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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 1 September

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

Wednesday, 1 September 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Workforce—Skill Levels
2. Taxation—Increases since 1999
3. Taiwan—Visa Refusal
4. New Zealand On Air—NZ Idol
5. Mâori Land Court—Judicial Review
6. Privacy—Parents’ and Guardians’ Rights
7. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Hauraki Plains College
8. Police—Offence Report, Auckland
9. Minimum Wage—Reports
10. Fishing—Bottom Trawling
Question No. 8 to Minister
11. Defence Force—Annual Report
12. Independent Youth Benefit—Assessments

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Workforce—Skill Levels

1. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What is the Government doing to ensure a highly skilled New Zealand workforce?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Good news: today I am able to announce that the updated figures on the Modern Apprenticeships programme are looking very good. We have continued to expand the number of modern apprentices. In June 2004 there were 6,874 modern apprentices—374 more than target. This is an increase of 20 percent since last year. That is nearly 1,200 more apprentices in the space of a year. We now have reached our 500th female modern apprentice. This is good news.

Lynne Pillay: What has been the response to the Modern Apprenticeships scheme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This policy was introduced during the first 100 days of the Labour-led Government, and we have had a huge demand to bring back modern apprentices. It has been endorsed by every sector of the community—industry, business, schools, mayors, parents, and learners. Only one sector has said: “This legislation is pathetic, just like the scheme that is behind it, and the sooner we get rid of it the better.” That quote was from the National Party, which would abolish the Modern Apprenticeships scheme by lunchtime if it ever gets the chance.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the growth in his much-favoured Modern Apprenticeships scheme is dwarfed by The Open Polytechnic, for instance, which is enrolling in its low-level LifeWorks programme so fast that by the end of this year, he may have to pay it up to $86 million to fund the enrolments it has made?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am glad that Bill English is endorsing the more strategic approach we are taking. For 9 long years, the National Government did nothing. We are now enjoying the fruits of massive growth industry training and a massive growth in modern apprenticeships. I know that he applauds it, that he is jealous, and that he wishes he had done it.

Nandor Tanczos: What does the Minister propose to do in response to the Human Rights Commission report that identified low household income as a significant barrier to participation in education, and also reported that New Zealand had one of the highest disparities in educational performance in the OECD and that the achievement rate for males, Mâori, Pacific peoples, disabled, and low - socio-economic communities was “disproportionately low”?

Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of the question, but the Minister may comment very briefly.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am glad the member asked that question, because that is a report on the education system. We take it seriously, and the member is really giving me the opportunity—which I cannot take because of the Speaker—to reel off what has been an enormous number of policies lowering the cost of education. Mâori participation is going through the roof. We are just enjoying such a change in those statistics under this Government, and I thank the member for the question.

Taxation—Increases since 1999

2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his answer of $12.793 billion to the House yesterday when asked what the cumulative nominal increase in all taxes received since 1999 was; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Finance): On behalf of the Minister of Finance, I stand by my answer, which stated that the nominal increase in all taxes received since 1999 was $12.793 billion. That is a far more meaningful figure to use, as it compares the tax take in 1999 with that take now. [Interruption] If the member wants to be given useless data, I say the figure for the cumulative nominal increase in taxes since 1999 is $33.992 billion—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows full well that he cannot bring me into the debate. He brings me into the debate every time he uses the second person. That is the end of it; he will leave the Chamber if he keeps on doing that.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member wants to be given useless data, I say the figure for the cumulative nominal increase in taxes since 1999 is $33.992 billion, as John Key told the House yesterday. Why did Dr Brash not just ask his finance spokesperson that?

Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister ashamed of the fact that the Government has increased tax cumulatively by almost $34 billion since 1999, when he was quite specifically asked for the cumulative nominal increase in tax revenue since that time; if so, will he consider reducing the tax burden on the average New Zealand worker, who now pays $2,800 per year more than was the case in 1999?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Hell, no. This Government is proud that it has had economic growth. It has put tens of thousands of people into jobs. They are paying tax, when previously they were getting benefits. Tories do not like that, but we are proud of it. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There were some interjections. I do not mind a few interjections, but some of them were just banal in the extreme. [Interruption] The member knows perfectly well what I am referring to. That is a matter for a supplementary question to draw out.

David Parker: Is the Minister worried about the level of increase in the tax take?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. What has occurred has been a massive increase in the number of people in jobs. Some people are in very well-paid jobs. There are some people who work only an hour a week, and they get $5,700 an hour for it—like Don Brash.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that he cannot make personal reflections on a member. He will withdraw that last statement.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask you for an explanation? What I gave the House was the rate divided by 34—the annual salary for someone who does an hour of work in here per week.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is compounding things at this point. I am warning him. I do not want to have to ask Ministers to leave the Chamber, because they may have other questions on the Order Paper to answer. The Minister is in grave danger of being asked to leave.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has no other questions on the Order Paper that another Minister could not answer. The point, Mr Speaker, is that a senior Minister in the Government has stood up and completely defied your previous ruling. It seems to me that whenever that happens on the Opposition side of the House, we go. I am letting you know that as far as the National Party is concerned, we do not mind if Trevor Mallard is not in the House. He adds nothing to its business.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can make his point of view known. I have made my point of view known.

Dr Don Brash: Will the Minister consider reducing the company tax rate from 33 percent, given that when this Government came to office in 1999 the average company tax rate in the OECD was 35 percent and it is now below 30 percent, and given the fact that the net company tax take has increased by 72 percent over the last 5 years?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there are two points to be made. The first is that the reason the net company tax rate has gone up so much is that companies are much more profitable in a growing economy than they used to be. The second point is that any reduction in the company tax rate is, in the end, a transfer to overseas owners, and we do not support that. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I am not getting anything out. The member will; he has had his warning.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister been advised by Dr Cullen that the answer to this question—first asked by Peter Brown on 17 August—was given by the Minister of Finance, and can he confirm when it may be that “New Zealand Second” will stop stealing New Zealand First’s material in politics?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member is absolutely correct. The material was given to the House by Dr Cullen in an answer to a question from Mr Brown. On the second question, I would not hold my breath, because the National members are hopeless.

