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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 25 May 2004

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

Tuesday, 25 May 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1 Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2)—Age-related Sexual Conduct
2 Government Spending—Pressures
3 Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2)—Age-related Sexual Conduct
4 Quota Management System—Confidence
5 Community Education—Inquiry into Spending
6 Telecommunications—Unbundling of Local Loop
7 Auckland Transport Package—Proposals
8 Parole Board—Confidence
9 Statistics—Collection
10 Taxation—Personal Rate
11 New Zealand Citizens—Foreign Governments
12 Community Employment Group—Te Kahui Family Reunion

Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2)—Age-related Sexual Conduct

1. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Justice: Why did he include new section 134A in the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) and what process did he use to secure Cabinet or Cabinet committee approval for the introduction of the bill?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): With the new, broader, and tougher law relating to under-age sex the existing statutory defences, such as the girl being older than the boy, are no longer relevant. The bill provides for an amended defence, which requires the defendant not only to have had reasonable grounds to believe that the other person was aged 16 or over but also to take reasonable steps to verify that. The other defence, similarity of age, which is used in jurisdictions overseas, such as Canada, will now not proceed but will be replaced by police using their discretion about whether to prosecute. Normal Cabinet processes were followed.

Hon Tony Ryall: Did the Minister advise his Cabinet colleagues that the bill effectively decriminalises some sexual conduct between persons aged 12 to 16 years; if so, why would they proceed with such a proposal?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I advised my colleagues that I believed firmly that the age of consent should stay at 16. But I also advised them that, given that the penalties are much tougher—for example, the maximum penalty will now be 10 years rather than 7 years; there is a series of tougher penalties—we needed to distinguish between predatory acts and exploitative acts. I therefore advised them that, where two teenagers of roughly the same age were indulging in what is often described as experimental teenage sex, having a similarity-of-age defence, which is used in jurisdictions overseas, such as Canada, would be an appropriate way to go.

Tim Barnett: What are the defences to a charge of consensual sex with someone aged 12 to 16 years, under the current Crimes Act?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Under the current legislation, a boy who is charged has a defence under section 134 if the girl is older than he is. A male also has a defence if he is under the age of 21, can prove consent, and had reasonable cause to believe that the girl was aged 16 years or over. The amendment to this defence will require any persons charged, regardless of age or gender, to show not only that they had reasonable grounds to believe that the other person was aged over 16 years but also that they had actively taken steps to verify that. At the moment women and girls cannot be charged at all. That gender discrepancy is unjustifiable and is removed.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Was the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) put in front of the whole Cabinet, the whole Labour caucus, and United Future, and was there no parent in those three groupings who pointed out the folly of this legislation?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Not only were the normal processes followed but in the introductory reading of this bill in the House it was pointed out to the whole House that the defence of relative age was proposed to the select committee. For 6 months there was no reaction from anyone in the House, notwithstanding the fact that it was explicitly spelt out by David Cunliffe, reading the speech on my behalf.

Murray Smith: Will the Minister accept that the main reason that his irresponsible plan to turn a blind eye to consensual sex between young teenage children is even an issue for Kiwi parents is because the approach to the sex education that his Government gives to primary school children is: “Here are the condoms and here’s how you do it.”; and, in the face of that message, is it any wonder that some of those children want to put the theory into practice and that we have such a high rate of teenage pregnancies?

Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the Minister to respond. Parts of that question were not strictly in order.

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I do not accept the premise of anything the member just said in that question. What I do say is that every member in this House, I imagine, believes there should be an age of consent of 16—that that is appropriate. Equally, every member in this House is aware that there is a widespread discrepancy between the law and the practice. I imagine that very few members in this House believe that the answer to a problem of, for example, two 15-year-olds having sex is to put them before the court and to put them in jail.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the Minister is so convinced of his policy, why has he dropped it?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I guess I could pick up on a comment made by a very respected journalist in the gallery, Lindsay Perigo, who said that the reaction was an overreaction that was hugely hysterical. The result of that reaction is that the wrong message is portrayed. It is not my intent or the intent of the Government, or, I believe, of the House, to send the message that sex under 16 years is OK. The message we want to send is that that is illegal, that we will deal harshly with those who indulge in exploitative or predatory actions, but that we will take a different approach to those young people of roughly the same age who are doing now what they have been doing for centuries.

Hon Tony Ryall: Noting the Minister’s admission that the wrong message was portrayed, was it his view that this clause should remain in the bill after those Cabinet discussions; or is it correct that he was required to leave it in by the Prime Minister, who said that these changes are worthy of debate?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As Minister, I of course take responsibility for anything that comes into this House, in a bill. However, I also note the assumption that every member of this House makes—that when a bill is introduced it goes to a select committee where it is examined in detail. I image that the member—although I cannot say because it is under privilege—must have raised this matter in the committee and asked questions about it. I am sure he did, and at length, in the hysterical way he has publicly.

Government Spending—Pressures

2. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What are the major long-term pressures on Government spending?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The two major long-term pressures here, and in nearly every other developed country, are superannuation and health spending. The former is dealt with by the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which has recently been praised in an IMF report. The latter remains a long-term issue, which is why continued attention to efficient delivery of services is crucial.

Clayton Cosgrove: Are there any other fiscal pressures in the health area?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. Within the health area, particular pressure is always coming on the cost of pharmaceuticals. The current Pharmac system has saved New Zealand hundreds of millions of dollars. I have been surprised to see people talking about dismantling that system. The only beneficiaries would be the international pharmaceutical companies. The proponents of that change are the National Party’s science spokesperson and health spokesperson.

