori education, given that it was the National Party that set up wânanga-based education and funded it?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No. I have not seen one single policy statement from the National Party on anything to do with tertiary education.
3. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the success of Kiwibank?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I have seen a number of reports on the outstanding success of Kiwibank. Yesterday Kiwibank opened its 300th branch in south Auckland. Over a quarter of a million Kiwis choose to bank with Kiwibank, amongst them some of the most prominent citizens in this country, and it is now the largest retail banking network in New Zealand.
Clayton Cosgrove: Are there any risks to the future of Kiwibank?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As long as I am alive, there are not. Kiwibank is flourishing in the face of competition from very much larger-funded, Australian-owned banks. The only risk I can espy is a very small one—the possibility of a change of Government—since the leader the Leader of the Opposition has said that he would sell Kiwibank and leave us without a nationwide, New Zealand-owned bank.
Gerry Brownlee: Can he confirm that Kiwibank’s latest 6-month loss of $1.5 million would have been considerably worse if it were not propped up to the tune of $35 million by revenue from New Zealand Post’s bill payments and red ticket sales, and how does he explain the inclusion of revenue from the bill paying service and the red ticket sales service, which have nothing to do with banking, being put on the books of Kiwibank?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot confirm that, despite the fact that that question came originally from Mr Key. What I can confirm is that Kiwibank is actually on target to make a profit next financial year and will make—[Interruption]. That indeed was the year that was the target for first making a profit when Kiwibank was set up, and it will make a profit next financial year. We will continue to put New Zealand first when it comes to the banking system.
Hon Matt Robson: The Minister has identified the successes of Kiwibank since it was introduced by Jim Anderton in 2000, as per his proposal to Cabinet. What other risks does the Minister see to Kiwibank’s services, other than the ones he has identified?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is certainly true that Kiwibank provides services for New Zealanders who do not have large wealth and incomes, but I think another threat is the kind of attitude expressed by Mr John Key when he said that the people who bank with Kiwibank have the poorest, most unprofitable, worst accounts. That kind of social condescension is the sort of thing we should not be accepting as the view of our only nationwide, New Zealand-owned bank.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a select committee transcript in which Mr Knowles, the chief executive of Kiwibank, makes it clear that without the extra agency income, Kiwibank’s losses would have been considerably worse.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that transcript. Is there any objection? There is.
Television New Zealand—Charter Funding
4. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT) to the Minister of Broadcasting: How does he justify the Government giving Television New Zealand Ltd $12 million a year in charter funding when Television New Zealand Ltd is reported to be prepared to pay twice the market rate for ABC News and the programme 20/20 just so it can wrest it off TV3?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): I should note that section 28 of the Television New Zealand Act specifically prevents me from involvement in programming matters. However, I am informed that TVNZ’s bid for the programmes is part of a legitimate business negotiation process. I am further informed that no charter funding is spent on any of the network’s major news and current affairs programmes. It might interest members in the House to know that TVNZ does three times as much news and current affairs as TV3. For example, for 1 hour on TV3, Television New Zealand does 3 hours.
Deborah Coddington: How can he justify millions of taxpayer dollars going into a State television channel whose charter duty is to “promote New Zealand culture and identity” and that less than a year ago was trying to shave $4 million off its current affairs budget by sacking staff, when hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to US television networks like ABC, and now NBC to get the Dateline programme?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We can justify the money going to Television New Zealand because it has a charter and, under that charter, we expect that it undertakes programming it would not otherwise fund. I want to also point out that Television New Zealand has recently committed itself to lifting its New Zealand programming to 50 percent of its programming, which is a major step forward for New Zealand programme makers.