Hon Richard Prebble: Would the Minister be kind enough to clarify to the House why he is proud of this Government taking a record amount of tax from the community in light of this card, which members may not have seen before—it is called “We will deliver”, it has a picture of what I understand to be our Prime Minister on the front, and it states: “No rise in income tax for the 95 percent of taxpayers earning under $60,000 a year.”—and the fact that this year 10 percent of all taxpayers are paying the top rate of tax, and 20 percent of all full-time taxpayers are paying the top rate of tax; and I know he said yesterday that in 2002 there was an election with a different manifesto, so could he point out to us where the Labour Party promised New Zealanders that this country would have a higher rate of personal and company tax than our trading partners?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I remind the member that commitment No. 7 on that card referred to taxpayers earning under $60,000 a year. The fact that the economy has gone so well that there is a smaller number of people in that group is a good thing, not a bad thing. The facts that people are better off, earn more, and are more likely to be in jobs than previously are something that this Government is proud of. Tories hate that. They do not like workers to earn money.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Minister stand by the statement he made in April 2000 in Hong Kong, when he said that he would like to reduce the company tax rate “as fiscal conditions permit”; and if a $34 billion cumulative increase in the tax take and a 72 percent increase in the net company tax rate annually are not enough to justify a cut in that rate, what on earth is?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think two points should be made. The first is that the tax take as a percentage of GDP is very similar to the rate in 1999, so that the proportion of our economy that is going into taxation is very much the same as it was then. The second point—and I repeat this point—is that in the end individuals get dividends from companies and pay tax on them. If we cut the company tax rate, the people who win will be the people who are overseas residents. I stand up for New Zealanders, not for overseas owners.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I know what the member is going to say. The Minister was asked whether he stood by the statement that he made. He did not address that part of the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say on behalf of the Minister of Finance that his Acting Minister does not currently recall that statement.

Dr Don Brash: I seek leave to table the Minister’s speech in April 2000 in which he made it clear that as fiscal conditions permit he would consider reducing the company tax rate.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a question asked by Peter Brown to the Minister of Finance on 17 August, and I wonder why TVNZ interviewed the National Party about the result of the answer to ii.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the statement. The rest of that is irrelevant.

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

Hon Richard Prebble: I seek leave to table a very rare document: the Labour Party’s promise at the 1999 election that there would be no rise in income tax for 95 percent of taxpayers.

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

Taiwan—Visa Refusal

3. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Why was Taiwan Minister of State Lin Yi-Fu refused entry to New Zealand, and how is this “in the best interests of New Zealand” as the Minister claims?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Mr Lin was not refused entry to New Zealand.

Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister not confirm that the Taiwan authorities were told on Monday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that Minister Lin would not be permitted to enter New Zealand because Australia had decided not to give Minister Lin a visa to enter that country, and since when has New Zealand’s foreign and trade policy been determined by what goes on in Australia?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I cannot confirm that, because to the best of my knowledge it is simply not correct. As to who determines New Zealand’s foreign policy, New Zealand does, but I can help the member by quoting to him from a letter from the chair of the New Zealand Taiwan Business Council, Bertha Wright. She said: “The Taiwanese delegation has requested that our joint conference be postponed so that a future date can be set to allow more preparation so that they are able to attend both the Australia and New Zealand business conferences on the same trip.” As the member knows, the Australians declined a visa to Mr Lin.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What is the New Zealand Government’s position with regard to recognition of Taiwan as representing the Government of China, and how long has it held that position?

Hon PHIL GOFF: New Zealand does not recognise Taiwan as representing the Government of China. It has held that position for 32 years—that is, since 1972. New Zealand holds to a one-China policy in common with practically all of the countries of the world, bar a handful of small countries.

Rod Donald: Why is the Labour Government allowing the autocratic Chinese rulers to dictate New Zealand’s foreign policy, and why are human rights, democracy, and freedom of speech now subservient to free-trade deals when the Minister used to believe that making money was secondary to matters of principle?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Firstly, New Zealand does not allow any other country to dictate its foreign policy, and that includes China. Secondly, the member made the allegation that human rights policies are somehow being subordinated. I could mention to that member that New Zealand has stood firm on its policy on human rights in China to the extent that it welcomed the Dalai Lama to New Zealand, and to the extent that it refused to have a situation whereby New Zealanders in this country could not demonstrate against a high-level visit. I can tell that member that on practically every bilateral agenda I have with China, human rights is an issue.

Hon Ken Shirley: Why did he make the statement that it would be in New Zealand’s best interest if the Taiwanese Minister of State, Mr Lin, did not visit New Zealand at this time, when he, Mr Goff, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is happy to be photographed holding hands with Yasser Arafat?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have been photographed with all sorts of leaders around the world. I meet with leaders of other countries regardless of my views of their personal policies, and the member knows that. What he is saying is simply a cheap shot. What I am saying is that this Government will act in the political interests of this country, and it is not in our political interests to politicise our relationship with Taiwan.

Hon Peter Dunne: If the Minister’s original answer that no decision has been made to deny Minister Lin entry to New Zealand is correct, why did the Minister claim on radio this morning that to have Minister Lin visit New Zealand at this time would escalate cross - Taiwan Strait tensions, at a time when both Taiwan and China have deliberately cancelled their annual military exercises in the Straits of Taiwan to de-escalate those tensions; is the Minister seriously claiming that a visit to New Zealand is about to start World War III?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, and I never made any suggestion to that effect. What I said was setting the context. There has been an escalation in cross - Taiwan Straits tensions. The member knows that to be a fact. I mentioned that we are having trade discussions with China. That will be of huge benefit to this country, and practically every party in this Chamber will support that. I said that by way of a general context, saying that our relationship with Taiwan is economic and cultural, it is not political.

Hon Peter Dunne: When the deputy secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was in Taipei last week on a familiarisation visit, did he discuss Minister Lin’s proposed visit to New Zealand with any of the officials or Ministers whom he met; if he did have that discussion, what then was the tenor of Mr Green’s discussion with the Taiwan authorities on Monday where the decision was conveyed that Minister Lin would not be welcome in this country?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Mr Green, the Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, certainly did visit Taiwan, as our officials do from time to time, in furtherance of the economic and cultural relationship between the two countries. That is quite within the parameters of our one-China policy. I can categorically say that Mr Green did not use language that Minister Lin was not welcome or wanted in New Zealand. Mr Green did point out that the context had changed somewhat with the Australian decision not to grant a visa, and that representation may be more appropriate at a vice-ministerial level.

New Zealand On Air—NZ Idol

4. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Following his answer yesterday that the $450,000 “equity investment” into NZ Idol was a “very normal contract for New Zealand On Air. It funds programmes in this way frequently.”, how many loans has New Zealand On Air provided television programme makers, and how many of those loans have been paid back in full?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): New Zealand On Air does not make loans. It is normal for New Zealand On Air to take an equity position in a funded project. Returns on a project come from a variety of sources, such as overseas sales and merchandising. If a programme is profitable, money will flow back to New Zealand On Air under those arrangements. Examples of these arrangements are the recent TV3 drama The Strip, the first 4 years of Shortland Street, and the recent movie Whale Rider. In the last two cases New Zealand On Air has made a return on those investments.

