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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 20 May 2004

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

Thursday, 20 May 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1 Justice—Double Jeopardy Rule
2 Taxation—Company Tax
3 Traffic Congestion, Auckland—Auckland City Council
4 Tertiary Education Commission—Objectives
5 Transport Infrastructure—Ministerial Confidence
6 Electricity—Infrastructure Audit
7 Courts—Workload
8 Glenelg Children's Health Camp—Children’s Medical Examinations
9 Prisons—Ministerial Confidence
10 Domestic Violence—Home Detention
Question No. 5 to Minister
11 Maritime Safety Authority—Coastline
12 Prisons—Corrections, Department

Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

Justice—Double Jeopardy Rule

1. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki): to the Minister of Justice: What changes are being proposed to the rule of double jeopardy and why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The Government is proposing two limited exceptions to the rule of double jeopardy. Firstly, a retrial will be allowed where it is found that an acquittal at the original trial was tainted by the accused perverting the course of justice. Secondly, in very serious cases there may be a retrial when fresh and compelling evidence comes to light that strongly suggests that an acquitted person was in fact guilty. These changes will appropriately balance the general principle of double jeopardy with the principle that the victim and the public have the right to see justice done.

Darren Hughes: What safeguards are proposed for the new “fresh and compelling evidence” exception that he is proposing?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are a number of safeguards. Firstly, the exception applies only to the most serious crimes—that is, those crimes where the maximum penalty is up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Secondly, the evidence must be new and unable to have been discovered at the time by due diligence in the original investigation. In other words, poor police work will not be enough to reopen the case. Thirdly, the evidence must be compelling—that is, highly suggestive that the acquitted person is in fact guilty. Finally, the reinvestigation by the police must first be approved by the Solicitor-General on the basis that it is in the interests of justice, and the retrial can take place only with the agreement of the Court of Appeal; again, if the retrial is judged by the Court of Appeal to be in the interests of justice.

Richard Worth: Does the Minister agree with the statement made by Victoria University criminology lecturer Trevor Bradley that: “I don’t think it’s too cynical or sceptical to say that the political impact is one of the motivating factors for the change”; if not, would the Minister name one New Zealand case in, say, the last 10 years that would fit the Minister’s so-called second exception—because there are none?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not disagree with that particular statement made by the university academic whom the member named, but the academic made another statement, in which he said: “We seem to be living in the era of the victim, and protecting the victim.” I agree 100 percent with that statement.

Nandor Tanczos: How does the Minister propose to deal with and protect against the perverse incentive this may provide to fabricate new evidence when a conviction fails, given that we have some highly publicised cases of police planting evidence, such as the Arthur Allan Thomas case?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It can never be ruled out that evidence could be planted, but the member has mentioned the exception, fortunately, rather than the norm in New Zealand. We have every reason to have confidence in the integrity of the police, but for the police to fabricate evidence is to pervert the course of justice. That is a serious offence, and the full weight of the law would come down on any such person who tried to do what the member has suggested.

Murray Smith: Does he intend to compensate people who, having been found innocent a second time because the so-called new and compelling evidence does not stack up, and who, many years later, had to again suffer the stress and anguish of a lengthy trial, a huge legal bill to defend themselves, and renewed public humiliation; or is he suggesting that the Solicitor-General and the Court of Appeal are quite capable of reliably determining a person’s guilt without the inconvenience of subjecting the evidence to the rigours of a defended hearing?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am confident that the protections that are built in and that have been advised to the House will prevent such a case from happening. In terms of compensation, compensation is available to those who have been wrongly convicted and who serve a term of imprisonment. Inevitably, quite a percentage of people face trial and are acquitted. Those people may be eligible for compensation for court costs. Right now, they are not automatically eligible for any other compensation.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To avoid saying whether there is truth in the academic’s comments—that this is pure political window-dressing—can the Minister advise what percentage of perjury cases known to the police have the police failed to prosecute in, say, the last 10 years?

Hon PHIL GOFF: In terms of perjury cases, there is a very clear case involving a man by the name of Kevin Moore in New Plymouth, a gang leader, who murdered somebody and then had a witness give false testimony as to where he was at the time of the murder. That came to light. He was convicted of an administrative crime, and he is serving 7 years for that. But, of course, he should be serving life for murder, because that is what he was guilty of. Because of double jeopardy, that man can never be brought to trial for the crime he committed.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was all very illuminating, except that it did not answer the question. In last 10 years, what percentage of perjury cases known to the police have the police failed to prosecute?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Obviously, I do not have that figure at my fingertips, but I can say that I would expect the police always to prosecute where they are aware that perjury has been committed.

