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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 26 August 2004

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

Thursday, 26 August 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Roading—Transport Congestion
2. Refugees—Immigration, Minister
3. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Cambridge High School
4. International Reputation—Criticism in Australia
5. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Cambridge High School
6. Police—Staffing
7. Primary Health Organisations—Funding
8. Electricity—Foreign Ownership
9. Prisoners—Human Rights
10. Working for Families Package—Eligibility
11. Burglaries—Counties-Manukau, Resolution
12. Tourism Strategy 2010—Policy

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Roading—Transport Congestion

1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Transport: When he said yesterday, in relation to reducing roading congestion, that “we can’t simply motorway our way out of trouble”, what did he mean?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): I meant that we need a balanced approach, one in which better roading sits alongside better public transport and demand management. Motorways alone will not work, and that is why this Government is spending record sums on public transport and traffic demand management.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How convincing does he find the Allen report to the Automobile Association, given its failure to take into account the economic effects of oil depletion and rising fuel prices and its use of an economic model that assumes that, if necessary, people can fill up their cars with coal, electricity, or gas?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yesterday the Government welcomed that report as a useful contribution to the debate. It does have a number of contestable issues in it, and the member has alerted the House to some of them. My reading of the report is that it has, in fact, done two useful things. One of them is that it has identified precisely the years in which the infrastructure deficit arose as being those years when the National Party was in Government. I might say that, in respect of a funding response, the report probably underestimated the level of expenditure because it probably underplayed the role of public transport and rail freight.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House, when he said that “we can’t simply motorway our way out of trouble”, how we got into trouble in the first place?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The answer is, of course, the National Party. Yesterday’s report precisely identifies and quantifies the years during the 1990s when we stopped investing adequately in infrastructure. That is what got us into trouble; this Government is getting us out of trouble.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that our roading infrastructure is seriously lagging behind what is required from the point of view of traffic movement, which in turn leads to major economic disadvantage, safety problems, and, further, slow-moving vehicles causing environmental problems; and, if he does recognise that, will he adopt the Allen report solutions so that the huge benefits of an adequate roading infrastructure will flow through our economy to the advantage of us all?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I acknowledge a land transport infrastructure deficit, including, but not limited to, roads. I think that the Allen report, as I said in response to a question from Jeanette Fitzsimons, has probably underestimated the level of expenditure that is needed. It has certainly underestimated the level of expenditure that this Government intends. I might say that we would be in even worse trouble had the New Zealand First Party, when it was briefly in coalition with National, not shifted 3.2c from the consolidated account into roading, which is something that the National leader subsequently decided he would try to take credit for.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Does the Minister accept the finding of the Allen Consulting Group report that the construction of rural passing lanes has a cost benefit ratio of 4 to 1; if he does, will he advocate that they be prioritised for construction?

Hon PETE HODGSON: As is often the case with reports of that ilk, they overlook what is already happening. Transit New Zealand has announced a 10-year plan for State highway development. In the year we currently find ourselves, Transit is building passing lanes—and I speak from memory here—at the rate of approximately one every 9 days.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree with this statement from the Allen report: “It is difficult to overstate the economic and social importance of New Zealand’s road network. It plays a significantly bigger role than other transport modes, and connects them all. It permeates all aspects of economic and social activity.”?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, more or less.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What contribution to New Zealand’s transport future, and to congestion relief in Auckland, was made by the 1993 National Party decision to sell rail?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may answer, in so far as the question relates his portfolio.

Hon PETE HODGSON: It certainly does, Mr Speaker. It was a particularly negative contribution, a particularly silly privatisation, and a particularly thoughtless, incomprehensible privatisation that should never have happened. This Government got up and got the track back for a dollar.

Peter Brown: I ask for clarification: is the Minister aware of any other area of investment for Government funding that will produce superior returns to those outlined in the Allen report?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The question ranges way outside the variety of portfolios I happen to hold. I wonder how education would fit alongside transport, but I am afraid I am not able to give an opinion.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree with the Allen report where it clearly demonstrates that tax spent on road construction is an investment with significant returns for the economy; if he does, will he seek to reduce the amount diverted from the National Land Transport Fund to the Crown account, as advocated constantly by United Future?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member may not be aware, so I remind him and the House, that this year expenditure on land transport has gone up by 18 percent. Not only that but we have said what the expenditure will be out to the years 2013 and 2014, by which time we will be spending approximately $2.8 billion a year on land transport infrastructure—much more than twice the level of expenditure when we came to office.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think that the Minister really addressed the part of the question that related to the diversion of funds from excise duty into the Crown account.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might like to comment briefly.