Rodney Hide: How does the Minister explain this $450,000 “equity investment” being needed, as Jo Tyndall said, as a “kick-start”, otherwise “it is unlikely the programme could have been made in New Zealand”, when the contract to provide this money was not signed until a week before the show ended?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I understand that the relative cost of putting NZ Idol to air was approximately nine times more than the cost of an overseas programme like American Idol. The reason the money was not paid later was not unusual: Television New Zealand understood that it had access to that money, that arrangement was made, it went ahead and started with the programme, a number of changes were made later on—as we know, there were add-ons to the programme as it went along—and the money was paid.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have this trouble with this particular Minister quite a lot. If you read yesterday’s Hansard—

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member come to the point of order.

Rodney Hide: I would if I was not interrupted.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the member being interrupted, but he assures me that he was. He will not be, any more.

Rodney Hide: The question was not about when the money was paid; it was about when the contract was signed. There was no contract to pay the money. The Minister talked about when the money was paid. The question was about the signing of the contract, which was not signed until a week before the production finished. That was the point of the question. He can burble on about when the money was paid until the cows come home, but it is not addressing my question.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought he did in the last sentence he gave.

Moana Mackey: How exactly does the New Zealand On Air system work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Producers seek the support of a broadcaster for a proposed programme, and approach New Zealand On Air for funding. New Zealand On Air provides funding as an equity investment under a contract, providing that if the programme generates unforeseen revenue from such things as sales or merchandising, New Zealand On Air will receive a return on its investment. An equity investment is partly or wholly repayable to New Zealand On Air, if certain conditions in the funding contract in respect of the programme’s profitability are met. In the case of NZ Idol—a fantastically successful programme—New Zealand On Air is entitled to repayments on a first-out basis against its investment.

Katherine Rich: Has the New Zealand On Air chief executive officer, Jo Tyndall, received the full reports that she was expecting “shortly” from TVNZ back in April; if not, when are those full reports actually expected to be made?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I said in the House yesterday, all of the arrangements around that programme have not been completed yet, such as knowing whether overseas sales will take place, and the report has not been completed yet. But she will get one. It is a very normal process.

Deborah Coddington: How does he square his answer yesterday, when he said “… if NZ Idol generates more revenue than it has cost to produce, then New Zealand On Air is entitled to repayments on a first-out basis against its investment.”, with a letter from the New Zealand On Air chief executive officer, Jo Tyndall, dated 15 August 2003, which states: “The board will contribute to NZ Idol in the form of a loan, with the requirement that this loan is first out in the event that any revenue results from the programme.”; and given that commitment, why has New Zealand On Air not got its money back?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The arrangement made here is an equity investment, which allows the organisation to get first-out status if there is money to be paid back. As I said, that is something that has happened with other programmes. TV3 has two programmes currently running of that sort. Originally, the question was one of a loan, because of the difficulties of using the Idol format in New Zealand. South Pacific Pictures, which eventually made the programme, could not get access to that format and make it itself, because of contractual obligations. TVNZ asked for a loan to be able to do it. That did not work, so it moved back to a normal contractual arrangement with the kinds of things we have talked about here today. In other words, it reconciles extremely easily.

Deborah Coddington: Which statement on the payback threshold is correct: his answer yesterday that New Zealand On Air would receive its money back if there were sufficient profits, or an internal New Zealand On Air email dated 16 March 2004, which states: “The agreement was that it remains the same’’—that is, the payback threshold—“regardless of the increase in the overall budgeted costs. Therefore the draft still refers to New Zealand On Air’s funds being repaid once the programme revenue exceeds [blanked out figure].”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: At the risk of trying the House’s patience, let me answer again. The loan arrangement that was originally discussed did not go ahead. What did go ahead was an equity investment arrangement with a first-out arrangement. That is what I said yesterday, that is what I am saying today, and that is the arrangement that prevails.

Rodney Hide: Is it not the case that this $450,000 of equity investment in TVNZ has been entirely eaten up by payments to the franchise holder, Simon Fuller, and that this money has just served to line the pocket of a multimillionaire international music tycoon, or is this Minister prepared to say that New Zealand On Air is first out, before Simon Fuller?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This money went to make a programme watched by 1 million New Zealanders. There were 300 performers, and 10,000 people were involved in the programme. It was fantastically successful. We back young people. That member may not, but we will carry on doing so.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now come to the question asked.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not going to speculate on the wild claims, as usual, made by the ACT leader. I am going to say that the money went towards kick-starting a fantastically successful programme. That is my answer.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an outrageous answer from a Minister. [Interruption] Well, that member there can call out, and I know she will get away with it in this House—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. I try to be reasonable over this. When the last point of order was raised, comments were made from the other side of the House, and I ignored them. I did not think there was an interruption at that point. The member will please come to his point of order, because at present there is not one.

Rodney Hide: My point of order is quite simple. The Minister is required to address the question. He never attempted to. In fact, he started off by saying he would not, and what you do, Mr Speaker, is allow that to happen. What is the point? The question was quite simple: is it not the case that this has happened? The answer was: “Look, I am not prepared to speculate on that.”, and then he went on to say what a great show the programme was. He should address in this House the questions that MPs have of this Government, and you should be enforcing that.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes—I am. Let me just say first of all that that is why I asked the Minister to go further with his answer, and he certainly addressed the question at that stage.

Rodney Hide: He went no further.

Mr SPEAKER: He did. He addressed that question. It might not have satisfied the member, but it satisfied me as far as his addressing the question was concerned.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it your ruling that a Minister, after being directed by you to provide a fuller answer, can stand up and say: “I am not prepared to speculate. I am not prepared to comment on the wild speculations of that member.” , and that is a fuller answer?

Mr SPEAKER: No. I am saying that it adequately addresses the question. It does not mean it is satisfactory as far as any member in this House is concerned. That is not my job.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So it is quite possible in this House during question time for a Minister to stand up and say: “Look, I am not prepared to comment on that question.”, and sit down, and you would accept that day after day.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I would not. I will judge each case on its merits.

Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table a letter from New Zealand On Air, dated 16 August 2003, and an internal email from New Zealand On Air, dated 16 March 2004, which set out that the payback threshold is different from what the Minister claims.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to pick up a little on the point Rodney Hide was making. I know that you have given your rulings, but I am asking you to take some time to consider whether the Speakers’ rulings to date are satisfactory for the House at the present time. While it might be that a Minister does not have to give an answer, and that a Minister can simply stand and recite a nursery rhyme or some other such thing, and can consider that to have been addressing the question, the reality is that the public has an expectation that when questions are asked about a matter where there is a public interest, an answer that is consistent with that public interest will be given—and our Standing Orders do require that. I think that over a period of time, particularly this year, it has been evident that Ministers are simply tired of the process, cannot be bothered, or, in the worst cases, just do not want to give the information that is being sought by the Opposition. I think that in order to protect and preserve the dignity of this House and the integrity of question time, some reconsideration of Speakers’ rulings at this point is necessary, with perhaps some new guidance from you about how members’ questions should be dealt with.

