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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 23 June 2004

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

Wednesday, 23 June 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Parole Act—Community Risk
2. Families Commission—Commencement
3. Police—Staffing
4. Aquaculture—Mâori Allocation
5. Nuclear-free New Zealand—Ship Visits
6. Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Monitoring of Critically Ill Child
7. Food Labelling—Content and Origin
8. Business—Incubator Scheme
9. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Enrolment Incentives
10. Psychiatric Institutions—Abuse
11. Holidays Act—Surcharges
12. Tourism—Cultural Destination

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Parole Act—Community Risk

1. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Justice: When he promoted the Parole Act 2002 what level of risk to their safety did he think the community should be obliged to accept before the Parole Board could decline parole under section 7 of that Act, and what does he believe is a level of risk that is “undue”?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): By making safety of the community the paramount consideration in any Parole Board decision, the legislation clearly directs the board to ensure that any decision to release a person should be a low-risk decision. Assessing the level of risk, of course, cannot be done through legislation. It must be a matter of judgment by the Parole Board, in looking at the individual case, considering all the evidence before it as to whether reoffending is likely, and the possible nature and seriousness of such reoffending.

Stephen Franks: When the likelihood of reoffending within 2 years by a medium-risk prisoner is at 70 percent, does the Minister think the level of risk of harm to the community is undue when a medium-risk prisoner is released?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Parole Act sets out clearly that in making the decision the Parole Board needs to look at the likelihood of reoffending, and it has particular assessments such as the Static-99 that it works to on that basis. It must look at the nature and seriousness of any likely reoffending. It makes that decision on that basis. If there was a high risk of reoffending, or even a low risk of serious reoffending, I would expect a conservative approach to be taken by the Parole Board.

Tim Barnett: How does the level of guidance on the safety of the community, contained in the Parole Act, compare with the level of guidance in the legislation it replaced—namely, the Criminal Justice Act?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Parole Act is far more explicit in terms of the guidance it gives the Parole Board, particularly in relation to the safety of the community and the question of undue risk. The safety of particular individuals, in particular, should not be compromised, and the board is required to assess the likelihood of reoffending and the nature and seriousness of it. In contrast, section 97 of the old Criminal Justice Act simply states that if “the Parole Board is of the opinion that the offender should be released on parole, it may direct that the offender be released on parole accordingly,”. There is absolutely no question about which law better protects the community.

Hon Tony Ryall: How—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member had not started asking his question. I am very grateful, for the sake of another member, that that is the case. That is the one warning.

Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister explain how parole prevents reoffending, considering the Law and Order Committee heard this morning that for most people on parole it amounts to monthly contact with their parole officer?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Parole can set out special conditions as to where people live, who they associate with, where they work, and particular requirements as to contact with the Community Probation Service. Very shortly, of course, there will be the ability over a longer term to subject a person to electronic monitoring. None of those things absolutely prevents reoffending, but obviously they create the circumstances in which reoffending is less likely.

Dail Jones: What responsibility does this labour Minister intend to take for an Act passed by the Labour Government that has obviously got it wrong again and again, as in, say, the Isherwood and the Bell cases, and what new legislation will he introduce to try to prevent these continuing Labour Party mistakes from taking place?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I draw to the member’s attention that in the many years that he was a member of the National Party, and now a member of the New Zealand First Party, the law under the Government of which he was a member was, of course, much less adequate than it is now. The law as it stands is much tougher. As the Justice and Electoral Committee heard this morning, more people are going to jail, and more people are going for longer. In the Bell case, mentioned by the member, that man has 30 years before parole can be considered—30 years in which he will never reoffend.

Nandor Tanczos: With regard to parole, does the Minister agree that keeping people in prison until the end of their sentence, as advocated by the original questioner, would reduce opportunities for managed reintegration into the community, and therefore increase the likelihood of reoffending, and does he have any estimate of how many prisons we would have to build in order to do that?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, I do have an estimate of what the policy promoted by the ACT party and perhaps the New Zealand First Party—and one never knows with the National Party—would cost. It would mean a trebling of the number of inmates we have in prison and a trebling of the cost. We would be talking, over 10 years, about a cost of up to $7 billion in extra costs in imprisonment. The ACT party is promising to do that on a low tax rate, which would mean having to slash health and education to pay for more prisons, which in itself would be counterproductive.

Dail Jones: Has the Minister ever heard of the expression: “If you are going to do the crime, you had better be ready to do the time.”; and is he saying the Labour Party does not support that type of principle?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member needs to understand that this country already has the second highest per capita rate of imprisonment in the Western World—the highest being the United States. This Government has not hesitated to be tougher when people needed to be kept in until the very end of their sentence. The “do nothing” National Party had 9 years to get it right, but it did absolutely nothing. This Government has acted. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I do not mind the odd interjection but I have heard five in the second person from one member. That is a reference to me. The member had better get it correct next time.

