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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 8 September

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

Wednesday, 8 September 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Economy—Reports
2. Sovereign Yachts—Contribution to Economy
3. Sea Lion Deaths—Southern Squid Trawl Fishery
4. Internal Affairs, Department—Grant Investigations
5. Work and Income New Zealand—Creative Industries Programmes
Question No. 4 to Minister
6. Community and Voluntary Sector—Government Assistance
7. Literacy and Numeracy—Initiatives
Question No. 1 to Minister
8. Prisoners on Remand—Police Supervision
9. Trade Negotiations—Jakarta Meeting
10. Foreshore and Seabed Bill—Treaty Claims, Waikato River / West Coast Harbours
11. Police—Offence Report, Auckland

Question time interrupted.
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

12. Voluntary Sector—Government Assistance

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Economy—Reports

1. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any recent reports on the New Zealand economy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): With some trepidation, I answer. I have received a number of reports highlighting the strength of the New Zealand economy. Rating agency Standard and Poor’s has today reconfirmed our double AA credit rating, which it states is based on this Government’s sturdy financial management. The National Bank’s National Business Outlook observes: “Good news about our economy seems to be everywhere.” Although the Reserve Bank raised interest rates today, it did so because growth is so strong. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is the one warning today.

Clayton Cosgrove: What other reports and analyses has he received in respect of the economy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I received a report that New Zealand’s legal system, education system, and political environment are so strong that they would support the creation of an offshore banking centre in New Zealand. That came from the Opposition spokesperson on finance. As I am sure he is aware, there are also considerable reputational risks with regard to offshore banking centres.

John Key: Can the Minister confirm for the House that he has just announced, in his answer to the question, the interest rate rise that we assumed the Governor of the Reserve Bank would be announcing tomorrow?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am following upon all the background from economists, who are all projecting that interest rate tomorrow—[Interruption] All I can say is that if there is not one, I will be very surprised indeed this time.

Paul Adams: Does the Minister accept that, given that 85 percent of businesses in New Zealand are small to medium in size, their worrying rate of failure—as depicted by the fact that only 27.4 percent make it beyond 7 years—is a threat to the economy, and is he willing to commit the Government to reversing this trend?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member should await a World Bank report that is coming out in the not too distant future that will indicate that this country—without giving the full details—will rank so high in terms of ease of doing business that complaints about compliance costs will look very, very foolish indeed. But it is the nature of small businesses that they often have a relatively short lifespan. That is not peculiar to New Zealand; it is true in almost every developed country in the world that I am aware of.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any information at all suggesting that the Governor of the Reserve Bank will put up interest rates; if that is so, how on earth could the governor be complying with this country’s law?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The governor certainly has not told me what his intentions are in terms of the announcement tomorrow. I have had advice from Treasury that there is 100 percent unanimity amongst bank economists that interest rates are going to rise.

Hon Richard Prebble: As the Minister has been willing to give us his views on the economy and has told us that he is expecting an interest rate, and given that the Australian Finance Minister is quite prepared to publicly indicate prior to a statement by the Reserve Bank whether he considers interest rates should go up, will the Minister advise the House whether he believes an interest rate rise is justified tomorrow; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, there is an enormous difference between Australia and New Zealand in that respect. Apart from anything else, a senior Australian Treasury official sits on the committee that makes the final decision around Australian interest rates. In New Zealand the decision is made by the governor alone.

Peter Brown: If the economy is so strong, can we take it that there will be no need to increase the tax on petrol, as the Government proposes to do later this year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The increase is due to come into force next year. That is required for increased revenue to be devoted to roading. I note that Standard and Poor’s does give a warning in terms of our fiscal position that it could come under threat from unsustainable spending promises in the run-up to next year’s election.