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is a matter of fact that when the Government increased petrol tax in, I think, April 2002, all that money—every cent—went into roading. When legislation comes before this House again to raise petrol tax by 5c effective from 1 April next year, every cent of that will go into roading. I think the real question is whether the National Party will vote for that legislation, because those members said yesterday that it was time to stop talking and start doing something, but I bet they will vote against that tax.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree with the approach of Allan Consultants that the large environmental costs of a huge motorway programme should not be counted because one cannot put a dollar value on them, and do environmental costs not also cause economic costs down the track?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I cannot remember quite how the question was phrased but, no, I do not agree with that part of the report; and, yes, I do agree with the member. I go on to say that the Allan report’s analysis of carbon dioxide emissions was fairly faulty, as well.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Minister whether the motherhood and apple pie, 1½ page agreement between United Future and the Government has even one word on road transport funding; if not, why is the Government refusing to designate the harbour link to the biggest and most profitable port in this country, Tauranga, as a State or national road and designate the money collected until this point in time by road users for that purpose?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am very recently advised that the document does refer to alternative mechanisms of funding for land transport.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister how it was that the harbour link to the biggest and most profitable port in this country, which is a vital economic infrastructural investment in this country, is not funded—

Hon Bill English: What is the point of order?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that I want an answer, and if Mr English would keep quiet, I will make my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will have his point of order heard in silence. There are two people who have offended.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I asked a question with regard to the funding of the harbour link to the Port of Tauranga. It was very clear what I asked, which was why the money collected for the purpose of the New Zealand road user was not spent on such roads. I want an answer to that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member did not ask that question. He asked whether there was any comment in the 1½ page United Future - Labour agreement from the coalition about transport. I heard him quite clearly ask that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Hansard will show you clearly did not. I asked whether there was any reference to road transport funding from taxation with regard to the United Future document—and, if not, what was he supposed to do in respect of the harbour link to the Port of Tauranga? So it is very clear what the Hansard will say, and I want an answer to it.

Mr SPEAKER: Members can ask one question. If there are two limbs, Ministers are not obliged to respond to both limbs. That is a risk members run in asking multiple questions. The Minister certainly replied to the first half of that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am very happy to abide by that as being the new ruling—

Mr SPEAKER: It is not a new rule. It has existed since at least 1966.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am very happy to abide by its new application, because I have heard members ask up to three questions. You have usually ruled out the last one, but not the first two, where they are related. I suggest to you that if this is to be the rule, then frankly it will be very, very tough on Opposition members in the future.

Mr SPEAKER: No, it is not, because the Minister chose to give an answer. He did address the question. That is the end of the matter.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that the modified Auckland eastern highway plan announced yesterday offers the worst of all worlds, in that it has no public transport component and will create big traffic jams when cars coming into the city merge into one lane as they enter Hobson Bay?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not make personal comments on individual projects, and neither have Ministers of Transport before me; nor will, I am sure, Ministers of Transport yet to be born.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, when the Government is taking $1 for the consolidated account from every $2 collected for the purpose of road construction, maintenance, repair, and road safety, is the Government not moving to ensure that the harbour link to the Port of Tauranga—the biggest port in New Zealand—is a State or national road funded from those same funds?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The fact of the matter is that since the Government came into office, an increasing proportion—and it is about to increase further—of all petrol excise duties has been made over to land transport infrastructure; more than ever was the case prior.

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked the Minister about Tauranga specifically. I think he can answer that part of the question.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not intend to comment on individual projects. Ministers of Transport before me have not; neither, I suggest, will Ministers of Transport yet to be born.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is not the main failing of the Allen report the lack of any comparison between the economic return from new roads and the long-term economic return from travel demand management, public transport, and rail development?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I hope that by now I have left the member with the view that I consider the Allen report to be a useful contribution to the land transport debate. I think it is. It is not, however, a document with a level of sophistication that I think is sufficient for investment decisions to be made, and I suspect that the land transport agencies, such as Transfund, would agree.

Refugees—Immigration, Minister

2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Immigration’s handling of the refugee issue?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister—whilst the Minister wipes his brow—what regard, if any at all, has been paid by the Minister to the briefing paper given in August 2002 on the issue of immigration and refugees, and their dislocation and non-placement in our economy; if he has not paid regard to it, how come he still has the job?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Quite a lot of regard is being given to exactly those issues in this term of Parliament. The Minister was able to announce, in connection with this year’s Budget, a package of $62 million over 4 years to deal with migrant settlement issues, and in the previous year the Minister for Social Development and Employment had another $21 billion put into his department over 4 years to deal precisely with specialist services providing migrants and refugees with placement in employment.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Prime Minister satisfied that, under her watch, 90 percent of refugees welcomed to this country are still on a benefit after 2 years, and that, after 5 long years of the Labour Government, 80 percent of refugees are still on a benefit?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am satisfied that we are putting in place services to deal with those problems that have never been in place before. I am also satisfied that among the refugee community are simply outstanding examples of people who want to get ahead. For example, a young Kurdish man who came here as a refugee was this week reported in the New Zealand Herald as having been awarded the Simpson Grierson employment law prize for topping his class. There are plenty of other such stories.

Keith Locke: How is New Zealand’s international reputation affected by two parties scrapping over which can be the most mean-spirited to the world’s most desperate people, and rather than taking—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have said every member has the right to ask his or her question in silence. People might not agree with it, but this is a democracy, and everyone has that right.

Keith Locke: How is New Zealand’s international reputation affected by two parties scrapping over which can be the most mean-spirited towards the world’s most desperate people; and, rather than taking fewer refugees, as National and New Zealand First propose, should we not be taking—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Roger Sowry will leave the Chamber. I will judge that; of course there is no responsibility, and I am going to rule in that way, but I told him not to interject.

Hon Roger Sowry withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Our Standing Orders require that any questions made to Ministers not include any arguments, references, imputations, epithets, or ironic expressions that may be negative to other members of the House. Quite clearly, that question breached that Standing Order.