Stephen Franks: Why will the Minister not indicate what level of risk he considers “undue”, when it is that level that determines how many more people will be beaten, burgled, robbed, or raped, and does he not realise that he has just told us that it could be a 10, 20, or even 70 percent level of risk, because he would rather spend money on yacht races than on prisons?

Hon PHIL GOFF: That last comment is obviously impossible to sustain. This latest Budget puts $1 billion into justice over the next 4 years. Nobody in this House wants anybody to be robbed, beaten, burgled, or any of those other things. That is why I am proud to be part of a Government that has seen the crime rate come down by 13.8 percent since 1997, predominantly under this Government.

Families Commission—Commencement

2. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Prime Minister: What progress has been made in ensuring that the new Families Commission will be up and running this year, as she indicated in the Prime Minister’s Statement in February 2004?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Good progress. Today I announced the appointments of the six commissioners for the Families Commission. They are Chief Families Commissioner Dr Rajen Prasad and his deputy, Sharron Cole. Other commissioners are Professor Mason Durie, Sandra Alofivae, former human rights commissioner Carolynn Bull, and long-time family advocate Lyn Campbell. The commissioners will bring a good variety of skills to their roles and we look forward to them starting their work on 1 July. I also thank United Future for its strong support and advocacy for the proposal.

Judy Turner: Can the Prime Minister confirm that these commissioners are all well suited to the job, not only because of the record they have of working on family issues in a professional capacity, but also because of their own backgrounds reflecting those of middle New Zealand families?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I agree that the commissioners are all well suited to the job and bring a variety of family advocacy and governance skills to their roles. Dr Prasad, for example, who has been appointed the Chief Families Commissioner, has excellent credentials across a wide range of areas and I think he and the fellow commissioners will form a very good team.

Heather Roy: Will the Families Commission recognise civil unions in the same way that it recognises marriage; and has the United Future party indicated that it thinks the Civil Unions Bill will achieve the opposite of what it intended with the Families Commission?

Mr SPEAKER: The second part of the question is not relevant, but the first part can be answered.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the Families Commission has not yet formally begun its work it has not been able to form a view on such issues. What the chief commissioner said today was that the commission believes that families will define themselves by the fact that they care for children, care for older people, and care and nurture each other.

Judy Turner: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the work of the commissioners will focus on the needs of all New Zealand families, not just those who could be considered at risk?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Most definitely. The commission will advocate for all our families—whatever their make-up—recognising that the family as an institution faces complex pressures in the 21st century.

Judy Turner: Does the Prime Minister agree that it is a positive sign to see that other parties, such as National and New Zealand First, have appointed family spokespeople in the wake of United Future’s promotion of the importance of putting the family back into the policy-making equation?

Mr SPEAKER: That really is not a question that is within the Prime Minister’s responsibility to answer.

Police—Staffing

3. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does he consider the current staffing levels of both sworn and non-sworn police to be adequate; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Generally, yes.

Ron Mark: Is it not true that despite all of the Minister’s claims that he is resolving staffing issues, on 29 September 2002 a member of the Southern Communications Centre wrote to him expressing concerns about escalating workloads, the lack of available units for dispatch, and his frustration at not being able to dispatch a unit to an elderly lady in need of help, despite the fact that he had seven highway patrol cars in the area that were specifically restricted only to issuing tickets?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The answer to the second part of the question is that highway patrols are not restricted to giving out tickets. The Southern Communications Centre has the staff it requires at the moment, but the commissioner has put in additional funding this year and there will be more staff as they get trained later on this year.

Brian Connell: Why, when the Minister knew of the contents of the letter that Mr Mark referred to, in which the writer clearly stated that the Southern Communications Centre was overstretched and that someone was going to get hurt, has the Minister not done something about it; or does someone have to die before this Minister will be stung into action?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can tell that member that the performance of the southern control centre has improved to near to, or better than, its target. Ninety percent of priority 1 events are dispatched within 2 minutes, sick leave has halved since February, and there were no occupational safety and health reports in March and April, which is the latest information I have. I think the police are doing a great job, and people are safer because of them.

Mahara Okeroa: How do police staffing levels and resources compare between December 1999, when this Government took office, and now?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: In December 1999 there was a total of 8,767 police staff. The latest figure I have now shows a total of 9,710. As well, in that time technology has improved. For example, police now identify people from crime scenes where DNA samples are found and collected in nearly 50 percent of those cases. Two hundred and eighty thousand palm prints have been added to the police computer matching system. It is expected that that will result in between 7,000 and 10,000 cases being resolved, and I am hopeful that last year’s 43.7 percent resolution rate for crime, which is a record, will become even better in future. We are winning the war on crime.