John Key: Can the Minister clarify whether he has been briefed by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, and whether it is possible that he has made a quite serious breach of the protocol he should be following?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Governor of the Reserve Bank always briefs the Government in advance of any announcement, but the governor never, in my experience—and I am sure the member could refer to somebody who occasionally flits into this place—actually tells the Government what he is going to do. I am relying, for the first time in my experience, upon a unanimous view of bank economists about not only what will be done, but about what should be done.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware of the Allen Consulting Group’s report that advocates Government investment in four roading projects that would return “a total benefit, net of costs, to the New Zealand economy in excess of $1.5 billion annually in 2012”; if he is aware, can we expect him to implement such a report?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A fairly high proportion of the projects that are contained in that report are either done—and if the member reads the report he will notice a rather strange marginal note at one point, which the authors forgot to take out, which notes something has been done—or have already been planned to be done over the next few years.

John Key: What is the point of the Governor of the Reserve Bank announcing a rate increase tomorrow when the Minister of Finance has already told the House 24 hours earlier?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Of course, one could be wrong, but I would be very surprised.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Deputy Prime Minister admit that there is no difference between the present Government’s and the National Party’s monetary policies, and that there is a belief that if one wants to somehow get on top of consumption and rising house prices, one merely chokes the economy with high interest rates, paid for by provincial New Zealanders?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The policy targets agreement has been revised twice under myself as Minister of Finance. The previous policy targets agreement that was revised was signed by that member.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you advise me on what would be the best process to ask the Minister of Finance whether he would allow his Hansard to be made available to the House before the end of question time?

Mr SPEAKER: You can approach him directly.

Sovereign Yachts—Contribution to Economy

2. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Following her reply yesterday that Mr Lloyd “would not give the information”, has she now been able to find out how many jobs have been created by Sovereign Yachts, and does she stand by her 2001 statement to Parliament that “hundreds more jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of export earnings” were in prospect through this development?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The company today informed the Ministry of Economic Development that it currently has 75 workers, and that it estimates another 20 to 25 are employed by subcontractors doing Sovereign Yachts work. It repeated its invitation to Mr Hide to visit. As to the second part of the question, while the numbers fall short of the predictions originally made by the Ministry of Economic Development, they still amount to more people in work than if the company had not located there, at all. Of course, since this Government came to office, there are 211,000 more jobs in New Zealand than previously.

Rodney Hide: Does she consider it a good deal that Bill Lloyd would get to pick up 10 acres of Auckland real estate right on the waterfront for less than half a million dollars, and in return generate, by her count, only 75 jobs out of the 350 jobs, and in 3 years finish off only one boat and not generate anywhere near the $600 million in export earnings that she promised in her speech?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is aware that there was a disposal process that was gone through with the Defence land: to sell it back to the original owners, who then had an arrangement with Mr Lloyd. There may be all sorts of reasons why businesses do not grow as fast as was predicted. What I am confident of is that this Government has a fantastic record of jobs—211,000 more since we came into office.

Katherine Rich: Does she stand by her statement on 4 February 2001 that the Sovereign Yachts development “reflects well on the Government’s commitment to being active in promoting investment, exporting, business, and job growth.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, because there are 75 jobs that were not there previously.

Rodney Hide: What is the Prime Minister’s response to Bill Lloyd’s complaint, repeated in today’s Dominion Post, that the reason the project has not delivered as promised is that the Government has broken its commitment to him and refused to sell him more of the surrounding land for a residential development, as he said he was promised—or does she think Bill Lloyd is not quite what he was cracked up to be?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not believe any such promise was ever made to Mr Lloyd.

Sea Lion Deaths—Southern Squid Trawl Fishery

3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he have any concerns about options proposed by the Ministry of Fisheries to increase the number of rare New Zealand sea lions that are allowed to be killed in the southern squid trawl fishery?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): My advice is that the Ministry of Fisheries’ preference is for a fishing-related mortality limit of 115 sea lions in the 2004-05 fishing season. This is less than the 124 sea lion limit established by the Court of Appeal for the previous fishing season. The Ministry of Fisheries states in its initial position paper that the 598 sea lion limit, developed by one particular model, is inappropriate—a view shared by my department.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister acknowledge that the catch in the last year, to which he refers, is the highest for nearly a decade and was only as high as that because the court overturned the original limit of 62, and why does he think the fishing industry will ever adopt best practice to reduce deaths if the number of permitted mortalities goes up every year?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have been dialoguing with the squid fishing industry and I am convinced that it is as committed as the Department of Conservation to see that the by-kill is reduced. We are exploring a population management plan, which is being developed by the department at the moment, which will be released next year.

