Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 22 June 2004
Tuesday, 22 June
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. Army—Light Armoured Vehicles Purchase
2. Parole Act—Victims' Rights
3. Working for Families Package—Marginal Tax Rates
Question No. 2 to Minister
4. Benefits—Beneficiaries Born Outside New Zealand
5. Public Defence Service—Pilot Scheme
6. Marine Farming—Mâori Ownership
7. Civil Union Bill—Rights
Prime Minister's Fellow 2004, Japan 6
9. Child, Youth and Family Services—Monitoring of Critically Ill Child
11. Prisoners—Rehabilitation Programmes
12. Human Rights Act—Political Parties
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Army—Light Armoured Vehicles Purchase
1. TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Defence: What decisions has the Government taken to replace the Army’s light operational vehicle fleet?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): In March I signed the contract for the purchase of 188 Pinzgauer light operational vehicles, as the first stage of replacing the Army’s ageing Land Rovers. Yesterday, Cabinet approved the purchase of a further 133 Pinzgauers, 60 of which will be armoured, completing this Defence Long-term Development Plan project. These light operational vehicles will significantly upgrade the Army’s mobility and support capability.
Tim Barnett: Why does the Defence Long-term Development Plan provide for the modernisation of the Defence Force across all three services?
Hon MARK BURTON: I quote: “The National-led Governments did not allow defence spending to keep pace in the 1990s, and further, 9 years of neglect have seen the NZDF perilously low in capability and short of funds to correct this.” These honest and insightful comments were made by National’s spokesperson on defence, Simon Power, and the man who wants his job—Richard Worth.
Simon Power: Is the Minister satisfied that the right purchase decision has been made, given Official Information Act papers that show the other option considered—the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle—was more battle proven than the Pinzgauer; if so, why?
Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, because on an overall assessment the vehicles chosen, both the non-armoured and the armoured variant, have been proven to be better value for money, and provide better long-term serviceability and a better long-term through-life structure.
Simon Power: I seek leave to table a set of Official Information Act documents showing that the HMMWV was assessed as superior.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is.
Ron Mark: Will the 60 armoured Pinzgauers come complete with the new birdcage-style slatted armour, of the type that the Americans are now having to bolt on to their light armoured vehicles, or is the New Zealand Government not going to get the improved light armoured vehicle armour because it simply does not believe our soldiers deserve that sort of protection?
Hon MARK BURTON: Obviously I would take technical advice, but I doubt that the clip-on armour designed for light armoured vehicles would be able to be attached to a light operational vehicle like the Pinzgauer.
Parole Act—Victims' Rights
2. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Justice: Does he think the victims’ rights referred to in the Parole Act 2002 should include a right to expect the Parole Board to ensure a sentence denounces, deters, and holds a prisoner accountable for his or her crime; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): No. It is in law the role of the sentencing judge to take account of the need for denunciation, deterrence, and accountability when determining the length of the sentence, and whether to impose a period above the statutory minimum before parole can be considered.
Stephen Franks: Why does the Minister think it is acceptable for the Parole Board then to undo the work of the judge by letting a prisoner out at one-third of a sentence that was originally calculated to deter, denounce, and hold the person accountable?
Hon PHIL GOFF: When a judge sentences an offender, the judge has in her or her mind the minimum period of time the offender should spend in jail before parole can be considered. If the judge believes there is a strong need for deterrence, denunciation, and accountability, then it is perfectly within the capability of the judge to ensure that the offender concerned serves at least two-thirds of his or her sentence before even being considered for parole. Then, of course, the Parole Board makes a decision as to whether there is any risk to the community, and must not release if there is risk to the community.
Moana Mackey: What evidence is there that changes made by the Sentencing Act to denounce and to deter people from serious offending have been reflected in sentencing?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is very clear evidence. The Sentencing Act now requires judges to impose the maximum sentence for the worst types of offending in any category, and, when there are aggravating factors in a murder, to set a minimum sentence, before parole can even be considered, of 17 years. This has resulted, for example, in the courts requiring a person to spend at least 30 years in jail before parole can even be considered; that was the court’s decision in the William Bell case. It used to be the case that only 7 years was required to be spent in jail before a murderer could be released.
Hon Tony Ryall: How can this Minister stand in the House and justify a system that means a rapist sentenced to 9 years in jail can be out on parole after only 3 years; and is this the reason why the word “punishment” never features in his legislation?
Hon PHIL GOFF: That member, as usual, has got it quite wrong. What I noticed about the forecast of prison sentencing, for example, is that it showed that for the 7 years prior to my legislation there was no change in sentencing levels at all, and that, after the sentencing legislation, there was an immediate increase in the length of time for which people were being sentenced for serious crimes, and an increase in the percentage of the sentence that they actually served. Whereas that member did nothing, this Government has acted. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There are too many interjections.
Dail Jones: What faith can the public have in the Parole Board and this minority Labour Government ensuring the legal implementation of the Parole Act and the completion of prison sentences, when this minority Labour Government allows a non-member of the board—Dr David Chaplow—to influence the board in its decision and to contravene all aspects of the Parole Act?
Hon PHIL GOFF: This Labour Government did not allow anything; operational matters are determined by the Parole Board itself, and by statute passed in this House I am not allowed, and neither is the Minister of Corrections allowed, to interfere in that sort of decision making by the Parole Board.