Mark Peck: Can the Minister elaborate to the House why the Government provides charter funding for TVNZ?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am glad to have the chance to be a bit more specific. The charter funding is funding for programmes that explicitly would not have been funded in a purely commercial environment. The broadcaster takes its charter responsibility seriously, and is spending a lot more on local programming. More than half the programmes on Television One and a quarter of the programmes on TV2 are of a New Zealand origin, with an increase of 75 hours in the past year for children’s programming—and I know that the Greens have wanted to promote that. Furthermore, Television New Zealand uses its commercial revenue to pay for more than 80 percent of the total costs of those New Zealand productions.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: Can the Minister advise the House what in the taxpayer-funded charter allows TVNZ to contemplate such high-spending proposals, including plans for a new third channel and payments of the kind that led Mike Hosking reportedly to say: “One of the greatest ironies is that I’m indebted to Bill for giving me a cheque which means I get to stay at home and look after my kids.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There has been no business case put forward for a third channel. It is a purely hypothetical case at the present time, so there is no way I can talk about something that does not exist. In relation to people who are paid off by companies, that is obviously a matter between them and the management.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to make available to the people of this country within 1 week of today’s question—because I do not expect him to be able to answer it now—the total amount spent on programmes in all respects and in every way by Television New Zealand in the last year, and in the last 3 years, that it did not eventually run in full or did not run at all; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I cannot give that undertaking to do it in 1 week’s time, but I can give the undertaking to do it. That is because Television New Zealand is required to report in full on its expenditure, and it does so.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that it is ludicrous, and contrary to its commitment to local programming—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very serious question of this Minister. I asked him “when”, and he said “annually”. Frankly, that is not good enough for this House. The public accounts of Television New Zealand are for the public, but for Parliament a different standard is required. Surely, I am entitled to an answer more immediate than that.
Mr SPEAKER: No. That is the Minister’s answer. He addressed the question and I cannot comment on the quality of the answer. The member knows that.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree it is ludicrous, and contrary to Television New Zealand’s commitment to local programming, that last year the broadcaster dropped its flagship current affairs programme, Assignment, and sacked 14 senior current affairs staff, allegedly to save $4 million of its news and current affairs budget, and then this year paid twice the market rate, allegedly $1.3 million, to buy in Australian current affairs and news programmes?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I need to remind the House that section 28 does not allow me to comment specifically on programming, but I will say that Television New Zealand was not going through its current affairs and news programming to save money. Representatives informed me they were seeking to ensure they were spending their money as wisely as they possibly could on their programming and, in relation to their efforts to try to secure sources of news around the world for the station, they informed me that Television New Zealand is the public broadcaster and they want to ensure that New Zealanders have access to the best possible quality news and current affairs.
Marc Alexander: Will the Minister now consider transferring charter money to the contestable NZ On Air fund, rather than allowing the manifestly anti-competitive behaviour displayed by Television New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon Steve Maharey: No, I will not consider transferring the money that is paid directly from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage to Television New Zealand in return for charter programming that is carefully monitored by the ministry in the appropriate way.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why should the public not believe that this is yet another example of the Labour Government being unable to prevent a culture of extravagance—from the gross overspending on personal expenses by Television New Zealand’s former chairman, Ross Armstrong, to the payment now of double the market rate for overseas programmes just to eliminate competition from the private sector?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Television New Zealand may be a chartered company, but it is also a commercial company. This transaction, I am assured, has taken place within the normal processes of business negotiations.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister not prepared to answer a simple question, as to the cost to the public and the loss to taxpayers in terms of dividends, in respect of what programmes were purchased by Television New Zealand in the last year and in the last 3 years that were not shown in full or not shown at all; and does he think that it is a respectful way to treat Parliament when he answers by way of a retort across the House that “We will find out annually.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am sure that I would treat the honourable member with nothing other than the utmost respect, given his long time here in the House. I know that the honourable member is awaiting his opportunity to have Television New Zealand once again before his select committee, where I am sure he will canvass these issues in full with its representatives, and they will assure him that they do, at the appropriate time, disclose all of their spending, because they are required to do so. They may well do it on that day.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: I seek leave to table an article from the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 17 May 2004, which reports Mike Hosking’s indebtedness to Bill Ralston.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Civil Union Bill—Introduction
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Leader of the House: Can he advise when the Government plans to introduce the civil union bill to the House?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I expect that the bill will be introduced some time in mid-June.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Leader of the House been informed as to whether any part of the bill relating to “degrees of sexuality” is likely to affect those who are “slightly heterosexual” the same as it would affect those who are “absolutely heterosexual”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: From my knowledge of the bill, I suspect that the member was being somewhat too subtle. As I recollect, the reference is to “sexual orientation”. There may be 360 degrees, but I am aware of only two or three varieties.