Mr SPEAKER: I was about to rule in that way, and I was going to rule the question out of order. I have not yet heard one word that was in order—and the member has had two goes. I am moving on to the next supplementary question. [Interruption] No, the member has had two goes.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was interrupted a couple of times in presenting my question. Surely I should have the courtesy of at least finishing it, because I do have a direct question to the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: Unfortunately, the member is too late. I gave him a second opportunity and tried to say to him that he should make the question in order. I am very generous indeed in this area, and I gave him a second go. Of course, I asked a member to leave the Chamber because of his interjections while the member was asking his question. But the question is not yet in order.

Rod Donald: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may have made a reference to a member over on that side of the Chamber about the content of Mr Locke’s question, but you never actually directly said to him that you were unsatisfied with it. So, before you have even given him the chance to rephrase it, you have ruled him out from asking the question. I think you should let him have a chance to ask a question that is within the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: I was very generous earlier this week to another party. I will let Mr Locke have a final go, but he must ask a question that is only in relation to the Prime Minister’s responsibility.

Keith Locke: Should we not be increasing the number of refugees, rather than reducing them, particularly in view of the fact that the total number of refugees we accepted last year—that is, the quota refugees plus the asylum seekers—was only 821?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think we would want to see better results than we are getting at the moment, and have had for many years, in terms of settlement, before we increased the numbers. But I note that the previous Leader of the Opposition made exactly that point a year or so ago, when he said that he would be prepared to consider the quota being raised if resources were in place—a very different line from that taken by his front-bench colleague Mr Ryall this week.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister received reports suggesting that when New Zealand First warned of the failure of this refugee and immigration policy it was accused by the National Party of xenophobia; and has she received any further report that might suggest we could look forward to the day when “New Zealand Second” stops stealing New Zealand First’s policies?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is in order.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That would be like asking to take the politics out of politics. But I do agree with the member that there appears to have been a marked change in the National Party’s attitude. I personally found its previous leader’s attitude on refugee issues much more enlightened than the drivel that came from Mr Ryall last week.

Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have, as you are entitled to do, shown great leniency to Mr Locke in relation to his supplementary question. In the circumstances, I invite you to consider showing a similar spirit of generosity to Mr Sowry and inviting him to rejoin us in the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: Because it is Thursday I think that is a fair comment. I will.

Government Members: Oh!

Mr SPEAKER: That does not mean that others will not be asked to leave. I go only so far.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Cambridge High School

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s statement that with regard to NCEA assessment practices at Cambridge High School, “There is no evidence that the issues identified at the school by NZQA are happening at other schools.”; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister of Education): Yes, because that is the advice I have received from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. This was an extreme case, and it showed a distinct lack of professionalism. I am confident that the vast majority of New Zealand teachers operate in a very professional manner.

Hon Bill English: Why can the Minister rely on statements made by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority when media reports today demonstrate that the authority was investigating evidence of exactly the same sort of practices as those shown at Cambridge High School at another school, probably at the time that the authority made that statement?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My understanding is that—and I imagine the member is referring to a particular school reported in the New Zealand Herald, which named it as Hauraki Plains College—the situation at the school, as reported in the New Zealand Herald, is an example of how schools should deal with the problems. As soon as the school became aware of the potentially inadequate assessment activities it put student results on hold, it identified problems with its policy and modified the policy, and it asked the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to evaluate and confirm the changes made in the policy.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Why is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement NCEA)# a better system for the student?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The NCEA gives students, teachers, and employers a very detailed picture of how students are performing in each subject, unlike the old School Certificate system, which automatically consigned 50 percent of the students to failure and 50 percent to success, regardless of their actual standard of work. When students achieve in an area of learning we will now know exactly what skills they possess, not just that they did better or worse than the average. For instance, a builder looking for an apprentice will see whether a student can actually do geometry. That level of detail was not possible under School Certificate, which just gave an overall mark.

Jim Peters: Is not the issue with regard to current NCEA practices one that was created after 1999 by the Ministry of Education amalgamating achievement and unit standards—two totally different historical achievement strands in secondary education—and when will the Minister move to reform the practices that are inherent in the current NCEA?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member who asked that question is an expert in this area and knows the history. He has correctly described some of what has gone on. However, I say to that member that today we have a standards-based system that is a distinct improvement on a mere ranking system, and as the principals themselves say, the system meets their needs and provides better motivation for academic success than in the past. As with the implementation of any system of this size, there will be bedding-down problems. Those problems will be sorted out, and we will be left with a better system. The issue is about improving the system, not changing it entirely.

Deborah Coddington: Will the Minister conduct a nationwide review of NCEA procedures and policies, as requested more than 2 months ago by more than 20 State school principals who were so desperate and so concerned that they took out a newspaper advertisement about the NCEA’s credibility; if not, why is he just arrogantly ignoring the very people who are responsible for educating young New Zealanders?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can really do better than to take the words of the Principals Council, which recently noted that—and I will paraphrase what it had to say—although there will be problems, we should always be on the look-out for situations and deal with them when they arise, but, rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, we should use examples like Cambridge High School to allow us to get proper processes in all schools. That is the best approach—to look at the system when issues like that arise, to learn from them, and to move on in a good system.