Nandor Tanczos: What is the Minister doing to make better use of existing staff—for example, in developing policies to ensure a more expanded and more consistent use of diversion, as recommended by the Health Committee inquiry, in order to reduce police time in court?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The commissioner and his staff are continually trying to improve their performance, and they get support from this Government.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not usually raise these kinds of points of order, but I am not sure whether the Minister addressed my question at all. I asked what the Minister was doing to make better use of existing staff, and I gave an example that was a specific recommendation of a select committee. I am not sure whether the Minister addressed the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister may like to make a brief comment.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I said that the commissioner is always trying to get staff standards to improve. That is what he is doing, and I support him in that.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister consider police front-line staffing levels to be limited by resource considerations or to be needs-based in response to current high crime levels; and if it is the latter, then why are victims of burglary considered lucky if the police can actually attend to such crimes, rather than being prioritised to higher-level offences?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I want to put the member right. Crime is in decline; it is dropping away. The rate of crime is on the way down. No matter how many times people get up here and ask questions that imply it is going up, it is going down. If the member wants the official figures, I will supply them to him.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister share New Zealand First’s view that it would be more effective and more efficient to split our police into two segments—general policing and traffic policing—along the lines being currently proposed in Britain; and if he does not agree with that, is he saying that both New Zealand First and the British have got it wrong?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I would say that New Zealand First has got it wrong.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister addressed the question. The member cannot insist on every single thing in the question being addressed. The Minister addressed the question.

Brian Connell: How does the Minister reconcile the answers he has given today with his acknowledgment at last week’s Law and Order Committee meeting that he knew the Southern Communications Centre was understaffed and overstretched, and that 111 calls were being missed; and, given that information, why has the Minister not budgeted for more staff, as he told the Law and Order Committee that he was going to do?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That member has a short memory span. When I told him there were more on the way, there were more on the way.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that in the last 5 years emergency calls to the police have increased by 50 percent whereas communications centre staffing has decreased by 2.11 percent, and is he concerned by a report that states: “A 10-hour shift without regular breaks is detrimental to health, especially to pregnant women dispatchers, who cannot even find time to go to the toilet”; if he is concerned about that, why did he not act on that correspondence, which he received on 29 September 2002?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: One must first wonder why it took until now—halfway through 2004—for the member to raise the matter. However, worse than that, his facts are not correct. Ninety percent of priority 1 calls are dispatched within 2 minutes. It is interesting to note that the workload of the communications centres is changing. The Auckland communications centre has over 39 percent of its calls originate from cellphones dialling 555 because of traffic matters.

Aquaculture—Mâori Allocation

4. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Fisheries: Does the recent aquaculture proposal allow Maori to tender for aquaculture space from the general pool as well as being allocated a blanket 20 percent of new aquaculture space; if so, why?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister of Fisheries): Yes, this proposal does allow Mâori to make their own business investment decisions in relation to marine farming, in addition to the proposed allocation of 20 percent of new aquaculture space. Just as Mâori individuals, families, companies, or entities are able to purchase fisheries quota in addition to any allocation they are entitled to under the National Government - negotiated 1992 fisheries deed of settlement, this Government will not constrain Mâori business and economic development.

Gerry Brownlee: Do Ngâti Awa of the Bay of Plenty have a preferential right to purchase up to 5 percent of further space, and do Ngâti Tama of Taranaki have a preferential right to purchase up to 10 percent, as well as both being part of the blanket allocation and having the right to tender into the general pool; if so, how does the Minister justify specific Mâori entities having three bites of the cherry?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify this issue for the member. He is clearly referring to the provisions of some historical, pre-September 1992 treaty settlements, where, as one of the forms of redress, iwi have been provided with a right of first refusal to up to 10 percent, in some cases, of coastal space that is tendered. This is a preferential right to purchase up to a certain proportion, rather than an allocation as such. Mâori are required to purchase the authorisation at market price and are not provided with additional money to do so. The provision, for example, in the Ngâi Tahu settlement is contained in schedule 105 of the Ngâi Tahu Claims Settlement Act. I would be pleased to provide the member with a copy if he wishes one. The Ngâi Tahu settlement was, of course, negotiated by the National Government.

Russell Fairbrother: Is the Minister’s newly announced proposal a way forward for the aquaculture industry, and is it a response to the unfinished business of any previous Government?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes. This proposal does present a way forward for the aquaculture industry, and I must say I fully agree with the editor of the Christchurch Press when he said on 19 June: “The criticism from National is especially hollow given its record. In essence, the present aquaculture proposal mirrors the 1992 Mâori fisheries settlement . . . Indeed, aquaculture might be regarded as the unfinished business of 1992.” The quote continues: “Even as National’s current Mâori Affairs spokesman, Gerry Brownlee, is condemning the Government, Graham is saying that the marine farming plans are in line with the 1992 settlement.”