Stephen Franks: Would the Minister consider it inappropriate for the Parole Board to respond to the heartfelt pleas of a victim appearing before it, and to take account of deterrence, denunciation, and the need for accountability; or does the Minister think it is OK for the Parole Board to have to tell victims that it is ordered to let people out, irrespective of those factors, if they are no longer a risk to the safety of the community?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The guidance for the Parole Board is very clearly set out in section 7 of the Parole Act. It states that in every case the safety of the community must be the paramount consideration. I also draw the member’s attention to section 7(2)(d), which states that the Parole Board must take into account, in making its decision, the rights of victims being upheld.
Ron Mark: What steps does he intend to take to review Parole Board decisions involving Dr David Chaplow as an adviser; if he does not intend to take any steps to review those decisions—bearing in mind that Dr Chaplow is not and was never appointed to the Parole Board by his Government—why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is wrong. In fact, David Chaplow was appointed to the Parole Board at one point. However, the fact is that he was an adviser to the Parole Board, and not a member, at the point decisions were being made. He should not have participated in that decision-making, and that matter is now being addressed before the courts and by the Parole Board.
Stephen Franks: Does it concern the Minister at all that an offender who is due to be deported at the end of his sentence must be released at one-third of the sentence, however heinous the crime, because by definition the offender can no longer be a risk to the safety of the community on deportation, and that, accordingly, the 20-year sentence recently put into law for trafficking in humans is an absolute nonsense as it means 7 years?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think that with regard to people who are liable to be deported at the end of their sentence, most New Zealanders believe that they should serve what part of their sentence they are required to serve, then should be kicked out forthwith.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why does punishment not feature in this Minister’s sentencing legislation?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member again is quite wrong. In terms of the guidance given under the Sentencing Act, it is about holding the offender accountable, providing for the interests of the victim, providing reparation, denouncing the conduct, deterring the offender, and protecting the community—all of those things that the member would expect to be there. The prison sentence itself—30 years before parole—must be regarded as punishment.
Dail Jones: Why is the Minister refusing to take some action against Dr David Chaplow for acting outside the scope of his powers; why is he refusing to take some action against the Parole Board for allowing Dr Chaplow to be there; and why is he not ensuring that the Parole Board review those 160 cases where people appear to have got off lightly because of his Government’s inaction and Dr Chaplow’s actions on the Parole Board?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is nothing that I am aware of that suggests that people got off lightly, as the member suggested. It may well have, in fact, been the opposite. With regard to how the Parole Board will have to deal with that problem, the member should just be patient for a couple of days yet.
Working for Families Package—Marginal Tax Rates
3. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in relation to the Working for Families Budget package that “there is no evidence whatsoever that high effective marginal tax rates would cause middle-income families not to want to go to work.”; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Don Brash: How does the Prime Minister explain the advice she received from the Department of Labour on 31 March this year that “those on middle-level incomes will now face higher effective marginal tax rates from family assistance, thereby reducing incentives to increase employment”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That matter was addressed in the House last week by the Minister of Finance, who pointed out that one consequence of providing assistance to families who previously did not qualify for it is that some of them, in certain circumstances, may face higher effective marginal tax rates. That, of course, has no bearing on the answer I gave last week that the member has quoted from, which says that higher effective marginal tax rates would not cause middle-income families not to want to go to work.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister agree with figures provided by the Deputy Prime Minister that show that the number of families facing effective marginal tax rates of at least 80 percent will rise to 50,000 following the full implementation of the Working for Families package—an increase of 50 percent on the situation when she became Prime Minister—and if so, does she acknowledge that the package makes the problem of high effective marginal tax rates worse, not better?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I do not. What I know is that more families are being assisted through these targeted tax measures. That has the effect of pushing the impact of effective marginal tax rates up the income ladder; it does not necessarily change the highest amount of them.
Rodney Hide: Why does the Prime Minister think that working families work overtime, if not for the money that they get in their pockets at the end of it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the money is coming into their pockets through these targeted tax takes, I suggest they are just as well off.
Dr Don Brash: Why does Treasury’s modelling show that only 2 percent of sole parents will move off benefits into work, and that there will be no net change in employment for two-parent families as a result of Working for Families if, as she said last week, “The key thrust of these measures is to get people off benefits and back to work.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That most certainly is the key thrust at the lower end of the income scale. As Dr Cullen said in the Budget, when comparing a sole parent family on $30,000 that is on the domestic purposes benefit and a sole parent earner family on $30,000, the earner family will, as a result of these measures, be $92 a week better off.
Dr Don Brash: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is advice from the Department of Labour about reduced work incentives, in a Cabinet committee paper dated 31 March.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Don Brash: The second document establishes the sharp increase in the number of people facing an effective marginal tax rate. It is a written response from the Minister of Finance dated 21 June.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Dr Don Brash: The third document is, again, a written response from the Minister of Finance to a question on 18 June regarding the fact that there will be no significant impact on employment from the Working for Families package.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Question No. 2 to Minister
DAIL JONES (NZ First): I apologise to the House. I intended to seek leave to table something at the end of the last question.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sure that the House will not object.
DAIL JONES: I seek leave to table an answer given by the Minister of Corrections to my question regarding the involvement of Dr David Chaplow, indicating the Government intends to do nothing about a judicious—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that answer. Is there any objection? There is.
