Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 3 August 2004
Tuesday, 3 August
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Unemployment Benefit—Sickness Benefit
2. Schools—Character Education Programme
3. Mâori Language Commissioner—Foreshore and Seabed Bill
4. Solid Energy—Ministerial Confidence
5. Race Relations, Coordinating Minister—Indigenous Status
6. State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme—Reports
7. Immigration Service —Visas Issued Overseas
8. Kyoto Protocol—Involvement
9. Specialist Youth Service Corps Programme—Statistics
10. Chief Censor—Ministerial Confidence
11. World Trade Organization—Geneva meeting
12. Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 4)—Primary Production Committee
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Unemployment Benefit—Sickness Benefit
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he still stand by his statement: “Not a single case has been produced to substantiate this claim. Work and Income has no policy of moving the unemployed on to sickness benefits.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I absolutely stand by my statement that Work and Income has no policy of moving the unemployed on to a sickness benefit. There is no such policy. Despite requests for information on cases whereby Work and Income is supposedly trying to inappropriately push people on to a sickness benefit, I have yet to see evidence of this.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister aware that a number of members of Parliament have received direct information from constituents that that is precisely what is happening, and does he not consider two damning letters to the editor in yesterday’s New Zealand Herald, from doctors convinced that Work and Income does in fact employ a policy of moving people off the unemployment benefit and on to sickness benefits, to be substantial evidence of the policy that he denies to be a reality and at work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I follow the letters in the newspaper very carefully, as well. I want to say to the member that none of the doctors has said that Work and Income is pushing people on to a sickness benefit. For example, I know a doctor, who may well have written to the member, and I have the letter in front of me now that points out that doctors have no way of seeing that this is coming from a case manager. In fact, what doctors say is that patients seem wilfully or skilfully to be misinterpreting what is going on around them, and that they come along to try to get this from their doctor. I repeat that it is a doctor’s judgment as to whether someone gets a sickness benefit, not a case manager’s. The doctor makes a judgment on medical grounds.
Georgina Beyer: Who has the central role in deciding whether a person transfers from the unemployment benefit to the sickness benefit?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The answer is doctors. As medical professionals, they are the gatekeepers of this policy. We rely on the professional skills and ethics of doctors to certify sickness only when they are convinced it exists. This is the case whether a person is a worker, a beneficiary, or a patient seeking medication. Work and Income case managers have no medical training, and should never try to determine whether a person is too sick to work. None of us wants case managers to decide what assistance people can apply for off their own bat. Doctors are the only people who can test eligibility for a sickness benefit, and we rely on them to apply the highest professional standards.
Katherine Rich: Is demanding specific details of patients not a political stunt, because the Minister knows that no doctor will breach patient confidentiality; and is he suggesting that the doctors and medical groups who say they are being put under mounting pressure to pass able-bodied beneficiaries as unfit for work so that they can claim the sickness benefit are making it up?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, we are not asking for a political stunt to be followed through. We would simply like a doctor to say to us: “I have evidence of an individual case manager sending someone to me to be put on the sickness benefit.” Of course, doctors would not do that, because they are making a medical and ethical judgment, and, therefore, they would not certify someone as sick who is not sick. We have not had one single doctor—the Medical Association has been approached on this—saying that he or she has evidence of a case manager sending a client for that purpose—not one.
Sue Bradford: Does the Government intend to do more to support the work of reputable mental health non-governmental organisations like the Phobic Trust to help invalids and sickness beneficiaries move into paid work; if not, why not, given the very practical ways in which such organisations can help people who otherwise languish on the benefit?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member knows, earlier this year the Government launched its Sickness and Invalids Benefit Strategy, which will involve a large number of people who are currently in positions such as the member describes being assisted, and in many cases they will be helped by community organisations.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware that the number of people transferring from the dole to the sickness benefit for depression has increased by 73 percent since the year 2000 and the number transferring due to stress has increased by 99 percent over the same period, and how does he explain such a sharp rise in specific incapacity over such a short period of time?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am aware of a rise in those numbers due to depression and stress. It is common to all OECD countries that those kinds of conditions are now part of the sickness benefit arrangements. It is one of the reasons why earlier this year we introduced a whole range of new policies. We believe that issues such as depression can be dealt with relatively quickly, and people can return to work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen Dr Chan’s comments—which I am certain have been brought to his attention—that: “The sickness benefit scam has been going on for decades. The situation came to a head in 1999 when Winz staff starting asking patients for whom I would not sign certificates to go to other GPs who would. I lost many patients to doctors who would readily accept new patients and their fees.”, alongside the answer given by his colleague Rick Barker on 30 November that over 36 percent of those on sickness benefits were, immediately before they moved to the sickness benefit, on the unemployment benefit? Who is lying in unison here: the bureaucrats, his ministry, or the doctors out there who know it is going on as a fact?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On the second question, regarding Rick Barker’s answer to his question, I will get the material down here and table it, because the member is not quoting it correctly, but I do not have it in front of me. So I will get it down here to do that—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table Rick Barker’s answer right now.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: —because that is the right thing to do. Can I go back to Dr Chan’s letter and remind the member that Dr Chan said in his letter to the New Zealand Herald that: “Any doctor signing a false declaration is as guilty as the patient.” I go back to the central point in this debate: case managers are not medically qualified people. The only person who makes a decision as to whether someone can get on to a sickness benefit and fill out this sickness benefit medical certificate—the entire form—is the doctor certifying the health status of that person, and Dr Chan affirms exactly that.
Dr Muriel Newman: How come everyone in the country appears to know what has been going on with people switching from unemployment benefits to sickness benefits except him as Minister, and why does he think it is that he is failing to keep a grip on what is happening in his own portfolio?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Everybody in the country does not know what that member knows. I know she goes to meetings with people in phone booths all over the country, but meeting with that few group of ACT supporters does not constitute everybody in the country understanding something that is clearly and utterly not true.