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that the Opposition claim that the 20 percent is a foreshore-seabed trade-off is completely ridiculous, when no person, Mâori or Pâkehâ, would willingly exchange property rights for a convoluted Resource Management Act consent and plan-change process—through traditionally hostile local authorities—for extremely limited marine space, for a restricted period of time, and for which he or she must then pay coastal occupation charges, which is hardly a fair trade-off?

Mr SPEAKER: That is an assertion about another party’s policy, and the Minister has no direct responsibility for that policy. The member did not word the question in accordance with the Standing Orders.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do I have the opportunity to reword the question so that it fits within Standing Orders?

Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants to use up another question to do so, she can. I will allow her to do that. However, that is another question she is asking. I will let her do it straightaway.

Gerrard Eckhoff: What role did Trevor Mallard, the Coordinating Minister, Race Relations, play over the allocation issue; and has the Minister of Fisheries received written advice from Minister Mallard over the impact of a 20 percent special allocation to Mâori?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I made it clear to the questioner in my answer yesterday that the issues he raised would clearly be addressed as part of that process, and I can only stress that no formal, final Cabinet position has yet been achieved in that regard.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that under the Government’s foreshore and seabed proposals, where Mâori have ancestral-connection orders to the coastline, they have a veto opportunity on areas for marine aquaculture; and that the only way the Government can be certain that the industry will expand is to create an incentive for those areas to be large by ensuring that Mâori get 20 percent of them?

Mr SPEAKER: In so far as that question directly refers to the Minister’s portfolio, the Minister can respond.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have no responsibility for that legislation.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister about areas that are for marine farming. The Government has made a big play in recent days of saying that it wants to progress the 20 percent allocation to Mâori so the industry itself can progress. For the Minister to suggest that he has no knowledge of, or responsibility as a Minister for, legislation that will materially affect his own portfolio is, at the least, a stretch.

Mr SPEAKER: That is the Minister’s answer. If he says that, that is his answer.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, he is obviously incompetent.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member cannot make that sort of comment. I think that denigrates Parliament. I ask the member to withdraw that comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How many times have people in this Parliament referred to Ministers as being incompetent and not had to withdraw their references?

Mr SPEAKER: Not on a point of order. As far as I am concerned, on a point of order that comment is inappropriate.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to draw to your attention that my colleague’s question was in respect of the ancestral-connection changes to the Resource Management Act. Of course, the Minister concerned is not only the Minister of Fisheries but also the Associate Minister for the Environment, responsible for the very issue that my colleague Mr Brownlee raises with regard to aquaculture and the ancestral-connection amendments to the Resource Management Act. I think it is reasonable that the Deputy Leader of the National Party obtains a response to that very reasonable question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Ministers often hold more than one portfolio, but the question is addressed to them only within the portfolio that question relates to. Someone cannot ask me, as the Minister of Finance, a question about my duties as Leader of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot second-guess Ministers’ replies. That is not my job. My job is to see that a reply is within the Standing Orders, and it was.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister inform the House whether there was ever any discussion or any report, relating to the matter of the 20 percent allocation, that mentioned considerations around the seabed and foreshore legislation and its effects?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Certainly, not that I am aware of at this point.

Nuclear-free New Zealand—Ship Visits

5. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Has he received any reports relating to the legislation prohibiting nuclear-powered ships visiting New Zealand?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I have seen two reports. One from late yesterday suggested that a proposal to have the ban on nuclear ships removed “before lunchtime” had been abandoned by the National caucus, and that, at least publicly, there would be no further proposals to do so—at least, not before the election. The other report, however, is interesting. A poll by TV3 shows that 54 percent of New Zealanders do not believe that the National Party is sincere about keeping nuclear ships out. Basically, New Zealanders do not believe that National can be trusted. All these reports show that this whole affair has been a shambles for the National Party, and a deep embarrassment for Dr Brash personally.

Martin Gallagher: Has the Minister seen any reports from New Zealand’s allies and friends expressing their views on how this issue has been handled?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have seen a somewhat unusual report from my Australian colleague the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, in May, at the time of the New Zealand – Australian leadership dialogue. It expressed his frustration at the National Party raising expectations that there would be changes to the legislation but, unlike Labour, not having the courage of its convictions to carry them through. I have not seen any reports on whether Dr Brash in his recent meetings with Mr Downer or Mr Armitage privately promised that the ban would be removed “before lunchtime” or said it might now take a little bit longer to do that.