David Parker: What is the Government’s objective for the future of the New Zealand sea lion?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Government’s objective is to see the sea lion removed from the endangered species list. These magnificent animals are unique to New Zealand, and my department is developing, as I said earlier, a population management plan for them, in accordance with the Marine Mammals Protection Act. I am working closely with my good friend the Minister of Fisheries to achieve a sustained reduction in the numbers of marine mammals that are accidentally killed in our fisheries.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Ministry of Fisheries’ preferred option succeed in restoring sea lions to unthreatened status within 20 years, as he has been required to do since they were gazetted in 1996 as a threatened species under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and why does he think it is appropriate to leave it to the fishing industry to reduce kill, when it has challenged every decision the Minister of Fisheries has made to try to reduce kill?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I do not think it is appropriate just to leave it to the fishing industry to manage the conservation measures that are taking place to protect this species. Setting by-kill limits is one of a comprehensive basket of conservation measures we can take to protect this species.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has he received any advice from his officials that the use of lights in jigging on squid boats could dramatically reduce sea lion mortality, and will he urge his colleague the Minister of Fisheries to use his powers to regulate, to require those technologies to be used?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Those technologies are certainly much more marine mammal friendly, but I do understand from my dialogues with the squid fishing industry that the stormy oceans of the southern seas do put at risk certain technologies that can be used safely elsewhere.

Internal Affairs, Department—Grant Investigations

4. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What specific Department of Internal Affairs grants have been investigated in the last 12 months, and what has been the outcome of those investigations?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The Department of Internal Affairs administers six separate votes for five separate Ministers. I am advised that over the last year, 19 investigations were undertaken into grants made by the lottery distribution committees. Of these, 10 cases were found to meet requirements, two are in the hands of the police, and seven are still under investigation by the Department of Internal Affairs auditors.

Katherine Rich: Has he received the departmental report, due last month, investigating 32 Auckland groups over a suspected scam to invent community projects and defraud his taxpayer-funded Community Organisations Grants Scheme of $150,000; if so, what did that report state?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No, I expect that it has been sent to the Hon Rick Barker, as the portfolio for the community and voluntary sector is his.

Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister received any reports on the scale of lottery grants investigations?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The 19 cases being investigated comprise only 0.42 percent of the 4,533 grants made by lotteries distribution committees last year.

Katherine Rich: Is he aware that his department has been conducting an investigation for the last year into “a whole range of fake projects” that have received grants where, according to his own officials, the grant recipients “were just making up projects”; if so, what has he been doing about it?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Obviously these things are being investigated by the Hon Rick Barker, because they fall within his portfolio. I do not know whether the member understands how things work.

Rodney Hide: Would he expect, as a competent and hard-working Minister, to know that his department had a report out uncovering 32 cases of fraud, and the attempt to defraud the Government, particularly when the Opposition knows all about it—and he just sits there with the ministerial limo, the pay, and the perks, and says: “Oh, that’s for Rick Barker to deal with.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is Rick Barker’s to deal with, because he is the Minister in charge.

Mr SPEAKER: A large amount of that question had hypothetical and other comments that were not necessary to the actual sense of the question.

Katherine Rich: Has he read the November 2003 independent report on one of his grant schemes that raises concerns about “the lack of clear and authoritative policies and guidelines within the scheme” and “a lack of clarity in public accountability processes”; and what changes has he made to his grant schemes as a result of that report?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have made a number of inquiries about those that fall within my portfolio—that is, the Lotteries Commission and the Lottery Grants Board—and, of course, two have been referred to the police.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I bring this matter up now, because I think it is relevant to the whole of question time. We have just got out the Schedule of Responsibilities Delegated to Associate Ministers, dated August 2004. This question is set down to the Minister of Internal Affairs and was accepted by the Clerk’s Office as being an appropriate question for the Minister of Internal Affairs. Notwithstanding what Mr Cullen said before, our primary questions are well looked into. The Minister’s answer to the primary question was a range of things about the Lotteries Commission; it had nothing to do with the community grants stuff that was being requested of him. For him simply to say that it is not his problem but that it is the Hon. Rick Barker who is in charge is unacceptable.