Judy Turner: How will the trial of medical intervention in Manukau as part of the Sickness and Invalids Benefit Strategy produce results when 41 percent of invalids and 30 percent of sickness beneficiaries in that area suffer from psychological disorders yet the provider that has been contracted to treat them, ProCare Health, is an organisation of general practitioners, not specialists in mental health?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would be very happy to walk the member right through all of the people who have been contracted for the Manukau pilot, which does include people who deal with psychological conditions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister denying the substance of Rick Barker’s answer on 13 November last year that over 36 percent of those on the sickness benefit were immediately before that time on the unemployment benefit; and will he give two undertakings: one, that any citizen who writes to him outlining that that is what they were told by Work and Income will get protection; and two, will he resign when they do so?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have said all the way through this debate that if anybody wants to bring a specific case of a Work and Income case manager who has forced a person to go along to the doctor and get the doctor to falsify the fact that that person is not fit for work, I want to hear about that case. We will deal with it and that person will be protected from any comeback.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No allegation has been made that any Work and Income officer has forced someone to go, but that those officers have advised people to go, otherwise they will receive no benefit at all. This idea of putting up a straw man and seeking to knock him down, seeking to justify doctors having some evidentiary responsibility here is a load of nonsense. We who go to our clinics know full well what is going on, and we want some honest answers.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister’s answers will be honest, or, of course, he faces very serious consequences.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s right.
Mr SPEAKER: That is right, and the member knows that. That was a political point, not a point or order.
Schools—Character Education Programme
2. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his comment in 2000 that he has “no doubt schools play a very important role in setting the values of young people, and it is important that they do that in an informed way, not by default.”; if so, what concrete steps has he taken to ensure that all schools have implemented some form of character education programme?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister of Education (Adult and Community Education)), on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes, I do stand by the comment of my colleague the Hon Trevor Mallard, because I am pursuing the development of values education in the New Zealand Curriculum Project and expanding on the excellent work contained in the Suspension Reduction Initiative.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister consider the fact that there has been a 31 percent increase in stand-downs and/or suspensions since the year 2000 to be a pressing reason for the introduction of the type of character education programmes she spoke of; if she does consider that to be a pressing reason, when can we expect to see some progress?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: On the question of stand-downs and suspensions, I think it is worthwhile to look at figures rather than percentages. I accept that there has been a percentage increase in suspensions—not necessarily exclusions or even stand-downs—in primary schools, but there has been a reduction in secondary schools. When we look at those numbers, we see that there have been eight suspensions for all New Zealand’s primary school population in 2003 for the consumption of alcohol.
Lynne Pillay: What self-management and social skills are required to be taught under the National Administration Guidelines?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The skills included under the social and cooperative skills in the New Zealand Curriculum Framework are as follows: integrity, perseverance, courage, self-esteem, good relationships with others, respect for others, reliability, trustworthiness, fairness, diligence, and generosity—all of which we practice every day in this House, and all of which will help a child to develop a good character.
Hon Bill English: In the context of educating our young people in good behaviour, what comment does she have on the fact that the Ministry of Youth Affairs’ guidelines for drug education programmes omit to state that schools should tell children that drugs are illegal, and that drugs are bad for them?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I cannot comment on the Ministry of Youth Affairs, or its guidelines. I know, as a former principal, that I was quite clear that drugs were illegal and that they broke the law of the school.
Jim Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the national curriculum framework requires schools to develop appropriate attitudes and values for their students; that that is reviewable by the Education Review Office; and that many schools, such as the Onerahi School in Whangarei, develop their own values programme for the whole benefit of their students?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I would really like to support what has been said by my colleague across the floor of the House, in that values education is something that was accepted last year in a 2-day workshop with educators and researchers from around the country as something that is taught holistically in the school, and they are working very hard and following up work in the New Zealand school curriculum project on enhancing how it can be better taught and supported in our schools.
Tariana Turia: As there are diverse cultural populations represented in our educational institutions, how do schools ensure that the cultural values of those young people are nurtured and protected, and that they are not overrepresented in suspensions, stand-downs, and expulsions?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: There are two comments I would like to make. First of all I think that amongst all of the peoples of this country, kindness and love for one another is shared regardless of race or culture—there are some basic values shared by all of us. Number two, under the Suspension Reduction Initiative, we have worked very hard and been successful in reducing the number of Mâori students who have been suspended.
Hon Peter Dunne: Since the national curriculum framework has provided for character or values education since 1993, why has it taken the Minister so long to implement a programme along the lines that she has spoken of this afternoon?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As a former principal, when I was faced in 1993 with—[Interruption] If members will let me finish the question I will explain how ministerials, Ministers—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is entitled to give her answer in the way that she wishes. She is not out of order. I do not think she is even trying to be controversial in this area.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As a former principal following ministerial guidelines set down in 1993 under the framework and under the National Administration Guidelines, for which we were responsible, I say we did carry out, and we do carry out today, values education. What is different is that since 2002, under the curriculum stocktake, we have reviewed how values education is carried out in schools. I mentioned the hui, and I mentioned the research programmes and the teacher development programmes that have been funded and carried on since then.
Hon Peter Dunne: Would it not be better to stop attempting to reinvent the wheel through the sorts of initiatives the Minister has announced, and simply to support existing character education programmes such as Kiwi Can and others that are operating in schools now, and that are being evaluated favourably and reacted to positively by the communities they serve?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: We do support Kiwi Can.