John Key: Does the Minister think the best way to alleviate pressures on future Government spending is by improving economic growth; if so, why is he delivering this Thursday what will forever be remembered as a welfare Budget, not a growth Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because that member will not get anything out of the Budget does not make it a welfare Budget; 99.9 percent of New Zealanders are less wealthy than he is.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on the answer given by the finance Minister. It was, to say the least, flippant. It had a number of aspects that were well outside the Standing Orders. Indeed, a personal jibe at the member who asked that question surely cannot be considered to be the end of an answer. I imagine if there had been a more pointed personal statement, you would have been down on the Minister like a tonne of bricks. One could hardly say that the comment he made was a debatable point. Surely, all members stand here quite equally, and they ask questions on behalf of their constituents. I say the finance Minister was out of order. It may be that he just cannot answer.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, I was not aware the National Party was ashamed of anybody being wealthy. This is a new perspective on those members’ view. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I told the member, and I protected the member. While points of order are being heard there will be silence, or else people will be leaving.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Secondly, Mr Speaker, you allowed a question that was itself out of order because it contained imputations, epithets, and other things that were not essential to the question. I assumed that because you had allowed the member some latitude with his question, with its reference to something called a welfare Budget, which does not exist, I was allowed some latitude on the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Unfortunately, the Minister is wrong there; he should have raised the point about the question being out of order before he answered it. As far as I am concerned, I thought the Minister’s comment was flippant, and I did not actually think it discredited the member. If the Minister wants to add slightly to that answer, I will allow him to do so.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: For some months, members opposite have been inviting me to spend some $6 billion or $7 billion of non-existent surplus. Now that they are faced with the prospect of my coming up with a Budget when in fact there is not that amount to spend, they are going to be faced with an answer where the vast bulk of the increased expenditure goes on working families in New Zealand. I invite them to vote against the Budget on Thursday and Friday.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister taking great pleasure in the fact that many New Zealanders, particularly elderly people, are seriously ill and desirous of having First World drugs, but his Pharmac fails to provide them, as is evidenced by a very sound article on that matter in the New Zealand Herald last week by a pharmacist?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There will always be arguments around the edges about which drug should be funded by Pharmac and which should not. But if members of this House are to give in to every pressure from every drug company and every group asking for every drug that it wants to be funded, then the health budget will blow out, and that party opposite can give up any thoughts of tax cuts for the indefinite future.

Rod Donald: What assessment, if any, has the Government made of the impacts of climate change—including increased frequency of extreme weather events and increased risk of diseases such as malaria, to name but two—on the Government’s fiscal position the day after tomorrow and in the long term?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We are not expecting any major impact from climate change on the growth of the economy the day after tomorrow. In the longer term there may well be such an impact, which is why it is very important for all members of this House to address the issue of climate change, and not to take their instructions from Washington about that matter.

Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister confirm that in the Budget this week the Government could, for just $4 billion, reduce the tax on every working person by $100 a fortnight; and that if Treasury’s estimate of the surplus as $6 billion is correct, there would still be a surplus left, with no change in any Government spending?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I admire the member’s cheek, but he knows very well that the available revenue for increased expenditure is nothing like $4 billion. Actually, the cash surplus for the current year will be very, very small indeed.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have waited until the end of this question to raise this point of order. During the course of the question a point of order was taken by Mr Brownlee and responded to by the Deputy Prime Minister. His response encouraged—I guess—a whole number of responses, but you have ruled, quite correctly, that there should be silence while points of order are being heard. Can you advise us how we are to respond without taking numerous points of order, when during discussion on a point of order a flippant imputation or remark is made, which is out of order in itself?

Mr SPEAKER: Well, occasionally I make mistakes, and occasionally—[Interruption] I hope that during points of order flippant comments are not made, and if they are, I hope I will jump on them—and perhaps I should have.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was thinking of raising this point at the time, as well. I do not think it is within the Standing Orders or the precedents of this House to allege that some party or members of Parliament are taking their riding instructions from Washington. Of course, Dr Cullen may well have some evidence of that, but in its absence I think he should apologise. If he has evidence, then let us have it tabled.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In that regard, I am aware of a comment from spokespersons opposite that the National Party would not sign up to the Kyoto Protocol unless Australia and the United States did.

Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2)—Age-related Sexual Conduct

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Justice: Did he explain to his Cabinet or caucus colleagues the new provision in the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) that a person accused of sexual conduct with a child under 16 with consent can claim a defence by proving he or she took reasonable steps to find the age of the person concerned, and that he or she believed the child to be of, or over, the age of 16; if so, were any changes made as a result?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes. The existing defence that the defendant believed, on reasonable grounds, that the young person was 16 or over has now been tightened significantly, requiring the defendant not only to prove that there were reasonable grounds for believing it, but that the defendant also took reasonable steps to find out whether the other person was aged 16 or over. That, clearly, is a significantly tougher test. The arbitrary differentiation of people over or under the age of 21 was removed on the advice of Crown Law that it was contrary to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Hon Tony Ryall: Did he tell his Cabinet or caucus colleagues that this bill allows a middle-aged man to have sex with a 14-year-old, provided he saw her false ID and conveniently believed she was 16, and does he stand by this clause of his bill?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, the bill does not do that, at all. The member will have many years to reflect on his allegation, because he will find no evidence in court cases over a long period of time that that happens. There is a twofold test. The person must, firstly, have reasonable grounds to believe that the other individual was 16 or over. Secondly, the defendant must now demonstrate that he or she took steps to verify that. Let me suggest to the member that the older the other party is, the greater the age differentiation and, clearly, the more sceptical the court will be of that person’s state of mind.