Taxation—Company Tax

2. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Does he recall telling the Asia Society in Hong Kong that the Government would reduce the 33c company tax rate when “fiscal conditions permit”; if so, how many billions does the surplus need to be before “fiscal conditions permit” the desired company tax cut?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes. However, Budget forecasts will show that the Government anticipates running only a very small cash surplus this year.

Judith Collins: Oh!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sorry to let the member down about that! Although gross debt to gross domestic product is projected to continue to reduce slowly, nominal debt will actually rise, requiring a modest borrowing programme over the next 3 years.

Hon Richard Prebble: When the Minister was quoted as saying that the Government plans to lower the 33c in the dollar tax rate on business when the country’s coffers are healthy enough, did he also take into account that, according to Treasury, it would cost only $420 million to reduce the company tax rate from 33c to 30c in the dollar; and is it not a fact that he could do that, except that he wants to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars to social welfare beneficiaries?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Apart from the fact that the member typically misquoted what I actually said in the speech, which is not unanticipated from the member, in fact the member’s figures, I think, are a little under the estimate. In any case, there are higher priorities for that. I emphasise that the Budget will show not billions of dollars of spare cash hanging around but, in fact, a modest borrowing programme for the coming 3 years.

Hon Richard Prebble: The Minister has claimed that I misquoted his press statement. I seek the leave of the House to table a press statement from the New Zealand Herald of 13 April, which I think will show that I quoted him absolutely accurately.

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

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I seek leave to table the actual speech, which shows exactly what I said.

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

Clayton Cosgrove: Is the corporate tax rate in New Zealand high, by international standards?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, at 33 percent it is just 0.7 percent above the OECD average. But New Zealand has a clean tax system, by international comparison.

There are no major payroll taxes and no overall capital gains tax ,and of course there is an imputation system, so the total tax impost on companies is likely to be significantly lower than in many overseas jurisdictions, including Australia.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister aware that since Labour became the Government, more than two-thirds of all OECD countries have lowered their company tax rate by an average of more than 5 percent, and why does he think they have done that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Well, some have had right-wing Governments.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the Minister’s comment that the accounts will be in such a parlous state that he will begin a nominal borrowing programme over the next 3 years, is this a case of a former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance’s words coming back to him, when he said: “They can’t promise anything because I’ve spent it all.”? Does he recall the aftermath of that, when the next election turned up in 1972?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That particular Prime Minister was running, I think, an 8 percent of GDP cash deficit in his last year as Minister of Finance. We will be running 7 percent, according to Mr Jones.

I think the member will find it is 7 percent on an accruals basis when recalculated, which is an 8 percent cash deficit of GDP. We will be running a very small deficit, much of which will be used to finance such things as, for example, student loan advances, which are an asset in terms of net debt.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Why should New Zealanders not believe that the real reason he cannot reduce company tax is that it is all going into his welfare Budget next week?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is going to be terribly disappointed next week when he finds out how much is going to families who are in employment, as opposed to those who are on welfare benefits.

Heather Roy: Is the Minister aware of the January 2004 KPMG survey that said of New Zealand: “The company tax rate of 33c in the dollar is above the average for the OECD for Asia-Pacific countries, and even for Europe.”, and that the KPMG survey has recorded a steady decline in average corporate tax rates across the OECD in recent years from just under 37 percent in 1997 to 30 percent now, and will he act to address New Zealand’s high company tax rate in next week’s Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There were two parts to the question, and the answers are yes and no, for a very simple reason. New Zealand has no substantial payroll tax, unlike Australia. It has no general capital gains tax, unlike Australia. It has an imputation system on dividends, unlike the United States. In fact, if the member cares to look at other developed countries she will find New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of tax in total on the corporate sector, as a proportion of GDP. Even corporate tax in New Zealand, as a proportion of GDP, is lower than in Australia.

Heather Roy: I seek the leave of the House to table the KPMG corporate tax rate survey of January 2004.

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

Traffic Congestion, Auckland—Auckland City Council

3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: Has she received any reports on Auckland City Council proposals that would increase traffic congestion in Auckland?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues): I have received a copy of a report from Transit New Zealand discussing the potential impact on the transport network around Auckland City’s proposal to hold a V8 supercar race around Victoria Park and other Auckland City streets, starting in 2006.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does she believe that Auckland City Council’s proposals are consistent with Government policy to reduce traffic congestion, improve energy efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and play our part in combating global climate change?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Government’s negotiations with Auckland have resulted in a package that will see over $297 million annual investment over the next 10 years, which will go into public transport, roading progress, and roading connections. That will make a real difference to Auckland’s congestion problems. If this race goes ahead, it will be expected to take about a week. While it will contribute to Auckland’s economic well-being, I do not think it will necessarily improve congestion problems, but it will not be a long-term problem.