Jim Peters: I seek leave to table the Onerahi School values programme currently in use in Whangarei.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mâori Language Commissioner—Foreshore and Seabed Bill
3. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement regarding Mâori Language Commission Chief Executive Haami Piripi’s submission on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill that “It just isn’t on,”; if so, what discussions has she or her Ministers had with the board of the Mâori Language Commission about the actions which should be taken as a consequence?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, I understand that the Minister of Mâori Affairs has expressed his concerns about the matter to the chair of the Mâori Language Commission. The Minister expects the commission board to discuss the matter and to advise him of the outcome of those discussions.
Dr Don Brash: How does she reconcile her position in regard to Mr Kit Richards, whom she demanded be sacked over a personal email sent from his home computer, which he described at the time as “guerrilla warfare”, with her position in regard to Mr Haami Piripi, who made a public submission to a select committee of Parliament, threatening civil war, or is this another example of different rules for different categories of New Zealanders?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am surprised that anyone has accused me of being soft on Mr Piripi. Mr Richards attacked Government policy covering his own State organisation. Further, he made threatening comments about me, the Minister in charge of Timberlands, and about Marian Hobbs. There is all the difference in the world between a State employee who directly undermines the policy of the Government for the organisation for which he works, and Mr Piripi, who made comments about another part of Government policy. However, I want to tell the member that I would take exactly the same view as I have of Mr Piripi’s action if it were, say, the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority pronouncing on education policy, or the chief executive of Transit pronouncing on transport policy. It is not appropriate, and that is why new legislation will see that the State Services Commissioner has a role in setting down guidelines in that area.
Rodney Hide: Would it increase the Prime Minister’s concern, and strengthen her hand, to learn that Mr Piripi’s submission was prepared in December-January, long before he was denied the opportunity to take part in the hîkoi, and that he did join the hîkoi in Kaitâia, defying a Government ban, and indeed, did sign a petition in support of Mâori claims that was published in May 2004 in the Tû Mai magazine, and how come he is still employed?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member has set out a pattern of activity that is not acceptable for a chief executive of a Crown entity. He might well have added the comment that was made about the Leader of the Opposition. I do not consider that comment by Mr Piripi acceptable, either. That is why the Minister has raised the matter with the commission. That is why we have legislation in front of Parliament to set down the possibility for the State Services Commissioner to have proper codes of ethics and standards in that area. This sort of activity is not acceptable, and I make one more point. The chief executive of a Crown entity must be able to work with people across the political spectrum. That is why it is not appropriate for him or her to be making political comments.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank the Prime Minister for that full reply. However, she did not address one part of it, which was: how come he is still employed?
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed the question. She can address the question in any way she wishes, provided she does, and she did.
Hon Peter Dunne: Do I take it from the Prime Minister’s earlier answer that there are no specific guidelines at present, which is why legislation is being prepared, and if that is the case, what advice do Ministers convey to senior public servants about their role in such circumstances, how is that advice conveyed, and is there any consistency?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that there have not been clear guidelines in that area in the past and that the State Services Commissioner has not had a role. That is why there is now legislation before this House, which I hope will be supported, that will enable the commissioner to give guidance to the wider State sector on ethics, values, and standards. In the interim, and because of this incident, the Minister of Mâori Affairs has written to the chief Mâori Language Commissioner and asked him to report back to him on what set of guidelines on ethical standards the commission has laid down for its employees.
Dr Don Brash: Did she have any serious expectation that the Mâori Language Commission might take some action in relation to Mr Piripi, when the chairman of the commission, Mr Patu Hohepa, has himself been shown on television participating in the seabed and foreshore hîkoi, and does she still have confidence in Mr Hohepa as chairman of the commission, in light of the fact that he himself participated in the hîkoi against the express instructions of the State Services Commissioner?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Any instructions from the State Services Commissioner could not apply to members of a board or a commission, but whether the Government has confidence in the commission obviously depends on how it handles matters. We will be watching this matter with great interest. I might also refer to the advice of Wira Gardiner, who, of course, has experience as a chief executive and as a chair of a Crown entity. He has made it quite clear that a person in Mr Piripi’s position should not be making such public statements, because they can bring the commission into disrepute, as they have.
Stephen Franks: Why does the Prime Minister think that it is relevant that he has expressed regret or apologised, as reported in today’s New Zealand Herald, and if regret or apology is sufficient, what attitude would she take if a senior defence official turned up to a select committee or on television expressing his or her real views about what this Government’s attitude is doing to New Zealand’s defence against security risks?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Having read the transcript of a substantial interview that Mr Piripi did yesterday I thought that he did strike a note of regret, and there was some insight that he felt he might have gone too far, which is certainly my view and, I think, the view of many others on all sides of the House. I really cannot see the relevance of reference to officials appearing before a select committee. Officials have a duty to serve the Government of the day, and that is why we have codes of public service behaviour and why it is appropriate to now extend those guidelines in ethics and standards to the Crown entities, which, after all, are set up to give effect to Government policy regardless of who the Government is.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement made by Mr Piripi in his submission on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill that “New Zealand history is riddled with factual examples of lies, theft, murder, and racism, all characterised by settlers . . .”; if not, has she taken any steps to back up yesterday’s tough talk in front of the news media with real concrete action?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I could not accept that the paragraph that the Leader of the Opposition has just read is any fair account of New Zealand history. I might say that Mr Piripi wrote to the Dominion in the mid-1990s when he was a public servant serving another Government, expressing pretty strong views about our history. I am not aware whether that that Government ever raised the matter at the time, but I repeat that these sorts of comments are not appropriate for someone in his position who must deal without fear or favour with people across the political spectrum. He has an important job to do—that is, promoting te reo Mâori—and I believe that comments such as he has made actually imperil the commission in its work.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall on 27 January describing as “guerrilla warfare” a private email never intended for publication, from the general manager not of a Government department and not of a Government commission, but the independent State-owned enterprise Timberlands; and also her saying: “We are asking Timberlands chair, Young, to explain why this employee should continue in his employment.”, and that was despite the fact that Mr Kit Richards had said that if he had caused embarrassment to the Government it was inadvertent and he felt bound to apologise; why did she continue to make press statements until he was forced out of his employment; and will she give an undertaking that she will continue to make press statements until the chief executive of the Mâori Language Commission is forced out of his employment; or are there two laws in New Zealand?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat that Mr Richards made a direct attack on Government policy over the organisation for which he was directly employed. He further urged others in that organisation, and elsewhere, to campaign against the Government on its policy over the organisation for which he was employed. Frankly, he was in quite a different position from the Mâori Language Commission chief executive, who did not make a submission about anything to do with his own organisation—he made a statement about another area of Government policy. As it stands, that was wrong.