Larry Baldock: Is the Minister at all disturbed that it took a letter from a student to an education magazine to raise concerns about Cambridge High School’s assessment practices, when the school has produced artificially high results over the last 2 years; if so, will he finally ask some hard questions of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority—an organisation that has bungled the implementation of the NCEA from the very beginning?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can assure the member that the Minister of Education always asks hard questions of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. However, we are dealing here with a situation where a school is regularly reviewed. In the case of Cambridge High School, it appears that that school hid some of the activities that were going on in the school. As soon as those activities became apparent to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority—not through a letter, but through other means—it went back to the school, which is now under the control of two statutory managers. It cannot be more controlled than that.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell me how the New Zealand Qualifications Authority could have investigated assessment practices at Hauraki Plains College when the activity workbooks and assessment workbooks in question are in the box I have here?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As a former university lecturer I always approve of people using visual aids to illustrate their point, so I thank the member for that. [Interruption] It is an aspect that the member himself states has disappeared. All I can say to the member is that I am assured by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that this matter was dealt with appropriately. The authority was invited into the school, and has dealt with the matter in the appropriate fashion.

Hon Bill English: Will the Minister go back to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and ask it how it investigated assessment practices at Hauraki Plains College, when the scripts that I have here show many students gave exactly the same answers to questions, show 6th form students earned 3 credits in a matter of 3 or 4 days, and show students probably signed each other’s assessments, rather than teachers doing that?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I assure the member that, of course, every claim made by him and with evidence to support it will be investigated thoroughly by myself, and I will ensure that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority follows up on those issues thoroughly . But I say the system of a standards-based assessment is vastly better than a ranking system such as School Certificate, which allowed so many National Party people to get through their qualifications.

Hon Bill English: What are the thousands of students, parents, and teachers to make of statements by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in the New Zealand Herald today that it has investigated the problems at Hauraki Plains College, when the authority could not have seen the evidence of bad assessment practice because that was not available to it?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I take the claims of the member seriously. I am sure he is an honourable member. If he has those claims to make and evidence to back them up, then I am always willing to look at the issues raised by him.

International Reputation—Criticism in Australia

4. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What are the risks to New Zealand’s international reputation of any criticisms of New Zealand in Australia?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): There was a risk that New Zealand’s reputation might have been damaged, and investor confidence diminished, by Dr Brash bagging his own country to the business community in Australia last week. However, as business reporter Bob Edlin wrote in the Independent this week, and I quote: “The more Brash says, the more likely he is to expose his humbug, and the more humbug he exposes, the less likely he is to displace the Clark government.” In that sense the risk and the damage done was more to the National Party in New Zealand than it was to New Zealand’s reputation overseas.

Hon Mark Gosche: Was New Zealand’s reputation with the Australian business community damaged by the argument that our labour laws, and the proposal for 4 weeks’ minimum annual leave, made New Zealand unable to compete with Australia?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, the Australian business community must have regarded Dr Brash’s attempt to undermine his own country in that regard as simply farcical. They would know, as apparently Dr Brash does not, that Australia has had 4 weeks’ minimum annual leave for 30 years, and that the World Bank has put New Zealand ahead of Australia in terms of the flexibility of its labour laws.

Simon Power: What effects does he think references to a paralysis in the process of New Zealand government, warnings of social distress, and gloomy predictions of fear and insecurity have on foreign business groups that might consider investing in New Zealand, and has he received any reports on the ongoing effects on New Zealand’s international reputation of those statements made by Helen Clark, the then Leader of the Opposition, in Hong Kong?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Obviously, those comments accurately described New Zealand’s plight in the 1990s. Clearly, the international community has seen that this country has done better than practically any other OECD country under 5 years of extremely good Labour Government – led policies.

Hon Mark Gosche: What evidence is there of New Zealand about to decline into becoming just another Pacific Island State?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There is, of course, no evidence to support Dr Brash’s attempt to belittle New Zealand in that way. As John Armstrong wrote in the Otago Daily Times, this “not only bordered on the ridiculous, it was silly politics to boot.” The National Bank regional trend survey recently issued shows our annualised June economic growth at 4.3 percent, which is one of the best in the OECD. The unemployment rate at 4 percent is the second-best rate in the OECD, and Transparency International has consistently found that in terms of good governance and lack of corruption New Zealand is one of the top three countries in the world. Nothing that Don Brash has said to bag New Zealand denies those facts.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister discussed with his colleagues the wisdom of having patsy questions put up when Dr Brash is here, because he does not even—

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. The member knows he cannot mention the fact that a member of this House is not present in the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did not say that.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the member did. The implication was quite clear to me and I think to everybody else in this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will rephrase it.

Mr SPEAKER: It had better be good.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It will be good. It is like taking candy off a baby. Has the Minister discussed with his colleagues the fairness of those sorts of attacks on a member of Parliament doing the best he can in very trying circumstances.

Mr SPEAKER: No, unfortunately, there is no ministerial responsibility.

Simon Power: I seek leave to table a speech by the Rt Hon. Helen Clark to the New Zealand Hong Kong Business Association in 1994 bagging New Zealand off shore.

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

Jill Pettis: Go and have a literacy test.

Simon Power: Go and get a speech lesson.

Mr SPEAKER: That is in direct reference to me. The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise. She is a senior whip and should know better.