Mr SPEAKER: I am always prepared to consider requests such as the member makes. He has made a proper request, and I will certainly give a considered opinion. As far as I am concerned, I have been ruling in much the same way as I have been since I was appointed Speaker. If I go back to previous Speakers, I think they did much the same. I refer the member to pages 144 to 147 of Speakers’ Rulings.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is exactly what I was asking you to do—

Mr SPEAKER: I will consider the matter.

Gerry Brownlee: We just ask you to consider whether, in this day and age, the Speakers’ rulings are adequate, because anybody can get on the Internet and find out anything in 5 minutes, but Ministers cannot come to the House and give an answer to a question.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member is now debating.

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Referring to the point of order raised by the member, I draw to your attention Standing Order 370/1 and also Speaker’s ruling 145/6. It would seem to me that, as part of the consideration you are about to give to the point Mr Brownlee raised, you might also want to reflect upon the appropriateness of the Speaker being set up in the way he would have you set up—to be, effectively, the ultimate judge and arbiter of the merits of any reply. It is one thing to address a question, but another thing altogether to determine who decides the merits of the answer being given.

Mr SPEAKER: I could not have put it better myself.

Mâori Land Court—Judicial Review

5. TARIANA TURIA (Leader—Mâori Party) to the Attorney-General: When was the last time an Attorney-General sought judicial review of a decision of a judge in the Mâori Land Court?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Attorney-General: Judges’ decisions are quite properly subject to judicial review. I am advised that Mâori Land Court decisions have been subjected to judicial review on previous occasions, though information is not kept on Crown cases in a manner that enables me to provide specific details on when it last occurred.

Tariana Turia: Is the Attorney-General motivated by pique rather than by principle, and has she seriously considered her motives in bringing this case forward?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Attorney-General, as always of course, is motivated by principle. The principle in this case, and what judicial review is actually about, is the fact that Judge Wickliffe was both judge and claimant, which meant that she was acting as a judge in her own cause. The case law describes that as a situation requiring automatic disqualification from sitting on a case.

Mr SPEAKER: I warn the Minister that I do not want any comment to be made about the case that is at present before the courts.

Lianne Dalziel: Has the Government often undertaken judicial review proceedings that involve a New Zealand court?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer to that is yes, on occasions there have been dozens of cases in a year where the Crown has undertaken judicial review proceedings that involve a New Zealand court. Those cases most often relate to criminal proceedings.

Richard Worth: Why has the Attorney-General allowed a situation of unprecedented tension and conflict to arise between the Government and the judiciary, given that we have the Attorney-General suing the Mâori Land Court for bias, we have trenchant criticism of the judges by the Government, we have spats over court facilities and support, and we have the Attorney-General name-calling the Chief Judge of the Mâori Land Court a “shop steward”; is she concerned about that relationship, or is she indifferent to it?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Obviously, a lot of the member’s comments raised in that question are taken totally out of context. I say it is not unusual for a judicial review to be taken. That is about enforcing the rule of law—and judges, like anyone else, are under the rule of law. This application for judicial review will decide whether the judge has strayed from the proper legal path.

Metiria Turei: Is the Government not guilty of duplicity, in taking judicial review action and demanding that the Mâori Land Court—

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows she cannot say that. That accuses the Government of something there have been numerous Speakers’ rulings about. The member will reword her question. That is her one and only chance.

Metiria Turei: Thank you for that clarification, Mr Speaker. Is the Government not guilty of inconsistency, in taking judicial review action and demanding that the Mâori Land Court delay its proceedings until the Privy Council has released its decision, when the Government denies hundreds of New Zealanders the opportunity to be heard on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill because it wants to get its legislation passed before the Privy Council makes its decision?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Government is not guilty of inconsistency in that regard. I am not on the Fisheries and Other Sea-related Legislation Committee, but I understand the select committee is being run in a very proper and an efficient way in order to hear the cases. Nor is the Government guilty of any constitutional wrongdoing in applying judicial review to a case where it is believed by Crown Law that the judge acted wrongly.

Stephen Franks: Does the Attorney-General feel any need to apologise to her Cabinet colleagues for having to allege bias against Judge Wickliffe, when the Attorney-General must have known that less than 6 months before Ms Wickliffe was appointed to the Mâori Land Court she told a major conference in this House that Government institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand must be relegitimised by negotiation for a partnership with a national Mâori body politic, and when the Attorney-General must have known that Ms Wickliffe had publicly approved of and encouraged indigenous Fijian racism after the second coup; has the Minister now learned anything about appointing her ideological comrades to high office?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There were a number of questions there—

Mr SPEAKER: And the Minister will be brief in his reply.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. The question, essentially, is about the accusation of bias. Under the law, there is a provision whereby judges can recuse themselves—that is, stand aside on the grounds of apparent bias. The judge did that, but only after she had already made a decision. What the judicial review is about is whether the judge acted properly in the first instance.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The actual nature of the allegation I consider to be something that pertains to the court, and to be something we would not comment on. My question was about the suitability of the appointment in the first place, given the position the Government now finds itself in. The Minister did not reply to that, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: He did not have to, because there were about four or five questions in that question.

Hon Ken Shirley: Two questions.

Mr SPEAKER: There were about four or five—

Hon Ken Shirley: Two!

Mr SPEAKER: That is the last time I will warn the member about interjecting while I am on my feet. I heard a number of strands to the supplementary question that was asked. The Minister chose to answer some of them. That is his right.

Donna Awatere Huata: Will the Attorney-General reassure Mâori that Pâkehâ judges are free from the stereotypes and prejudices about Mâori that researchers show are held by a majority of Pâkehâ; and will she reassure Mâori that in the case of the foreshore, Pâkehâ judges will not be influenced by the majority of their race, who object to Mâori ownership, and how will she measure that? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member who made that statement will leave the Chamber.

Hon John Tamihere withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: I will not warn members any more today.

Hon PHIL GOFF: By definition, judges must act in a way that demonstrates they are free from stereotypes and prejudices of any sort. Of course, judges must also be sure that they are not influenced by public opinion. That is what the independence of the judiciary is all about.

Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Generally in the House the person who asks the principal question does get a final supplementary question. Why am I being discriminated against?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated. She is not being discriminated against. The member has one supplementary question a day, and she chooses when she asks it.

Tariana Turia: I seek leave of the House to ask a further supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the member to have a further supplementary question. Is there any objection? There is.