Gordon Copeland: Has the Leader of the House seen any media reports or advertisements that stem from parties in this House expressing their opposition to the introduction of the civil union bill; if so, what parties were they?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: This vote—certainly, on the part of some parties—is a conscience vote. I think that is certainly true of both the National and Labour parties. No doubt there are members on both sides of that issue. Of course, we know that there are some members on both sides of the underlying issue, but we will not go into that too closely. I understand that United Future will be taking a party position opposing the bill.
Hon Richard Prebble: With regard to civil unions, would the House be correct in describing the coalition agreement between the Labour Government and United Future as a “civil union”; if so, is that the sort of thing that decent, common-sense people should support?
Larry Baldock: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to point out that the member is wrong. It was not a coalition agreement but a supply—
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. I do not think the question requires any comment, but the Minister may like to do so.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My experience of the agreement between United Future and the Labour Government is that it has been an extraordinarily civil union. I think the great regret is that some existing marriages are not a great deal more civil than they are.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Leader of the House received any reports or advice as to progress on the bill, given that concerned constituents are contacting my office about declarations from members of Parliament, such as: “I am myself absolutely heterosexual, but will support the legislation because I am entirely comfortable with two loving adults being allowed to formally contract to live together, whether they be man and woman or of the same sex.” That was signed by Don Brash, the leader of the National Party.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have to say I am extraordinarily comfortable with the Leader of the Opposition’s position on this.
6. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What reports, if any, has he received on changes to New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I have seen a number of reports. One was from the Holmes programme on Friday night, when Dr Brash acknowledged that he probably did make the comment to US senators that the nuclear propulsion ban would be “gone by lunchtime”, and admitted that to have made that comment, while telling the New Zealand public something different, would have been unwise. I have also seen a number of reported comments from a former senior diplomat, Terence O’Brien, dismissing the National Party’s so-called “Danish solution” as a red herring, and saying that it is irrelevant to New Zealand and provides no solution to the difference of opinion between New Zealand and the United States.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether you heard it, but I do not think it is appropriate to accuse the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of lying, which is what I have just heard from my right.
Mr SPEAKER: Did any member make that comment? If so, he or she will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I made the comment.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows what to do: withdraw and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I cannot.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has one—
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: The member must never say that sort of thing again. He knows that is out of order. He is a very responsible and senior member of this House, and he should know better than that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What responsibility does the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade—and you as the Speaker with responsibility for enforcing the Standing Orders—have for giving a long speech about National Party policy; surely he has no responsibility for that at all?
Mr SPEAKER: It was because he was asked what reports he had received, and that was one of the reports he had received.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I notice that you take a wider and wider interpretation of that, to the point that Ministers are now very well trained to be able to give a long diatribe about a report, and then tag on to the end of it that it was a statement by a National Party spokesperson or by its leader. If you were to look at the Hansard of that Minister’s answer, you would see it did not refer to any reports. It was simply a statement by the Minister solely in a political capacity.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I heard the member say that he had received two reports: one, I think, of the leader of the Opposition’s comment, and the other from Mr Terence O’Brien.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: In the report on Terence O’Brien’s comments, why did O’Brien argue that the Danish approach could never be a solution for New Zealand?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Terence O’Brien made a number of points. First, he said that the Danish solution offers no parallel to New Zealand because, as a member of NATO, Denmark is a member of a nuclear-based military alliance, so “nuclear-free” has never really been an accurate description of Denmark. Secondly, he said that under existing legislation most US surface ships, which are not nuclear-powered, can visit New Zealand right now. He said that it is, in fact, our policy of banning nuclear weapons that prevents US ship visits, because of the US “neither confirm nor deny” policy.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Has the Minister seen the report on comments made by the Hon Jim Sutton in May 2003 that a rethink of our nuclear-free status would be done “in the fullness of time”; if so, does the Government agree with Mr Sutton’s comment?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have seen the report that purports to quote Jim Sutton in that way. Let me say that there is nobody in this House who has any doubt about where this Government stands on this issue. Nobody, however, knows where the National Party stands on the issue, because it tells a different story to a delegation in private than it is prepared to admit to in public—and that applies to Dr Smith’s own comments at that meeting.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister went on for far too long there.