Larry Baldock: Does the same principle of defence apply in relation to the Prostitution Reform Act that was passed in 2003; if so, what reasonable steps does the Minister think that a client of a prostitute of approximately 18 years of age should take, and does he not think that it would have been a good idea to require prostitutes to carry proof of age, and for the police to be allowed to ask prostitutes for proof of age; if so, why—

Mr SPEAKER: The member has had three questions already, and that is enough. Two of them can be answered.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Prostitution Reform Act sets a higher age of consent for anybody working as a prostitute, and it also criminalises the client in a way that was not done under the previous legislation. Both of those changes are important, and, again, I think the court can be relied upon to ensure that if a person tries to use as a defence that he or she thought the person was over 18, that by itself will not cut. The defendant will have to demonstrate clear grounds for reasonably believing that to be the case.

Hon Tony Ryall: What signal does the Minister think this Government has sent to young people, their families, and the wider community by introducing this legislation, which includes under-age sex provisions?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The signal that this legislation and companion legislation are sending is very clear indeed. The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) and the tougher penalties it brings in, including the removal of the defence that if one is a woman, one cannot be responsible for having sexual relations with an under-age boy, together with companion legislation that increases penalties for the crime of child pornography tenfold, and supervision of 10 years for any paedophile after that person has completed the sentence, gives this country the toughest legislation on predatory behaviour against young people anywhere in the world.

Russell Fairbrother: How does the proposed amendment toughen the law to prevent the defendant simply saying that he or she thought the other person was over 16?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Under the existing law, that provision required a reasonable belief, so it set a significant standard that the defendant had to prove. What the new legislation does is not only show reasonable cause to believe, but it also points out that the defendant has to show the steps he has taken—or she, for that matter—to verify the fact that the person was over 16. That will be quite a tough test to meet, and is why I say that this legislation is the toughest legislation this country has seen, and is as tough as anything in the Western World. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member interjected the whole time that question was being answered. [Interruption] But they were not, and most of them were in the second person.

Heather Roy: Given that the Minister did not answer a previous supplementary question, I ask again: what sort of message has he already sent to young people about pre-adolescent and adolescent sex, and if on reflection he thinks he was wrong, what sort of message would he send if he took responsibility for his decision and resigned?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The message is very clear in this legislation. My worry was not the message that I was sending—it was the message that those deliberately misconstruing this legislation were sending. That is why it became necessary to make the change that I have recommended to the select committee. I think that as people look at this legislation, they will understand that it provides significantly greater protection for under-16-year-olds, as do the other two bills that are currently before a select committee.

Hon Tony Ryall: Who is right—the Minister or every newspaper editorial in the country today?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Some of the newspaper editorial comment is quite correct. I have quoted Lindsay Perigo already. I could also quote Russell Brown, who talked about the bill removing a shocking loophole whereby some offenders could escape prosecution if the age of the child could not be established, talked about removing an unjustifiable gender discrepancy, and talked about this whole affair being a beat-up by politicians and others with vested interests for their own political ends, rather than for the good of the country.

Quota Management System—Confidence

4. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: Does he have confidence in the quota management system to protect New Zealand’s fisheries from overfishing; if so, why?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister of Fisheries): Yes, and I can do no better than to agree with the member herself, when she said in November 2002 that the quota management system: “… has improved management of those stocks for which more reliable data exists. It is a good framework for safeguarding individual stocks provided we add other controls to it, …”

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Was data from the quota management system the information used by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2001 when it gave its sustainable management accreditation to the New Zealand hoki fishery; if so, how is it that 3 years later the western hoki stock is found to be 20 percent or less of its original biomass?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That ongoing stock assessment is partly through a public process, and in due course will inform the advice that I take from the ministry, which will lead to my assessment of further stock.

Janet Mackey: What evidence can the Minister give of the success of New Zealand’s fisheries management system?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: New Zealand’s fisheries are profitable and efficient, do not receive Government subsidies, have a high degree of certainty about future supply—due to the establishment of property rights, which allows long-term planning—and are managed so that the needs of commercial, customary, and recreational users are all considered.

Phil Heatley: Why is the Minister looking to extend the quota management system outside New Zealand waters to cover tuna and other migratory fish, when his ministry is already struggling with hoki, snapper, scampi, aquaculture, endless court battles, and poachers inside New Zealand waters?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Members and most New Zealanders would agree on the desirability of extending the quota management system to as many species as possible, as soon as possible.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister failing to acknowledge the importance of the kahawai fishery to the people of New Zealand; and is it not a fact that by allowing kahawai to be part of the quota management system he will fail to manage that fishery in the interests of all New Zealanders, and, in particular, of recreational fishers?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I suggest to the member that he await the decision on the kahawai quota and its introduction to the quota management system in about 6 weeks’ time.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the western hoki fishery not following the same path as that of the orange roughy fishery—also under the quota management system—which was closed a few years ago because it had declined to 3 percent of its original biomass?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can assure the member that the sustainability of the fishery will be my prime consideration in the allocation of stock.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has anything changed in the 5 years since the Auditor-General wrote in his report to Parliament: “We conclude, therefore, that the Ministry manages most fish stocks without being sure if this management is sustainable.”; if not, are not all the fish stocks the Minister is currently putting into the quota management system also at risk?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: In answer to the first question, yes, the amount of data available is constantly increasing. In answer to the second question, no.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What will he do to restore the reputation of New Zealand fish exports in Europe, which actively seeks sustainably managed fish and which will now be aware that the certified sustainable hoki fishery kills hundreds of fur seals and endangered albatrosses and petrels every year?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am somewhat disappointed and surprised that the questioner is impugning New Zealand's reputation overseas, and I hope that her interest in sustainable fishery will be evidenced by the Green Party supporting the introduction of scampi into the quota management system as soon as possible.