Privacy—Parents’ and Guardians’ Rights

6. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors, and some schools that parents and guardians have no right to know if their child has been sexually assaulted?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Each case must be guided by what is judged to be the best interests of the child. The judgment is informed by the age of the child, the child’s level of maturity, the child’s wishes, his or her competence to make such a judgment, and an assessment of the risks to the child from the consequences of disclosure or non-disclosure. That judgment is made by the professionals to whom the child has made the disclosure, and those professionals are bound by the standards and ethics of their profession.

Hon Bill English: What measures can be taken by a parent or guardian who strongly disagrees with the decision that is made—in this case, the girl had enough of a learning disability for the parents to regard her as unable to follow the instructions for the medical treatment that she had been given—and what can parents do about it?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will not comment on individual cases.

Nanaia Mahuta: What are the possible consequences of forcing counsellors to automatically share information they receive with parents?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Students would feel less confident about discussing personal matters with a counsellor. When students ask for help, they should be treated with respect and discretion. Often these are cases of family sexual abuse, and automatic disclosure would just be wrong.

Hon Bill English: How sensible is it for schools to have policies that require parents to be notified if a student leaves the school grounds for a dental appointment, but not to notify parents if the same child makes an allegation of rape?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is important that children be given every opportunity to reveal to counsellors when they have been abused, and that they should be encouraged to bring their parents into the discussions. But if children were forced to do that they would not reveal abuse, and that would mean that they would be permanently damaged.

Hon Bill English: What does the Minister then make of the decision by this school to tell the parents, but to do so 3 months later, when the parents thought they were trying to deal with a bullying problem; is he right to defend the school’s policy of not telling the parents, or did it make the right decision in telling them? Why can he not make up his mind about that?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will not comment on any individual case.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Hauraki Plains College

7. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Has any evidence yet been supplied to substantiate the claim that “many students gave exactly the same answers to questions” during assessments for National Certificate of Educational Achievement credits at Hauraki Plains College; if not, what reports has he seen on the matter?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): No. I am advised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that a box of supposed evidence to support these claims contained student workbooks that were never intended to form part of the students’ assessment. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has advised that all of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits awarded to students at Hauraki Plains College are legitimate. Those students have had their school and their qualifications recklessly undermined by baseless allegations. To make things worse, they have had no public support from their local MP, although I understand she stropped Bill English up in their caucus yesterday.

Helen Duncan: Does the Minister have any evidence that Hauraki Plains College has acted inappropriately in any way with regard to this matter?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, absolutely not. As I said earlier, as soon as the school was made aware of a potential problem, it acted swiftly. I understand that Bill English has apologised to the school. I wish he would do it publicly.

Hon Bill English: I have not apologised to the school. What does the Minister have to say to the Central North Island Principals Association, which has stated: “We support NCEA as an assessment of choice for the sake of integrity and credibility. We ask that there be a review of procedures and policies at a national level.”, and if he will not believe what I have to say, why does he not believe the principals association that published that statement in a newspaper?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I certainly do not believe what that member says.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can now come to the actual point about the principals concerned.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We are all concerned about the integrity of NCEA. Clearly at Cambridge High School, there was a major error on the part of a number of teachers. That is still the subject of investigation. People making up things about other schools, dragging them through the mud the way the member did, taking the word of a liar, and taking stolen documents does nothing for the integrity of our education system.

Police—Offence Report, Auckland

8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What communications and discussions has he had with members of the police with respect to the incident at 8 Rocky Nook Avenue on 12 September 2002 and is he satisfied with the outcome?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Police confirmed to me that a complaint of burglary was made from that address on that date and that the victim, through his lawyer, asked that the complaint not proceed, and the police independently took that course. Decisions around prosecutions are the preserve of the police, not the Minister of Police.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell the House the reason that the Phillip Layton Edwards file in relation to the alleged aggravated burglary at 8 Rocky Nook Avenue on 12 September 2002, involving Mr Peter Shaw, husband of Judge Coral Shaw, was stamped “confidential” and “not for unauthorised distribution or disclosure”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have that information. However, if the member opposite has concerns about misconduct by the police, he should raise the matter with the Police Complaints Authority.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That surely cannot be an adequate answer. I am asking him, as the Minister, to take responsibility for his portfolio. For him to get up and say that, in effect, I should have gone to the police force—the very people about whom I am complaining—is a nonsense. I want an answer as to why that file—of a serious, 50-time criminal—was marked “confidential” and “not for unauthorised distribution or disclosure”.

Mr SPEAKER: That is getting into debate. I ascertained that the Minister did address the question as he should have.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister admit that the reason the file has remained confidential to this point is that an instruction was given to the police that they could not prosecute Mr Edwards for an alleged burglary, because it was not a burglary; and when does the trauma of a witness or complainant, even in cases such as rape and serious domestic violence, outweigh the well-established convention that police will always prosecute for violent offences when they have ample evidence to do so?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I shall quote the acting district commander of the Auckland City police, Detective Superintendent Gavin Jones, who today said that police believed there had been a burglary, and confirmed that they had spoken to Edwards about the matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that no one could have intimidated the complainant witness in this case, given that the perpetrator had admitted to his crime—had confessed his crime—and, therefore, there was absolutely no reason why the police could not have prosecuted Mr Edwards, other than having received instruction from above?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have any role in whether the police prosecute. I quote a wee bit more from what Detective Superintendent Jones said: “In this case the police received strong representations from the victim and his representative not to pursue this matter. Out of respect for his rights, the police took the decision not to proceed with a prosecution.”

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the police not prosecute Phillip Layton Edwards when they had a confession and DNA evidence on file at the time of this offence; why did they need any witness when they had a confession and the DNA evidence?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Detective Superintendent Gavin Jones said today that decisions not to proceed with criminal matters are never taken lightly by the police, and that the matter has been dealt with on the same basis as other matters. No special approach was taken or suggested.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, in this case of a violent crime—as the lawyer for Peter Shaw has told the media—do we see on the police file note the following words: “Edwards was spoken to and admitted to the burglary on the understanding that it would never be used against him or published in any way.”; how on earth could this be a case that the police did not prosecute, given that Mr Edwards was already guilty of 50 crimes, many violent? We had a violent criminal walking the streets who later killed someone. He was a time bomb waiting to happen.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The member seems to be suggesting that I, as the Minister of Police, have a role in those decisions. I do not. The police make those decisions independently, in the same way that they independently looked at the trouble in Courtenay Place when members did not pay taxi fares.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In respect of that violent criminal, is it not a fact that when it became clear to the police that some of the physical evidence at the crime scene was at odds with the verbal evidence of Peter Shaw, he was called to the police station for a second interview, and that that further discussion was undertaken with Judge Shaw present; and, knowing that, how on earth can the Minister not respond in a darn sight more serious way than he is?