Benefits—Beneficiaries Born Outside New Zealand
4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment: In the last 5 years, how many people not born in New Zealand received an unemployment, invalid’s, and/or sickness benefit, and at what cost?
Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment): While it is true that Work and Income collects the place of birth for each applicant, making it possible to check the payments for all recipients, including New Zealand citizens and those with permanent residence, to calculate the total cost of those born overseas and entitled by residency to those benefits, the system would have to make an individual search for each of the 5 days of the 52 weeks for each of the 5 years for every person on the records, including those who are currently there and those who have moved out of the system, and it is simply not possible to undertake the search with the time or the resource available.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister whether he is aware that this is 2004 and we live in a computerised age, and how can he stand there and tell the House he has not had enough time to collate an answer, given I lodged written questions asking for the same information 3 weeks ago that remain unanswered, and why he is continuing to hide or be evasive in respect of this matter?
Hon RICK BARKER: To the best of my knowledge, it is not the same question. It might be in a similar area, but the member has not identified precisely the question; I do watch the questions as I go through, and to my recollection it is not the same question. Secondly, the member does take lightly the fact of the complex calculations needed and the huge amount of manual search to go through—I repeat for the member—each individual who has been on the record, either past or currently, for every day, for every week, for 5 years. It is a mammoth undertaking.
Georgina Beyer: What is the Government doing to ensure migrants do not require a benefit?
Hon RICK BARKER: The Government has inherited the problem, and we have made an undertaking about implementing two strategies to deal with this. Firstly, with regard to immigration, we are trying to better match with jobs people who migrate here, so that many people come here with a job offer—not a hope for a job, which was the case previously. Secondly, we are looking at those people who are currently here, and I would like to draw the House’s attention to the fact that in Auckland, from the start of this year, there are 38 specialist migrant Work and Income case managers, who have been working directly with migrants. We have been able to achieve a 30.1 percent reduction in the number of people who are in the category of migrants who are receiving an unemployment benefit—a 30 percent reduction in 1 year.
Katherine Rich: When the rules clearly state that a migrant has to be in New Zealand at least 2 years before he or she is eligible for the unemployment benefit and the sickness benefit, can he explain why there are hundreds of migrants who have been in New Zealand less than 2 years, getting those benefits?
Hon RICK BARKER: People have to be residents and meet other criteria, but I am very pleased to be able to say to the member that we inherited quite a significant problem. For example, regarding sickness beneficiaries, in the year 2000 there were 267 people in that category who were on a sickness benefit; in 2004, there are 65. This represents a 75 percent reduction. We are being much more effective in dealing with these issues.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could address the specific question the member asked. [Interruption] I am making comment. There will be no comment from anyone else. Perhaps the member would like to ask the question again.
Katherine Rich: When the rules clearly state that a migrant has to be in New Zealand at least 2 years before he or she is eligible for the unemployment benefit or sickness benefit, can he explain why there are hundreds of migrants who have been in New Zealand for less than 2 years who are getting those benefits?
Hon RICK BARKER: I did mention in passing that people have to have a residency qualification—they have to be permanent residents—and there are other qualifications that make them entitled to those benefits. The point I am trying to make to the member is that nothing was done about it by the previous administration. We are doing something about it.
Hon Matt Robson: Does the Minister know of Government departments that provide educational material to the public on the positive contributions of migrant communities to New Zealand, in order to counter the campaigns of hatred towards migrants run by New Zealand First?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, there is no need to raise a point of order. I will not have that last comment made. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Matt Robson: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will not speak to the point of order. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Matt Robson: I want to speak to the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot. I am ruling.
Hon Matt Robson: I will not withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the House, then.
Hon Matt Robson withdrew from the Chamber.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister confirm that the amendments to the Immigration Act passed last year should reduce the number of migrants on welfare, because it restricts residency to those with a job offer relevant to their skills; and can he also confirm that despite its election promise to give greater priority to immigrants who have the skills and qualifications, New Zealand First voted against that very legislation?
Hon RICK BARKER: I can in fact confirm that New Zealand First voted against the bill. I can confirm that we replaced the policy that was in place when New Zealand First was part of the Government. New Zealand First was, in fact, part of the problem. This Government is solving the problem by matching—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That Minister has no responsibility with regard to the subject matter. More importantly, he has just told the House that collating the information that would form the subject of his answer has been impossible, even though he was asked for it in writing 3 weeks ago. What we are seeing is an evasive campaign by the Minister and his department. They know some things, but mostly they do not know much.
Mr SPEAKER: That point of order might be another point of order. It is not relevant to this. The Minister was addressing the question.
Hon RICK BARKER: I am very pleased to be able to say that, in fact, we have had some great success. For example, in the year 2000 approximately 579 people were on an unemployment benefit as a result of the previous policy; currently, there are 222. We have a significant reduction in those issues.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister able to answer some questions on percentages with a degree of accuracy, as claimed by him, yet he cannot answer questions that were matters of written request 3 weeks ago, and why does he not consider it a very serious matter that the current cost of emergency benefits over 5 years is $382 million and is likely, when added to the rest of the benefits, to be a cost in excess of $1 billion whilst his party has been in Government?