H V Ross Robertson: What is the Government doing for passenger transport in Auckland?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: As I have already said, this Government has committed over $297 million on average, each year, for the next 10 years. We believe that passenger transport, which will be a key component of the solution, will be funded out of that. We are looking at building the North Shore busway, improving bus transport, ferries, and trains, along with improving road connections and building more roads. That will make a real difference to Auckland.

Dail Jones: Is not the Minister’s answer yet another example of her failure to do anything for Auckland, which is really based on doing too little, far too late?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: That, from a member of a Government that cancelled Auckland’s rail project in 1976, is a little rich. This Government will see good public transport and roads built, which were cancelled in 1976.

Paul Adams: Does the Minister agree that a high-profile, central city street race in Auckland would produce enormous benefits to Auckland City, such as increased revenue, employment, and prestige, and if the current circuit is shown to have an adverse effect on traffic flows, would she be supportive of an alternative route that would achieve the same benefits while mitigating the impact of traffic congestion?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: This race is estimated to bring economic benefits of over $40 million, and in Australia attracts between 140,000 and 300,000 spectators, but whether it is of benefit is a matter for the Auckland City Council. The council will have to apply for a consent, and it has assured me that it will bring in independent commissioners to consider the consent process. If necessary, it can go to the Environment Court. All of those issues will be, and should properly be, considered by the Auckland City Council.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does she see any irony in the Government being asked for billions of dollars of special funding for the eastern highway one week, and the next week the same council giving millions in interest-free loans to create a 3-week traffic jam?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: This Government has made no commitment to the eastern corridor highway. We have made a real commitment to public transport and roading projects, which will address Auckland’s congestion problems. Special events in Auckland—such as the Santa parade, the America’s Cup, or APEC—have been managed perfectly well in the past, and I am sure will be again in future, if this race gets consents.

Hon Steve Maharey: On behalf of myself and the member for Rangitikei, would this V8 race not be better located in the Manawatu region, where we would host it well, look after it, and it would cause no trouble to traffic?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I understand from the promoters of this race that they are in active negotiations with the good people of Manawatu and Rangitikei. I am sure they could also run a very good race, which could be an addition to the Auckland one.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister advocating that we should have V8 races in every New Zealand town?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: As a resident of the inner-city and MP for Auckland Central, I would perhaps have a different view, but petrolheads may get their way for a week a year, over the next few years.

Tertiary Education Commission—Objectives

4. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Has the Tertiary Education Commission achieved his objective of ensuring “we have a cohesive and innovative system that encourages learning and uses resources strategically” and creating “a tertiary education system with a greater sense of connection to important national goals”; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): If the member had quoted fully the statement I made at the launch of the Tertiary Education Commission, he would know that “our plans for achieving these vital goals are all set out in the tertiary education strategy, which provides a clear picture of what the sector needs to achieve over the next 5 years”. The Tertiary Education Commission has been in existence for 16 months, and I am pleased with its progress.

Simon Power: How can a course, such as Cool IT, which received $15.3 million in funding, be seen to encourage learning, when the acting chief executive officer of the polytechnic running the course said she had “no idea” how many people had finished the programme, and that “there was no assessment, so there was no reason for them to get back to us.”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: To be fair to the acting chief executive officer of the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, what she actually said was that there were four levels to the Cool IT programme, and until they were finished, the polytechnic would not know how many people had completed that programme. I say to the member opposite that the profile the polytechnic is currently negotiating with the Tertiary Education Commission means that in future its funding will be accorded to those courses that the commission funds. In the 1990s, under the “bums on seats” approach run by the National Party Government, that could not have happened. Now it can.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Given that the Tertiary Education Commission has been in existence for only 16 months, what has it achieved during that time?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Let me just give 20 examples. It has successfully established a complex organisation. It has negotiated 500 tertiary education charters. It has established the Performance-based Research Fund. It has allocated funding to private training establishments on a strategic basis. It has allocated a 19 percent increase in industry trainees, including the Modern Apprenticeships programme. It has allocated funding for the Partnerships for Excellence programme. It has overseen the roll-out of the Gateway programme—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Well, they want to know. That was just a little of what the commission has done.