Jill Pettis: I do apologise Mr Speaker.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Cambridge High School

5. DONNA AWATERE HUATA (Independent) to the Minister of Education: Was it his intention that any school would achieve a 100 percent pass rate in NCEA; if not, why did the New Zealand Qualifications Authority not investigate this at Cambridge High School until credit-cramming practices were reported in the media?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister of Education): There is no set pass rate, and students are expected to achieve at the level they are capable of. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority regularly visits schools, and visited Cambridge High School in 2003, but the school did not disclose the existence of its achievement recovery room, as the authority would have expected from a school that was operating professionally and with integrity. As soon as the New Zealand Qualifications Authority became aware of the issues at the school around the same time as the media, it moved to investigate, and subsequently issued a compliance notice telling the school to stop the use of its achievement recovery room. Two statutory managers are now working in the school alongside the board.

Donna Awatere Huata: Can the Minister recall assuring this House and the select committee that systems he had in place, including moderation, a higher level of external exams, and visiting inspectors, would ensure that the kinds of practices now being revealed could not happen, and does he now regret foisting on New Zealand an untried and untested exam system that has been rejected by overseas countries and rejected by 80 percent of Post Primary Teachers Association teachers; if not, can he explain himself?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I assume that the Minister still assumes that giving that advice was the right thing to do. The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exam is something that he does not regret introducing. It is a system that ensures we gain information about the real learning of students. We know what they achieve and to what level, and that will serve this country in the 21st century a whole lot better than an exam system that allowed 50 percent though and 50 percent to fail and meant that we never knew what they knew, at all.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister clarify for the benefit of members of the House how schools are monitored for the quality of NCEA results and reporting?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Schools are visited regularly by school relationship managers, who work closely with the schools to ensure consistency of standards. There is also regular moderation of internal assessment. Moderation means that results in one school are checked with other schools’ results so that a consistent national standard is maintained. This new approach means there is actually more national consistency of standards than there was under the old School Certificate, Sixth Form Certificate, and bursary system. The quality of the NCEA system is backed by the principals council chairperson, Don McLeod, who said: “NCEA can provide far richer diagnostic assessment information than the old School Certificate system could, and still mark the level of achievement of any given student so that employers can see what they have in front of them in a job application.”

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority report into Cambridge High School says that the credit recovery room had been operating for 2 years, and is he aware that during that time the school would have received probably over a dozen visits from various educational agencies, and what does that say about their competence?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I am afraid, answering on behalf of the Minister I cannot confirm the exact details of the number of visits but I do know there were visits and I do know that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has made it clear that this particular activity within the school was actively hidden from it.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that under a standards-based assessment system it is theoretically possible and ideally desirable for all schools to have 100 percent pass rates and that the issue is not about percentage pass rates but about the number of breaches of the law that had to occur to enable Bill English to have those scripts in this House today?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm the first part. A standards-based system is, of course, one where we would hope that people achieve standards, and if they get to 100 percent, then that would be a sign of the system working as well as any other sign within the system. On the second part of the question, yes I am looking forward to Mr English bringing his evidence to me. He makes a lot of claims here, and I am looking forward to seeing that evidence so I can find out how it was gained, what it says, and whether he has acted in a right and proper fashion.

Police—Staffing

6. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Police: Does he consider the current resources and staffing levels of both sworn and non-sworn police to be adequate; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Generally, yes. We are funding over a billion dollars a year into policing, we are providing more staff and more and better resources, and the results say it all. Today the police commissioner announced the crime figures for the year ended June 2004. He said: “The drop in recorded crime this year equates to a decline in the crime rate of 6.5 percent per 10,000 head of population.” He also said: “The continuing increase in the rate of resolved crime is also most encouraging, with the highest resolution rate—45.1 percent—in 20 years.” If we compare that result with what happened under National, which put money into a computer that did not work, cut staff numbers, and cut the police budget, we see we are doing a helluva lot better.

Lynne Pillay: Has there been a turn-round in the rate of crime in the most populated area of the country?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. I again quote from the police commissioner: “The three Auckland districts’ results reflect a major turn-around in the battle against crime in the most populated region of the country, and reflect good work in the past year. It also reflects the effort of making changes over the last 5 years.” For example, in Counties-Manukau the crime rate has dropped 16.5 percent—the biggest drop in the country—in Auckland City the crime rate has dropped 11.8 percent, and in North Shore - Waitakere the crime rate has fallen 5.3 percent. That is good news from a good Government.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that if the Minister actually read the statistics that the police commissioner tabled today, he would know that petty crime has fallen because New Zealanders know the police do not respond to their concerns in that respect, and that under his stewardship of 5 years there has been, in fact, more crime, more violence, and more drug crimes than at any other time?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: One of the reasons why National never got on top of crime was that it had that sort of attitude. This Government is driving the rate of crime down. We are the most successful Government in a long while. The rate of crime is down to the level it was at the beginning of the 1980s—way back to 1983. It has never been lower since that time. That member knows it, and I think he is a bit jealous.