Community Education—Inquiry into Spending

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Would he regard evidence of conflicts of interest and potentially fraudulent enrolments as sufficient cause for an independent inquiry into the spending of $105 million on community education last year?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I would regard such evidence as a reason to investigate the practices of the provider at which they had occurred. For instance, in response to allegation about enrolment practices at the Eastern Institute of Technology, the Tertiary Education Commission investigated. It found no evidence of inappropriate enrolment practices. If the member has evidence of conflicts of interest and potentially fraudulent enrolments at any tertiary education provider, then the appropriate course of action would be for him to provide that either to me immediately or to the commission.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen material from students who enrolled in Tairâwhiti Polytechnic’s traditional Mâori healing technique course that states: “We were then asked to complete application forms for te reo Mâori. Those present were told that this helped with the funding. We were told it was up to us if we did the free te reo course or not. I received no further communication regarding the te reo Mâori course—no booklets or anything else.”, and the additional information from the same student stating that in her calculation, up to 60 people on the traditional Mâori healing technique course were enrolled in the te reo Mâori course but none of them did it?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I say, I would regard any evidence of anything that was a conflict of interest or potentially fraudulent at any of our tertiary education providers as grounds for swift investigation. If the member wants to give me any additional information he has, we will certainly follow it up. [Interruption] The member intervenes yet again. He should keep his mouth shut. I say to the member opposite that he should give me the evidence.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: How is the Government’s management of community education changing?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Community education, of course, has been around since the beginning of our education system, and it plays a very important role within the overall system. Enrolments in the area grew to a proportion last year that I felt deserved attention. Community education enrolments will now be capped. Next year’s funding will be based upon profiles, which will then allow us to ensure that we are investing in a way that is both appropriate in size and in terms of the kinds of courses that are operated. The point that I have made repeatedly is that these things are only possible under the more strategic approach taken by this Government. It would not have been appropriate—or have been able to be done—under the previous Government.

Jim Peters: Bearing in mind that community education should be learning opportunities available to all, why did the Minister in the past not expect to receive annual evaluation reports with cumulative data on specified standards for appropriate community education programmes?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The rules, or guidelines, as they are called, around community education were rewritten in 1999. They are being rewritten as we speak, because we want to have new guidelines in the profiles that will be filled out by all institutions for their funding in the coming year. But I say to the member that one of the things I would encourage people not to force on community educators, which always provide very short courses for people who are either topping up knowledge or beginning their educational career, is the kinds of rules that we do in formal courses. The costs would rise, and the barriers to people doing these courses would rise. That would be inappropriate and would, of course, be a break with the kind of education that all members in this House have supported for a very long time.

Deborah Coddington: How can this House take his words seriously about getting tough on fraudulent enrolments, and conflict of interest, when his Government has been provided with evidence of bounty hunters getting $1,000 to enrol pre-schoolers at their own institutions, and falsely enrol them at things like wâhine coffee mornings, when no early childhood students were in existence?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The question is to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education), which of course, is my particular role. I am sure, though, that the Minister of Education, who is responsible for pre-school education, would welcome any more evidence that that member might have, and will act on it immediately.

Bernie Ogilvy: Given the probable rort referred to, will he consider the reallocation of the tertiary vote into the capped private training establishments and/or student allowances, both of those examples being in desperate need of help and contributing greatly to our society?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member will know that private training educators work within a capped fund. A proportion of that fund is what is called strategic priorities. That fund was not fully expended by private training establishments last year. They are not desperate for funding. They have more than they are using.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that his own rules for funding in section 3.1.1.2 of the Interim Guide to Tertiary Funding states that no money will be used for enrolment inducements, despite the fact that Christchurch Polytechnic, on its own admission, spent $80,000 on enrolment inducements, including the case of one gentleman who said on radio yesterday that he enrolled 20 times and claimed $400 in book vouchers?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I am aware of the guidelines around enrolment inducements. The member will know that on a number of occasions, claims have been made that have been investigated, and proven, like at the Eastern Institute of Technology, to be false. However, where they are proven to be true, those guidelines will stand, and we will enforce them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In terms of complaint, why has the Minister not already taken those matters to the Serious Fraud Office, when they are at his door—because, seriously, a fraud has been committed, and the value is within the ambit of the Serious Fraud Office’s jurisdiction?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If a fraud were either proven, or clearly one that needed to be prosecuted, we would do exactly that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: When?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would do it immediately if I had the evidence of fraud, I can guarantee the member that. On a number of occasions, questions have been raised, for example, about the Christchurch Polytechnic. The Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit is well familiar with what has been going on there. The Tertiary Education Commission is currently working with the Christchurch Polytechnic to go through not just these courses but every single course in that organisation to make sure that it fully understands, and applies, the rules.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that in the face of mounting evidence, so far from only two polytechnics, of conflict of interest, breaking of funding rules, and potentially fraudulent enrolments, the Minister insists on sending the culprits—that is, the Tertiary Education Commission—to investigate the problem, and why does he not get someone independent to do that, who was not involved in making the payments, claims, and endorsing the conflicts of interest?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Unlike the member, whose job in Opposition is to try to create heat where it does not exist, I want evidence. I am not about to begin any kind of stupid witch-hunt on the basis of Mr English’s sayings here in the House. What I am guaranteeing is that, unlike the previous Government, we are controlling spending and putting funding into strategic areas. Unlike the previous Government, we have the ability to investigate those issues. The previous Government never could, because it followed a model that would not have allowed it to do so.