Hon RICK BARKER: I can confirm, in written answers to the member, that in November 2002 there were 6,927 people—I gave him the answer for that—and there are currently 5,458, which is a 20 percent reduction. We are making significant progress on a problem we inherited from a Government that he was a part of.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not ask him that. I asked him whether he was concerned as to two critical figures. One is the emergency benefit, annualised and multiplied by five; and second, the likely reality that if we add all the other things—the unemployment benefit, the invalids benefit, and the rest—we have already passed $1 billion for the immigrants in this country. That is what I want an answer on, and I have written to him countless times in the past.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might like to comment a little further.
Hon RICK BARKER: I feel I did answer the question. I said to the member that in terms of the question he asked originally, about the numbers over the 5 years for all the individual categories, in my opinion he has no appreciation of the size, the enormity, of the job of doing that calculation. Secondly, on the information we have readily available, I have indicated to the member that the trend is significantly downward. In some cases it is 20 percent and other cases it is 75 percent less than what it was when we came to Government.
Dail Jones: I seek leave to table in the House an amendment moved by New Zealand First, as recorded in Hansard on 2 September 2003, which states: “Allowing for Government residence policy that will better enable the selection and active recruitment of migrants who can make the best possible contribution—”
Mr SPEAKER: I gave the member quite a long chance to state his question. He does not have to complete it all, or he will be doing something different.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise it with reference to Speaker’s ruling 18/5under the heading “Exclusion from the Chamber”. There is a longstanding understanding in this House that when members are asked to withdraw and apologise, they do so, and they cannot obviate that obligation by exiting the Chamber; whereas we have just experienced the Hon Matt Robson leaving the Chamber and not apologising to the House. I would like a clarification of that point.
Mr SPEAKER: I dealt with the matter and I ordered him out of the Chamber. That is where the matter ended.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ordered that honourable member out of the Chamber. Does that mean he will never come back again, or on what basis will he come back again?
Mr SPEAKER: Please do not be silly. I ordered him out of the Chamber as a yellow card for the rest of question time. That is what I usually do at that stage. I want to say to the member that I dealt with the matter; immediately the member refused, I sent him out. That ends the matter, at that point.
Public Defence Service—Pilot Scheme
5. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Justice: Where is the new Public Defence Service pilot scheme operating and what is its purpose?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The Public Defence Service opened last month, and operates in the Auckland and Manukau courts. Ultimately it will handle approximately a third of the criminal cases in each of those courts. Its purpose is to provide legal aid services that are high-quality, consistent, and independent, and that represent value for money.
Russell Fairbrother: Are there any advantages in the type of working environment created by a public defender scheme?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There are, indeed. It creates the ability to build a team approach, where a group of skilled professionals can share knowledge and experience and support each other. It also allows younger lawyers to learn from, and be assisted by, senior lawyers with experience in the system. Having met all the lawyers who are now working as public defenders, I am hugely impressed with the depth of experience they have, the skills they have, and the enthusiasm with which they are approaching their task.
Marine Farming—Mâori Ownership
6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Fisheries: Has he been informed of any reports which suggest that Mâori currently own more than 20 percent of marine farming space around the coastline of New Zealand; if so, why is he proposing to allocate 20 percent of marine farming space to iwi?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister of Fisheries): I have received reports that Mâori have varying levels of interest in marine farming around the country. Nonetheless, the Waitangi Tribunal has found that Mâori have interests in marine farming that remain outstanding. The Government’s proposal recognises those outstanding interests, and this proposal is intended to settle them in line with the 1992 deed of settlement.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that under the Government’s proposal, iwi will not only get 20 percent of marine farming space, but will be guaranteed up to 10 percent of space through treaty settlements, and also retain the right to tender for general allocations of space; and does he think that the three opportunities given to Mâori to tender for marine farming space, compared with the single chance other New Zealanders have, is fair?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes. No, the proposal is post-1992, and yes. One of the key elements of the proposal is dealing with the unfinished business of the 1992 deed of settlement without adversely affecting private business interests. Progressing that issue, in the view of Government, is critical to the progress of the aquaculture reform bill and the future of the aquaculture industry.
Mahara Okeroa: What reports has the Minister seen supporting the Government’s position on this issue?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have seen the Ahu Moana report of the Waitangi Tribunal of December 2002, which states on page 50: “We note the response from the Minister of both Fisheries and Mâori Affairs at the time, the Hon Doug Kidd. He thought that the Treasury had wanted to bring aquaculture into the quota management system, but he had personally forbidden Treasury officials from mentioning the matter during discussions on the deed of settlement, since it would confuse an already complex set of negotiations.”
I am also pleased to see the former National Minister in charge of Waitangi Negotiations, the Rt Hon Doug Graham, commenting last week that the Government’s proposal for an allocation of 20 percent of post-1992 marine farming interests was very much “in line with the 1992 deed of settlement”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm by way of background information for the public that the 1992 settlement was opposed by one parliamentarian who was promptly expelled the next day from the National Party caucus, and National then went on to give Doug Graham a knighthood—and what does one call that?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister does not have any responsibility for that, but the member has made his point.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, this is a very serious political issue. I may have gone too far in the last part of my question, but I am entitled, by way of background, to have the facts that this House, this Parliament, and the press gallery know about put back in front of the public.