Keith Locke: Has the Minister received any reports that, by banning nuclear weapons across our land and all our harbours, our antinuclear legislation is an international model for non-proliferation; and will the Minister be advising US officials that rather than attacking our legislation they should be promoting such legislation for countries like North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Israel?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have seen a report along the lines that the member suggests. Again, it is from Terence O’Brien. He makes the comment that the world is consumed with the problem of non-proliferation, and that that makes it absurd in logic to start dismantling pieces of non-proliferation law that do exist, like New Zealand law at the present time. I agree 100 percent with Terence O’Brien’s observations on that.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister share the views of his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, who observed that there have been scores of nuclear-propelled ship visits to dozens of countries over several decades and not one adverse nuclear incident; and if he does accept that observation that there is no justification on the basis of environmental risk or public safety, what is his Government’s justification for the retention of the ban on nuclear-propelled ships?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not agree with that specific comment from Alexander Downer, because I know of four or five different examples where the seabed is littered with nuclear-propelled submarines that have never resurfaced. Where I do agree with what Alexander Downer said is that it is very frustrating when the National Party says one thing in private to him, and acts in the opposite way publicly.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer my question. He mentioned submarines lying on the seafloor, whether it was the Kursk or whatever it was, but not one of them has resulted from a nuclear propulsion incident. Could the Minister please answer the question?
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister has. He said that he does not agree with Mr Downer, and then gave an example. He was asked whether he agreed with Mr Downer. I heard the question being specifically addressed.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What would be the effect of the repeal of section 11 of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The only effect of the repeal of that section would be to allow nuclear-powered ships into New Zealand ports. There is no reason to repeal that section unless we want to allow such visits. That objective would, of course, be consistent with the desire to abrogate New Zealand’s foreign policy to overseas powers on issues such as troop deployment and climate change, as expressed recently by Simon Power and Nick Smith.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister aware of any political party in this House that favours scrapping the ban on nuclear weapons in New Zealand?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I, of course, cannot talk for any other party in this House. But I can tell Dr Brash one thing: I, along with the New Zealand public, would not trust that member’s party for one moment on either issue. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty we got into was that I probably allowed the original question. The Minister is not responsible for any other party’s policy. However, I allowed the question because I wanted to let the flow go on. The Minister responded, and there was an enormous amount of noise. In actual fact, the question was not really in order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During one of those answers the Minister clearly referred to a transcript of the notes of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade official when it came to the contribution made by one Lockwood Smith. He clearly referred to it. I am asking now, with Dr Smith’s waiver, that the Minister table the part of the transcript that relates to what Lockwood Smith said, which would seem to be at variance with what he is saying publicly.
Mr SPEAKER: I know that the Minister wants to table something, because I stopped him from doing so earlier. Perhaps he would like to take that point of order now if he wants to table something. I will take that point of order now.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The document I wish to table is a transcript of Dr Brash’s comments, which backs up entirely what I said in my principal answer. However, if Dr Lockwood Smith wished his comments at the meeting to be tabled, with his permission I would be happy to find those comments and table them.
Mr SPEAKER: That is entirely within Dr Smith’s prerogative, and no one else’s. Leave was sought to table a document that had nothing to do with that. Is there any objection to that document being tabled?
Hon Tony Ryall: What’s the transcript of?
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Brash’s comments.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The document I wish to table is a transcript of the Holmes programme on Friday night, where Dr Brash admitted that he—
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters:I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A very important issue has arisen as a result of my request for the tabling of a document by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If he has referred to an official document, I can require him to table it. The principle I want you to clarify—not now, but to think about it—is whether that principle is upset purely because the document may contain information from another member of the House that that member deems, or thinks, was given in secrecy. That may be a fact, but the reality is that the principle of disclosure because of the reference by the Minister to the document would nevertheless surely stand. I want a ruling on that. It may not be apposite now, but it will be at some time in the future.
Mr SPEAKER: It is very easy to give a ruling on that. Was the Minister quoting from an official document?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I was not.
Mr SPEAKER: That is all I wanted to hear. No, there is no requirement to table it.