Telecommunications—Unbundling of Local Loop

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Communications: Why is New Zealand the only OECD nation that has decided not to unbundle its local loop, given that Mexico, which was the second to last nation not to, has begun down this path?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Communications): Because the Telecommunications Commissioner recommended bit stream unbundling, and not local loop unbundling.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did that commission’s recommendation and final decision come after the Woosh Wireless organisation and Telecom met in July of last year; if that is the case, what is going on, and what is the result of such collusion?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the member knows—and I presume he has read the report—the report was presented in December 2003. I am not sure what the member is on about as far as the second part of his question is concerned.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking the Minister whether the commission’s recommendation and decision was arrived at after the meeting between Woosh Wireless and Telecom last year, and well before the commission made its decision. If it was, then there is a matter of collusion.

Mr SPEAKER: That is another question that the member has asked. The member has used his question up, but the Minister can answer.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I know that the commissioner’s report was tabled on 21 December 2003. I do not know about the meeting the member is referring to.

Darren Hughes: What options did the Minister have once he received the Telecommunications Commissioner’s report, and why did he choose to accept the commissioner’s recommendations in full?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Under the Telecommunications Act there are only three options: to accept or reject the recommendations, or to request the commission to reconsider various aspects of its recommendations. I chose to accept the recommendations, because I considered that would be the quickest way to get an increase in the uptake of broadband in New Zealand. I consider that that is in the best interests of New Zealand consumers.

Sue Kedgley: Why is the Minister claiming that there will be improved access, and competition for wholesale broadband and the quickest way of getting uptake, etc. as a result of last week’s decision, when he is well aware that Telecom’s wholesale broadband services will only be available at such a low speed that it is not even fast enough for home businesses, so it is hardly broadband at all?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The answer to the first part of the question is primarily because the commission spent well over 12 months looking at all those matters, and came back with its recommendations. The second part of the question, though, is a good one. It is what I consider to be a minimum speed. Telecom has already made some announcements about improving that speed by March 2005, and we will hold Telecom to that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister possibly explain to the country how a largely foreign-owned Telecom monopoly of the local loop network in any way enhances competition, delivers the lowest prices, and benefits consumers and business people—or is it simply a matter of political patronage—and what has Telecom done to deserve that monopoly being continued?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Telecommunications Commissioner, once again, looked at that quite considerably, and said that the best uptake to try to get broadband was to concentrate on the 21st century problem, which is bit stream unbundling, rather than on last century’s problem. The member will know that unbundling the local loop is no panacea or silver bullet, and has low take-up around the world. As far as the second part of the question is concerned, I think the answers are no and nothing.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the fact that the 1993 election is just one example of a situation where Telecom gave the National Party and the Labour Party free communications services.

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

Auckland Transport Package—Proposals

7. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Transport: What reports, if any, has he received on proposals for Auckland transport?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): I have received many reports on the Government’s commitment of an extra $1.6 billion for Auckland land transport, and some about the leader of the National Party promising to complete Auckland’s roading network within 10 years without any commitment to new funding, at all.

Lynne Pillay: What funding options are available for meeting Auckland’s transport needs?

Hon PETE HODGSON: According to some reports, petrol taxes are unnecessary but also essential, rates funding is awful but also necessary, road tolls will help pay for new roads but will not raise new money, and, incidentally, public transport is good but it would not do to fund it. These reports emanate from a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition and from his subsequent bewildered interviews on the matter.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Do any of the reports the Minster has received show that spending on new roads in Auckland, in real terms, has been less for every year of this Government than for the last year of the National Government, and do those reports also show that Transfund finished this year with a $250 million surplus, while six major projects are sitting dormant waiting to commence?

Hon PETE HODGSON: On the contrary, the advice I have in respect of local roads and State highway construction, or indeed for total expenditure in Auckland from the Government, would show that in the last 3 years of the National Government less than $200 million per annum was spent. In the last 3 years of this Government, more than $300 million was spent. So in the speech given on Friday morning, what we were dealing with was a bit of selective reporting of statistics. However, by the afternoon—remembering that on Friday morning the speech was given—the following statement was made, and I am quoting from Dr Brash on 1ZB at 12.03 pm: “I’m talking of reducing property taxes and reducing excise taxes. I’m not talking to raise additional money from the tolls.” That is the quote. It sounds like “funny money” to me, and I would say that back in 1980 he got closer to Social Credit than we gave him credit for.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister remember from that speech the claim made by Dr Brash that it was the National Party in 1998 that brought about the 2.1c consolidated account transfer—having, of course, abolished it in the 1999 Budget, which is all the evidence I need of that fact; and does he believe the promise to “sort out the Resource Management Act within 3 months”, or is that a bit like the “nuclear ships by lunchtime” comment?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for the National Party, in the first part of the question. He can answer the second part of the question.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am advised that in the speech he said that in 1998 a National Government moved 2.1c. If the leader of New Zealand First is telling this House that that was as a result of New Zealand First’s influence, then I am obliged, of course, to believe him, and therefore the other fellow might be talking the porkies the member talked about in his press statement of that day.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot say that. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I withdraw and apologise. I seek leave to table a press statement dated 21 May, from Peter Brown, headed: “Brash telling porkies”.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot read that into the record. He can ask for a statement made by Peter Brown to be tabled, and that is it.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am just trying to describe it.

Mr SPEAKER: No—please be seated.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I seek leave accordingly.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a statement made by Mr Peter Brown.