Hon Richard Prebble: I seek the leave of the House to table an extract from the Dominion Post of 28 January “Timberlands manager job on the line over email”.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister not understand that she does little for Mâori if she accepts lesser standards, no matter where they might occupy themselves in the professions, than she would accept from someone else, thereby advocating two standards, one for Mâori and one for Europeans; and does she not understand how invertedly racist that is?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The course being followed is for the Minister to speak to the commission, ask it to look at the matter, and take whatever action it sees fit, and come back to him. I assure the member that if the action is seen to fall short, that will only speed the passage of Crown entity legislation through this House so that there can be very clear expectations laid down of what appropriate conduct by people at high levels of Crown entities actually is.
Dr Don Brash: What is the difference—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There is no point in interjecting when the person next to the member is asking the question. The fact that the microphone is on is not a reason.
Dr Don Brash: What is the difference between the situation with Mr Kit Richards, whom she demanded be sacked following his sending of a personal email from a home computer, which he described at the time as guerrilla warfare, and the situation with Mr Piripi, who made a submission to a select committee in which he stated of a piece of her own Government’s legislation: “It destroys any confidence we might have in Parliament, and in Government, to govern fairly.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For the third time—one person directly attacked Government policy for his organisation. Mr Piripi did not.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave of the House to table Mr Piripi’s name on the petition.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Solid Energy—Ministerial Confidence
4. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Is he satisfied with the environmental performance of Solid Energy?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): I think it is fair to say that this company has made some mistakes. However, it now has in place a prevention, monitoring, and remediation work programme designed to address identified issues. That said, there is clearly ongoing work required.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he believe that the high levels of acid, heavy metals, and solids in the Ngâkawau River, which drains the Stockton mine, meet the objective of Solid Energy’s current statement of intent to have a positive net effect on the New Zealand environment; if not, why has he given the company no direction at any time to clean up its act?
Hon MARK BURTON: The member asks and answers the question. The statement of corporate intent is the clearly stated intent of the company. It is against that statement that I will hold it to account.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister, by way of example, give an indication of remediation work being undertaken by the company?
Hon MARK BURTON: A number of initiatives are being worked on to manage fires, revegetate slopes, and rehabilitate sites in consultation with the Department of Conservation and the Grey District Council and the West Coast Regional Council. I note that Solid Energy’s chief executive has said that it is no longer acceptable for anyone in coalmining to have long-term detrimental effects on the environment. I strongly agree with his assertion.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister aware that there is still no plan in place for the overall management of the Stockton site; that only some of the water monitors are in place and others are planned; and that remediation work has barely begun, and, in fact, is still in the planning stages; if so, why did he not talk to the board earlier about this disgraceful pollution of the Ngakawau River, which has been going on for years?
Hon MARK BURTON: As the member says, the pollution has been going on for many, many years. I think it is fair to say that until relatively recent time, many in this industry took no action in terms of remediation in environmental standards. This company is taking action. The member refers to some of the work yet to be done. Some of the equipment is on its way and is yet to be installed. I acknowledged in my first answer that there is still much more to do. I am satisfied that this board is committed to doing the work. I raised the issue with members of the board when I last visited it.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has he received any advice from his colleague the Minister of Conservation that this is Conservation Week and that the theme is: “Conservation needs you!”?
Hon MARK BURTON: I most certainly have. My colleague the Minister of Conservation is active in his work and ensures that every member understands the responsibility.
Race Relations, Coordinating Minister—Indigenous Status
5. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Coordinating Minister, Race Relations: Does he stand by his statement “I regard myself as an indigenous New Zealander—I come from Wainuiômata.”; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Coordinating Minister, Race Relations): Yes. I suggest that the member reads the speech.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister had any communication with the Prime Minister on his view of himself as indigenous, given her refusal to back him up, and her statement, when asked whether she was indigenous, that she was simply a New Zealander; if so, what did she say?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I have had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister on this, and I think one of the really interesting things about speeches such the one I gave is that they cause New Zealanders to discuss the sort of country we want in the future.
Darren Hughes: Has the Minister’s point of view been supported by any historians?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the late Michael King’s comment in Being Pakeha Now is quite appropriate: “Like the ancestors of the Mâori, they came as immigrants. Like Mâori, too, we became indigenous at the point where our focus of identity and commitment shifted to this country and away from our countries and cultures of origin.”
I think he put that very well.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister have any idea as to how pathetic it must seem internationally when the two old parties have no idea who is native, who is indigenous, and who is a New Zealander, and why cannot they accept the saying of the British Empire that—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: That is the last warning today for that member interjecting. Please carry on.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I have lost it completely.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, start the question again. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know full well that they will not know, either! Does the Minister not understand how pathetic it must seem internationally when the two old parties spend all their time arguing about who is indigenous, who is native, and who is a New Zealander; and why cannot they accept that “native” means the same as it meant when the British Empire used to say: “The natives are getting restless.”, and get with the 21st century?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member, as far as the National Party goes, has a point. I thank him for his support, and I will forget why we used to call him Luigi.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That allegation is disgraceful. It was first made by a number of rather envious people at Auckland University, even though I was the Auckland Mâori rugby captain, and that is why it is a disgrace.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the member that he is always saying we ought to lighten up a little and allow a few comments to be made, and I took it in that nature. But he has drawn attention to something that, strictly speaking, is against the Standing Orders.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of the United Nations’ definition of indigenous people, which refers to communities having “historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies”—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Here we go.