Simon Power: Will the Tertiary Education Commission’s financial review of the Cool IT programme be performed by one of its 324 employees, or will it be performed instead by a consultant or contractor, like one of those on whom the commission spent $6.8 million last year, and why is it that only after sustained investigation by Opposition members, that the commission has decided to review this course at all? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The comment was made after the question was asked, but there are to be no interjections while questions are being asked. I warn Government members.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Tertiary Education Commission will undertake this review through its normal staffing. I say to the member opposite that establishing an organisation like this over the last 16 months—a large intermediate body that is common in many countries that run tertiary systems like our own—will, of course, mean that it hires contractors who later move on. As the member well knows from the questions he has asked, most of those staff are inherited from Skill New Zealand, the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit, and the Ministry of Education.

Simon Power: Does the Minister believe that national goals will be enhanced by the Eastern Institute of Technology course in food and wine matching done by correspondence from “the comfort of your own home” as part of the Correspondence Certificate in Wine advertised as “educate your palate”; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do. The reason is that if, for example, one were the Minister of Finance, one would know that one was living in one of the regions of the country that has identified food and wine as one of its centres of excellence. Can I say to the member opposite that correspondence teaching is essentially what the university in his own area is a specialist in—extramural teaching in a wide range of courses is exactly what it does. I know he is getting up and down very quickly, but he is overheated about nothing.

Simon Power: Why should the Tertiary Education Commission be trusted to fix any of these problems when it has bungled or missed deadlines on so many of its tasks already, including the Performance-based Research Fund, the landscapes document, and the much-awaited charters and profiles report?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It has not bungled the Performance-based Research Fund; that is regarded as one of the stand-out pieces of policy by the sector itself. It has not bungled the landscapes paper; it has just released the differentiation paper to the applause of the sector. I know that the member on the Opposition benches likes to criticise this organisation, but once again I say to him that every system in the world that runs a strategically focused tertiary education system has an intermediate body like this. That is his problem—this is the future of tertiary education.

Transport Infrastructure—Ministerial Confidence

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Is he satisfied with the transport infrastructure in New Zealand?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): No, that is why the Government is spending billions of dollars to improve it after years of neglect by the Tories.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Labour Party on 20 July 1993 agreed with the sale of New Zealand Rail, why is it that, having raised on 6 March the serious issue of brake parts falling off the New Zealand Tranz Rail trains and his predecessor’s assurance that this was a once-in-30-years event on which he had conducted an investigation—

Hon Paul Swain: No, I didn’t.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes he did. What has happened to the investigation and what are its findings?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret I do not have that information with me.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To help the Minister I want to table right now the Hansard of 6 March, so that he can be informed as to what his predecessor said.

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

Hon Mark Gosche: What plans does the Government have to fix the problems caused by the privatisation and neglect of the rail network?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government is committed to spending $200 million over the next 5 years to upgrade the track network, which we expect, courtesy of the negotiations of my colleague the Minister of Finance, to own very soon.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Is the Minister concerned about the finding of the infrastructure audit released yesterday—that the Resource Management Act is resulting in delays of 10 years between road project conception and commencement, and that this has had a particularly negative effect on Auckland—if so, what action will he recommend to amend the Resource Management Act?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Resource Management Act has been put under review, partly as a result of that infrastructure report—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, 4 years late.

Hon PETE HODGSON: —and, as members want to talk about the Resource Management Act, I point out that we will see useful changes to improve the efficiency of that Act. However, since that report was written my colleague the Minister for the Environment advises me that waiting times for Environment Court business have been reduced magnificently.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister regard it as a serious matter that brake shoes are falling off New Zealand’s trains all over the place—[Interruption]; obviously the clown who preceded him does not—and given that when a member of the public tried to bring this to Tranz Rail’s attention, it threatened him with a trespass order, and that there has been an inquiry, the results of which we do not know, when will he start regarding this as a very serious matter that could endanger the public safety of New Zealanders?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member seems to be unaware that the Government in its term of office has not only carried out an inquiry into rail safety but has responded to it with legislation, which currently sits before a select committee and will be reported back to this House presently.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: In view of the Minister’s concern about the state of the rail infrastructure, is he also concerned that Transfund has systematically unspent its alternatives to roading funds; and is it not time that the funding system caught up with the new Land Transport Management Act?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, and yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister thinks that the matter has been properly investigated, why are members of the public finding brake shoes all over this country—in this case, within 200 metres of the scene that led to the last complaint made to his predecessor, Mr Swain, who said he would do something about it—and when will he stop regarding this as a laughing matter and start taking New Zealand public safety seriously? I have four sets of brake shoes here—all found within 200 metres of the place brake shoes were discovered the last time.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Rail safety is a very important issue, and it has been under considerable inquiry in this country and in quite a few others. I say to the member that legislation is going through the select committee process now, and I think the member will find that it will address his concerns adequately.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table these four sets of brake shoes, and I hope they do not fall on his head.