Dail Jones: Has the Minister read any reports confirming that any changes to legislation prohibiting nuclear-powered warships from visiting New Zealand, and other major constitutional changes, should be decided by referendum, as required by current New Zealand First policy; if so, from whom?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It has been suggested by the National Party that it would decide this issue by a referendum at an appropriate time, and, of course, after particular manipulation of public opinion—and certainly after the election.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister received any proposals from the Leader of the Opposition to move the New Zealand seat of Government closer to Washington, DC, in order more easily to assess United States’ reactions to New Zealand policy proposals?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility there.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked whether the Minister had received any proposals from the Leader of the Opposition. Surely, it must be the Minister’s responsibility to consider whether he has received such a proposal.

Mr SPEAKER: No, he is not responsible for the seat of Government.

Hon Ken Shirley: Is he opposed to holding a referendum to gauge the level of support in New Zealand for dropping the ban on nuclear propulsion; if so, can he envisage any circumstances in which this ban might be dropped?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The referendum that determined this Government’s policy was the last election, when it made an unequivocal statement that it supported the continuation of the ban on nuclear ships. Not only did we do that, but since 1987 polls have consistently shown that two-thirds of New Zealanders are opposed to nuclear-propelled ships—that they are two to one in favour of keeping New Zealand nuclear-free. There is no doubt that this Government will do that; there is every doubt about what the National Party, lacking any conviction on this issue, might do if it got the chance.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Standing Orders are very clear that Ministers’ replies must be succinct. All that the Minister had to say in answer to my question was “No”. Instead, he prattled on for about 30 seconds, in effect clearly saying “No”, but he was not prepared actually to get up, answer the question, and say that, no, he was not prepared to have a referendum.

Mr SPEAKER: If I were actually able to suggest to questioners and answerers that they keep their questions and answers succinct, question time would be over in about 20 minutes. I do like answers to be succinct, but I think members who ask long questions will get long answers, and the member’s question was quite a long one.

Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister received any advice from any official of the current or prior United States administrations that repeal of New Zealand’s antinuclear legislation is a precondition for any form of improved relationship with the United States on the economic front?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Most certainly I have received no advice from any American official that changing our nuclear policy, which is surely a matter for us as an independent and sovereign country, is a prerequisite for any changes in trade policy or any other policy the United States might pursue in our regard.

Georgina Beyer: Have any recent events given the Minister cause to reconsider the Government’s policy on nuclear ships, notwithstanding what he mentioned in a previous answer?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No. To the contrary, this Government has taken a firm, principled, and consistent position with regard to the nuclear ban, and is backed overwhelmingly by New Zealanders for so doing. To prevaricate, to be indecisive, to be lacking in conviction, and to try to have a bob each way is incredibly damaging to any party, which is why the National caucus told Don Brash yesterday to pull his head in and to say he would not change the policy.

Mr SPEAKER: The last part of that answer is supposition and should not have been part of the answer.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table statements made by the Minister for Trade Negotiations, Jim Sutton, that New Zealand needed to revisit its nuclear-free policy.

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

Hon PHIL GOFF: I seek leave to table a quote from Don Brash that states: “The likelihood is that if we put the proposition to the Americans which they find acceptable, and that of course would be after we became Government, then we would seek a referendum.”

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

Child, Youth and Family Services, Department—Monitoring of Critically Ill Child

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty), on behalf of KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Does she stand by her response to question nine yesterday that the two other children taken into care were not subject to physical or sexual abuse, and what was the specific nature of the “detrimental living environment” the mother was in at the time the children were removed from her care?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): I do stand by my response yesterday that the baby’s mother did not have a history of either physical or sexual abuse of her own children. Because of the need to protect the children, and because I have been advised that discussion of such information could adversely affect the police work currently under way, I am not prepared to disclose further details.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why has this Minister told the Parliament that there was no physical abuse, when one of the two children who was taken into care at age 2 was so starved by its mother that it weighed less than 9 kilograms, was unable to walk, stand, or talk, and was in such a severe state of decline?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I stand by my response yesterday that there was no history of physical or sexual abuse of her own children by the woman in Tauranga who is the centre of the allegations currently.

Lianne Dalziel: What factors are considered when assessing the risk for a child?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Child, Youth and Family Services social workers take into account a large number of factors when assessing the level of risk to a child or young person. This includes, but is not limited to, past reports of violence, a family’s financial situation, drug and alcohol abuse, transients, degree of attachment and bonding, and the degree of support available to the family.