Nandor Tanczos: Parliament does not like to hear it.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct. Please be seated. Every member has a perfect right, being properly elected and sworn in in this place, to have his or her question heard. Members will have their points of view heard in silence. I have allowed a little bit of light-heartedness, but I will be sending someone out. If the member wants to ask a question, he is perfectly entitled to.
Nandor Tanczos: There is historical amnesia in Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is unfortunate for the member. The member really should not be allowed to ask the question at this stage, if he is going to make those sorts of comments after I have backed him up. That was a very silly thing to do. I want him to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Nandor Tanczos: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Please ask the question as you have it written in front of you.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of the United Nations’ definition of indigenous people, which refers to communities having “historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies”, and does he agree that, by that definition, while Pâkehâ cannot call ourselves indigenous or tangata whenua, we do belong here by right of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and can justly call ourselves tangata tiriti?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: An enormous amount of discussion goes on in that area, but if one took that argument to its logical conclusion, all of those who arrived on a canoe other than the first canoe would not be indigenous.
Hon Ken Shirley: Did the Minister seek the views of his parliamentary colleagues in the Labour Mâori caucus prior to giving his speech where he claimed indigenous status; if not, was it because he knew that they disagreed with him—or perhaps he just did not care?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not think anyone would accuse me of not caring. Two of my Mâori caucus colleagues read the speech before it was given, and I am told that I am invited to share my views with the rest in the near future.
Gerry Brownlee: Does he think it reflects badly on him as the Minister responsible for the treaty education programme that junior colleagues, like the obedient John Tamihere or the compliant Dover Samuels—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no.
Gerry Brownlee: I will reword it.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I have warned the member. I have already given a warning. He knows that is not in order. He must now come to his question very quickly, and if any of those words are used again, he will not be asking it.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So I am not allowed to use words like that, when it is well documented that—
Mr SPEAKER: No, please be seated. The member is running the risk of being asked to leave the House. He will ask his question without those comments. This is question time. He can call those members that in general debate—that is fine—but this is question time. Please ask the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why is it acceptable for the Minister to refer to a member by a well-known nickname, which the member himself has just said is derogatory, but when we get up to ask a question, using the same Standing Orders, we get shut down?
Mr SPEAKER: I will tell the member why: because I thought that was a humorous remark and so did the member concerned. If I thought there was anything in it that was derogatory, he would not have been able to use it. I know the member well enough to know that what I am saying is perfectly correct. Now, please ask the question properly.
Gerry Brownlee: I think we will leave it and use our question somewhere else. It is a waste of time.
Nandor Tanczos: I seek leave to table the United Nations’ definition of indigenous people.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Nandor Tanczos: I seek leave to table a rather good article I wrote about this very matter in March, available on www.greens.org.nz.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme—Reports
6. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of State Services: Why did the Government introduce the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme, and what reports has he received on its uptake?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): The Government wants to give New Zealanders certainty and security in retirement. It is important that the Government, as a major employer, sets a good example in encouraging retirement savings. Forty-four percent of eligible employees in Government departments and 30 percent of eligible employees in the education sector have taken up the opportunity to join the scheme. Of course, teachers also have another scheme. I note the scheme has been questioned by the Opposition. I am sure the House will be interested to see whether John Key rolls Don Brash on this superannuation issue, as he did with the Superannuation Fund.
Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence is not appropriate. It did not in any way use derogatory terms about the people concerned, but it was unnecessary to the spirit of the answer.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Why is it important for State sector employees to plan and save for their own retirement?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Opposition made it clear last year that it will cut or abolish superannuation for those under 50. Therefore, in the long-term saving may be even more important than it is now.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a complete mistruth and the House should not be subjected to that. When questions are being answered, I think you need to be on the case and make sure that Ministers answer entirely from the perspective of their own portfolios and do not engage in the sort of political speculation that Mr Mallard is so very good at.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: My understanding is that Dr Brash has made it perfectly clear that it is likely the age would be moved under a National Government for those under 50. In terms of age qualification there was no guarantee for anybody aged under 50. That is a cut in the pension.
Mr SPEAKER: I now want the Minister to come to the question asked and answer that part of it without the references he made before.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: For a variety of reasons there is not absolute security in the medium term for people who were aged under 50 last year. I therefore suggest that all employers be good employers and get involved in helping their employees save against the reducing possibility of people who might make that sort of change being involved in Government.
John Key: Can the Minister confirm that the Hon David Cunliffe was correct when he told the annual superannuation fund summit in April of this year that his Government has a firm funding commitment to the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme for only the next 2 years, and after that it was open for negotiation; if so, what assurances can the Minister give State sector employees that the scheme will continue after this date, taking into consideration its disappointing uptake.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The dollars for the first 3 percent subsidy—1.5 percent in the first year, and another 1.5 percent, taking it to 3, in the second year—are baselined out into the future. This is an annual budgeting decision, and I am sure the Tories would cut it like they have cut other pensioners’ superannuation. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: That is a political comment.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why are Ministers allowed to make political comments in answers, but we cannot even describe a Minister as being “obedient” in a question?
Mr SPEAKER: If a member makes a comment like that, of course members are going to be allowed to make political comments—this is Parliament. As far as the answer was concerned, it was not out of order.
