Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 5 August 2004
Thursday, 5 August
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of
2. Floods—Financial Assistance, Eastern Bay of Plenty
4. Energy—Renewable Energy
Question No. 5 to Minister
5. Mâori Language Commission—Confidence
6. Taitokerau Forests Ltd—Government Funding
7. Alcohol and Drug Abuse—Youth
9. Visas—Pakistani Immigrants
10. Waste Strategy—Parliamentary Service
11. Defence Force—Project Protector and Multi-role Vessel
12. Racing Industry—Promotion
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Community Education
1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he have any concerns about the way community education funding has been used by Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I do.
Hon Bill English: Why has the Minister’s press release today virtually endorsed a situation where the Government paid $795 for a $5 CD; where the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology set out to deliberately exploit funding loopholes before they were closed; where only 3 percent of the 18,000 enrolled students are known to have completed the course; where, of the 18,000 enrolments, 13,000 did not fit the Government criteria and nothing was done; and where senior polytechnic and ministry officials knew about all this and did nothing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My press release today points to the fact that the Tertiary Education Commission has responsibility to deal with this issue, but I certainly applaud, as did the member, that it has regained the $83,000 that was improperly used by the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. In fact, that was the amount of money asked for by that member in a press release. He asked me a question explicitly about that amount of money, so he has got what he wanted.
I have also endorsed the fact that the commission will now be evaluating those enrolments, and I hope we arrive at a situation where the polytechnic does pay more money back.
Lynne Pillay: What expectations does he have of organisations that receive public money for tertiary education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I expect that all organisations that receive public money, especially public institutions, act ethically, responsibly, and accountably in their use of public money. We are now entering a phase where we are moving from a demand-led to a more strategic approach to tertiary spending, that is where I expect us to go. I believe that is a much better approach that the approach offered by Bill English, in which he would sit behind his desk and decide what people learn in institutions in this country.
Heather Roy: How can taxpayers have any confidence in the Labour Government’s spending, given that the Minister told the House on 27 November 2001, in response to another funding scam revealed by ACT, that he gave an absolute assurance that there were no other incidents of this scale?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The entire question was abstract. I do not have the faintest idea what the member is talking about.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, Mr Hide. That is the one warning today. There will be no interjections during points of order.
Rodney Hide: The question asked how taxpayers could have any confidence in the Minister. His answer was that he did not understand the question. We are quite happy to put it again, but if the Minister cannot explain why taxpayers should have confidence in him as Minister, I think the answer is self-evident to the House. I am sure he has to reply to that.
Mr SPEAKER: I am certain he does, too. The Minister will please respond.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: They can have confidence because, of course, we do hold accountable, at every turn, people who spend public money. That is what this Government is about.
Hon Bill English: Why is the Minister turning a blind eye to a $15 million scam, whereby the management of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology ruthlessly exploited his rules, senior Government officials let it happen, no one acted ethically or responsibly, and the Minister is not exercising any accountability?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I assure the member that I am not turning a blind eye. Today I applaud the fact that we are seeing the return of money used to induce students into the course inappropriately, and I applaud the fact that the Tertiary Education Commission and the polytechnic will now evaluate all the enrolments. I am looking forward to seeing more money paid back.
Hon Bill English: Who will be held accountable for the bureaucratic shambles, the dishonest behaviour, and the lack of professionalism; will it be him and his weak enforcement of his stupid policy, his officials who let it happen, or the people in Christchurch who did it?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In answer to the member’s question concerning who is accountable, he will know that the Tertiary Education Commission makes funding decisions under section 159J(4) of the Education Act 1989, so it will be accountable, and that the polytech itself has a responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money wisely, so it will be accountable, and I will make sure they are.
Heather Roy: Which of the following personal achievements in the Minister’s blameless life of excellence does he consider the greatest: the potential misuse of thousands of dollars, if not millions, at Christchurch Polytech; the millions lost on computers supplied to non-existent students at the Practical Education Training Centre in Taranaki in 2001; wasted thousands that went to social entrepreneurs, including hip-hop; the tens of thousands—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will come to the point. I have just about had enough of the question.
Heather Roy: —and when will he ever accept responsibility for some of the most inept ministerial stewardship in this country’s history?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member is a new member, so clearly her memory is very short. I think the thing I like most in the education area is the 7,000 Modern Apprenticeships that are out there today.
Floods—Financial Assistance, Eastern Bay of Plenty
2. MITA RIRINUI (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is being done to assist families affected by the recent flooding in the Eastern Bay of Plenty?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Apart from the excellent work done by that member, yesterday I met with the mayors of Whakatâne and Ôpôtiki District Councils to discuss the Government’s relief measures for flood and earthquake affected areas in Eastern Bay of Plenty. The relief measures, at an estimated $30 million, have been developed in close cooperation with local councils, farmers, and voluntary and business groups. Having seen the impact of the flooding and met some of the people working on the ground to assist with recovery, I have to say I have absolutely nothing but praise for the efforts of people in this region. I take the opportunity today to put on record my thanks to staff in my areas of responsibility—the Ministry of Social Development, Work and Income, and the Housing New Zealand Corporation. They have done an amazing job on behalf of those communities in that area.