Dr Muriel Newman: On what date did the Minister first learn that the mother had starved one of her first two children, and why did she use the phrase “a detrimental living environment” as a euphemism for starvation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The first time I heard that phrase referred to was when Tony Ryall used it in relation to his supplementary question. The reason I used the term “a detrimental living environment” is because that is exactly what the report on this family reported to me.

Judy Turner: Will the Minister continue to ignore the proposal of United Future to introduce a differential intake model, whereby vulnerable families like this one would be knitted into a range of community services they need, considering that yesterday she admitted in her answers that there is simply not enough strength in the department to help parents who have had children removed into statutory care and that better engagement with other social service agencies is needed?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I do agree with the member, and that is why that is a primary focus of the new family services unit being developed within the Ministry of Social Development because it was considered more appropriate for that department to lead it rather than Child, Youth and Family Services. I also strongly support the view of that member that supporting parents who are not coping and who ask for help should themselves be supported by members of Parliament and not attacked and labelled as failures.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister satisfied with the way her department has handled this case, and has she asked the Commissioner for Children to review the handling of this situation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: On the advice I have, yes, and in answer to the second part of the question, no.

Hon Tony Ryall: If there was no physical abuse of the two children, and in light of the circumstances that I told the Minister about earlier, why did she lead the House to believe that the child was removed because of some environmental factor effecting the mother, when the police who took these children to safety reported that one of them was covered in urine and faeces, and that these children were removed because of their state, not because of the condition the mother was living in?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have not been advised of that before. I will rely on the honesty of the member, and I will certainly have those new allegations followed up.

Food Labelling—Content and Origin

7. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Is it Government policy that New Zealanders have the right to know what is in the food they eat and where it comes from; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): It is Government policy to ensure that the food New Zealanders eat is safe, and to provide as much consumer information as is practicable.

Sue Kedgley: Why is the Minister’s Government actively opposing mandatory country-of-origin labelling for food, despite widespread public support for it, and why is it stating in international forums like Codex that New Zealand opposes country-of-origin labelling on imported food being dated, and will not support any move towards mandatory country-of-origin labelling for food?

Hon ANNETTE KING: First, this Government is not actively campaigning against country-of-origin labelling. However, a standard is being drawn up by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and is being consulted on at this time, but we have made it clear, and have made it clear for many years, that our position on this issue has not changed. Our position is that country-of-origin labelling is a commercial issue, that it is best dealt with by fair trading and trade practice laws, and that we support a voluntary system of country-of-origin labelling.

Dave Hereora: Has she seen any reports that claim New Zealand “is on the verge of importing nuked food for the first time.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have seen the Green Party’s website, which claims that we are on the verge of importing “nuked food” for the first time, when the truth is that we have had imported irradiated spices for several years. The difference today is that this Government requires such food to be labelled. I think New Zealanders have the right to know the truth.

Sue Kedgley: Can she confirm that the Fair Trading Act does not require manufacturers to state where food comes from, and given that New Zealanders eat a greater proportion of imported food than most OECD countries, why is the Government, which presents itself as being open and honest, denying consumers their right to know where food comes from?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Fair Trading Act does not require manufacturers to say where food comes from, but it is a mechanism to ensure that people are truthful in anything they do say. I note that the member herself made a complaint under the Fair Trading Act when she decided that someone was making a deceitful claim in selling imported food, so obviously the member thought it was a good-enough vehicle to use.

Dave Hereora: Has she seen any reports that claim that free-range food is best?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes I have seen a report on the Green Party website, claiming that animals reared intensively are often contaminated with diseases such as campylobacter and salmonella. There is no evidence to support this claim. There is actually a higher incidence of salmonella in free-range eggs than in eggs that are battery-farmed. I think New Zealanders have a right to know the truth.

Sue Kedgley: Can she explain why the Government supports mandatory country-of-origin labelling for footwear and clothing, but not for food, especially when mandatory country-of-origin labelling for food would make it easier to recall potentially contaminated food, help prevent bioterrorism, protect public health and safety, and help consumers make informed choices about food they buy, or reasons why the Australian states support mandatory country-of-origin labelling?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can inform the member—and I will read from the joint communiqué that comes from Australia and New Zealand— that the issue of country-of-origin labelling “is not a public health or safety issue. The safety of the food supply is assured by other means.” So the member is incorrect in her assumptions.

Sue Kedgley: If the majority of New Zealanders support the Food Standards Australia New Zealand proposal for a mandatory joint food standard for country-of-origin labelling of food, which is presently out for consultation, will the Government support the joint standard for mandatory country-of-origin labelling; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government will consider the submissions made to Food Standards Australia New Zealand when we receive them. I suspect, however, that the majority of New Zealanders will not make submissions.