Immigration Service —Visas Issued Overseas
7. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Immigration: What concerns, if any, has he had about how visas have been granted by immigration officials overseas, and what, if anything, has he done about it?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): From time to time there are issues raised about how visas are granted by immigration officials overseas. In 2003 the State Services Commission and the Department of Labour commissioned KPMG to review the Immigration Service’s processes for internal investigations. The majority of recommendations arising from the review were implemented by 27 February this year. These include a new integrity policy, improved investigation processes, increased investigation capability, and code of conduct training for all staff.
Dr Muriel Newman: Has the Immigration Service been notified by the police of any scams illegally bringing Pakistanis into New Zealand through Tonga; if not, will he ensure that his service immediately checks with the police and advises him of the result?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I understand there have been a couple of people who were granted visas via Tonga. I am not aware, however, of an allegation about a scam. If the member has some information that she should give me, and she does so, I assure her I will follow it up.
Rodney Hide: Will the Minister ask his service about the police investigation that reported that for $15,000 Pakistani nationals could buy a visa to come to New Zealand via Tonga, and that a ring has been operating in New Zealand to that effect; and will he assure members that, once he has done that, he will explain to the House what he finds out?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am aware that the member has asked a number of written questions around this matter, and I am in the process of providing the information back. No allegation such as the member has outlined has been brought to my attention. If he has information, or if the allegation is brought to my attention, I will certainly make the information available.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How many suspected cases of fraud by New Zealand Immigration Service officials are being investigated, given that departmental papers released in April this year stated “risk-management issues associated with fraud and staff integrity have also increased”, and that 49 staff were investigated for fraud between 2001 and 2003?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do not have the actual numbers, but I think it is fair to say that the member knows that often allegations are made about inappropriate behaviour by staff, and the rough percentage I have is that around 60 percent of those are not proven. Of course, some people who make an application off shore, and are not granted a visa, then make an allegation about staff in order to get back at them. It is important that the process is robust, and what I outlined is that we now have a system whereby internal investigations are robust.
Dr Wayne Mapp: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that the Minister has given information and addressed the question, but I wonder whether he would undertake to provide to the House the actual material that was asked for, which was the number of cases of suspected fraud.
Mr SPEAKER: That is another supplementary question; it is not a point of order. But I will allow the Minister to comment.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: If I could clarify, is the member after the number for this financial year?
Dr Wayne Mapp: That is correct.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I will provide that number to the member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister asking Opposition members to provide evidence, when his department has been riddled with fraud and corruption over many years, with numerous cases from as far back as 1996, when an inquiry into Bangladeshi immigration found that hundreds had falsified their academic records, which was proved by the fact that the age of the qualification did not reconcile with the science of the paper on which it was produced; will he produce that in this House, and ensure that the country knows what is going on in his department, and how long it has been going on?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I note that the time the member talks about is probably pretty close to when he himself was Treasurer, and I wonder why he did not do anything about it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not interested in entertaining this Minister’s foolishness. The fact is I have asked him a question about a full-scale inquiry conducted by the then National Government that was then dropped like a hot scone when it found that its allegations were baseless and that, worse still, the department was riddled with corruption. It was before the 1996 election. Could he get on with answering the question properly?
Mr SPEAKER: Would the Minister now answer the question.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I reject the member’s allegation that the department is riddled with fraud.
8. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: Has he received any reports on whether New Zealand should pull out of the Kyoto Protocol?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): Yes, I have. Nick Smith MP says we should pull out if Washington says so, but National’s most respected “greenie”, the next but one on National’s list, Mr Guy Salmon, carefully analysed his party’s position and concluded that pulling out would be very, very silly.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What reasons are given for New Zealand standing by its ratification of the protocol?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol would be a disaster for New Zealand business, our reputation abroad, and the environment. Rather than adopting the anti-environment, head-in-the-sand attitude of his colleagues in the National Party, Mr Guy Salmon praises the Government—
Mr SPEAKER: Please just confine yourself to your own policy, you are not commenting on theirs.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does his Government try so hard to avoid giving straight answers to questions in the House, but goes to extraordinary lengths to misrepresent other parties’ policies, or is it the reality that Labour now recognises it is on the ropes and is going as Government, and it is practising its role in Opposition of asking questions about National’s policies?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I could be mistaken now that I am being questioned about another party’s policy, but my understanding is that the National Party’s policy is it will think about pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol unless Madam Washington and Madam Canberra do not. Hiding under the ample skirts of those two capitals seems to be of greater import than furthering the social, economic, and environmental interests of the country that elects those members to this House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It is absolutely obvious that the Minister has not read National’s policy, so I seek leave of the House to table it, so that he might read it and be educated on it.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister appreciate there are a number of New Zealanders who are concerned about New Zealand signing up to the Kyoto Protocol, and one of the adverse effects is that it is likely to increase the price of a unit of electricity generated from coal; can the Minister advise members whether that is true, and the size of increase?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I can. I can advise that it is current Government policy to introduce a carbon charge not before 2007, which will raise the price of coal, the revenue from which will be recirculated back through the economy, for example, through the tax system. I can also advise the member that the view of Guy Salmon—who is next but one on the National Party’s list—is that: “Far from being disadvantaged in relation to our trading partners, New Zealand is at a distinct advantage.”, and he goes on to conclude: “Notwithstanding the unfounded criticisms made of the protocol, it represents the best way forward.”
Specialist Youth Service Corps Programme—Statistics
9. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: How many young people have completed a Specialist Youth Service Corps programme, and what are the criteria, if any, for young people to become part of this programme?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade), on behalf of the Minister of Youth Affairs: The Specialist Youth Service Corps is a new programme being trialled to determine its effectiveness in turning round the attitudes and behaviour of youth at risk. It targets young people where there are problems of parental control; young people who are at risk of school expulsion, benefit dependence, and drug and alcohol abuse; and young people not involved in any positive social activities. They may be referred by the police, the Youth Court, or a family group conference. In 2003-04, in its first year, 86 young people completed the programme.