Dr Muriel Newman: What is his response to the claims made in the latest Police News that police numbers in Auckland have increased by only 1 percent over the last 4 years, while the population has grown by 9 percent, and that “Sworn police numbers are failing to keep pace with the city’s growth.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The results show it all. Those comments are not correct, and I think the Police Association intends correcting the matter in the next issue.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister think it is a good thing or a bad thing that methamphetamine convictions have increased because the police are de-emphasising cannabis offences, as suggested by the crime statistics released by the police today; and does he agree that the police are taking a sensible lead on this issue while this Parliament does nothing?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is a very unusual interpretation of what the crime statistics say. I do not know why the member thinks that. I think the fewer people smoking marijuana and the fewer using methamphetamine, the better. The police are really getting on top of it because they are being well resourced and, of course, supported by this Government.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why will this Government not tell the people of New Zealand that in the past year, under this Minister’s stewardship, there has been an almost 30 percent increase in methamphetamine-related crime, which has gone hand in glove with increases in grievous assaults and serious assaults?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That member must realise that when one focuses on methamphetamine, when one puts more pressure on, the better the results and the greater the number of people caught. National would interpret the figures as meaning that the less one does, the better the result. We do not.

Primary Health Organisations—Funding

7. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Health: When she stated to the House on 24 August 2004, in relation to interim-funded primary health organisations, that: “After all, the Government has not put any additional money in for them,” what did she mean?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): My comment referred to the fact that for interim-funded primary health organisations, additional funding to reduce fees is being phased in over time. Currently, interim primary health organisations are funded for children under 18 and people aged 65 and over. As yet, no additional funding is provided for the remaining age groups enrolled in interim-funded primary health organisations. This means that people from the ages of 18 to 64 who are enrolled in an interim-funded primary health organisation pay the full fee charged by their general practitioner, unless they have acommunity services card, a high use health card, or are part of Care Plus.

Judith Collins: When the Minister refers to “additional funding” is that funding in addition to the $4 million allocated to establish primary health organisations in preference to family general practitioners, is it in addition to the additional funding she trumpeted, on 1 October 2003, that interim primary health organisations would receive, or is it in addition to her $2 million advertising spree on the virtues of primary health organisations?

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked three questions. The Minister may respond to two.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is wrong. We have not spent $411 million establishing primary health organisations. We have put money in that goes to the patient—very little of it is used to establish primary health organisations.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I made this point at the very beginning of question time today when you gave the ruling. You just said, with regard to the last questioner, that she had asked three questions and the Minister can answer two. You see my point, do you not?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may answer. I did not say she must answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, I see.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to clarify something with the Minister. Did she say $410 million? Because I said $4 million.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I thought the member said $411 million.

Judith Collins: No, I said $4 million.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Perhaps she would like to repeat the question because I heard $411 million.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I heard the question from the member and she definitely said $4 million. Perhaps the Minister might like to comment on the fact that the figure was $4 million, because I heard that figure.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The extra additional money has not yet gone in for people who are in interim primary health organisations. That money has gone in for only the over-65s and that figure was $47 million. There has been no additional money for interim primary health organisations in the age groups that are not yet funded.

Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister received any comments that allege a 20 percent fee increase in the primary health organisation in Feilding?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Judith Collins made allegations in the House 2 days ago. She has failed to produce the evidence that there has been a 20 percent increase in the primary health organisation in Feilding, because there is no primary health organisation in Feilding. She can be excused for being confused. After all, very recently she called primary health organisations “public health organisations”.

Sue Kedgley: Given the Government’s stated intention that primary health organisations would comprise “multidisciplinary teams of health professionals working together to deliver a range of health services”, will the Government encourage primary health organisations to include registered complementary health practitioners in their multidisciplinary teams; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There is absolutely nothing to stop registered complementary health practitioners from being part of primary health organisations. I have no doubt that over time we will see the integration of many more health providers in primary health organisations.

Heather Roy: If, as the Minister says, the Government has not put additional money into interim public health organisations, and given that doctors around the country are reporting that half the primary health organisation administration money is being used to run their new governance boards, can she deny that she has forced doctors to increase fees in order to produce the same service, thus imposing more expensive doctors’ visits on the millions of Kiwis enrolled in interim primary health organisations?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. In fact, over 2 million New Zealanders have cheaper health care.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister accept that ordinary New Zealanders might find her use of the term “no additional funding” confusing, when she previously stated in a press release on 1 October 2003 that additional funding was available to interim primary health organisations for certain services that most New Zealanders would consider standard medical practice, like the promotion of health?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Every primary health organisation, whether access or interim, receives a very small amount of money for health promotion and disease prevention—a very small amount. There has been no additional money put into interim primary health organisations for the age groups between 18 and 64. However, help is on the way, because this Government between now and 2007 will be putting in additional funding to ensure that every New Zealander will have affordable primary health care. Let me compare that with the fact that subsidised primary health care was removed by the National Party in 1991.

Electricity—Foreign Ownership

8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Does he have any concerns regarding foreign ownership of New Zealand’s electricity distribution and provision?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): My primary concern is any lack of investment in electricity distribution and provision, rather than the ownership thereof being outside the Government sector.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the sale of key New Zealand electricity infrastructure possibly be in the national interest, when we have State-owned Meridian Energy calling for urgency in the upgrade of transmission and distribution lines at the same time as line companies are being sold off to foreigners—whose concern, as we all well know from experience, is profit and not New Zealand’s long-term energy needs?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The aim of any company in the New Zealand electricity business is to make a profit. Indeed, I think that would be a requirement of it under the Companies Act.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it the Minister’s view that it is sound economics for a company like Powerco, which has gone from a profit of $2 million a year to almost $20 million a year, to be taken from the ownership of the people of Taranaki and put in the hands of Australians; and what possible benefit can that have for the people of New Zealand, particularly the people of Tauranga, who have just had two power cuts while Powerco was very busy trying to sell itself rather than running a proper business?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said before, the matter of any change in ownership of Powerco is likely to come before me for approval, under the Overseas Investment Act. Therefore, I am not prepared to comment further at this point.