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise with you grave concerns about the way that the right honourable member is using question time, and I draw this to your attention. I pointed out to you yesterday that he was making allegations that the Standing Orders require to be authenticated. Yesterday he said there was no burglary. He has now told us that the police file shows that the offender actually admitted there was a burglary.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: So what.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member interjects again, he is out.

Hon Richard Prebble: The “so what” is this. Under our Standing Orders, it is offensive and disorderly for a member to make such comments. Standing Order 113 states: “A member may not use offensive words against the House or against any member of the judiciary.” It appears to me that the member has deliberately brought in a member of the judiciary. The member of the judiciary does not appear to have done anything wrong. But I take this point: how are we supposed to interpret this? I went through the records to see whether any member has ever attacked the family of the judiciary. I cannot find a reference to that, but if you have a look at how we regard our own remarks, if these remarks were made against the family of a member of Parliament, they would be ruled out. We have a general principle that this Parliament will not make disrespectful statements against the judiciary, and we expect the judiciary not to make disrespectful statements against us. I suggest to you that the member is using question time to make an indirect, but obviously very deeply offensive, attack against the judiciary. I think all of his questions—once he has made it clear that that is what his real purpose is—ought to be ruled out.

Mr SPEAKER: I have been listening to this with a great deal of interest, and I want to thank the member for raising the point of order in the way that he did. I have looked at Speakers’ Rulings and all the precedents. It is largely a matter of taste how members comment on persons outside the House. The member is perfectly correct that if Mr Peters had commented about anyone inside the House, it would have been ruled out of order. He did not attack the judicial officer in that capacity, or really attack her at all. He said that she was present. The fact of the matter is that we do have free speech in this place, and that is a very precious thing. I, for one, know that there are signs all around this Chamber representing what we fought for to retain. That means there will be occasions when people do say in this House what they would not say outside it. I have done it myself on two occasions after very, very careful thought. I say to the member that as far as freedom of speech is concerned, members have it in this House. Whether members comment on persons outside the House is a matter of taste. That is about as far as I can take the matter in all of the studies I have done both here in looking at our Parliament and in Great Britain.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find myself in agreement with your statement except to this extent—that in this House one cannot say, by innuendo, matters that are out of order. It is not in our Speakers’ Rulings, but it is in our Standing Orders that members cannot make offensive references to the judiciary. I have to say that I have taken the innuendo, from the member’s questioning, to suggest that the reason this particular individual has been treated differently is because of actions of his spouse, who happens to be a judge. If the member is not making such innuendo, perhaps he should clarify that matter to the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I am going to ask the member a question, because I want to agree with Mr Prebble. If the member makes an allegation against a judge he will be out of order. Did he make an allegation against a judge?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, Mr Speaker, I did not. I want to speak to the point of order, as well. If Mr Prebble was remotely right, then the answer to question No. 5 today could not have been given. He is engaged in a nonsense to try to break up question time. It is a palpably demonstrable nonsense that he tried yesterday, as well. If he wants to defend violent criminals that is fine by me, but we do not.

Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am legitimately asking a Minister to take responsibility for the actions of a violent criminal who went on to murder someone—murder it would have been had all the evidence been in front of the court.

Mr SPEAKER: Once again all I can say is that as the member has assured me that he has not made an allegation against a judge, up to that point he is not out of order. A question was asked and the Minister did not get a chance to answer it because Mr Prebble intervened with a point of order. Perhaps we had better hear the question again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was a man who had previously served time in jail for, amongst other things, violent offences such as behaving threateningly and assaulting a female, not charged by the leader of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant John Tims, when he had the DNA evidence placing Edwards at the scene, had a confession, and had a preparedness from that man to plead guilty; why on earth was this serious crime not prosecuted; and what is he trying to cover up?

Mr SPEAKER: The first two of those three questions can be answered.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I repeat what Detective Superintendent Gavin Jones said. He believed that there had been a burglary, and he confirmed that, but he said that in making a decision to prosecute a matter such as this the wishes of the victim are taken into consideration. Victims have rights, and the police have a duty to consider those rights seriously. I have no part whatsoever in the police making those decisions, and I would be scared of any Government that member would be in charge of, if he has that view.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister is so sure that he has absolutely nothing to hide and that the police took it upon themselves not to charge Mr Phillip Layton Edwards for aggravated burglary on 12 September 2002 at the home of Mr Shaw, the husband of Judge Coral Shaw, would he be prepared now to release a detailed forensic analysis of the telephone accounts, email, or any other communication that would reveal no communication between the police and any other members of the judiciary, public, or executive that placed the privacy of a man over the safety of society and led to a man being murdered?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: As the Minister of Police I do not have such papers and I never see them. I never even saw them when the member refused to pay his taxi fare.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has now had a number of days to acquaint himself with this case and to rise in Parliament to answer the question. All we have heard is evidence why this incompetent Minister should be forced to resign. He might think it is a laughing matter; I do not.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. I will not have members of this Parliament attacked in that particular sort of way. If there is a point of order, what is it? I have not heard one yet.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: You know what my point of order is. Firstly, the Minister has tacked on a whole lot of totally irrelevant information in respect of the questioner; and, secondly, he has again refused to answer the question. I should not have had to make that point of order. I am prepared to put up with it, because if he is prepared to sow it, then I can dish it out. But you must give me a fair go in this House, and you have not, thus far.

Mr SPEAKER: I can say that I have given the member a fairer go than any other member in this Chamber. If any person in this House knows that, it is the member. He gets a pretty good run. The last comment the Minister made was irrelevant to the question that was asked. I concede that point, but as far as the rest of the answer was concerned, it addressed the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is exactly why I have previously asked you to look again at those Speakers’ rulings. Mr Peters asked the Minister whether he was prepared to release telephone records and other such material that would give a fair indication of whether there was communication between any members of the executive, the police, and those others who might be related to this case. The Minister stood up and said that he did not have any of that information. Quite clearly, he has. He has his own telephone records, and presumably he could talk to the Prime Minister and get her records. The question is whether he would release them.

Mr SPEAKER: The member did not listen to the question or the answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the seriousness of this case and the fact that we had a violent criminal who was a time bomb—that is why his nickname is Tick—out in the community about to commit murder, and this Minister’s clear part today in seeking to conceal the obvious pressure that was put on the police to drop the charges against Mr Edwards, which ultimately would have saved Mr McNee’s life, will he now do the right thing and resign?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister not feel any responsibility as Minister, having picked up the LTD and the ministerial salary, for what became a violent murder in the city of Auckland when there was a clear opportunity as Minister and as a police force to have this violent criminal in prison at the time that offence occurred, and what would it take for the Minister to resign?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: If I make a mistake, and I have not. I think that the police have handled this in the way they handle all cases.