Business—Incubator Scheme

8. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Associate Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What progress has been made with the Government’s business incubator scheme over recent years?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Associate Minister for Industry and Regional Development): The scheme has been a stunning success. When this Government came to office there was one incubator. As of now, there are more than a dozen up and running or planned, and the Prime Minister opened an extension of one in Wellington last night. Between them, these incubators cater for over 100 businesses, and those businesses on average increased their turnover by 228 percent in the last 12 months.

David Parker: What is being done to invest further in this scheme?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government is delighted with progress within this scheme. It continues to invest in the success that the scheme is delivering. Funding increased in the last Budget to $2.7 million, up 50 percent on last year. The National Party continues to oppose the scheme. National members simply do not get it. They call it corporate welfarism.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Enrolment Incentives

9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he stand by his statement to the House on 6 May 2004 that, in relation to spending on enrolment incentives by Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, “I am informed by officials that the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology spent $80,000 in total on book vouchers. That was largely $20 plus GST for each person who was involved.”; if not, why not?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Acting Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I stand by the Hon Steve Maharey’s statement. The Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology advised officials that the figure for book vouchers for students enrolling in the Cool IT course was approximately $80,000 excluding GST. The exact figure, I understand, was $83,284 excluding GST. More recently a figure has been quoted in the media of $311,693 including GST. That figure is different because it also includes separate, but related, initiatives whereby schools and other community groups earned $20 per student for promoting the Cool IT programme. The Hon Steve Maharey has already indicated that changes to the funding rules will mean that, in future, it is not possible to offer inducements to students for publicly funded courses, regardless of how these are paid for.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that she is now aware that a further, almost, $200,000 was spent on inducements, and why did the Minister not advise the Parliament that that was the case when, at the time, he had a report from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology outlining those figures?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I assume that the honourable member does not mean $200,000 in addition to the $311,693?

Hon Bill English: No.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: OK. I am sorry I cannot confirm that the Hon Steve Maharey did have a report with that at the time, but I am happy to find that out and let the member know.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Tertiary Education Commission undertaken a review of the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology’s Cool IT course?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. The purpose of that review was to establish the extent of the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology compliance with funding regulations and broader elements of Government policy. That review was commenced on 25 May. I have now had an opportunity to consult with officials and confirm that this report will be made public when finalised. Deloitte’s draft was delivered to the Tertiary Education Commission on Friday, 18 June. The commission is consulting for factual accuracy with those persons mentioned in the report; and once that has taken place, then the report will be available.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Was the reason that officials from the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit took no action when information was received about the relationship in this case between a Christchurch Polytechnic staff member and Brylton Software that, firstly, they did not believe the relationship to be inappropriate, or, secondly, they believed the relationship to be inappropriate but it was not their job to do anything about it?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit has no audit powers or functions—that is correct. That is why it did not take formal action at the time. But I understand that it did, in fact, convey to the polytech that it had to abide by the proper processes and procedures.

Hon Bill English: Now that the Minister has established that the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology spent almost $300,000 on inducements and broke the Government rules against providing inducements for enrolment, when will she take up the offer that the polytech has made to repay the money to the Government?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I think it would be wise to wait for the reports to come in before one makes the assumption that there has, in fact, been a breach of the rules.

Psychiatric Institutions—Abuse

10. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Attorney-General: Will she be ordering an inquiry into claims of serious abuse at psychiatric institutions during the 1960s and 1970s; if not, why not?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General): Until the Crown has completed its investigation, no decision can be made on whether to hold an inquiry.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister not believe that the serious allegations, including physical and sexual abuse, long periods of solitary confinement, and the use of electroconvulsive therapy as punishment, are not in themselves enough to warrant a full and proper inquiry by this Government as of now?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government takes the allegations very seriously and that is why they are being thoroughly investigated. However, that will take some time because many of them go back over 30 years.

Darren Hughes: When does the Attorney-General expect the investigations to be concluded?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Crown is investigating these matters as quickly as possible, and I have in fact instructed that more staff be applied to the investigation process. However, the difficulties are that records from over 30 years ago have to be found. Once found, they have to be assessed. Witnesses who are alleged to have been involved in these instances also have to be found and interviewed. There is also a variety of other processes, about practices and about what medical treatment was appropriate at that time, that also have to be investigated. But I do assure the House that we are taking the allegations very seriously.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister believe that the level of abuse in psychiatric institutions during the 1960s and 1970s was one of the reasons deinstitutionalisation was promoted so strongly, but that deinstitutionalisation has now gone too far, leading to our high suicide rate, and leaving families to cope with the tragedy of dealing with mental illness, often unsupported?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I think that question calls for an opinion that is outside my expertise. It does relate to the management of mental institutions at this time, and I have no knowledge of that. However, I will say that in 1969 there was an investigation into allegations at Porirua, and they were found not to be substantiated.