Hon Tony Ryall: What assurances can the Minister give that Government support will be forthcoming for the rebuilding of the pivotal stopbanks that protect not only the farming community but also the people of the townships of Edgecumbe and Whakatâne?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member will know, central government meets 100 percent of some of those costs, such as assisting displaced people. In areas like stopbank repair, there is in place the same scheme as in the Manawatû-Rangitîkei area, which is the 60:40 split that exists between the two levels of Government in paying for these changes. I also understand that this split-cost arrangement has been in place for a number of years. It was put in place in about 1987, from memory, and although Governments have varied it a bit, that is the pattern that has been followed.
Judy Turner: Can the Minister inform the House about the sort of contingency plan the Government has to respond to the current survey that the recovery centre in Whakatâne is conducting to ascertain the damage to uninsured and underinsured households and businesses?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I met yesterday with the group that will receive that survey, and those people convinced me that they are in good shape, right across both Government and non-Government organisations, to receive that report and rapidly put into action the needed assistance.
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Immigration: Why did he say, with respect to immigration fraud, “He [Rt Hon Winston Peters] has raised points many times over the years, but provided little evidence.”?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Immigration): Because it is true.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the Minister and his colleagues know that this party has given evidence time and time again in this House and outside of it in relation to cases like those of Ekatarina Ross and Mohammed Saidi, who lied his way into this country on a false claim of refugee status, of English-language scams that ended up on the Assignment programme, and in relation to a long list of other cases, but that the answer has always been, when we have sought to follow those cases up, to quote from his former colleague, “The Privacy Act prevents these cases from being discussed.”; why does he not admit the fact that he has been found out, and so has his party?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I think that I and the House are very aware of many allegations made by that member. However, allegations do not equate to evidence. Every one of those allegations has been followed up, but without evidence being provided by the member most of them have been proven to be untrue.
Dianne Yates: What is the Government doing to combat immigration fraud?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: In the 2003-04 Budget over $19 million of extra funding was provided to the Department of Labour’s Immigration Service. That is spread over 4 years for a range of compliance-related activities, including increased capability in the areas of intelligence work, fraud investigation, and removals.
Dr Wayne Mapp: What is the Minister doing about the culture of fraud, as revealed by the “lying in unison” report, that exists with the New Zealand Immigration Service itself, given 30 investigations involving staff fraud for the year ended 30 June this year, and three new investigations last month alone?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I completely refute any claims of a culture of fraud, at all. With a service such as the New Zealand Immigration Service it is inevitable that of the many hundreds of thousands of people who apply to come into this country, some who are disappointed because they are turned down will make malicious claims against individual staff. Whenever those claims are made, they are investigated as being very serious claims. Thankfully, most of them are proved to be untrue.
Larry Baldock: Can he confirm that neither he nor the Minister of Immigration has ever received any policy proposals or suggestions from the Rt Hon Winston Peters on the subject of immigration?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is blatantly obvious. Three election campaigns, numerous manifesto statements—
Hon Bill English: That’s not a point of order.
Jim Peters: Hang on; I shall get into it. More important, we are now being asked to have the Minister interpret what that means.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has not raised a point of order. He has raised a political point, and he has made his point. The Minister will now answer.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have certainly not received any policy ideas from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and I am not sure whether my colleague the Hon Paul Swain has, either. I doubt it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister prepared to put his career on the line today, and to come to this House with any evidence that we have raised any matter to do with fraud and not sent the substantial evidence to go with it, such as, for example, evidence regarding Saied Ghanbari the very person leaving tomorrow because we found him, not the Minister or his ministry?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am aware of many, many allegations made in this House by that member about immigration matters. That member very rarely provides any evidence to back up those claims. I stand by that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Minister again whether he will put his career on the line and back up two answers he has given today to the effect that we in New Zealand First have failed to provide him or his colleagues with information to back up questions in this House on fraud; and if it is true that he has been provided with the information, will he resign from Parliament for having misled it?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There are numerous—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Tempting though that may be, could we hear the answer from the Minister. [Interruption] I know that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I have this answer heard in some degree of silence. Mr Prebble yelled out in the first person, and that is totally outside the Standing Orders. Unlike him, yes, I would resign, but I will not be fired for it, like he was.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is quite right. I did call out in the first person; that is completely correct. But I do think this is a very serious matter. Mr Peters is telling this House and the country that if he has not backed up every single allegation that he has made in this House, he will resign. As this is his last day in the House, I think we should pay our respects to him.