7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: What percentage of offenders actually complied with their parole orders and orders for post-release conditions in the past financial year, and how many people were recalled to prison for breaching their conditions?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): The Department of Corrections annual report for 2002-03 indicates that 68 percent of offenders complied with the special conditions imposed as part of their parole order, and 62 percent complied with the conditions imposed as part of their post-release conditions order. The Parole Board recalled 231 parolees to prison to recommence serving their sentences in the 2002-03 financial year.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister understand that if his department had acted to recall William Duane Bell to prison when he breached his parole by assaulting a young woman and not living where he agreed to live, then the Returned Services Association killings would not have happened?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not going to comment specifically on that case, because I understand that it is before the court, but I will say that this Government has done a number of important things to improve the safety of New Zealanders—longer sentences, tougher parole conditions, more parole officers, better training, and now it is working on a resettlement programme that should help overall. This is a Government that has listened to the public and acted.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why, of the 826 parolees who reoffended within 12 months of their release in 2001-02, did his department seek to recall to jail only 136, or one in six parole violators?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because the vast majority serve with breach conditions and the rest are recalled.
Mahara Okeroa: What other legislative changes is the Minister promoting to protect public safety?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The paramount purpose of the corrections system, as reflected in the Corrections Bill currently before this House, is to improve public safety. One of the key initiatives included in the Supplementary Order Paper is the increased level of information sharing between the Department of Corrections and police. Increased information-sharing on highest-risk offenders will enable the Department of Corrections and police to work more closely together to monitor the compliance of offenders with the conditions of their release. I am certain all members will support this particular part of the Supplementary Order Paper.
Stephen Franks: Exactly what level of parole offending would it take to persuade the Minister to stop exposing innocent people like the Returned Services Association workers, orKylie Smith, or Kylie Jones, and so many others, to murder, and why does a one-in-four likelihood of crime on parole not stop it immediately and permanently?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot really answer the second part of that question, but the decision for parole is for the Parole Board. In fact, the Parole Board now has the paramountcy of the safety of the public. This is a new, tougher provision introduced by my colleague the Minister of Justice.
Hon Tony Ryall: How serious is the Government about parole and stopping reoffending, when, dealing with a parolee whose reoffending was so serious that the Minister’s department classified this offender as a risk to the community, it took the department 42 weeks to recall this man to prison?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Very.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table official correspondence from the Department of Corrections that shows that it took the department 42 weeks to recall a man classified as a risk to the community.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
8. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What recent reports has he received on the state of the labour market?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Last week the Government Statistician released the results of the household labour force survey for the March 2004 quarter. This shows that 193,000 more New Zealanders are employed than when the Labour-led Government took office 4 years ago, including 17,000 more in the last quarter, which is the sixth consecutive quarter of job growth. The unemployment rate is now down to 4.3 percent, the lowest since December 1987, and the fourth lowest in the OECD. Job vacancies as measured by the ANZ Job Ads series are at a near record level—9.6 percent ahead of last year—and the Department of Labour’s new job vacancy monitor confirms this increase in the number of job vacancies, as well.
Hon Mark Gosche: What reports has the Minister seen about alternative ways of getting people into employment?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen suggestions that the unemployed should queue outside post offices on a daily basis. I have seen suggestions that superannuation cannot be relied upon by people who are now under 50, so they should work forever. I have also seen suggestions of time limits on benefits. This Government, however, believes in helping people into real jobs with real wages, and 193,000 more of them in paid employment shows that those policies are working—unlike the National Party, which advanced the policies I just mentioned.
Hon Mark Gosche: What reports has the Minister seen on employment growth in the regions?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen a large number of reports on the regions in terms of job growth and low unemployment. For example, Hawke’s Bay Today tells us that unemployment has plummeted. This page shows booming job opportunities in tourism, the service sector, and building. In a town very close to Mr Power, who is trying to interject, the Manawatû Standard reports that a 21 percent drop in the jobless rate has occurred. The Taranaki Daily News reports a 19 percent drop in joblessness, and the Oamaru Mail a 34 percent drop in joblessness. For members who come from Northland, I have to say that we have seen a record drop in unemployment in that region.