When we look at the delegations in the schedule, we see that the only two Ministers who have associate delegations under internal affairs are the Hon Trevor Mallard and the Hon Mark Burton. Where are we to go now? Is a Minister simply able to say: “Well, I don’t know about that. Why don’t you ask X Minister, or so and so?”. Surely we are entitled to expect that the Government will have given the House and the country true information about who is running what portfolio.

Mr SPEAKER: The member made the point twice. He needs to make it only once.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The question was properly accepted by the Clerk’s Office, because the Minister of Internal Affairs does have responsibility for grants by that department. Another Minister has responsibility for the community grants, a subgroup of this from the department. If members opposite had thought carefully before they lodged their questions and had put them down to the appropriate Minister, they would have received an answer on those particular grants. The fact is that they did not look carefully at what they should have. They did not consider the delegations, and that is quite sad.

Gerry Brownlee: That was a very interesting lecture from Mr Mallard.

Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: The point of order is this: where is the delegation he speaks of, and why is it not lying on the floor of the House so we can all act appropriately? We are being led up the garden path by a Government that does not want to answer questions.

Mr SPEAKER: The last sentence was irrelevant. The member raised a point of order. As far as I am concerned I will have a look at the issue of the delegations. I do not have them in front of me this moment, and those on this schedule may or may not be the most recent ones. I will have a look at the matter and come back to it later.

Katherine Rich: Why was the Minister happy to answer questions about internal affairs grants schemes yesterday but not today, and has he just recently had an explanation of what his portfolio responsibilities are?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The reason I was happy to answer yesterday is that that member did not know what she was on about.

Work and Income New Zealand—Creative Industries Programmes

5. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has he received on outcomes of Work and Income programmes assisting clients seeking employment in the creative industries?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I have received a report on the Work and Income Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme, or “PACE” as it is known—an employment initiative designed to help job seekers who have skills for employment in creative industries. The programme has now achieved over 2,500 placements into employment. Over 1,000 of these placements occurred in the last 12 months—confirming the ongoing strength and vitality of New Zealand’s creative industries and our healthy general labour market. It also confirms how wrong Opposition members have been when they have consistently condemned this innovative and successful policy.

Hon Mark Gosche: What employment opportunities exist in the creative sector, and how is the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme assisting job seekers to take up these opportunities?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In 2002 the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report estimated the economic contribution of the creative industries at 3.1 percent of total GDP and 3.6 percent of total employment, and estimated the jobs growth in the sector at 3.5 percent year on year. The Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme ensures that job seekers are able to take up employment opportunities in the growing creative sector or in general employment. The programme has had significant successes on both measures. It is the kind of programme that the Opposition consistently denies is useful but the rest of the country thinks otherwise.

Question No. 4 to Minister

Mr SPEAKER: Before I move on to question No. 6 I want to say that I have referred to the Clerk and to the Cabinet list, and I should inform members who raised the issue that Rick Barker is the full Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector. It is not a delegation at all. He is the full Minister. [Interruption] We all make mistakes and the only person who can interject now is one who never makes one.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK.

Mr SPEAKER: That is right! I thought it would be Winston; nevertheless, Winston apart, that applies to everybody else.