Hon Tony Ryall: What incentive does this scheme give law-abiding teenagers when repeatedly breaking the law gives one the opportunity to go snowboarding, scuba-diving, rafting, and sailing at the taxpayer’s expense?
Hon PHIL GOFF: For a start, the member’s allegation is absolutely wrong. A local programme in his own region has scuba-diving because the local scuba-diving business, which is community-minded, is providing it free of charge—not subsidised by the taxpayer—for young people who are at risk of going on to a life of criminal offending. It is strongly supported by the local police. The local organisations, the local council, the YMCA, and all of those other organisations are asking why Tony Ryall keeps knocking this programme instead of getting behind it and supporting it like the rest of the community.
Moana Mackey: What other options for youth at risk have been trialled in the past, and what are their outcomes?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is a range of other local options. Some, like Project K, which deals more particularly with young people without self-esteem, also use these sorts of outdoor activities to try to build up the well-being of those young people. Then, of course, there was an approach called “corrective training”. Corrective training sounded quite good because it had boot-camp features. The only trouble is that at the time when National went out of office, 94.5 percent of the young people on that programme were reoffending, and it was costing a small fortune without providing any community safety at all or any improvement in the behaviour of the young people concerned.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why does this Government choose to spend taxpayers’ money on Club Med - style programmes for young offenders but refuse to expand proven and effective programmes like the Limited Service Volunteers scheme run by the Army?
Hon PHIL GOFF: In fact, this programme has many features in common with the Limited Service Volunteers programme. Contrary to the member’s claim, the programme for these young people involves literacy and numeracy skills, personal health and fitness, communication skills, anger management, drug and alcohol awareness, and community service for a third of the time. One of the attractions of getting young people who often have not been at school for a year on to this programme is that of getting them to do things that will interest them and give them pro-social activities instead of anti-social activities.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister seen the project proposal guidelines, which indicate that the Government will pay $6,300 per young offender for challenging recreation activities, including tramping, canoeing, mountain biking, sailing, personal fitness, camping, kayaking, confidence courses, caving, abseiling, rock climbing, and team sports; and what message does that send to law-abiding teenagers, given that his Government will not spend a dollar on any of that for them?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the Minister starts, I do not need a barrage of interjections. Members should at least let him have the first sentence.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Minister for Sport and Recreation could attest to the hundreds of millions of dollars that we are investing in sport and recreation for a cross section of New Zealanders. The cost per young person of this course is $6,000. For that, the taxpayer gets 20 weeks of intensive, full-time activity, followed by 40 weeks of follow-up to try to ensure that the safety-net, the mentoring, and the individual plans are there to prevent the young people concerned getting involved in crime. That would be one of the cheapest courses we run. If a young person ends up in a residence with supervision, it costs $120,000 to keep him or her in custody.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister confirm that one of the alternatives of such a programme would be prison; and can he also confirm that Mr Tony Ryall is opposed to prisons within in his own area?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered—only.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Can the member repeat the question?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have forgotten what the first part was.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think we are going to forget about it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the funding stream for Ngâ Hau e Whâ in Christchurch, on which the National Party spent $14 million, of which $6 million went into thin air.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I seek leave to table a letter dated 3 March 2004 from the sergeant of Tauranga youth services to the Tauranga YMCA, which runs that programme, stating that it is a recognised, credible provider of community programmes, has a positive relationship with the police, and a proven track record.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is the Ministry of Youth Affairs’ project proposal guidelines, which detail the substantial recreational activities the Government will pay for.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Tony Ryall: Secondly, I seek leave to table that part of the ministerial taskforce on youth offending in which Judge Carruthers recommended an expansion of the Limited Service Volunteers programme, something the Government has failed to do.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I seek leave of the House to table the full YMCA programme, which shows that recreation is one aspect of many that are being provided to stop these young people from reoffending.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Chief Censor—Ministerial Confidence
10. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he have confidence in the chief censor, Bill Hastings; if so, why?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes, he is a proven chief censor.
Peter Brown: How can the Minister have confidence in a censor who has just cleared a film for general release, albeit with an R18 restriction, that contains brutal sexual violence, including a 9-minute anal rape scene, for screening in cinemas around this country?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am advised that in the last 2 financial years, nine decisions by the Office of Film and Literature Classification have been upheld by the Film and Literature Board of Review. He is doing a very good job. If anything, the board says he is a little soft.
Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister seen any reports about the performance of the chief censor?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. Even the deputy leader of the New Zealand First Party, Peter Brown, earlier this year in a press release headed “The Censor is right this time”, sang his praises. Mr Brown went on to state: “I believe the Censor was right when he classified the controversial film ‘The Passion of Christ’ as R16,”.
Peter Brown: Going back to the Minister’s earlier answer when he said the censor is a little too soft, is he telling this House he is quite comfortable with the censor’s decision to allow a brutally, sexually violent movie, described by critics as “near-unbearable, despicable violence”, and to condone it by suggesting exhibitors provide numbers for Rape Crisis and sexual abuse services at the end of the film?
Mr SPEAKER: That question can be answered.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have not seen the film. I do not know whether the member has seen it, but this is probably a very good way of advertising it so that more people are curious about it. But I have to say that the censor’s decisions are appealed, if needed, to the Film and Literature Board of Review. It is a process, it works, and, of course, the censor has been right most of the time.