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

John Carter: I seek leave for the Minister to come down later and correct the answers he has just given, because they are bound to be incorrect.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot seek leave on behalf of anybody else, and he has been here a very long time.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that the proposal to relieve Auckland’s transport congestion by building “only roads” is a bit like a proposal to cure obesity only by letting one’s belt out, and has he seen any reports regarding the Kyoto Protocol coming into force that suggests a sprawling car-dependent future for Auckland is a poor economic option?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In respect of the second part of the member’s question, the position held by the National Party on the Kyoto Protocol was the subject of some debate earlier in question time. In respect of the first part of the question, however, I can do no better than to quote from a journalist in yesterday’s New Zealand Herald, who said: “Dr Brash is one of those relics from the last century who wants to tarmac the whole isthmus.”

Deborah Coddington: Is it not correct that the Labour Government is not at all concerned about fixing Auckland’s transport woes, demonstrated by the fact that the member from Dunedin has the transport folio, not a member from Auckland; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No.

Hon Maurice Williamson: I seek leave to table a chart of the spending on new roads in Auckland, showing that the spending in the last 4 years has been less than the last year of the National Government.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the 1998 Budget, which shows the 2.1c in, and the 1999 Budget, which shows the 2.1c out, and we will see who is telling porkies around here.

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

Hon PETE HODGSON: I seek leave to table the national land transport programme expenditure in Auckland from years 1996 through 2004, which hat shows that the graph Mr Williamson tabled is an error.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That cannot be allowed to stand. The graph uses the Minister’s own numbers. If he says it is an error, that is not acceptable in this House. That is a graph of his numbers from answers to questions for written answer. In that case, he has misled the House, if there is an error in those numbers.

Mr SPEAKER: I just leave the Minister and the member to reflect. Two documents have been tabled. If there is any mistake, then the appropriate action will have to be taken.

Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table the press release from United Future that shows that the entire funding for the Auckland roading package comes from a reduction in fuel excise diversion negotiated by United Future.

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

Parole Board—Confidence

8. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with the outcome of New Zealand Parole Board decisions?

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

Ron Mark: How can the Minister be satisfied with the Parole Board’s decision to grant back-end home detention to Gregory Hunt, a violent offender convicted of assaulting two taxi drivers, one of whom still has fragments of a four-prong embedded in his skull after being repeatedly stabbed by Mr Hunt, and what sort of a message is that Parole Board outcome sending to the community?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The answer to the primary question, of course, was generally, yes. But as the member knows, the Parole Board is a statutory independent body, which has existed in some form or another for many, many years. It considers many thousands of applications for parole and home detention each year that cause very little or no public comment. However, there are times when the public finds it difficult to understand the reasons for the decisions, and this is one of those times. I can only presume that the Parole Board based its decision about Mr Hunt on information that neither that member nor I am privy to. I expect the board to be accountable for its decisions.

Martin Gallagher: What has the Minister done to ensure that the New Zealand Parole Board’s actions reflect the intent of the sentencing and parole legislation?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: At the New Zealand Parole Board conference in March, I stressed the importance of the paramount objective of public safety when considering applications under the Parole Act and emphasised the need for accountability and transparency of decisions. The Government has been very clear about its expectations in this regard.

Hon Tony Ryall: What is wrong with the system when a judge says that this man is too dangerous for bail, but, according to Government policy, he is not too dangerous for home detention?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Government policy is quite clear that the safety of the public is paramount, and is the major thing the Parole Board has to decide. It is an independent body.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister stand by his statement at this year’s Parole Board conference that for the sake of accountability the board needs to be more transparent in its decisions; if so, is not true accountability available only if Parole Board decisions can be appealed by the victims, and not only by the offenders?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes and no.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister believe that a person who repeatedly stabbed a taxi driver in the head, shoulder, back, hand, and arm—a man who had to be restrained by no fewer than eight members of the public before police arrived at the scene of the crime—fits the description of a person of zero or low risk to public safety; if not, how can he have confidence in a Parole Board that is supposed to have public safety as its paramount concern when making decisions to allow violent offenders back into the community, but still chooses to do so?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can only assume that the Parole Board had evidence or information available to it that the member and I are not privy to, and that is why it made that decision.

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister satisfied with the outcome of Parole Board decisions, when a quarter of those on home detention as at 1 April were violent offenders convicted of crimes such as sexual assault with a minor, wounding with intent, and grievous bodily harm, and how does this square with its stated aim to ensure that those people no longer present a danger to the public?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I said at the start, generally yes. I can tell the member that the recidivism rate for those released on home detention at the back end of their sentence is much better than for those who serve the end of their time and are released straight into the community.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister recall this statement by his predecessor as Minister of Corrections, Matt Robson: “Let me make it clear that replacing prison terms for violent offenders with home detention is not on the agenda of this Alliance-Labour Government.”, and what was the reason for this policy now becoming part of the agenda during the Progressive Coalition - Labour - United Government?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, and he should take it up with the former Minister.

Statistics—Collection

9. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Statistics: What action is the Government taking to strengthen the system of official statistics?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Statistics): Last week we announced a Budget 2004 investment of nearly $70 million over 4 years to strengthen New Zealand’s official statistics. This will lead to more accurate targeting of Government spending and better information for New Zealanders to plan their business decisions. Just to use two particular parts of the package by way of example, there is $14 million to strengthen the official statistical system by improving coordination, a data archive, and a search engine for easier access and use.

Simon Power: At least sound excited.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Another one is $10.5 million—and this is very exciting for members opposite—to develop a link to an employer-employee data system to facilitate research into the dynamics of the labour market and, more particularly, influencing business dynamics and productivity.