Community Employment Group—Advice to Ministers
9. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is he confident that information and advice supplied to him by the Community Employment Group are correct; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): No, I have not been. Earlier this year the Community Employment Group of the Department of Labour supplied me with incorrect information to use in answers to questions for written answer. The Community Employment Group discovered that the information was incorrect while providing information to answer subsequent questions. On each occasion I have provided the member who has just asked this question with a corrected reply at the earliest opportunity. The Community Employment Group has apologised to me for providing incorrect information, and has undertaken a thorough review at management level of the files for the project grants that were the subject of the written questions. As a result of this, I am now confident that I am receiving accurate information for use in answers to written questions.
Katherine Rich: Will the Minister confirm that, as a result of poor information processes within the Community Employment Group, he has had to correct nearly 50 answers to me within 1 month, and can he explain to the House why 47 projects that were originally classified as not having met their project objectives have been miraculously redefined as perfect in the eyes of the Community Employment Group?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm the first part of the question, and I can explain the second part. I am sure the explanation will not satisfy the member, but it is this: the people who put together the answers to the original questions worked off summary information; when they went back, at the request of myself and others, to look at the information from the base data, they found the difference that has occurred.
Russell Fairbrother: What is being done to strengthen the Department of Labour’s capability to address the labour market problems of disadvantaged communities?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In the second half of last year I became concerned that the efforts of the Community Employment Group in the community employment grants funding process were spread too widely and were not sufficiently focused in addressing the labour market needs of disadvantaged communities. I therefore initiated a review and clarification of the strategic focus of the Community Employment Group. This review is currently being considered by Cabinet, and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in the very near future.
Katherine Rich: Is the Minister disturbed by reports based on information from the Community Employment Group that just 44 percent of projects last year were finished and met all their objectives, or by Audit Office concerns that the Community Employment Group’s processing procedures showed “a lack of audited accounts”, a “lack of documentation on Grant files”, and “evidence of a lack of governance documents”; if so, why can we trust the information the Minister is getting from the Community Employment Group?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am concerned whenever things are not as they should be, and I want to assure the member that the head of the Department of Labour, James Buwalda, has taken personal responsibility for ensuring that we do get the right systems in the Community Employment Group. I have already said that we have frozen funding. We have also, in addition to that, undertaken a review of this organisation, and I will guarantee it is got right. But I say to members that there would not be anybody in the House who cannot report to other members that—through something like the employment matters—they do have something in their electorate that is run by the Community Employment Group and is working very well,.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister advise whether the funding for the Community Employment Group is still being undertaken solely through Dr James Buwalda; if so, is the Minister sure the funding is meeting the original kaupapa, or objectives, of the Community Employment Group?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I can reassure the member that any grant now given by the Community Employment Group is approved by James Buwalda personally, and, yes, I can assure the member that the whole point of what we are doing with the Community Employment Group is to ensure that the organisation’s original focus is restored. It did seem to drift off base.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister give an assurance that his flagship Community Employment Organisations strategy, administered by the Community Employment Group, is not going to prove—like the hip-hop programme—to be an embarrassing waste of taxpayers’ money; if he can give that assurance, why has an organisation like Taua Mahi Trust had over $80,000 in grants and subsidies used to employ only one person, who by last December had left?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Referring to the social entrepreneur programme, I would, for example, direct the member’s attention to the programme run by Jim Moriarty as a result of his receiving that funding. It is an outstanding programme, which, I imagine, many members would have been to see personally as he passed through Parliament. That is the kind of programme run through there. In the case of the Community Employment Organisations, yes, I am reasonably pleased with the way they are going. As the member knows, they were designed to expand the labour market. We never really put as much emphasis on the Community Employment Organisations as we thought we might need to, because unemployment now is at 4.3 percent. That programme was designed to look at people who have difficulty getting into the labour market. These days, many of the places that we were going to go actually have no unemployment.
Katherine Rich: Is the Minister concerned, when we see lapses such as the incorrect assessment of those 47 projects, that the opposite may be occurring, with projects that are failing to meet their objectives being given a pass mark when in reality they are little more than a rort; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No. I am convinced now, given that I have been reassured by Mr Buwalda, that going back through the base data has given us an accurate look at those programmes.