Minimum Wage—Reports

9. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Labour: What recent reports has he received on proposed changes to the minimum wage?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): I saw a report last week that opposes increasing the minimum wage because of its negative effect on employment. This report, which is at odds with the fact that unemployment has plummeted while the minimum wage has increased, comes from the leader of the National Party, Don Brash.

Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has he seen about the correlation between changes in the minimum wage and changes in unemployment?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a report from Treasury that found that following increases to the youth minimum wage by this Government the number of hours worked by young people has increased by 10 to 15 percent. I encourage Dr Brash to read the report before he announces any more silly policies.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree that low wages are a cost to the Government and that the Government is actually subsidising employers by providing additional income to low-income families through the family support package so that they can make ends meet?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. Low wages are not good for anyone, but it is a fact that in our family support package there is some assistance in particular for low-income families so they can make ends meet. That is good for the families, and good for the community.

Fishing—Bottom Trawling

10. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: Does he stand by his statement of 10 June that there was no doubt bottom trawling did “considerable damage” to the environment; if so, will he support a short-term moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters to protect the unique biodiversity of seamounts and coral reefs?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister of Fisheries): As I said at the time, there is no doubt that bottom trawling can cause considerable damage. I also said at the time that the extent of damage is a subject of considerable debate.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that New Zealand is one of just 11 nations bottom trawling on the high seas and that this technology is obliterating forever unique corals like this 1,000-year-old gorgonian octacoral and hundreds of associated species that in future will be found only in Te Papa, like this example?

Gerry Brownlee: Where did that one come from?

Mr SPEAKER: This is in the middle of a question. [Interruption] The member has not been provoked at all. The member has stupidly interjected when he knows he should not during the asking of a question. He is very, very lucky that I am generous towards him. Please conclude the question.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I am not sure where I was. Can I start again?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, all right.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that New Zealand is one of just 11 nations bottom trawling on the high seas and that this technology is obliterating forever unique corals like this 1,000-year-old gorgonian octacoral and hundreds of associated species that in future will be found only in Te Papa, like this specimen?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The extent of damage clearly depends on the technology being used, where it is being used, and whether that technology is being used correctly. The member will be pleased to hear that the New Zealand commercial fishing industry has undertaken to look at the technology used in trawling, with the aim of identifying the most environmentally sound equipment and techniques available.

Russell Fairbrother: What has the Minister done to manage the impacts of bottom drawling?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: In 2001, 19 seamounts were closed to all forms of trawling. That covers an area greater than 100,000 square kilometres. As the member will know, New Zealand opposes any trawling in the Ross Sea toothfish fishery. New Zealand has strongly advocated biodiversity protection in the management of fisheries in the southern Indian Ocean.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What point is there in having a moratorium on trawling in New Zealand’s most important fishery, the hoki fishery in the West Coast and Cook Strait, when all New Zealand vessels pulled out on 20 August this year, but even this week there are Russian and Korean charter boats from United Fisheries, and Donal-Boyle Fisheries of Tauranga, blatantly ignoring that moratorium; if so, what is that Minister going to do about it?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware of the issue to which the member refers, and although it is not specifically related to the original question, I can confirm that I am very mindful that over $800 million of the $1.2 billion earned from seafood exports in 2003 were from species caught by trawling methods of some kind. I can say that the Government response to the particular issue raised by the member will be apparent in the next quota-setting round.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he agree with the internationally renowned fishery scientist, Dr Daniel Pauly, that bottom trawling is “the equivalent to using bulldozers to catch rabbits”; if so, why will he not heed the call of more than 1,100 marine scientists from 69 nations to pause this destruction while some international rules are developed?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Government is always open to ideas, especially those put forward by respected visiting international scientists. Ultimately New Zealand’s position will be based on factors including compatibility with longer-term moves to strengthen high-seas governance, consistency with existing legal frameworks, compliance issues, consistency with management within fisheries jurisdictions, economic costs, and of course, the desirability of working cooperatively with like-minded countries.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is he aware that the 19 protected seamounts that he referred to are 19 out of 280, and that none of them are, of course, in the high seas, they are all in New Zealand’s economic zone, which is not the subject of this moratorium; and further, is he aware, when the fishing industry states how much money is made from trawling, that it is talking also about New Zealand’s economic zone and not about the small amount in the high seas, which is the subject of the moratorium?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, but I am pleased to tell the member that in one case she is absolutely wrong; one of those seamounts is outside the New Zealand economic zone. New Zealand and Australia have agreed to put in place a process to establish a regional fisheries management organisation, which will mean a much more targeted management approach could be developed, for example, in the banning of bottom trawling in vulnerable areas.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister aware with regard to regional fisheries management agreements, that negotiations on such an agreement in the Indian Ocean began in 2001, and are still continuing, but since then increased fishing efforts by New Zealand and Australian boats have so depleted the orange roughy fishery that there is little left to conserve; and is this kind of delay what he is advocating for the rest of the unique ecology of the high seas?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: In terms of the first and last questions, yes, and no. As to the body of the question I can assure the questioner that New Zealand has one of the strictest regimes for controlling the vessels fishing on the high seas. Unlike with many other countries New Zealand vessels are required to report all catch and to operate satellite monitoring systems so the ministry can know where they are at all times. They must also, of course, carry a Ministry of Fisheries observer when required.

Question No. 8 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave to table a speech made by Mr Prebble in May of 1979 when he accused the three High Court judges in the Hunua trial of not being able to read.

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

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I seek leave to table the judgment, which unfortunately put Mr Peters in this House.

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

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave to table the ancillary document of the three High Court judges at the time who said that there was no case at all of ticks and crosses—the kind of nonsense Mr Prebble was saying.

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

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I seek leave to table the Electoral Amendment Act where we decided to change the law.

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

Defence Force—Annual Report

11. JOHN CARTER (National—Northland) to the Minister of Defence: Is he satisfied with the performance outcomes in the New Zealand Defence Force Annual Report 2003/2004; if so, why?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): I believe that good progress is being made, and in many areas performance specifications were exceeded. But I do agree with the former National defence spokesperson, Richard Worth, that the Defence Force is still recovering from the impacts of what he stated was “nine years of neglect (which) had seen the NZDF perilously low in capability, and short of the funds to correct this”. He was talking about the 1990s.

John Carter: How can the Minister be satisfied when our naval combat, land combat, naval support, and land combat support forces all note training and intra-operability inadequacies to the extent that many of them acknowledge that in general they are not prepared for higher-threat situations outside of the New Zealand – Pacific region?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I said, good progress is being made, but I would refer the member to the 1997 report, after 6 years of National in Government, which among many other concerns—[Interruption] This is the 1997 Budget—

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member come to the point.