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

Electricity—Infrastructure Audit

6. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Energy: Does he believe the infrastructure audit carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers accurately states the issues facing the electricity sector in New Zealand at present; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): No, I do not, but it did accurately state the issues facing the sector when it was written.

Hon Roger Sowry: Why has the Government not moved to clarify the situation with regard to carbon taxes, given the findings of the infrastructure audit report, which states: “Their failure to do so has resulted in electricity generators holding back decisions on new generation.”?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The uncertainty over the future of the world price of carbon was substantially managed 2 years ago when the Government decided to put a ceiling on the price in the New Zealand economy of $25 per tonne of carbon dioxide over the first commitment period. If the member thinks we should have more certainty, was he expecting a floor, as well?

Mark Peck: What other reports has the Minister seen about issues facing the electricity sector?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen many, many reports, including some particularly interesting ones suggesting that the changes made by the National Government in the 1990s were a mistake. Those suggestions came from the National member for Rakâia, Brian Connell.

Brent Catchpole: Is the Minister dissatisfied with the infrastructure audit report because it fails to take into account the fact that reserves of hydro storage would last only 6 weeks, and that the storage is not being properly monitored?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am satisfied with the report. I think it is a very good report. It is out of date already, and the 6-week storage reserve of our New Zealand hydro has been known to most New Zealanders for many decades.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister believe that the audit report’s failure to mention the domestic sector—which uses a third of all electricity—at all, and its failure to mention the very significant neglected opportunities for energy efficiency across all demand sectors, are an accurate reflection of the issues facing us?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member is absolutely right that the report, right through the various types of infrastructure, is very supply-side driven. We asked for that. That does not mean the Government is in any way downplaying the very significant role that the demand side can make. It is making quite a lot of it already. It can make quite a lot more.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister prepared—if not right now, then maybe in the future—to look at abandoning the Max Bradford reform, by allowing both electricity-generating and line-owning companies to move back to full vertical integration, provided that generation, distribution, and retailing activities are ring-fenced through subsidiaries?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The problem with that is that if we were to do a both-ways shift around again, apart from the fact that lawyers would get rich for another 2 years in a row, we would end up with a non-competitive structure, because we would end up with regionalism. We would end up with fully integrated services in, say, Auckland or Hamilton, and rather little competition as a result. That is the problem with the Bradford reforms. Not only were they wrong, they were substantially irreversible.

Hon Roger Sowry: Will the Minister take any action as a result of the finding by the infrastructure audit report that the Electricity Commission—which is his Government’s solution to the electricity supply problems—is the cause of ongoing uncertainty amongst electricity generators, and is having the effect of causing them to postpone investment decisions?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That report was written about October or November of last year. The commission took up its office in about September of last year. It was new. It is now May of the following year—

Hon Roger Sowry: Nothing has changed.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member says that nothing has changed.

Hon Roger Sowry: They are still saying the same thing.

Hon PETE HODGSON: They are still saying the same thing! Leaving aside the fact that it has since completed and put into place the entire rule structure, the member said that nothing has changed. I think he needs a new portfolio.

Courts—Workload

7. LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Courts: What is being done to address workload pressures in the courts?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): This morning I announced a $73.5 million budget package designed to ease pressures on courts. Expenditure on modern technology is an important part of this package. In particular, I was pleased to announce that $30 million will be spent over 4 years to increase the use of digital audio technology for evidence recording and transcription in 35 high and district courts. This will cut down waiting times by allowing judges to hear more cases faster. Judges are very positive about the new technology.

Lianne Dalziel: What else is being done to speed up court processes?

Hon RICK BARKER: In this Budget, a further $1.56 million is being invested in piloting the use of mediators to help resolve custody, access, and guardianship proceedings in four family courts, as recommended by the Law Commission. This will allow judges to get on with hearings and provide another avenue for families to sort out the issues between them in a way that better meets their needs.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why has it taken the Minister a year to act on the suggestions that I gave him at that time?

Hon RICK BARKER: That is the most outrageous rewrite of history I have ever heard. That member tries to adopt this Government’s ideas as his own. I suggest to him that he catch up with the programme.

Hon Tony Ryall: To make an immediate impact on the case backlog, will the Government consider asking the five Supreme Court judges to sit on the High Court to assist in clearing the crisis level of the backlog before that court?

Hon RICK BARKER: There is a separation in the powers between the executive and the judiciary. It is not for me to tell judges when and where they will sit, and not for me to tell them what cases they will hear. But I am happy to tell the member that in a number of courts, the judiciary recognises pressure. For example, in the civil courts, there has been quite a significant reduction in cases being filed. Those judges have transferred themselves and their time to criminal courts, and are doing an outstanding job.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table documents that show that it is taking 2 weeks longer, on average, to get cases through the High Court, and a month longer, on average, in the district courts in the last year.