Ron Mark: What was the level of support, both financial and physical, afforded by the State to Bailey Kurariki and the other youths who killed Michael Choy, and does she not believe that the child victims of psychiatric care and abuse in the 1960s and 1970s are deserving of the very same degree of assistance in order to allow them to press their cases against the Crown?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I have no knowledge as to whether legal aid has been sought on behalf of these claimants, but that would certainly be a source of assistance for them.

Holidays Act—Surcharges

11. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Tourism: Does he stand by his comment that surcharges charged by hospitality operators on public holidays are “short-sighted” and send the wrong message to tourists; if so, what advice has he offered to the Minister of Labour on this issue?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: Yes. The Minister of Labour does not need the advice of the Minister of Tourism on that matter.

Hon Roger Sowry: Did the Minister raise those concerns with the Minister of Labour when the Holidays Bill was being considered by Cabinet, or afterwards when it was in front of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, given the fact that the hospitality industry was warning that it would be forced to raise prices by about 15 percent on public holidays as a result of this Government’s legislation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the Minister has clearly stated his support for incorporating any extra costs where they belong, in overall charges.

Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has the Minister received on the use of surcharges in the tourism industry?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Consistent with my own advice, the chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association is reported as saying: “Our advice was for people to average it out and put up prices generally—average out across the year and not make a feast out of it.”

Peter Brown: Noting that answer, does the Minister concur that it would be much easier and more straightforward if the industry was allowed to pay people on a composite rate, whereby it could easily average the cost out and avoid the surcharge?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister is not responsible for the labour laws. I do note that when penal rates were abolished, the charges on public holidays did not go down.

Deborah Coddington: What is the total cost to the hospitality industry of the new Holidays Act provision, or has the Minister not bothered to find that out?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have that information in front of me, and I doubt whether it is able to be supplied in any precise form.

Larry Baldock: Why does the Minister seem to be so surprised that hospitality operators are imposing surcharges on public holidays, when they warned the Government that this would happen in their submissions on the Holidays Bill; and does he think it is better that those businesses charge more and stay open on a holiday, rather than close and not only deny workers an opportunity to earn extra money but also give tourists the impression that the country has gone back to the days when it used to close down at the weekend?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the latter point, that is a very long time ago now in New Zealand. I repeat that when penal rates were abolished the charges on public holidays did not go down, so presumably people in the industry were actually averaging the costs out across the year.

Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister of Tourism read the submissions opposing the changes to the Employment Relations Act from the Tourism Industry Association, the Hospitality Association, and Shotover Jet, which state that the further change to the labour laws will further increase prices; and does he intend that those operators should simply absorb the costs that are being imposed on them by the Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Obviously, I am not aware of whether the Minister has actually read that. But I am sure he would have; he is a very well-read Minister. The Minister’s view is that the cost should have been absorbed in terms of increases across the year, as it was previously. If the hospitality industry were to vary its charges on an hourly basis according to the actual costs each hour, one would never know quite what one would be paying.

Hon Roger Sowry: How much does the Minister think prices should go up by, to absorb this cost across the whole year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Very little, given the small number of public holidays in New Zealand.

Tourism—Cultural Destination

12. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Tourism: Has he received any reports on marketing New Zealand as a cultural tourism destination?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Associate Minister of Tourism), on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: Last month the Rough Guide to Mâori New Zealand was launched. It is a wonderful way of showing our visitors the diversity of the cultural experience available in New Zealand, and in particular of informing them about our unique Mâori culture. There have been 165,000 copies delivered through the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom. The Government, Tourism New Zealand, Rough Guides, the National Mâori Tourism Network, Air New Zealand, and Tailor Made Travel UK have worked together to prepare and fund the Rough Guide to Mâori New Zealand. I wish to congratulate all those parties involved in this exciting and very interesting publication.

I suggest that many members of this House could very well benefit from reading it. The Associate Minister of Tourism and myself will ensure that every member of this House receives a copy of this excellent and informative publication.

Moana Mackey: What other initiatives has the Government taken to enhance cultural tourism?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: On behalf of the Minister of Tourism, a highly successful round of hui was held recently by my ministerial colleague Dover Samuels to canvas the issues facing Mâori tourism operators. These hui have been invaluable in strengthening a cooperative working relationship between Mâori tourism operators and the Government, as well as providing first-hand information and input into our policy initiatives. As the Mâori tourism sector grows in strength, both the tourism industry as a whole and the New Zealand economy will reap the benefits. Kia ora tâtou katoa.

I seek leave to table the publication Rough Guide to Mâori New Zealand: Discover the Land and the People of Aotearoa. I would suggest if members on the other side want any more copies, they give me a call.

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

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


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

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