Mr SPEAKER: I will make only one comment, which is that the interjection was made in the second person, not the first.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As I said before, many allegations are made. Sometimes I am aware of letters being passed on to the service, putting down those allegations. However, that does not mean that there is any evidence whatsoever to back up those allegations. When investigated by the New Zealand Immigration Service, they have proved to lack any substantive claim.
Dianne Yates: What has been the outcome of the increased focus on verification?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There have been very, very good outcomes. The increased focus on verification has meant that we have many more fraudulent job offers being exposed. We have many more investor applications being declined, and we have the establishment of a new fraud and investigations unit that specialises in that area. We are making huge progress in that area, in an international world that sees increasing levels of fraudulent activity.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister prepared to apologise to this House and to New Zealand First for the claims that Labour made in the 2002 election that everything we said was either racist or worse and was not true, when just yesterday he made it very clear that every claim that was made was true and that that is why there are extra resources—except that we now have thousands of fraudsters here, and you have no idea who they are?
Mr SPEAKER: I am not to be brought into the debate, but the Minister can answer for himself.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No.
Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table a letter from the Hon Paul Swain that confirms that since taking up the labour and immigration portfolios in February 2004 he has not received any correspondence from any of the aforementioned spokespersons on the issue of policy.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
4. NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Tainui) to the Minister of Energy: What progress is being made in developing renewable energy in New Zealand?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): Very good progress. Wind power is set to grow fourfold by the end of this year—the year ending in December. All of that remarkable increase has been driven by carbon credits arising from this Governments climate change policy.
Nanaia Mahuta: When can New Zealanders expect to see the results of this policy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: They are already seeing it, of course, but the member’s question is a good one because this Government intends to continue the way we started. In the next month or two we will put 6 million tonnes of carbon credits out to tender, and are confident we will receive from our very innovative economy many bids to reduce pollution,.
Rod Donald: Would the strong growth in electricity generation from wind power have occurred without the Government’s climate change policy and the legislation that was supported by the Green Party?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, it would not have. The large developments in wind power this year, which by the end of this year will give us the largest and the second-largest wind farms in the Southern Hemisphere, would not have proceeded without carbon credits. Under our policy, not only will polluters pay but non-polluters will be paid. Under National’s policy, which is still not on its website, none of that sort of thing can happen, because it is a dog.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister convinced that renewable energy is coming on stream in sufficient quantities to truly have a competitive market, which would put downward pressure on prices, or is it just a case of keeping pace with demand, which will enable retailers to sell everything at any price they so desire?
Hon PETE HODGSON: That member will be aware of a number of generation projects recently under way, and might be aware of a number of others that are soon to be announced.
Hon Ken Shirley: Could the Minister tell the House approximately how many windmills across our landscape would be required to produce, say, 20 percent of our base electricity demand, and can he confirm that they would need to be backed up with thermal generation, because of the intermittent and unpredictable nature of wind blow?
Hon PETE HODGSON: New Zealand will always need thermal generation; most renewable energy systems do. The only exceptions are where there is remarkable storage, as there is in Norway. In New Zealand we can have, certainly, 20 percent of our energy come from wind. How many turbines would depend on the size of each turbine, but I have been to a wind farm—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Cheap comments like that do not help Parliament at all. That member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Brian Connell: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think there is a long-held understanding that interjections that are particularly witty are acceptable; describing the Minister as a wind farm was very witty.
Mr SPEAKER: The member might think that; I certainly did not—not even half that.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have been to a wind farm with 7,200 turbines, and if each of those produced a megawatt, that would be as much electricity as we need.
Rod Donald: What other steps is the Government taking to encourage wind power, such as funding the identification of suitable wind farm sites, which would help to match the assistance the Government is already giving to the drilling industry?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not think there is any necessity for further assistance in identifying sites. There is now quite a large body of knowledge about the wind potential in New Zealand. The main thing that is needed for wind power to progress further is a very favourable planning system, for which the Greens have offered their assistance, and, indeed, carbon credits, which is the sort of thing that could not happen under a National Party Government, because it does not have the imagination to do it.
Question No. 5 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I seek leave for this question to be held over until the Minister of Mâori Affairs would be in a better position to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. Please ask the question.
Mâori Language Commission—Confidence
5. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Does he have confidence in the board of the Mâori Language Commission; if not, why not?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs), on behalf of the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Yes.