10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: How many overstayers were in New Zealand as at 30 April 2004, and, of those, which five nationalities in descending order were the most highly represented?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): As at November 2003, which was the last time this estimate was made, the total number of overstayers in New Zealand was estimated at around 20,000. That is just an estimate. In descending order the top five nationalities are Samoa, Tonga, China, Thailand, and Great Britain. However, measuring the number of overstayers against the total number of temporary arrivals by nationality over a given period gives a more accurate picture. By this measure the top five nationalities in descending order are Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga, India, and Fiji.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is this House putting up with a bogus estimate when, in fact, his predecessor followed the same methodology of doing a survey of 800 suspected overstayers, and arrived at a figure from those results; and after all this time does he not think it would be responsible of the Government to give the House an honest answer as to the absolute and total number, based on computerised figures, then to tell us, in proportion of numbers, which of the various ethnic groups
make up the greatest proportion of the top five population overstaying groups; surely in 2004 we can expect something more respectful than what we had way back in 2001, when Smith of his department was saying that it was done on a calculation of 800 people, by way of poll and survey?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I agree with the member that the information is not satisfactory. That is one of the reasons I am reviewing the Act. I am keen to get much more accurate information, and to be able to take much more determined action to make sure that people who are unlawfully here are sent home.
Dianne Yates: What is the Government doing to reduce the number of people who are unlawfully in New Zealand?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have previously indicated that a range of issues relating to the temporary entry system will be reviewed. For example, I will be looking at ways to improve interagency cooperation in order to identify more quickly people who are here unlawfully. I am also looking at ways to make the removal process more robust.
Hon Matt Robson: Can the Minister advise where Hungarians rate on the list of overstayers?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I cannot, but they certainly do not feature in the top five.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Are the Minister and his colleagues totally ashamed that New Zealand, proportionally, even on his totally specious example, has 76 percent more overstayers per 1 million residents compared with Australia; can this difference simply be explained by Australia’s ability to promptly identify, by computer, those who did not leave by the required date, and why is he not able to carry out this simple method in New Zealand, and when will he start firing somebody to ensure that he gets some responsible performance? With the greatest respect, it is no laughing matter. I have asked this question for years, and I now find out—I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When I see a Minister and his colleagues laughing about this matter, although they claim that we have 20,000 overstayers and admit that they do not know what they are talking about—the Minister just admitted that before—surely we can expect a bit more from the Government in respect of question time, so that someone turn ups in this Chamber and responsibly answers the question?
Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked a question. Of course the Minister has to answer it responsibly.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I think it is fair to say that members are not happy but not ashamed. If I went around firing people, the Minister of Labour would have something to say about that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table an article from the Dominion Post of 5 May 2001 that sets out the totally specious way in which this Government is conducting its investigation into overstayers, compared with Australia.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Tertiary Education Commission—Consultation
11. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Is he satisfied with the progress of the Tertiary Education Commission in its consultations with the tertiary education sector and associated agencies; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): In general, yes. For instance, consultation on profile guidelines and profile reporting and monitoring is complete, and all issues identified during the consultation process have been resolved. That has led to a tailored approach based on business cycles of different types of tertiary education organisations. The Performance-based Research Fund consultation process was a valued one and, of course, as the member will know, is supported right throughout the entire sector. Just last week the Tertiary Education Commission released a significant report for public consultation, which is The Distinctive Contributions of Tertiary Education Organisations.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with Blake Shepherd of the Ministry of Economic Development, in an email dated 3 March 2004, when referring to the Landscape document, now called The Distinctive Contributions of Tertiary Education Organisations: a Tertiary Education Commission Consultation Paper—when he described it as “essentially we are worried that TEC is forwarding some ideas that are ill-considered, and this will put the integrity of the TEC and the wider tertiary sector at risk.”; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The toing and froing of emails is something that I see, and I am familiar with Mr Shepherd’s comments on the Landscape paper. The role of the Ministry of Education versus the Tertiary Education Commission and other agencies is, of course, to comment on each other’s papers. I encourage a free and open debate. That free and open debate resulted in the change of what was then called the Landscape paper to the current paper, and that is the appropriate thing for public servants to do.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: How does the current approach to consulting the sector differ from previous approaches?