Mr SPEAKER: I will disregard the last part of the member’s question. The member has asked if the Minister can confirm a fact as it relates to his portfolio.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am clearly not as au fait with the matters of the time as the questioner is, but I can confirm that the Hansard of the debate makes extremely interesting reading, and I commend it to all members of the House.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Has the Minister sought clearance from the Coordinating Minister, Race Relations, Trevor Mallard, that this 20 percent allocation to Mâori is entirely needs-based and not race-based; if so, what specific needs does this allocation address that are unique to Mâori ?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can assure the member that as these discussions—and discussions are what they are—of the Government proposal proceed, then such considerations will clearly be taken into account.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made no attempt whatsoever to reply to a very clear question from my colleague, and I ask that he be asked to at least attempt a response to the question asked.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I thought he addressed the question.
Metiria Turei: How can the Minister have any confidence that the 20 percent allocation will benefit all Mâori as the 1992 deed of settlement intended, when the current allocation model in the Mâori Fisheries Bill excludes a large number of iwi and hapû, because they do not have a coastal rohe boundary, or are simply not included in the bill?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As the member will be aware, the invitation from Cabinet is to Te Ohu Kai Moana to provide to Cabinet an allocation process for approval by my colleague the Minister of Mâori Affairs and myself.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that section 5(1) of the 1992 settlement Act does not talk about the allocation of marine farming, but does, in fact, state: “The settlement shall discharge and extinguish all commercial fishing rights and interests of Mâori, whether in respect of sea, coastal or inland fisheries, including any commercial aspect of traditional fishing rights and interests, whether arising by statute, common law, including customary law and aboriginal title, and the Treaty of Waitangi.”; if so, why does he give the answer he gave to the primary question today?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It should be no surprise that the deed of settlement is silent on the issues of marine space, given the prohibition I detailed earlier from the Minister of the time for that to be discussed as part of that settlement. Clearly, this is unfinished business, which that party was not prepared to face up to.
Mark Peck: Has the Minister sighted any other reports indicating support for this proposal?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I have. They include the following statement from Graham Coates, executive officer of the New Zealand Marine Farming Association: “Using the tools that the Government has provided, we can move forward. Anything that removes one of the hurdles has got to be a good thing. Let’s get on with things!”; Terry Schwass from the Port Mussel Company believes that the Government has chosen “the most sensible option”; Doug McKay, chief executive of Sealord’s, was reported in the Waikato Times as telling a seafood conference last month that until law reform was settled, there would be no investment in New Zealand aquaculture development. Second to last, I quote from the editorial column of the Nelson Mail: “Criticism from deputy leader Gerry Brownlee and fisheries spokesman Phil Heatley is little more than predictable, shallow politicking; and, finally, from the Christchurch Press—
Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.
Gerry Brownlee: How does the Minister propose to get a 20 percent allocation of the marine farming industry to iwi, when they currently own more than 20 percent of existing licences and space, and will that mean that he will buy back that space from iwi, only to turn around and hand it back to them for nothing?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The answer to the last part of the question is no. In answer to the first part of the question, clearly, the Government has indicated that any acquisition of property would be on a willing-buyer and willing-seller basis. As I said in my answer to the member’s first supplementary question, the Government’s prime intention in this matter is to achieve resolutions that are satisfactory to all parties, the industry, and iwi, without interfering with private marine farming interests or private business interests.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of historical accuracy, I seek to table the relevant Hansard debate of the evening—
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I seek leave to table an editorial from the Christchurch Press commenting that National’s policy is especially hollow.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that Press editorial. Is there any objection? There is.
Civil Union Bill—Rights
7. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What specific rights, if any, does the Civil Union Bill confer on couples, or is this particular bill only of symbolic value?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Justice): The Civil Union Bill confers the right for different and same-sex couples to have their relationship formalised by a registrar or a civil union celebrant and to have their relationship registered under the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act. I do not believe that civil union vows, or marriage vows for that matter, are only of symbolic value.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister be good enough to confirm that the Civil Union Bill does not confer rights on couples in respect of the ability to inherit property, next of kin status, visitation rights at hospitals, etc., and if he is good enough to confirm that, can he explain to the House why the Civil Union Bill is being promoted?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am able to confirm that many of the rights mentioned by the questioner are conferred by the tandem legislation. The reason for the Civil Union Bill is to provide an appropriate statutory recognition of alternate forms of relationship. I must say that many people in support of this bill wish that the tolerance they show towards those who choose marriage would be reciprocated with regard to civil unions.
Lianne Dalziel: What reports has the Minister seen of recent reaction to this bill?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have received a number of media reports, which I will seek leave to table in due course. The first is from today’s New Zealand Herald, stating that the Civil Union Bill should be passed and that social behaviour would be changed little by the law. Secondly, the Dominion Post editorial also talked today about what makes a family a success. It states that the Civil Union Bill “is not going to shake the foundations of society.” Thirdly, the Manawatu Standard, which reported 4 days ago in an editorial entitled: “Nobody should be second-class”, went on to state: “… we all need to look elsewhere where these things are now a familiar part of the social and legal landscape and they will see a lot of happy people.”
Peter Brown: Will the Minister clarify the situation and tell the House what the difference will be to my wife and I if this Civil Union Bill and the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill are passed as they currently exist?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Assuming that the questioner means “for my wife and me”, can I say practically in his case and his wife’s case, none.