Peter Brown: I seek leave to table the censor’s decision on this particular film.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Peter Brown: I seek leave to table certain media statements outlining the effects of this particular film on audiences.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I seek leave to table a document that states: “The Censor is right this time”, a media release by Peter Brown earlier this year.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
World Trade Organization—Geneva meeting
11. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations:: What benefits for New Zealand have resulted because of our attendance at the World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, which ended Sunday, our time?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): We got to first base at Doha in 2002, and to second base in Geneva last week. There will need to be a lot of negotiation before we get to third base, which is the so-called modalities phase, and fourth base, which should be a treaty capable of enforcement in law. I believe we could get there by 2006. Implementation is likely to be phased in over several years after that.
David Parker: When will the benefits flow if these negotiations succeed?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The World Trade Organisation’s membership has approved the framework for negotiations of a multilateral deal that includes the end of export subsidies, which are the most pernicious mechanisms distorting the international trade in agricultural goods. Initial estimates are that this aspect alone, provided it goes on to be implemented, could be worth $1 billion a year, or more, to New Zealand.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the Minister be prepared to pay tribute in the House today to the outstanding work done by New Zealand’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Tim Groser, who so skilfully chaired the committee on agriculture to achieve this vitally important breakthrough for New Zealand?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I do pay tribute to ambassador Groser, and indeed to the entire New Zealand team, which is world class, at Geneva. I note that the member who asked the question has paid tribute to Tim Groser. He was reported as claiming him as an old friend, but then misspelt his name.
Rod Donald: What impact does the Minister expect the end of export subsidies—which the Greens support—and the higher export prices New Zealand farmers hope to earn as a result, to have on the cost to New Zealanders of a pint of milk, a block of cheese, and the family roast in the future?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I do not think it is possible to give a sensible answer to that question. All that I can say is that the large view is looking much more promising than before. Myself, though, I have trouble in thinking quite as small as the member.
Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 4)—Primary Production Committee
12. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: Is he satisfied with the quality of the advice given by Ministry of Fisheries officials to the Primary Production Committee during the committee’s consideration of the Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 4); if so, why?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister of Fisheries): Yes, I am aware that officials worked hard to provide the committee with the information that it requested, often at very short notice and of a highly technical nature.
Ian Ewen-Street: Does the Minister have confidence in the officials who, on 17 June, gave the select committee three different versions of the proposed scampi quota allocations within 3 hours, including an initial version that was largely blank; if so, why?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware of the specifics of that instance, and it illustrates exactly what I said about the extreme pressure, at my request and at the request of the chairman of the committee, that those officials were working under.
Russell Fairbrother: What weight has the Government given to the Primary Production Committee’s recommendation on the Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 4)?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Government has accepted the Primary Production Committee’s recommendation on this bill, and the bill will proceed, I hope, through the Committee of the whole House today in the form recommended by the select committee.
Phil Heatley: What changes to quota will result from the new schedule that changes the scampi quota management area boundary between areas 3 and 4?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Ministry of Fisheries is currently finalising advice to me after consulting on a proposal to increase the catch limits in new areas 3 and 4 from a combined total of 310 tonnes to 460 tonnes, which includes more than doubling the Crown quota in new area 3. That increase is possible only because the existing management boundaries are being changed in this bill. Depending on the catch limit finally set in new area 4, there is also potential for quota to be allocated to the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust under the new boundary arrangements.
Larry Baldock: Can the Minister explain the basis for changing the boundaries between scampi quota management areas 3 and 4 under the bill?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As part of the process to bring scampi into the quota management system, the Ministry of Fisheries sought independent scientific advice on the best future management regime for the fishery. The proposed changes are based on the strong recommendations of that advice. Scientific analysis of catch rates, by-catch, and scampi biology provide evidence that scampi on the Mernoo Bank and the north-west Chatham Rise are one population and should be managed as such. Under the old boundaries, that population is split in two. The benefit of the new management boundaries is that I can sustainably provide more quota than under the old boundaries, because I can provide for new areas to be developed.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Talking about the Primary Production Committee’s consideration of the bill, how appropriate does the Minister think it is that Mr Ewen-Street removed himself from the select committee on the evidence, because of a conflict of interest, and yet deliberated on the bill?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for that particular issue. However, that issue can be raised in debate shortly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked whether he was satisfied with the quality of advice given to him by the ministry officials, but the question is about the committee during its deliberation and consideration of the Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 4).
Mr SPEAKER: No, he was asked about his officials’ contribution.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What about an answer, anyway?
Mr SPEAKER: We will be able to have a debate soon.
Ian Ewen-Street: In light of the fact that both the select committee inquiry and the State Services Commission inquiry questioned the relationship between the ministry and Simunovich Fisheries, why do the proposed boundary changes to the quota management areas give Simunovich Fisheries an increase in its quota allocation that is greater than the total allocation of almost all the other fishers in the industry?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Because the boundaries are calculated on the basis of science, and not the intent to privilege any particular operator. The member will be interested to know that the percentage increase in the Simunovich Fisheries quota is less than many other fishers are receiving.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like a chance to ask my question. You say—and, on reflection, I believe that you are right—that I had focused on the wrong area, in terms of where the Minister’s responsibilities lie.
Mr SPEAKER: I will give the member a chance. I am generous today.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did any of the Minister’s officials express amazement and astonishment that someone was on the committee for the deliberations who had absented himself at the time of the hearings on evidence, because of an admitted known conflict of interest?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That view was expressed to me, and I must say that I share it.
Ian Ewen-Street: Why is the ministry not excluding the catch histories of the Simunovich Fisheries vessels Drysdale and Petersen from quota allocation calculations, when the State Services Commission report makes it clear that they were not properly permitted by the ministry at the time they were fishing for catch history?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am not sure that the member’s interpretation of the State Services Commission report is accurate. At the request of the chairman of the committee, Mr Carter, we did discuss that issue, and it provided no rational or sensible pathway forward.
Ian Ewen-Street: I seek the leave of the House to table the documents that were presented to the select committee by the ministry officials.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.