Gerry Brownlee: Will the Minister be asking Dr James Buwalda, Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Labour, to give advice to Dr Hôhepa on how best to get rid of a staff member who has annoyed the Government; if not, will he call upon his own considerable experience as a senior State servant and seller of Labour Party raffle tickets to bring in new guidelines for politically activist civil servants?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No. To bring the House up to date, I have been advised that the board has acknowledged, by way of writing to the Minister, that an error of judgment has been made by its chief executive. He has been censured by the board. The board is working with the State Services Commission and Te Puni Kôkiri to make sure that there are clear guidelines in place for the commission’s staff in terms of appropriate conduct. Finally, the board will take these matters into account when the chief executive officer’s employment contract comes up for review in May of 2005. The Minister is extraordinarily comfortable with that result from the commission.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister please advise the House what are the key achievements of the Mâori Language Commission?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: This is another reason why we have confidence in the board. Highlights, to name four very quickly: include a leading-edge joint initiative entered into between the commission and Microsoft with regard to the promotion of the language; it has won the prestigious 2004 Computerworld award for the Mâtâpuna Dictionary Database System; and it promotes the Mâori language internationally through the International Polynesian Language Forum and brings New Zealand into a great vista in that regard; and, finally, it leads the promotion of te reo through the Mâori Language Week in partnership with the Human Rights Commission. This Government has significantly increased its investment in the promotion of the language, and the commission is doing a fine job in that regard.
Tariana Turia: Can the Minister explain to the House the difference between an employee of a Crown agency and an employee of a Crown entity, and does an employee of a Crown entity participate in the Crown policy process?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: All employees who source their dollar values from the Queen’s shilling have a range of conducts to live up to. Mâori civil servants, in particular, do not have standards that are lesser than others, which that member might well want.
Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer my question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might not have answered it to the member’s satisfaction, but I thought he addressed it.
Gerry Brownlee: Can we take it from the Minister’s previous answer that Mr Piripi is not going to be required to resign, that he has simply been slapped with a wet bus ticket, and that the new standard is that State servants can attack the Government, Parliament, and the Leader of the Opposition and suffer very little consequence for it?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Censure and discipline are a matter between the employing commission and the chief executive officer.
Hon Richard Prebble: Is the real reason the Minister feels obliged to express confidence in the Mâori Language Commission because virtually every Mâori in New Zealand thinks that the Government’s foreshore legislation is confiscation; if that is not so, would the Minister care to name any person who is qualified to be on the Mâori Language Commission who ought to be its chief executive—apart from his Labour Mâori colleagues, who can speak Mâori—who does not believe that the Government’s legislation is confiscation?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No, and I will come back to the member on the second part of his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Government received reports on a most curious circumstance—Mr Prebble’s almost 100 percent Mâori thinking it is confiscation, and Mr Brash and the National Party saying that Mâori got all they wanted?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not in relation to this Minister’s portfolio or this particular question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would not ordinarily raise the point, but Mr Prebble put it in contention, you did not rule it out, and therefore I think it is now in as an appropriate issue about which I can ask a supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, Mr Prebble asked him about the chair of the commission and the people concerned. He directly related it to the original question.
Gerry Brownlee: Noting his previous answers, can the Minister tell the House specifically what penalty Haami Piripi has paid for his indiscretions?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The matters that I alerted the member to, with regard to the commission’s response to its chief executive officer, are the only details I have at the moment.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to consider that answer. Are we to accept that the Minister knows only what is in a press release, and that there is no communication between the Minister’s office and the Mâori Language Commission?
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot ask me that question. It is not my job as Speaker. I do not have knowledge of every detail of every question; nor should I. I have to agree as to whether the question was addressed, and it was.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that while you do not have to know the details of activity, you do have to determine whether a question is addressed. I am asking you whether it is acceptable for a Minister to come into the House and, firstly, give an answer to a question that relates to information he is supposed to have in front of him, and then later concede that the information is only by way of press release, and expect the House to believe there has been no communication between him and the agency he is responsible for?
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance. I ruled that was a proper response, and it was. [Interruption] The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment because it was directed at me. It was in the second person.
Gerry Brownlee: I apologise. It was not directed at you.
Mr SPEAKER: If that is the case, I accept the member’s word.
Rodney Hide: In light of the widespread concern that there is a witch-hunt under way against Mâori civil servants who have a view different from the Government, can the Minister shed any light on the involvement of his colleague the Hon John Tamihere in the resignation of a senior Department of Labour employee; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer as Minister of Mâori Affairs.
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The Minister has consulted Mr Tamihere, and as part of that consultation process the reality is no.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the House does deserve a little bit of clarification. Is the Minister’s answer that the Minister of Mâori Affairs has consulted with the Hon John Tamihere, and, as a consequence of that consultation, the Minister of Mâori Affairs, like the rest of the country, is no further ahead in understanding quite what John Tamihere was up to?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave an absolutely direct answer.
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I seek the leave of the House to table a piece of correspondence forwarded to the Minister of Mâori Affairs by the Mâori Language Commission, identifying the range of issues it is going to clarify.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Taitokerau Forests Ltd—Government Funding
6. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe that bailing out embattled Taitokerau Forests Ltd is a prudent use of public funds; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): On balance, yes. Without providing this incremental financing, the Crown faced the very real possibility that it would have little, if any, hope of recovering its $50 million in advances and capitalised interest to date since 1986.