Prisoners—Human Rights

9. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree that imprisonment, and further disciplinary action that occurs within prison, is a justified limitation on human rights?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes. Imprisonment, by its very nature, is a limitation on the rights ordinarily enjoyed by citizens. It is justifiable both as a protection for the safety of society and a punishment for serious offences committed by offenders against others. The nature of imprisonment and disciplinary action must, however, be lawful and meet the standards set out in the legislation passed by this House.

Marc Alexander: Why does the law allow a prison inmate like Christopher Taunoa to be compensated by a $240,000 payout because his human rights were supposedly temporarily breached in prison, when he permanently severed the human rights of his victim with an ear-to-ear, foot-long cut to his victim’s throat—so deep it went through to his spinal cord?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As the judge has not ruled on claims for compensation, it is premature, and in any case inappropriate, to speculate on his likely decision. However, I can quote from the Dominion Post this morning, which reported the judge himself as suggesting that: “… an earlier court declaration that the prisoners’ rights under the Bill of Rights Act had been breached was enough in itself.”

Nanaia Mahuta: In the case taken to the High Court against the detention of inmates on the behaviour modification regime, did the judge find that the regime involved a serious breach of human rights involving torture and severe mental suffering, as had been alleged?

Hon PHIL GOFF: That certainly had been alleged by the inmates themselves and their counsel, but Justice Young rejected any breach of section 9 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as having occurred. He did not uphold any specific allegations that the conditions amounted to psychological torture or cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment. He said there had been no credible evidence of severe mental suffering, but he did find that there had been lesser breaches under section 23(5) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that, aside from the actual denial of liberty, prisons need to have additional sanctions open to them to discipline prisoners such as Christopher Taunoa, who was described by guards as being the most difficult and disruptive inmate they had ever encountered, and that such alleged breaches of human rights are sometimes necessary if prisons are to maintain any sense of order?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I most certainly do agree that there needs to be forms of discipline in prisons against recalcitrant prisoners, and the person mentioned by the member was certainly one of those prisoners. However, those sanctions and that discipline obviously need to be within the rules set by this House.

Nanaia Mahuta: Will the court’s decision of 7 April this year on the Crown’s liability arising out of the behaviour modification regime be appealed?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. In fact, an appeal has already been filed.

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister concerned by the potential flood of hundreds of cases, if those four violent prisoners are compensated for time spent in solitary confinement; and does he agree that this sets a ridiculous precedent, whereby inmates may engage in violent and disruptive behaviour on purpose just so they can be rewarded with six-figure payouts later on; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I do not believe that a precedent will be set—and it will most certainly not be set if the forms of discipline and sanctions imposed within the prison regime are within the Penal Institutions Act of 1954, which was used in this particular case. Another reason why inmates will not be inclined to do this—as there will be no financial incentive for them to do so—is if this House reforms the law so that the first call on any damages given to any prisoner who is wronged goes to the victims the offender has wronged.

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister concerned that if prisons are not able to impose further disciplinary actions on inmates, then such an absence of boundaries will have a detrimental effect on their potential rehabilitation, particularly in the case of those who are not willing to take responsibility for their actions in the first place, like Christopher Taunoa, who protests his innocence on all counts and claims he is not a violent person, despite evidence to the contrary?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There is most certainly evidence to the contrary of that inmate’s wrong claims. There are sanctions within prisons; there is also discipline within prisons, but it has to be applied within the rules that are there and are of long standing.

Working for Families Package—Eligibility

10. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his answer to written question No. 8943(2004), which indicates that by 2007 50 percent of people receiving the accommodation supplement as a result of the Government’s Working for Families package will be single people with no dependent children; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): As the member knows because I have already sent him a revised answer to the question, the answer is no. Officials had not included the effects of changes to eligibility as a result of the Working for Families package in their original answer, and had not indicated that fact to me.

John Key: What reasons would lead the Minister to believe that it is fair and logical that in 2007 150 single people with no dependent children, and earning between and $40,000 and $80,000 a year, will receive the accommodation supplement under the Government’s Working for Families package, while at the same time 88 percent of the families earning between $25,000 and $45,000 a year will receive not one cent towards their accommodation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Of the number of families that the member refers to, my calculation is that roughly one half of 1 percent—no, less than that; a good deal less than that—of those are receiving the accommodation supplement. No doubt they are people with extremely high accommodation costs, presumably primarily in the central Auckland area. The accommodation supplement is based on the system brought into place by the previous National Government.

Janet Mackey: Who benefits from the Working for Families package?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Working for Families package puts more money in the pockets of nearly 300,000 low and middle income families, and that will total about $1.1 billion a year at its full implementation. The accommodation assistance part of that package is a little under one-seventh of the total.