Metiria Turei: Has the Minister heard any reasonable or common-sense arguments about why a couple who have been living together for a number of years in a committed relationship should not have the right to be defined as immediate family or next of kin in such legislation as the Coroners Act?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That is a question I think should be properly directed to those people who are not in support of this legislation.
Larry Baldock: Why does the general policy statement in the Civil Union Bill state: “The Bill will address the current situation in which same sex couples cannot receive legal recognition of their loving and committed relationship.”, when in fact the Property (Relationships) Act has already given legal recognition to their relationships, and the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill will address even further recognition, and does this not further confirm that the Civil Union Bill is legally unnecessary?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, because there are a number of protections that do not flow without this legislation, and the rights of de facto and other couples are not adequately protected unless this human rights legislation is progressed by the House.
Hon Peter Dunne: With regard to my first question and to the Minister’s answer to the last supplementary question, what specific rights, other than the right to a ceremony and having it registered, as contained in the Civil Union Bill, was he referring to as flowing from this legislation that are not provided for in the tandem legislation?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: There are a number of additional rights, and if I am allowed to I will detail five of them. The first one is that the bill confers the right for different sex couples who do not wish to marry to have that relationship legally and socially recognised through a civil union. Secondly, the bill also confers the right for same-sex couples to have their relationship legally and socially recognised. Thirdly, the registration of a civil union provides a couple with readily available proof of the nature of their relationship, rather than relying on a determination of whether their relationship falls under the definition of de facto in the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill. Further, the Marriage Act of 1955 does not confer rights on couples, except in relation to solemnisation and registration of the relationship. Rights and responsibilities arising from marriage are also established through other statutes. Finally, the act of entering into a civil union or marriage can be seen as an important symbolic step as it marks the occasion when a couple makes formal commitments to each other.
Question time interrupted.
Prime Minister's Fellow 2004, Japan
Mr SPEAKER: I have very much pleasure in informing members that Mr Taro Kono, member of the Prime Minister’s Fellow 2004, Japan, is within the precincts of this Chamber. I am sure members would wish he be welcomed and accorded a seat on the left of the Chair.
Mr Taro Kono, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, entered the Chamber and took a seat on the left of the Chair.
Question time resumed.
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What discussions has he had, if any, with the Minister of Health regarding the number of drug-resistant tuberculosis cases found in New Zealand, and has she given him the number of cases brought in by immigrants infected overseas?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): I have had discussions with the Minister of Health regarding the number of drug-resistant TB cases found in New Zealand. I am informed that 16 cases of multidrug-resistant TB have been diagnosed in New Zealand since 1995. Of those cases, I am advised that 15 were contracted outside New Zealand, and one was contracted on shore from a close family member who was already infected.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister concerned about the incidence of this deadly multidrug-resistant tuberculosis known as MDRTB—the number of cases of which have doubled since 1995—and that most cases are brought in by immigrants infected overseas, when, in fact, the provisions of our law would prevent that from happening?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am concerned about that, and that is why the Government has toughened up the screening programme.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Immigration Service website state that generally an application is declined if a person has active TB or is taking TB drugs, when this deadly, infectious disease, known as MDRTB, is 100 times more expensive than normal TB to treat, with no guarantee of a cure, and New Zealand’s Institute of Environmental Science and Research describes it as “a horrible, horrible disease to treat”; and why has the Government not done something to ensure we have blocks in place to prevent it from happening in our country?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, as I said to the member before, advanced screening is being done now. The reality is that it is a deadly disease—there is no question about that—but it is not incurable. There are ways of resolving it; it just takes more time. The reality is that people will not get entry into New Zealand, if they are diagnosed as having TB.
Nanaia Mahuta: What is the Government doing to protect New Zealanders from catching TB from people entering this country under our immigration rules?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: TB screening for quota refugees, who are all from high-incidence countries, was introduced during the 2002-03 year. The new TB-screening rules already apply to all student applications received on or after 1 April 2004. That means that all students who come from a high-incidence country, and who intend to be in New Zealand for more than 6 months, must be cleared before entry. From November this year, that requirement will be extended to visitors and workers from high-incidence countries, as well.
Child, Youth and Family Services—Monitoring of Critically Ill Child
9. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Was the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services monitoring the care of the six-week-old baby boy reported to be in Starship Children’s Hospital in a critical condition, and had the department been doing so since the baby’s birth?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): The baby’s two siblings are in foster care, and therefore when the baby was born a new assessment was automatically initiated. The identified risks to the baby did not indicate that his immediate removal was necessary. His mother did not have a history of either physical or sexual abuse of her own children. The factors that caused her other children to be taken into care were not their physical or sexual abuse, but were due to the detrimental living environment she was in at the time, and that situation had changed in the intervening time period.
Katherine Rich: Given that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services had deemed that mother to be unfit to look after her two children because of her neglect of them, why, suddenly, was she deemed able to look after a baby?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The mother did not have a history of either physical or sexual abuse of her own children. I am sure that in this instance, as in any other instance, the considerations are very difficult for social workers to go through. But they identified the risks to that baby, and did not decide that immediate removal of that child was necessary.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister advise on what improvements have occurred in the department’s social work practice, as a result of the employment of around 90 or more additional social workers and the expenditure of up to an additional $127 million by the Government?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I can report a number of very positive moves that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has been able to initiate with the recent employment of over 90 social workers, and with a further 56 coming into the department from 1 July, including a reduction in the number of unallocated cases on the department’s case list, despite record numbers of notifications over the last 6 months.