Gordon Copeland: Will the Minister explain to taxpayers why they should involuntarily bear the ongoing financial burden of Taitokerau Forests Ltd, a company that, as he has just mentioned, has already racked up a debt of $50 million, has been turned away by a multitude of commercial lenders, and is now seeking a further $3.6 million from the public purse?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The sum of $3.6 million has already been voted; it is not being sought. The answer to the first part of the question is that the $50 million would have been at serious risk. The Crown, of course, had the alternative of allowing the company to fall over, but then it would have had to take on the ownership risk and the management of the forest. On balance, it was thought better to take on some increased debt risk, which, in the end, is secured for the underlying value of the forest itself.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Government have any idea of what the problem is with the particular forest management, and can he assure the House that this will not be an ongoing problem that the Government regularly has to tip money into in order to bail out organisations like this?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Dealing with the second part, which I think is the more important, I can say that harvesting will occur from 2009, so a cash flow will begin to be generated from that point. In retrospect, I think it was probably a most unwise decision by the then Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas, to have entered into this initial arrangement.
Pita Paraone: Can the Minister confirm, firstly, that in 1996 the Government re-examined this and decided that it would continue to fund, as the equity in the trees was such as to advance this situation; secondly, that the Crown has a first mortgage secured over the trees; and, thirdly, that all was signed off by the then Minister of Finance, Bill Birch, in 1996?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that in 1996 the review was undertaken on those grounds and that the then Minister of Finance, Bill Birch, approved the process. An attempt has been made to raise private financing. That was not possible. It does suggest, obviously, some difficulties, but the problem for the Crown was that it already had $50 million at risk.
Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister confirm that there is a first mortgage over the company’s assets; if so, why did the Crown not choose to exercise its rights in that regard, instead of putting some more money into the show?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Crown then thought it was better to leave arrangements as they were. It is confident that when we reach the point of 2009 the cash flow being generated will be sufficient for repayment to occur of the debt owed to the Crown.
Gordon Copeland: Nevertheless, given the track record of the management of the company, is the public not left with a perception that the Government is acting as a kind of political sugar daddy to this company, playing favourites with a floundering management style at the expense of the taxpayer; if not, why not.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think I can say that, on reflection and in retrospect, had the then Minister of Finance—the foundation leader of the ACT party—not entered into the arrangement, things might have been better. But they were entered into. This Government inherited a large amount of money at risk, and it was better in fact to loan a further $3.6 million than risk the $50 million going under.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the two appropriate documents that demonstrate Mr Dunne supported the initial decision in 1986 of Roger Douglas, and the decision of Bill Birch and Jim Bolger in 1996 when Mr Dunne was a Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection?
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse—Youth
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that the Government has employed appropriate measures to protect New Zealand children from the misuse of alcohol and illicit drugs?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): Of course central government has a vital role to play in equipping families, communities, and agencies of the State to combat the problem of drug and alcohol abuse. I cannot say that we can ever be satisfied—“we” being the collective Parliament or any individual Government—that we have done enough, but the National Drug Policy aims to improve the health and well-being of New Zealanders by encouraging the development of strategies and programmes that prevent and reduce drug-related harm. It is a very wide-ranging and comprehensive programme, as its website shows, that includes $66 million committed over the last 2 years alone, plus a drink culture change programme announced in June this year funded by a levy on alcohol sales.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister talked to any of his Cabinet colleagues or coalition colleagues about the misuse of a very serious issue under the guise of his latest glossy publication to be sent around this country—under his name and using taxpayers’ dollars—to seek political advantage for a very small party, to do with an issue that should cross party lines, and is far more important, surely, than petty party politics?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am very proud of the work that the Government is doing on drug and alcohol abuse prevention. That brochure was funded by my ministerial budget and authorised by the Auditor-General.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has the Government failed to do anything effective about the significant damage caused to thousands of newborn New Zealanders by alcohol consumption during pregnancy, despite the fact that during the last 2 years there have been two petitions on the subject, and his officials have recognised that “It’s a real problem and it’s under-reported.”?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am advised by the Ministry of Health that it has been preparing an application to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority for this provision to be agreed to on a trans-Tasman basis. I will be very interested in the outcome of that application. I believe that, obviously, if New Zealand children are under any threat, then New Zealand as a sovereign nation will have the ability to deal with that matter, if it has to, on its own.
Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that the Auckland Regional Community Action Project on Alcohol study, which showed that over half the retailers visited sold alcohol to under-18-year-olds without asking for identification, focused entirely on off-licence premises; and in the light of other studies that suggest it is the volume of alcohol consumed by young people that has increased, rather than the frequency of drinking, does he agree that off-licence premises are more likely to generate binge drinking because they sell alcohol at cheaper prices and without the supervision that licensed premises offer?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The sale or provision of alcohol to those who are under the legal age is a serious matter no matter where or how it is done. There is plenty of evidence that a number of outlets are doing that—at the grocery level, less at the supermarket level, and more at the off-licence level. Unfortunately, one has to say that there is also evidence that something like 50 percent of the alcohol given to young people is given to them by their parents.