Mr SPEAKER: What documents are these?

Hon Tony Ryall: They are answers to written questions.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.

Glenelg Children's Health Camp—Children’s Medical Examinations

8. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): When did the former Department of Social Welfare and its Minister first become aware of allegations regarding the medical examination of children without parental consent at Glenelg Children’s Health Camp?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): According to the available files, the then Minister of Social Welfare, Jenny Shipley, first became aware in September 1993 of allegations regarding the medical examination of children without parental consent at Glenelg Children’s Health Camp. In a letter dated 27 September 1993, the then Associate Minister of Health, Katherine O’Regan, advised Mrs Shipley that the Parents Against INjustice Society (NZ) had asked her to conduct a ministerial inquiry into the camp, but stated she believed there were insufficient grounds to initiate such an inquiry at that time.

Katherine Rich: Did the former Department of Social Welfare and its Minister consider any official or unofficial recommendations that the ethics of carrying out internal examinations of children without parental consent should be investigated; and if so, when, and what steps did the Minister at the time take to follow up those recommendations?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Given the age of both the original allegations and the first point of notification to the Ministers, and despite extensive searching of the available records, neither of those incidences has been produced. If the member has any issues and can provide the information that I require to follow them up, I would be very happy to do so.

Deborah Coddington: If the Minister was the parent of a 7, 8, or 12-year-old girl who had been repeatedly examined in an inappropriate way while in the care of the State and then separated from her father by the State, would she not want an inquiry into that; if not, why not, and if yes, why will she not order an inquiry?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can be asked about the inquiry.

Hon RUTH DYSON: My understanding is that none of the young people involved were actually in the care of the State at the time of the alleged abuse. Their going into the care of the State came as a result of the allegations of sexual abuse by their fathers, which was not confirmed after a police investigation. If I were a member of one of the families, or if I were any of the individual people involved, I would have taken a case to the Medical Council, as was recommended in 1993, and I am really unsure as to why that was never proceeded with.

Katherine Rich: When, if at all, did the former Department of Social Welfare and its Minister consider any official, or unofficial, recommendations that allegations that staff at Glenelg Health Camp presumed every child had been sexually abused should be investigated; if so, what steps did the Minister at the time take to examine those issues?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The only record of correspondence in relation to the then Minister of Social Welfare that has been made available to me is the letter from Katherine O’Regan that I referred to in answer to the primary question, and then a subsequent letter, again from Katherine O’Regan, to the then new Minister of Social Welfare, the Hon Peter Gresham, on 16 December 1993.

Katherine Rich: Check the file.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have checked the file. Last week Mrs Rich made similar allegations about information that had not been provided to me in answer to a letter. I have asked her to provide it, and I am still waiting for it.

Deborah Coddington: Is the real reason why the Labour Government will not order an inquiry into Glenelg Children’s Health Camp and the behaviour of a doctor there who examined children that the inquiry would criticise the actions, or inactions, of previous Ministers of Health, including the Rt Hon Helen Clark?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

Prisons—Ministerial Confidence

9. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with the way State prisons are being administered?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Generally, yes.

Ron Mark: Why is it that on 2 May when I first asked how many female prison officers had been counselled or disciplined for having sexual relationships with male inmates, he answered three, a week later he answered five, and 2 weeks later the number he gave was 17; and with regard to inappropriate relationships between male prison officers and inmates, can he explain the difference between the number he gave in answer to my recent written questions and the number now reported in the New Zealand Herald this morning?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because the original information given to me was wrong, and I will look into it.

Martin Gallagher: Is there clear evidence that programmes provided by the Department of Corrections have been shown to reduce reoffending?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: There most certainly is. The department is doing a great deal to reduce reoffending. For example, treatment of offenders by the department’s own highly qualified psychologists has been proven to reduce subsequent offending by between 18 and 22 percent over a 5-year period. In addition, studies of the department’s Kia Mârama and Te Piriti sex offender programmes have been consistently shown to halve the reoffending rate of sex offenders. They are world-leading programmes.

Marc Alexander: How can the Minister have confidence in the State management of prisons when last year seven prisons reported that at least one-fifth of their inmates tested positive for drugs, and that Wanganui Prison, New Plymouth Prison, and Manawatû Prison have a positive drugs-test rate of over 30 percent?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Drugs in prisons is unacceptable. However, the reality is that they are also found in private prisons, as well. It is an international problem and we are doing our best to get on top of it.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister believe that the situation of sexual harassment within prisons will be improved by the fact that the department for which he is responsible has appointed to the position of sexual harassment officer in that area, a man in Canterbury who put his penis on a bar and allowed his manager to hit it with a bottle?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have expressed my concern to the department about that matter.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister concede that he simply does not know how many prison officers, male or female, have been involved in inappropriate relationships with inmates, because the management of our prisons is in total disarray, and is that not in itself reason for him to agree to my request for a full comprehensive and independent commission of inquiry into this whole sordid affair?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, and no.