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It differs dramatically. In the 1990s there was no intermediary body between the Government and the tertiary sector, despite the fact there were frequent calls for a Tertiary Education Commission. Instead, students saw an environment without consultation. Their fees went up automatically, it seemed, at an average of 14 percent per year, and it led to people giving feedback to the Government such as the Universal College of Learning comments on white papers that said they were driven by an ideology of relentless pursuit of competition. Northland noted that uncertainty for the whole polytechnic sector was a result of the Government’s tertiary review at that time. Southland said they were constrained by ever-increasing bureaucratic demands, and, of course, no one in the then National Government ever talked to anybody.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with Te Puni Kôkiri and its comments that the Landscape document has a section that “also comes across as social engineering in nature. The impression it gives is that students should be studying what TEC thinks they should be studying.”; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am breathless with concern. I say to the member that I encourage the Tertiary Education Commission, which is an intermediary body, to release its information to all kinds of people. It receives all kinds of feedback. I am very happy that the end result of all that consultation is a very lively and demanding paper around differentiation in the sector—exactly as it should be.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with Nick Montague from the Ministry of Education, who describes the document in an email dated 12 February 2004: “Overall the paper still does not give a clear sense of what the TEC is going to do with this document and how they will consult, or what the process is for this.”, and: “The tertiary education system is complex and the application of simplistic rules from the centre is unlikely to deliver the desired results or will prove too slow.”; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Once again, I say that this debate is one that has resulted in a paper that, from what I understand, has not had one single bad piece of feedback. People are very keen to see what this paper has to say. So I encourage open debate by all these people—unlike Mr Simon Power, who I guess if he were in place would just do what the Americans told him to do.
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the Minister could set aside some time to teach the rest of us how to lead a life of blameless excellence.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not know how that is a point of order, and the member knows it.
Simon Power: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is advice from the Minister for Economic Development on the Tertiary Education Commission landscape document.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Simon Power: The second is advice from Te Puni Kôkiri, criticising the Tertiary Education Commission landscape document.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Simon Power: Lastly is the document from the Ministry of Education, commenting on the Tertiary Education Commission landscape document.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Transgenic Sheep—Environment, Whakamaru Farm
12. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Has any assessment been undertaken of the environmental effects on the soil at the Whakamaru farm that held more than 2,000 transgenic sheep since those sheep were slaughtered; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister for the Environment), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: No, the field trial met all the conditions imposed by the Environmental Risk Management Authority, and the risk assessment carried out did not identify any risks to the soil, either before or following the trial.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why has there been no monitoring for horizontal gene transfer, either through soil bacteria or insect parasites, when such monitoring has been required for AgResearch’s much smaller GE cow trials, and is the Government not interested in improving our scientific knowledge in this field?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Can I repeat and stress to the member that controls are imposed by the Environmental Risk Management Authority to manage identified risks. As no risks were identified, no controls were necessary.
Sue Kedgley: Can she confirm that the Whakamaru PPL Therapeutics site was a containment facility for the largest field trial of GE animals in New Zealand, involving over 3,000 transgenic sheep; if so, how is it possible that the Environmental Risk Management Authority did not impose any specific post-trial conditions and monitoring of the containment facility for the survival and transmission of DNA, and then allowed the containment facility to be signed off and given a clean bill of health before any post-trial monitoring and assessment had taken place?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard the member in her question refer to transgender sheep. I assume she misread the question. I am not aware that there have been horizontal gene transfers from certain other persons.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the member may restate—
Sue Kedgley: I did no such thing; I referred to transgenic sheep. That was very witty, but it is not true.
Mr SPEAKER: As the member has corrected that, I will ask the Minister to reply.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Environmental Risk Management Authority was satisfied that the containment regime at that site and the other controls that were imposed would adequately contain the organism involved in the trial. Those controls at the time included keeping the sheep in containment facilities approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, disposal of all waste milk on site, the incineration of the sheep and any biological material, and the individual tagging of sheep and implanting of microchips for identification, as well as the exclusion of other organisms from the containment facility. I can confirm that the destruction of that material and its burial was completed on 5 March 2004, in the presence of a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry biosecurity inspector. The Environmental Risk Management Authority’s risk assessment identifies no further risks attached to the site.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why did the Government not require autopsies of the destroyed sheep, to investigate any unintended effects of GE, as recommended by a number of scientists; and is that not another example of how the Government does not want to look, in case it finds them?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am advised that autopsies of the sheep were carried out.
End of Questions for Oral Answer