Nandor Tanczos: Has the Minister seen the 2003 study by Saffer and Dave of the US National Bureau of Economic Research, which indicated that a complete ban on all alcohol advertising could reduce adolescent monthly alcohol participation by about 24 percent, and binge participation by about 42 percent; and, my knowing of his support for this issue, will he make a commitment today to do all he can to persuade the ministerial committee on drug policy to support at its next meeting a ban on alcohol advertising?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have seen a lot of statistics about the effects of advertising and promotion of alcohol, and I have a conservative view in terms of the way it is promoted. I have to say, however, that the most significant piece of evidence I have had from a lot of jurisdictions is that the single most effective step that this Parliament could take would be to raise the age of entitlement to purchase alcohol to 20 years.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Minister take any advice or receive any reports that said that by putting his name to the brochure that has come out he would add to the cause of defeating this scourge, or would mitigate against people joining the cause in the way that other people suspect; depending on his answer, why would he do that when the issue is so serious?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think the issue is serious. That is why I took the step, in terms of financial propriety, of getting advice from the Auditor-General. I also thought very carefully about the wording of that brochure. I tell the member that we have had a positive response from something like 600 schools in New Zealand, which want more of those leaflets and more information about the programmes the Government is running. I think that is a very positive effect.
Larry Baldock: In light of the Minister’s answer to my previous question, in which he acknowledged the risks to youth in their purchasing alcohol at off-licence premises, would he therefore support the common-sense solution offered by Paul Adams in his member’s bill of increasing the age at which alcohol can be purchased at off-licences to 20 years, while keeping the age at which alcohol can be purchased at on-licence premises at 18 years?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am all for simplicity and low compliance costs in legislation, and if we give a mixed message like that, it makes the situation even more complex than it is now.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a report that demonstrates the gross under-reporting of foetal alcohol syndrome under this Government.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Nandor Tanczos: I seek leave to table a study called Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Consumption by Adolescents, by Saffer and Dave, published in 2003.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his statement to the House of 18 November 2003: “If we look at the public prison system in New Zealand and compare its management of remand prisons with private prisons, we see that the public prison service is, on average, $7,000 cheaper than the private prison.”; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Yes, because it was based on costings provided to me by my department.
Hon Tony Ryall: If the Government can apparently run the Auckland Central Remand Prison cheaper than the private sector, why is it budgeting to spend an extra $8.5 million running that prison when it takes it over?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am extraordinarily pleased that the member asked that question, because the answer is simply that the previous National Government funded the Auckland Central Remand Prison up until the end of the contract. It did not fund it beyond that. This money would be required whether or not the prison was in private hands.
Georgina Beyer: How does the overall performance of New Zealand prisons compare internationally?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It compares very favourably. As I previously reported to the House, New Zealand prisons have a lower cost per day than those in Australia, England, Wales, and Canada. New Zealand also has the lowest rates of suicide and assault, compared with comparable jurisdictions.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that for the Government to pursue a policy of privatising prisons and drastically increasing the prison population, as advocated by the leader of the National Party, would lead to a dangerous Americanisation of our justice system, and what effect does he think that would have on the integrity of our justice system?
Mr SPEAKER: Except for the parenthesis comment about that being advocated by a party, the rest of the question is in order, and that part of it will be answered.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Except for the part in parenthesis, yes, I agree. The fact is that in the United States, the private prison lobby is now a very well-entrenched lobby. It lobbies Governments to get tougher on law and order, thereby meaning more people are put in prisons, leading to more profit by private prisons. That is precisely the issue that has been raised by the National Party in its attempt to try to court votes. The point is that the only person who should be taking away people’s liberty is the State; it should not be done by the private sector for private profit.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister not realise that his statements make no sense when he tells the House that the public prison service can operate the private prison for $7,000 an inmate less, but his own official departmental documents show that it will cost $28,000 an inmate more once the Government takes the prison over?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The problem with the member is that he does not read the papers properly. The other problem is that he opposes having prisons in his electorate, but supports Don Brash building 10 more prisons—and that party wants to take away the right under the Resource Management Act to appeal against that.
Mr SPEAKER: Now the member will come to the question.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Sorry; I apologise. The fact is that the Auckland Central Remand Prison in public ownership will have to be funded, just like it would have to be funded if it were under private ownership. The previous National Government did not provide funding for it past the contract ending in 2005, and that is why the $8 million has to be provided.
Ron Mark: Why did the Minister choose to ignore reports like the one in the New Zealand Herald on 10 September 2003, which said that since Australian Correctional Management had taken over the Auckland Central Remand Prison: “There has been a revolution in prison management. A new approach has set standards previously thought impossible across every area of the prison.”, and that despite handling some of New Zealand’s most dangerous and high-risk inmates, it remains the safest prison in the country for both staff and inmates alike?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because I do not believe everything I read in the New Zealand Herald.