Mark Peck: Why is it necessary to have high-quality data about the economy and society?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: One important role that official statistics play is providing the basis for robust international comparisons, such as that recently carried out by the International Monetary Fund. For those who are not familiar—particularly those opposite—with the International Monetary Fund report, it found that the New Zealand economy was growing strongly, the fiscal policy remains strong, the stance on fiscal policy is fundamentally sound, and that the Government’s efforts in welfare and education reform should contribute to enhancing the economy.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has used up his supplementary questions; New Zealand First has used up its supplementary questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I know how you arrived at that summation, but the fact is when the Minister said he did not understand what my question was, I asked whether I could repeat it. I think you have then counted it as two. I am sure my colleagues over here will say that. I am not challenging your—

Mr SPEAKER: No, it was another question slightly different from the first. I will take the leave of the House as to whether the member may have a supplementary question. Is there any objection? There is not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I thank the House for that generosity, and yourself too. I ask the Minister how can we have any confidence in his Department of Statistics when, for example in one area such as immigration, we have a 20,000 overstayer figure, which is purely a guesstimate, and which First World country would accept that sort of statistic being kept by a Government?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The member will be pleased that a significant investment has been made, and work is under way to ensure the sanctity of the information provided.

Taxation—Personal Rate

10. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his reported comments in the Dominion Post on Friday 21 May ruling out cuts to the top rate of personal tax rates; if so, why is he ignoring advice from the Treasury report, New Zealand Economic Growth: An Analysis of Performance and Policy, April 2004, that found “A foundational principle for a taxation system that seeks to support economic growth is that it should be broad based – low rate”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes, New Zealand’s tax system is broad based—low rate by international comparison, as John Shewan pointed out at the weekend. The Treasury report, in my view, is overly optimistic about the impact of tax rates on sustainable economic growth.

Hon Richard Prebble: How does the Minister square his claim that New Zealand already has a broad based—low rate with the same report’s statement on page 53 that “moving to a flat tax rate, for both personal and corporate tax rates, is likely to have the greatest impact on economic growth, as it conforms most closely to the broad based—low rate principle.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I notice that even the Treasury report admitted that there was little empirical evidence for this assertion; it was mainly based on theory. If one looks around the world, the United States, for example, has a much more steeply progressive tax rate system than New Zealand’s, and the tax rate on dividend payments is over 70 percent.

Clayton Cosgrove: Has he seen any recent comparisons of the tax burden in Australia and New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. The same newspaper article that quoted John Shewan ran a table showing that a person on $80,000 a year in Australia is liable for $8,807 more in tax than someone on the same income in New Zealand. If he or she sold their house, they would incur stamp duty of $40,000, which does not exist in New Zealand. Nevertheless, Australia has generally had a higher growth rate than New Zealand’s over the last 10 years.

John Key: Why does the Minister rule out reductions in taxes on the basis of available cash, when he knows one of two things, or both things—firstly, that a huge amount of the surplus available cash is actually being used to fund capital items that will have a long-term benefit to all New Zealanders, and, secondly, the correct net worth of a country is far more accurately measured by the net debt to gross domestic product ratio, not an increase in nominal growth?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to get a briefing for the member as to why Treasury places greater stress on the gross debt figure as the anchor, rather than net debt. If the member is now saying that National would borrow all the money to pay for, for example, new equipment for the Army, Air Force, and Navy; every new bit of hospital building; every new school; every other bit of capital equipment; every advance to a Crown entity; every advance to a State-owned enterprise; plus the student loan transfers; plus the Superannuation Fund, then it has gone even pottier than I thought it had gone over recent times.

Hon Richard Prebble: How can the Minister say to the House that there is no evidence that cutting the top personal rate of tax would help economic growth, when he has received that recommendation from his own tax review in 2001, when the OECD has made the same recommendation to him in 2002, and he has now had the same recommendation given to him by his own Treasury advisers in April 2004?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A number of the same people, certainly including the OECD, have recommended that a capital gains tax be introduced in New Zealand, including a tax on housing. I assume that is also part of the recommendations that Opposition parties would accept.

Hon Richard Prebble: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member could perhaps develop his answer.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am pointing out that recommendations have been made. We do not have to accept those recommendations. It is a matter of blind faith for some that lowering the top tax rate will increase growth. In 1988 we lowered it from 45 to 33 percent, and the company tax rate from 48 to 33 percent. The promised nirvana did not arrive over the next 4 or 5 years. We had the lowest record of economic growth over a 5-year period that we had had since the early 1930s.

New Zealand Citizens—Foreign Governments

11. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What is the attitude of the New Zealand Government to the harassment of its citizens by foreign Governments?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Where an allegation is made of harassment of a New Zealand citizen by another Government or in another country, my ministry would investigate that. If found to have substance, a protest would be lodged, an explanation sought, and a request issued for the situation to be remedied.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister consider it acceptable that a Mr Zhang of the Chinese Embassy here in Wellington should have contacted my office angrily last week, abusing me, in my absence, for my attendance at the inauguration of President Chen of Taiwan; if he does not consider that acceptable, and in the light of his earlier answer, will he summon the Chinese Ambassador and tell him that such interventions in the domestic affairs of New Zealanders and the rights of New Zealanders to travel are totally unacceptable in a free and democratic society—something that will be completely foreign to the ambassador?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If an incident of the nature outlined by the member took place, it would be out of order for the embassy of any other country to try to direct a member of this Parliament to do something other than what that member wanted to do.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What action has the New Zealand Government taken in relation to the harassment of TV3 reporter Jeff Hampton, who was barred from entering Fiji on Sunday?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have publicly indicated my concern that a New Zealand reporter should be blacklisted for simply doing his job. I have raised that personally with the Fijian High Commissioner to New Zealand. I have also asked for that matter to be taken up with the Government of Fiji, and have asked whether it can be reconsidered. We have also suggested to Mr Hampton that he might like to make another application, to see whether his visa would be issued on a subsequent occasion.