Rodney Hide: In respect of benefits, can the Minister confirm that there are 900,000 New Zealanders in total on welfare benefits, superannuation, accident compensation, and student allowances, and that there will be 150,000 working families getting family credits, which makes over a million New Zealanders who are hooked into full or partial Government support, and does he think it is a good outcome to have one in three adults dependent on the State for their income?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the member himself noted, nearly half of that total number are superannuitants. Perhaps it is ACT’s policy to have incentives for work for those who are 85 or 95 years old, but it is not the policy of this Government.

John Key: What are the exact criteria that allow the 150 single people with no dependent children, who earn between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, to get an accommodation supplement under the Government’s Working for Families package, while thousands of low-income families in New Zealand will miss out?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Like all targeted mechanisms, they are based on need. The primary criteria for the accommodation supplement were developed under the National Government in the 1990s.

John Key: Why did the Government’s Working for Families fact sheet No. 3 state that 15,000 extra people will get the accommodation supplement, when, in fact, the Minister’s own answers to my office state that around one-third of that number will get it; and why will half of the $478 million that will be spent on the Working for Families package accommodation supplement in the next 3 and a bit years be given to people with no children, who are single, and who earn up to $80,000 per year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That was a very long question, and I will try to give a short answer. As the member said, only 150 families come into that new group of “super-rich”—as he outlined in National Party terms—earning about $40,000 or $50,000 a year. I note that that income is well under that of the top tax rate, which we are usually told is being imposed on people with very modest incomes. The vast bulk of people receiving the supplement are people on very low incomes, but to qualify for that supplement they must have a very high level of rental. The single people he refers to include a wide range of people, including single superannuitants. If the member wants to attack little old ladies, let him go and do it.

John Key: What is the right answer, in terms of the percentage of the Working for Families package that will go to those New Zealanders who are on benefits, as opposed to those who are working: the 33 percent number that the Minister talked about around Budget day, the 40-odd percent number that the Minister actually rolled out some days after he was challenged on that, or the numbers that look as though they could be in excess of that from all the answers he has sent to my office?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The accurate answer is around 40 percent. I also tell the member that of the 21,600 families and people who will be eligible for accommodation—[Interruption] I tell Dr Smith that I have already answered that, if he had bothered to listen. Of the additional 21,600 people who will be eligible for the accommodation supplement as a result of the eligibility changes, 14,900 are families with children.

Burglaries—Counties-Manukau, Resolution

11. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: What has been the average time taken to attend burglary complaints in Counties-Manukau in the six months to June 2004, and what was the longest time taken?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that the average response time is 20 hours and 51 minutes. Because of the way the information relating to the other part of the question is stored, I am not able to supply that at the moment, but I will give a copy to the member as soon as it is available. I remind the House that burglary responses are often arranged at the convenience of the victim. Burglaries in the Counties-Manukau district have dropped from 9,069 in 2002-03 to only 8,006 this year, a drop of 1,063 burglaries. That is pretty good.

Dr Muriel Newman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question had two parts to it: the average time and longest time. I do not think the Minister answered the second part about the longest time.

Mr SPEAKER: I do. The Minister said he would give the member some more information.

Dr Muriel Newman: Is the slowing of the response time to burglaries over the last 3 years in nine out of the 12 police districts around New Zealand due to the fact that experienced senior police officers have been forced away from investigating crime in order to issue traffic tickets, or is it because the police have been tied up in dealing with the 14 percent rise in violent crime since he has been Minister?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Neither.

Georgina Beyer: What other information does the Minister have on crime in Counties-Manukau since the 2001-02 fiscal year, and does the Minister have any comment on police work in general?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered, and the second part may be briefly commented on.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There has been a huge drop in the number of burglaries, a drop in theft from 13,400 cases to 11,495, a drop in violent crime from 6,167 cases to 5,337, and a drop in overall dishonesty from 29,885 cases to 27,295. The police in New Zealand are doing a good job, and I think all members should congratulate them on the work they are doing, rather than give them the bagging that has gone on over the last 12 months.

Dr Muriel Newman: What is the Minister’s response to the complaint from the Commissioner of Police that his strategy of directing the majority of newly funded sworn staff into traffic policing has eroded the flexibility historically available to the commissioner to sort out problem areas as they emerge; and has that not resulted in delays in the police investigating burglaries in nine out of the 12 police districts while the number of traffic tickets issued has trebled, outperforming all the police’s performance targets?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The commissioner sets the policy of where he will send new staff; I have nothing to do with that. I think the member should look at the facts. Road policing is being well done, and today’s crime stats show that policing is being done well across the country. General crime is down, and our roads are generally safer. That member should thank the police, rather than bag them as she always does.

Tourism Strategy 2010—Policy

12. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Tourism: What announcements has he made this week concerning the implementation of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Tourism): This week, at the New Zealand Tourism Conference, I announced a number of initiatives developed out of recommendations of the strategy. These included a postgraduate tourism research scholarship fund; $1.4 million over 3 years towards a major tourism yield research programme, in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association and Lincoln University; and funding towards the promotion and utilisation of the Tourism Planning Toolkit, in partnership with Local Government New Zealand.

Moana Mackey: What have been the key factors contributing to the successful implementation of the strategy?

Hon MARK BURTON: As with the development of the strategy itself, the success of its implementation has reflected the extent to which this Government has worked with key sector interests, including the Tourism Industry Association, Local Government New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand, education and training providers, and key operators such as the Hotel Council and the Inbound Tour Operators Council of New Zealand, to effect positive working relationships.

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

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