Hon Tony Ryall: Did the Minister read his own official papers that state funding is required for the ongoing operation of the Auckland Central Remand Prison in addition to the current funding of $11.1 million?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. As I have explained to the member, despite the opposition from the Department of Corrections, at the time when the previous National Government funded that prison it funded the prison until the end of the contract, and not beyond that. That is what the funding is required for.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a number of documents. The first is the Budget bid of the Department of Corrections, which shows it will cost $20 million to run the prison and the department needs an extra $8.5 million.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a document from the Audit Office about the additional $8.5 million.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table an official document from the Department of Corrections about the additional $8.5 million, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
9. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Did Senior Sergeant Mike Fulcher receive a police report in or about May this year from the South Asian liaison officer for the New Zealand Police, with photographs and fingerprints, detailing an immigration scam involving Pakistani nationals entering New Zealand through Tonga?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes. Police have, with the additional information provided today, been able to identify that an allegation relating to a Tongan immigration scam was reported by a south Auckland sergeant to his immediate superior, Senior Sergeant Fulcher, in April this year. The two-page report outlined an allegation that came from an informant in Auckland that Pakistani nationals had been obtaining holiday visas from the Immigration Service office in Tonga in exchange for money. As the House was told yesterday, the Immigration Service has advised that no such visas have been issued to Pakistani nationals from Tonga since 1999-2000, a fact that casts doubt on at least that part of the allegation.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Minister of Police denied that such a report existed. [Interruption] We get this every time, and you do nothing.
Mr SPEAKER: I have warned members about interjecting. The member will please carry on.
Rodney Hide: That was a former Minister of Immigration trying to have a go. If she wants to say that the Minister of Police did not, Hansard shows clearly that he did, and I am happy to read it out. The Minister of Police came to the House and twice denied—and I look to members to agree—that such a report existed. We now have the Minister of Police saying oh, yes, there is a report. The standard expectation in the House is that as soon as a Minister realises that he or she has inadvertently misled the House, he or she should correct the record. The Minister did no such thing. I ask you whether you consider that to be acceptable.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There are a couple of points there. First of all, obviously, the Minister yesterday gave an answer based on the information made available to him by his officials that no such report had been found. Today, with more information provided—it would be very useful if members would actually provide the information in the first case when they submit the question, as opposed to playing little games in their question—it has been possible to find the report. Even then, it is not a police report “detailing an immigration scam”, it is an allegation made to a police officer for which no other evidence has been found.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me say that the member raised a point of order accurately. It should have been corrected when the Minister became aware of the inaccuracy. The fact of the matter is that the Minister may not have been wrong yesterday and he may not have been wrong today. There is a discrepancy there, and I say to the Minister that he should have come to the House and corrected it.
Dr Muriel Newman: How come a police officer can write a report detailing an immigration scam and providing names and dates, yet the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of Police deny any knowledge of it; how on earth can the public have any confidence in our border security?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Every year there are thousands of such reports written by police on various matters over a wide range of areas. If the member had chosen on at least two occasions earlier this year to give some details, then an explanation could have been provided.
Russell Fairbrother: Is there any evidence that such a scam, if it existed, was successful at gaining entry for Pakistani nationals via Tonga?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No, there is no evidence that the scam actually existed. So far, all we have is an allegation reported from one south Auckland police officer to another. If the scam did exist, it was apparently a failure because the Immigration Service has confirmed that there have been no visitor visas issued to Pakistani nationals by the Tongan office since 1999-2000—fraudulent or otherwise.
Dr Wayne Mapp: What investigations are the police undertaking of New Zealand Immigration Service staff, given that 29 allegations of fraud against staff were proven between 2001 and 2003, and that there are now 30 new investigations for last year, and three just in the last month?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have that information with me, but I will supply it to the member as soon as I can.
Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that this police report on form 258, identified as the source, a Mr Mohammed Shaid, who was the organiser of this scam, and that the real reason that no evidence has been found for this immigration scam, is because neither the police nor the Immigration Service has undertaken any investigation of it, and that we have the Minister of Police and the Minister of Immigration completely in the dark, and once again it requires Opposition parties to do their job for them?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The person the member mentioned, Mr Shaid, was an overstayer and he was removed from this country on 22 April 2004. Of course if we get the information, if responsible members take their complaints where they should go, rather than try to make political capital out of it, this place would be a lot better off.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister keeps demanding that we provide the evidence. The police have provided the report. We have pointed him in the direction of the report. What else do we have to do?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and the member knows it.