Rod Donald: What does the failure of the United States authorities to advise the New Zealand Government that they were holding and interrogating a New Zealand citizen for 3 months say about how the United States treats its “very, very good friends”—especially ones that are willing to lend it frigates, Orions, engineers, and the SAS?

Hon PHIL GOFF: At my request, the ministry over the last 3 months has been following up the matter of the disappearance of Andreas Schafer. Indeed, we have approached the foreign offices in London and Washington on no fewer than six occasions. Mr Schafer has now been released and, as I understand it, is in Amman, in Jordan. We are following up with Mr Schafer, to get more details of what his situation actually was, and we have asked Washington for an explanation of why he was detained, the circumstances that surrounded that detention, and why it was that although we made so many approaches he was not able to be located. I suspect that it reflects the chaos that exists, and the lack of rule of law, in Iraq at the present time, but I want to be certain that everything was done to locate one of our citizens who was missing, and I want to know the reason why those actions did not have a follow-up from the authorities in the United States.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s earlier answer to my supplementary question mean he will take up directly with the Chinese Ambassador the case I referred to, as I requested?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am more than happy, on the member’s behalf, to suggest that it is quite inappropriate for any member of this House to be told what to do or how to do it. That is a decision for an elected representative of this House, not for the embassy of an overseas country.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Besides making such approaches to foreign Governments, what can the Government do to intervene on behalf of New Zealand citizens who have been harassed or detained overseas?

Hon PHIL GOFF: In general terms, New Zealanders overseas are subject to the laws of the country they are travelling or residing in, and we cannot interfere with other countries’ processes of law. What we can do, however, is extend consular assistance by interceding to ensure that the treatment of a New Zealander is fair and equitable, given the nature of what a person resident in that country would expect from that Government.

Community Employment Group—Te Kahui Family Reunion

12. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Why was taxpayers’ money used to fund a project described by the Community Employment Group as “Te Kahui family reunion”, which the group’s New Plymouth fieldworker has described as “a real success”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Te Kahui Family Trust received a $2,000 grant in September last year towards the costs of bringing together a small community in rural Taranaki, including that hapû, to discuss the community’s future economic sustainability. Community Employment Group projects funding is used for community-based employment development projects leading to the increased capacity and sustainability of organisations and communities to contribute to their own community enterprise, and to their own job development. Priority is given to communities that have experienced disadvantage in the labour market, and that have depressed labour market conditions—as is the case with this group.

Katherine Rich: How does the Minister reconcile that answer with that of the Community Employment Group worker interviewed about the project, who freely admitted that the grant was for a family reunion, which included a “capacity-building wânanga”, and that the family reunion was a real success; who is correct: the Minister or the Community Employment Group worker?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I may have missed something on the way through that second question, because I could not quite see what the difference was. We are both quoting from the same fieldworker. There is one problem with this process, which I will share with the House because it is one that we are clearing up, and it is the reason that the member received wrong answers to her questions originally. The Community Employment Group had the unfortunate practice of answering questions, until recently, off summary forms, and then, when asked to look more deeply, of going back to—

Hon Bill English: Then tell the truth.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member Mr English is saying that I am not telling the truth. Should he rise and apologise, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER: I am assuming that the member did not accuse the Minister of not telling the truth.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Oh, good. OK, so we are still telling the truth. That is good.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The only accusation I made was that the Community Employment Group had not been telling the truth. I would not want the Minister to take offence at that.

Mr SPEAKER: That is exactly why I took the matter no further. I accepted the word of the member.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I appreciate Mr English’s clarifying that. What I am saying is that the Community Employment Group’s working off the summary sheets is what caused the difference in its answers. When it is asked to go back to its base data, it gives the same answer all the time about this particular organisation and other ones it funds in the hopes of encouraging community-based economic development.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House what positive reports he has seen about Community Employment Group work with communities?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are a lot of examples. One of them, which all members will know, is the rebuilding of communities following the period of the floods in the central North Island, which the Community Employment Group was directly involved with. There is also an example I can use from the primary questioner’s region of Dunedin. Since 2000 the Community Employment Group has supported the Dunedin Methodist Mission’s community and economic development unit’s Smart Food School Lunches community enterprise. Smart Food School Lunches provides work experience and pre-employment training for job seekers, who make nutritious lunches at low-decile primary schools in Dunedin. Feedback from the community, the schools, and the parents has been positive, the project is now attracting interest from schools outside Dunedin, and that enterprise has now become self-sufficient.

Katherine Rich: Referring to the Minister’s comments about the Community Employment Group’s use of summary sheets, can he explain why the Samoan advisory councils have received more than 10 grants for a wide range of projects with project titles such as “Softball”, “Rugby”, “Motivational Development”, “Capacity Building”, “Drivers Instruction”, “Fair Play”, “Catholic Capacity”, and “The Disciples Instructions”, and can he explain why those projects should be funded with taxpayers’ money?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is an incredibly long list of applications that have been granted funding. I would obviously need to go through them one by one with the member. But the member’s general question asks whether we agree with the kind of funding that has been going on within the Community Employment Group. The member will know that I have frozen the funding, and that now only grants that are approved by James Buwalda, the Chief Executive of the Department of Labour will be made. But I do want to say to the member that the Community Employment Group does things in the electorates of every single member in this House that we would all like to see continue. My aim is to ensure that some of what I have called lack of focus in that organisation is got rid of. We have stamped on its grants procedure, and we want to make sure that the organisation gets back to its proper focus and does the kind of job we all want to be done.

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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