Hon MARK BURTON: —when the situation was below or not achieving “MLOC”, which is the minimum level of operational capability, land-combat support elements, combat control communication systems, long-range maritime patrol force, and diving teams. This was a much worse situation. It takes years to fix the mess that Tories leave.

John Carter: In light of the fact that it is 5 years since this Minister became the Minister of Defence, does he not think that he could have at least provided our forces with tents, camouflage nets, or radios that, according to the annual report, our land combat forces are short of?

Hon MARK BURTON: That member really does need to do his homework. This Government supplied $120 million worth of communications assistance. The member asked about communications. He stood at Waiôuru holding the antiquated equipment with which his Government deployed our troops. This Government has replaced that with state-of-the-art equipment. Mr Carter should get up with the facts.

Tim Barnett: In what other ways do the 2003-04 performance outcomes for the Defence Force compare with those reported in any previous annual report?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I mentioned before, when I look at the 1996-97 report, after 6 years of National in defence, the situation was “MLOC”, which is the minimum level of operational capability, and I really want to emphasise that. This compares a whole range of capabilities that were below minimum standard. This compares with this year’s report in which there were no output classes for below the minimum “BLOC” requirement. Seven years ago it was reported that limitations on deployment existed due to equipment deficiencies, particularly—and I want Mr Carter to listen to this—in areas of mobility, communications, and fire power. This Government has addressed all three of those issues.

John Carter: In light of the acknowledged personnel and training issues in the annual report, does the Minister believe that he will have sufficient numbers of personnel at sufficient levels of training capability to man the equipment purchased by the Government, such as the 105 light armoured vehicles and the Project Protector fleet; if not, what are the estimated costs of that equipment sitting around while the personnel are found to use them?

Hon MARK BURTON: The member cannot have it both ways. Now he is complaining that this Government is doing too much for defence. I have confidence that the Chief of Defence Force and the service chiefs will, with their recruitment and retention policies and with the money that this Government has pumped into pay and conditions. That lot had one Government-funded pay rise in 9 years. We have done four in four Budgets. That member should do his homework and read the back annual reports.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would you ask the Minister to address the question please.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought that the Minister did address the question in far too lengthy a task.

Independent Youth Benefit—Assessments

12. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he continue to stand by his statement that assessment for the independent youth benefit is “taken seriously”; if so, why?

Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes, I do. In each individual case there is a careful assessment of the young person’s personal circumstances. In particular, there must be a serious reason why he or she cannot live and be supported by his or her parents.

Marc Alexander: How does the Minister reconcile the statutory obligation to “determine if there has been a breakdown between a child and their parents” with parents not even being told of the allegations made against them, and therefore not having any chance to put their side of the story, due to the Privacy Act? When I questioned ActionWorks in Christchurch, it openly admitted that it did nothing to check the facts of the youths’ story.

Hon RICK BARKER: A clear process has to be undertaken before an application is granted. Independent advice is sought, generally from the group Special Education. There is an interview with the individual child or young person, and an interview with the parents, caregiver, or other adult person, before an assessment is made. I cannot comment on the specifics referred to by the member.

Georgina Beyer: Is an independent youth benefit ever granted in a situation where the parents indicate that they are still supportive of their child?

Hon RICK BARKER: Yes. If, after a thorough assessment by an appropriately qualified professional, it is determined that there are good reasons why the child can no longer remain with the family, an independent youth benefit may be granted. It is mandatory that the assessment process includes consultation with parents or guardians, and, if that is not possible, with a significant family member or other adult. The process can and will, where appropriate, include family reconciliation counselling.

Katherine Rich: As the Minister reportedly said that the independent youth benefit was “not given out as easily as it used to be”, implying that his Government had done something to improve the present system, what specific changes to the independent youth benefit can he list?

Hon RICK BARKER: I will list the outcomes. In August 1999, 3,652 youth benefits were being given out. In August 2004, 2,377 youth benefits were being given out. That is a decrease of 34.91 percent. We do go through the process very thoroughly, and I can tell that member and the House that, of all the applications considered in the last financial year, 41 percent were declined. It is not an automatic right.

Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not address my question, which was about what specific changes had been made to the independent youth benefit. He spoke about outcomes, but I was expecting a list of things such as changes to evaluation, eligibility, and monitoring.

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to respond to that part of the question that the member asked.

Hon RICK BARKER: We have been very careful to make sure that the process is gone through very thoroughly and very rigorously. It is a matter of process and about balance. It is much different from what was happening under a National Government.

Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Once again, I asked a very specific question about specific changes made to a particular benefit. The Minister made no attempt to address that question. Either he knows that some changes have been made by his Government, or he knows there have not been. He has been quoted as saying that the benefit is harder to get than it was.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. The answer might not satisfy the member, but that is not my job.

Marc Alexander: How does the Minister justify his Government destroying families at taxpayers’ expense without assessing the truth of the allegations spun by youths wanting to opt out of being parented, when the Ministry of Social Development never checks where those kids end up living and under what conditions, does not check with the schools to see whether they are turning up, and has never charged parents as a result of the allegations?

Hon RICK BARKER: That member could not be more wrong. There is follow-up. After 8 weeks there is a requirement to follow up with the individual child and to check on his or her circumstances. The situation in such cases is that there is family breakdown. There are difficult issues to resolve and different emotions to resolve, and the Government’s objective is to keep those young people at school for as long as we can and keep them on the straight and narrow, so that they can get on with their lives.

Marc Alexander: What will the Minister do to ensure that the independent youth benefit is not just this Government’s way of giving easy money to enable 16 and 17-year-olds to avoid being parented, given that in the first half of this year 205 out of 328 applications for the independent youth benefit were granted, yet those whose applications had been declined simply came back with even more concocted allegations until they did get it, and have been double counted, having been counted as having been declined when they actually succeeded?

Hon RICK BARKER: The overall figures speak for themselves. Of the total number of applications, of which there were 7,664—this is for the financial year 2003-04—the number of declines was 3,120. The current number—applications that were granted eventually—is 2,377. A declining number of applications are granted. I want to make it clear to the member that it is actually more difficult to get this benefit than it has ever been.

Mr SPEAKER: I just want to say to the member that his last two questions were far too long. I will listen to this one quite carefully.

Marc Alexander: Why does the Minister consider his officials to be competent when, in answer to my written question, they admitted that they “do not collect any information on how many applicants for the independent youth benefit were declined or cancelled due to false information, nor of any prosecutions as a result of false information.”—

Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.

Hon RICK BARKER: There is a failure to collect information. It is not a question of incompetence. I have high regard for the competence of the officials. They are specifically trained and specifically tasked to do this work. I have confidence that they are doing it to the best of their ability.

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

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