Waste Strategy—Parliamentary Service
10. MIKE WARD (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Has she made any representation to the General Manager of the Parliamentary Service to implement the New Zealand waste strategy within Parliament; if so, what was the response?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes, I wrote to the Parliamentary Service on 27 July inviting it to join the Ministry for the Environment Govt3 programme, which aims to help Government agencies improve the sustainability of their actions. Ministry officials are assisting parliamentary management with ideas to minimise the environmental impact of Parliament’s operations. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am just about to ask a member to leave, who has disobeyed my instructions.
Rodney Hide: OK, thank you.
Mr SPEAKER: Right.
Mike Ward: Does she believe that it is important for the Government, as the most visible face of central government, to lead by example in terms of its resource use and waste production?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I would not want to focus on just one Government agency, because I believe that a school, for example, is the most evident Government agency as regards our students. But I am looking forward to the Parliamentary Service joining the Govt3 agency.
Dave Hereora: What practical steps is the Government taking to reduce waste?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I can give two examples. On Tuesday I will sign a new packaging accord with industry, recyclers, and central and local government to reduce the amount of packaging that gets dumped, and the following week I will be highlighting activities of Government agencies that have signed up to the Govt3 programme to improve environmental sustainability.
Mike Ward: Does she believe that Parliament is acting in accordance with the intention of the New Zealand waste strategy, and is it leading by example when it refuses to purchase recycled paper for use in its printers and photocopiers?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Under the Govt3 programme special topic groups have been set up. They cover such topics as office waste and office paper.
Mike Ward: Does the Minister believe that Parliament is acting in accordance with the intention of the New Zealand waste strategy, and is it leading by example when it replaces glasses in select committee rooms with plastic cups, and when plastic containers in food outlets replace paper bags?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has very little responsibility for that. The Speaker does, and the member can always approach me. The Minister can give an opinion if she likes, but it will be a very brief one.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The Minister is encouraging the Parliamentary Service to work closely in the Govt3 programme with the Ministry for the Environment.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Is there is any prospect that the adoption of the waste strategy by Parliament could lead to a reduction in the unnecessary tabling of departmental reports, answers to parliamentary questions, Hansard, newspaper reports, and the photocopying of material that is already available or has already been tabled?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I live in hope.
Mike Ward: What advice will the Minister provide on ongoing employer education and encouragement programmes to decrease resource use and waste production, and what will the Minister do now to see that the performance of Parliament in respect of resource use and waste generation is improved?
Mr SPEAKER: Once again the Minister can give an opinion but she cannot comment on a department for which she is not responsible.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As I have said, I am very interested in the Parliamentary Service joining with the Govt3 programme, in which Government departments work through a number of issues to do with the management of waste.
Defence Force—Project Protector and Multi-role Vessel
11. RICHARD WORTH (National—Epsom) to the Minister of Defence: Has he been advised of the complaint relating to Project Protector and the acquisition of the multi-role vessel, made to the Office of the Ombudsmen; if so, what is the nature of the complaint?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): I am not aware of any such complaint, but I am aware that agents acting for one of the interested parties that did not make the shortlist has made a complaint regarding process to the Office of the Ombudsmen. As I am not a party to that complaint, I am not aware of the details. I can only suggest that the member discuss the matter with his former law firm colleague and former fellow naval reservist, Mr Michael Stephens, who is advising the agents who laid the complaint, and who, incidentally, is also acting for one of the disappointed shortlisted companies.
Richard Worth: Why has the Government chosen a conventional roll-on roll-off vessel that will not be able to land men and material in sea states above sea state 2, when the likely area of operation of the multi-role vessel will be an offloading requirement in the deep waters and associated swells of the Pacific—conditions far different from the millpond of sea state 2?
Hon MARK BURTON: The contract as signed with Tenix is compliant with the documents issued inviting tenders.
Richard Worth: What is his view of the New Zealand defence officials who, in analysing the tender registration bid of Hyundai, the biggest shipyard in the world, incorrectly recorded the capital base of Hyundai as $26 million, instead of $26 billion, so that Hyundai, which, in fact, had a history of building a ship in New Zealand, missed out and was not able to enter the bid round?
Hon MARK BURTON: I will not in any way contravene the appropriate commercial processes in the tender process. I suggest the member talks to his former legal and reservist colleague on the matter.
12. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Racing: How has the Government contributed to ensuring the New Zealand racing industry can look forward to a prosperous future?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister for Racing): This Government has worked hard to ensure that the racing industry has a modern statutory framework that allows racing to control its own destiny. The new Racing Act has been in force for a year, and the Government has appointed a strong, capable New Zealand Racing Board that has already laid the foundations for revitalising New Zealand racing.
Clayton Cosgrove: What has the New Zealand Racing Board achieved in its first year in office, and what has been the industry’s response?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The board has laid the foundations for growth. It has commissioned comprehensive research that will underpin various strategies for growing the industry. The board has set itself a target of increasing its financial return to racing from $79 million to $100 million per annum.