Nandor Tanczos: Given the Minister’s support for the rehabilitative aspects of prison, could he tell the House how much the Department of Corrections spends on rehabilitation within prisons, and does he consider that an adequate amount given the relatively high rate of reoffending by people when they come out of prison?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot exactly recall the dollars and cents, but the department spends around $45 million a year on rehabilitation programmes. Is it enough? No. I am now concerned about the resettlement programmes, from prison to the community. We are going to pilot some things, and we are going to make sure we get it right. After that has been done, I hope to go back to the Minister of Finance to discuss options and possibilities with him.

Ron Mark: If the Minister does not believe that any commission of inquiry is necessary, can he tell the House whether there is any truth in the allegation that in Paparua prison an investigation is currently going on as to an inmate who had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female prison officer and that the same inmate has had an inappropriate relationship with a male prison officer?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do not know the specific cases, but if investigations are going on, the system is working.

Domestic Violence—Home Detention

10. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: How many men convicted of assaulting their wives or partners have been granted home detention that involves them residing at the same house as the person they abused, and is this practice consistent with Government policy on domestic violence?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): I am advised by the New Zealand Parole Board support services that it has not been possible to provide the information requested within the time available. This is because it requires a search of all cases where home detention has been granted. However, I will provide the information to the member when it is available. All decisions relating to release on home detention are the responsibility of the statutorily independent New Zealand Parole Board.

Hon Tony Ryall: When the Minister first became aware of this case, what action did he take: imprisoned for beating his wife so badly, this offender had to give his wife cardiopulmonary resuscitation to keep her alive, was sentenced and released on home detention to live with the woman whom he originally bashed, only to bash her again within weeks of his release on home detention, with the woman telling the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services that she was too scared to refuse having her husband back home on home detention?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Of course the decisions that the member talks about are the decisions of the New Zealand Parole Board, not me. However, if that is one of the two recent cases in Tauranga, I can advise the member that the probation service, in its reports to the board, indicated concerns about the suitability of offenders residing with their victims. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with the board.

Hon Tony Ryall: Since the Parole Board makes decisions in accord with Government policy, is the Minister not putting the victims of domestic violence in an invidious position, where effectively they have the risk of deciding on the early release of the man who bashed them?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is the responsibility of the department that I am responsible for, to provide information to the Parole Board. It is the Parole Board, independent of the Minister, that makes those decisions.

Stephen Franks: What is the Government’s policy on home detention, and does it justify the release next Monday of Greg Hunt, who was sentenced only 6 months ago to 4 years’ jail for stabbing a taxi-driver 30 times, including in the brain, and assaulting another taxi-driver 7 weeks after threatening yet another taxi-driver with having her throat cut, when those three went to the Parole Board last week and were told 1 day later that the 4-year sentence was to turn into home detention the following Monday?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, the policy of home detention was developed by the previous National Government, supported by ACT—[Interruption] Oh, yes it was. Most definitely it was. Secondly—

Mr SPEAKER: That question was asked by a member who sits at the back of the Chamber. Other members have been interjecting. I want that member to be able to hear the answer.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem we have is that if the Minister, in his answer, is going to give inaccurate statements, then of course you will get a reaction from the Opposition. That statement was absolutely incorrect, and of course you will get a reaction from the Opposition, because it is the only defence we have.

Mr SPEAKER: It is not the only defence the member has. There is provision for other steps to be taken if the answer is inaccurate. I do not mind the odd interjection, but I want the member who asked the question to be able to hear the answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The practice of Ministers of comparing their performance with the performance of previous Governments may be all right in year 1, year 2, or even year 3 of its term in office, but not in year 5. In particular, today we heard from the Hon Judith Tizard, who cited a 1976 example, and got that wrong, as well. Hugh Watt’s hair-brained idea won no one’s support in this House. She went back as far as 1976 and raised that as an issue. I am beginning to ask myself, when is it appropriate—[Interruption] It was in 1976. That member was at kindergarten at the time, but it is a fact. The member’s old man might have told her that. The reality is that that is what she actually said in answer to a question. When is a Government going to be responsible for the policies that, in its second term, it is implementing?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a debating point. I ask the Minister to answer Mr Franks’ question. He can start again.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the second part of the question, it is the decision of the Parole Board.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that the victims of domestic violence often find it difficult to leave their abusive partners or notify the police, which means that a sentence of home detention for the abusers actually becomes a sentence for their partner-victims, and this Government is doing nothing about it?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I do agree with the basis of the member’s question. It is the responsibility of the probation service to provide reports to the Parole Board outlining those kinds of concerns and issues. Ultimately, though, it is the Parole Board that decides on what happens to a particular person.