Judy Turner: Why has the department ignored the lessons of the Aplin, Jetson, and Burrows cases, where reports on those deaths stressed the vital importance of assessing the danger to other children in at-risk situations, or is the department still stuck in the dangerous mode of having “a single incident focus” that was lamented by the baseline review team?
Hon RUTH DYSON: In the particular instance raised in the primary question, I do not think it is fair at all to say that the lessons of the Aplin and Jetson case have been ignored. In my view this would have been a very difficult decision for the social workers concerned to make. But it does reflect what I am sure all members of this House would want the department to be working towards, and that is not a situation whereby whenever a parent who has been neglectful in the past says he or she is now trying to be a good parent we say no, that person will never be a good parent. We will try to do everything we can to improve the parenting skills of those parents, and to change and improve their lifestyles, so that they can be good parents in the future.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of section 39 of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act, which enables the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to remove a child if there is any likelihood at all that the child could suffer from harm, what investigation is under way to determine what went wrong in this case, and when will the results be available?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I said, the initial assessment of the potential risk to the baby was initiated as soon as the baby was born, due to the fact that his two siblings are already in foster care. Monitoring was then undertaken in collaboration with the nursing staff from the local hospital. Two social workers visited the baby at his home on the day after he arrived home. A nurse also visited the baby on that day at a different time. She visited again 3 days later, and reported to the social worker that the child appeared well. It was when the nurse visited a third time—8 days after he went home—that the injuries were seen and arrangements were made immediately for his admission to Starship Children’s Hospital. As in all these cases, a report on the incident and the practices concerned will be delivered in due course.
Katherine Rich: Did the department regularly monitor the baby’s care since birth, given that the department had already removed two siblings from that mother because of serious neglect, and how many times did a social worker personally visit, see the baby, and view its care?
Hon RUTH DYSON: For the first 6 weeks or so of the baby’s life he was in hospital, because he was born prematurely. He was discharged home 8 days prior to his admission to Starship Children’s Hospital. He had visitors from social workers on the first day after he arrived home. A nurse also visited on that day at a different time. She visited again, as arranged with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, 3 days later, to ensure that both the medical needs of the premature baby and the assessment of the risk factors for the mother were considered, and the nurse reported to the department’s social worker that there appeared to be no difficulties in the parenting arrangements that were in place. The nurse then visited for a third time 8 days afterwards. The social worker was scheduled to visit later that day, but in the intervening time the baby was admitted to hospital.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister advise what kinds of systems, if any, are in place for Department of Child, Youth and Family Services social workers to advise, support, and perhaps educate parents who have had their children removed into statutory care, and prior to them having another baby or taking on the care of another child?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I frankly think that is an area in which we do not have enough strength in the department. Of course, it is not the department’s primary responsibility to deliver such services itself, but I believe that better engagement with other social service agencies that do provide parenting programmes and support is warranted.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that had the 26-year-old mother in this case had access to the full range of voluntary and community services that would have been provided through a family support coordinator, as proposed by United Future’s proposal to reform the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, then at least those voluntary agencies might have picked up on the risks to the 6-week-old when her department failed, and these tragic events might have been avoided; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: It does seem as though additional support was warranted. It is very difficult to assess the impact that additional support would have had if it had been provided, but obviously any engagement with organisations that are providing parenting support, education, and advice is a good idea.
Katherine Rich: Will the Minister rebut concerns that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has made a huge mistake in allowing this baby to be cared for by a mother who has already had two children removed due to serious neglect, and that it should have removed the child under section 39 of the Act or, at the very least, kept the baby’s care under constant supervision over the 8 days it was in the mother’s care?
Hon RUTH DYSON: On the information that I have to date—and obviously a fuller report will be coming to me eventually—it does appear as though all the risk factors were correctly assessed, and the risk to this child was not considered such that his immediate removal from the family home was justified.
10. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent initiatives has the Government taken to protect the environment from the growing problem of discarded used tyres?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): New Zealanders get rid of 3 million to 4 million tyres a year. Often they end up in our rivers and gullies or in dangerous heaps in the countryside. The Motor Trade Association and I this morning launched Tyre Track to reduce the risk of old tyres being dumped illegally. This is a great example of the Government working in partnership with industry to keep our environment clean—no legislation, no taxes, and the problem on the way to being retired!
David Parker: How is the Government helping to ensure that more old tyres are reused or recycled instead of just ending up in the landfill?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: A number of businesses are already turning old tyres into anything from playground mats to erosion control walls. Matta Products Ltd in Ôtaki is an excellent example. The Ministry for the Environment is working with recyclers and companies large and small to ensure a steady stream of tyres are reused or recycled instead of just being landfills.
Mike Ward: What is the Minister proposing, to address the issue of tyres being imported either new or used, on cars or off cars, and why has she opted for a voluntary scheme when dealers were asking for a mandatory scheme?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Over half a million used tyres are imported into New Zealand annually and many more come in on used vehicles. It is possible that these imports account for up to half our waste stream. Tyre Track will help to provide us with some statistics about this issue that can be used to determine a way forward with industry. It may be that they can all be reused.
11. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: What analysis has been done on the effectiveness of the Public Prison Service’s rehabilitation programmes on repeat offenders?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Extensive analysis has provided ample evidence that treatment programmes provided by the Department of Corrections significantly reduce reoffending. For example, studies of the department’s Kia Mârama and Te Piriti sex offender programmes have consistently shown that those programmes halve the rate of reoffending in terms of sex offences against children. Programmes to reduce violent offending have been shown to reduce violent offending by approximately 17 percent over a 2-year period. Although, of course, not all repeat offenders will be rehabilitated, these results show that the department’s rehabilitation programmes are helping to reduce reoffending.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Minister so convinced, when official information from his department now shows that over one-third of all violent inmates are serving at least their third stretch in prison; and does that not convince him that the parole system is not working?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Not at all. The reality is that the repeat reoffending the member has mentioned has been around under Governments over many, many years. What the department is doing now, particularly with violent-offending programmes, is actually reduce reoffending rates. I am confident that, with more effort, more reductions will occur.
Martin Gallagher: Can the Minister detail to the House what success the Department of Corrections is having in preventing offenders from recycling back into prisons?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Department of Corrections does good work in this area. The percentage of released inmates returning to prison within 2 years of release was over 37 percent in both 1999 and 2000, around the time that the member opposite was in Government, but reduced to 34 percent in 2001. I am currently developing a coordinated reintegration programme that is designed to reduce even further the number of ex-prisoners returning to prison.
Ron Mark: What does it say about prison rehabilitation that 60 percent of the new inmates entering prison this year have been there before; and in the light of the revelations now, does the Minister now accept that his integrated offender management system is failing, and it is time to implement New Zealand First’s legislation of “three strikes and you’re out”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In response to the second part of the question, no. In response to the first part, of course it is not just the prison or corrections system that is responsible for people returning; there is a much wider responsibility than that. The reality is that the programmes the member criticises have been quite effective in helping to reduce reoffending. I would hope the member would support those programmes, rather than bagging them all the time.
Stephen Franks: Can the Minister guarantee to us that the three criminals referred to in the report recently released from the ministry who were returned to prison after more than 20 previous prison sentences were not out on parole at the times of their latest crimes; and how many second chances, after 20, should a criminal get before the Government learns that it ought not trust him or her on parole again?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the first question, I cannot guarantee that, because I am not sure. In answer to the second question, under the guidance of the Minister of Justice the length of time that people are serving in prisons has increased, which is why I, as the Minister of Corrections, have had to find $600 million for four new prisons.
Hon Tony Ryall: If rehabilitation and parole have not worked once, twice, three times, or even 21 separate times, when will the Government realise that these repeat offenders should not be getting parole, which they are violating upon release?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The department does its best, but the reality is that if that member wants to lock up everybody, he will need a whole lot more prisons—presumably, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, where the member lives.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table a series of questions put to the Minister regarding an evaluation report of the integrated offender management system—a report that he is now refusing to make available to the public.
Mr SPEAKER: Are those parliamentary written questions?
Ron Mark: Yes, they are parliamentary questions.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those questions. Is there any objection? There is.
Human Rights Act—Political Parties
12. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Does the Government have any plans to amend the Human Rights Act 1993 to allow political parties to discriminate on the basis of religious belief or sexual orientation; if not, why not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): No, there has been no call to date to amend the legislation in this respect.
Metiria Turei: Is the Minister aware of the situation of Dipra Ray, who was reportedly discriminated against in the selection of a youth MP, on the grounds that he was Hindu and not Christian, by a member of the United Future Party; and what is her view of such discrimination?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as it relates to the Minister’s portfolio, she may answer.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, I am aware of the article. Any further action to be taken would be up to the person concerned through the Human Rights Commission.
Darren Hughes: Could a potential candidate take a complaint against a political party to the Human Rights Commission because of non-selection based on either religious belief or sexual orientation?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, he or she could. But it would depend on the particular details of the case. It must be pointed out that political parties are not explicitly covered in the Act, except in relation to their employees or the provision of goods and services—just like any other organisation.
Marc Alexander: Does the Government have any plans to amend the Human Rights Act 1993 to accommodate the views of political parties such as the Green Party, which debated at a conference several years ago whether our domestic pussy cats have rights; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: So far as it relates to the Minister’s portfolio, she may answer.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: As a lover of cats I say that no, there is no call to date to amend the legislation in this respect.
Metiria Turei: Has the Minister seen any reports that suggest that the desire to discriminate on the grounds of religion is associated with the desire to discriminate on the grounds of sexual preference; and is she concerned that some political parties may want to send New Zealand back to the 19th century when such discrimination was widely practised and tolerated?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The grounds that prohibit discrimination under the Human Rights Act do not, in fact, include political parties except in relation to employment. Any other matters or views relating to the actions described would be personal.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree with 16-year-old Dipra Ray when he said “You expect that, in a country where you preach about equality and all that stuff, that you will be able to at least practise it.”; and does she have any concerns about the state of human rights in New Zealand when an Auckland teenager seems to have a better grasp of human rights than some political parties?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: One can understand his intense disappointment after having assumed he was going to come as part of the Youth Parliament. Undoubtedly from this experience he will know that there is a Human Rights Act, and that there is the possibility, if that Act needs to be changed, of a process through which that can happen. It will be a matter for this House to determine, ultimately.
End of Questions for Oral Answer