Question No. 5 to Minister

DAIL JONES (NZ First): Following the tabling of a brake shoe a little while ago, we have received yet another brake shoe—as a result of publicity, I suppose—and I seek the leave of the House to table it.

Brake shoe, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Maritime Safety Authority—Coastline

11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What actions has the Maritime Safety Authority taken to protect the coastline around one of New Zealand’s busiest shipping routes?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Transport): This week the International Maritime Organization approved the Maritime Safety Authority’s appeal to ban vessels from travelling close to the shoreline between Bream Head and Cape Brett, north of Whangarei. This is a world-first decision by the International Maritime Organization, which means that this unique marine area will be protected and preserved, and it is a precedent that I am very proud of the Maritime Safety Authority for setting.

Lynne Pillay: What evidence does the Minister have that this announcement addresses the concerns of conservationists?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I have received reports that marine conservationists, such as Wade Doak, have welcomed the ruling by the International Maritime Organization as a victory for New Zealand, particularly given that New Zealand was unable to apply such a ban without the weight of an international organisation. The Northland Regional Council has also strongly welcomed the announcement, with the Whangarei harbourmaster estimating that it will allow an extra 6 hours to respond to potential oil spills in an environmentally very important area.

Prisons—Corrections, Department

12. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with the management of prisons by the Department of Corrections; if so, why?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Generally, yes. As I have said before, the department’s primary job is to keep the public safe, and it has consistently performed well when compared with other jurisdictions.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that Antonie Dixon attempted to take another inmate’s life by setting fire to him over the weekend, and did any incident of that nature occur when he was in Auckland Central Remand Prison?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, and no.

H V Ross Robertson: How do New Zealand’s prisons compare internationally?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Very well, indeed. It is important to note that in New Zealand prisons the rates of escapes, suicides, and major assaults have been continually reducing in recent years, and compare most favourably with the relevant overseas jurisdictions. I refer the member to pages 23 and 31 of the department’s annual report. That represents an excellent performance in a difficult sector.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that the departmental committee examining professional ethics and organisational culture in State prisons includes amongst its members the prison staff member who produced his penis for another man to hit, who is now a sexual harassment officer, as alluded to before, and Paul Rushton, the man who gave blanket approval to the actions of the “goon squad”; and what does that say about the integrity and confidence that the New Zealand public is expected to have in his ministership of the Department of Corrections?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As far as the “goon squad” is concerned the member will know that there is an inquiry into that matter, which was actually begun under the previous National Government. As far as the second point is concerned, the public prison service does a very, very good job in a difficult situation, and I would ask that member to show a little more support for the difficult job that the men and women in that service are doing on our behalf.

Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that many of the comparisons made between the public sector prisons and the private management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison by the member who asked the original question, and by members of the National Party and other parties, are entirely misinformed, because when one compares the reoffending rate that does not apply with regard to a remand prison, because when they compare costs and say that the private prison is cheaper to run, that is based on a complete misunderstanding of how to compare costs between the public prison service and the private prison, and because the fact is that the remand prison has a managed muster?

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question was far too long. It involves commenting on other party’s policies, and is out of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave for Nandor Tanczos to have a fair time to elucidate upon his question, because it will give us a chance to see how his mind works.

Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps I was a bit too rough on Mr Tanczos. I now want him to ask his question, but it is to be directed to the Minister’s responsibilities, and it must not include all that massive injection of fact at the end, which was out of order. I will give him another chance.

Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that comparisons between the public sector prisons and the privately run Auckland Central Remand Prison are often based on a misunderstanding of how to compare costs between the two institutions?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have heard some amazing figures over the last few days, as we have discussed the Corrections Bill. What I can advise is that when one compares apples with apples, which is not something that members of the Opposition do, one finds the costs of the public prison service are $36,000 for remand inmates and $43,000 for the Auckland Central Remand Prison inmates.

Ron Mark: In the spirit shown by my leader when seeking a second opportunity for Nandor Tanczos to ask a question, I seek the leave of the House to be allowed to ask the Minister one further supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has used up his allocation, but he is entitled to seek leave. Is there any objection? There appears to be objection.

End of Questions for Oral Answer


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

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