Community and Voluntary Sector—Government Assistance

6. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector: Following a report on the community and voluntary sector showing that “For every one dollar provided to a voluntary agency, between $3 and $5 worth of services are delivered to the community.”, what will he do to further encourage and support that sector?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector): The community and voluntary sector is greatly valued by this Government. The statement of Government intentions for an improved community-Government relationship signed by the Prime Minister in 2001 clearly sets out the Government’s vision for and commitment to the community and voluntary sector. I am sure the member will be familiar with it. We all recognise that our communities are vastly richer and better off for the work of volunteers.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree that the first step the Government could take to assist the voluntary sector would be to rethink the Charities Bill, which threatens the political autonomy of community groups, will overload them with compliance costs, and will have a chilling effect on the willingness of volunteers to serve on boards; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Charities Bill is the responsibility of the Minister of Commerce, Margaret Wilson, and I draw the member’s attention to a press statement made by Margaret Wilson on 18 August, which states: “I am open to changes in the bill. In light of submissions I have asked officials to work with the select committee to ensure that we get legislation that is workable and does not impose unnecessary costs on charities.”

Sue Bradford: Has the Minister been briefed on the valuable work done by the volunteers of Age Concern in advocating for older New Zealanders, and hence will he listen to and act on Age Concern’s submission on the Charities Bill, which states: “We recommend strongly that the Government does not proceed with this bill.”?

Hon RICK BARKER: The first point I would make to the member is that the bill is not back before the House. The second point I would make is that the Minister has made a commitment—a public commitment—to ensure that the legislation works for charities as well as for the Government.

Jill Pettis: Can the Minister please advise the House what action the Government has taken to date to give effect to the statement of intent with the voluntary sector?

Hon RICK BARKER: Since coming to office this Government has worked closely with the sectors to understand what they need, and to enable them to carry out their work. First, we asked the community to set up a task force to tell us how it wanted to interface with the Government, and at the same time the Government established the Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector. That office takes an across-Government leadership role, and works closely with the sector to develop good relationships between Government departments and non-governmental organisations in the community. I welcome a recent report by the Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations. It will take some time to carefully consider the report and its recommendations.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree that one of the valuable services that is performed by the community and voluntary sector is to keep the Government accountable, and how will it assist organisations to perform that role if, under the Charities Bill, they could be deregistered by the Charities Commission if they engaged in political advocacy?

Hon RICK BARKER: I make the point for the third time that I am not the Minister responsible for the Charities Bill. That is the responsibility of the Minister of Commerce. However, I restate the point I made, as the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, that the Government has a commitment to work with the community and voluntary sector in a mutually respectful way. I am sure the Government will do everything it can to encourage that sector.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister, nevertheless, aware of a statement made by the Hon Judith Tizard this morning that: “An organisation whose stated purposes include the attainment of a political purpose cannot be a charity.”, and does he not agree that such a statement flies in the face of the capacity of any community group with political goals to register as a charity?

Hon RICK BARKER: No, I was not aware of that until the member read it out, but I am pleased to be able to tell the House that, as an aside to me, the Minister concerned said that she did not say that.

Hon Richard Prebble: Could the Minister clarify the answers that he has just given to the Green MP? Is the House to take it that he does accept the Green Party notion that for every $1 given to the voluntary sector, the community receives $5; if he does, why not give the voluntary sector the whole of the country’s tax revenue, so we can all sit back and be wealthier than the Swiss—or is there something wrong with the Green Party’s Social Credit notions?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for the Green Party. He can, however, address the question in so far as it affects his portfolio.

Hon RICK BARKER: The figures that the member for the Green Party refers to came out of a briefing—a brief introduction to a report that is under way on the value added by voluntary agencies. The full report will come out on Friday. The second point that I would make is that one of the agreements that the Government has with the voluntary sector is that volunteering is not to be used to replace full-time jobs. So the member’s contention is completely wrong.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is actually the question that we had this morning. That answer does not address the question. I am well aware of where that statement came from. What I actually asked the Minister was whether he believed that Social Credit notion that giving $1 to the voluntary sector results in benefits of $5, and if so, why we did not implement it.

Hon RICK BARKER: The member is wrong when he says it is a Social Credit notion; he is completely wrong on that. Secondly, I will wait for the full report to make my own judgment about his contention.

Sue Bradford: I seek leave of the House to table a speech given by the Hon Judith Tizard to the Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Wellington this morning.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Literacy and Numeracy—Initiatives

7. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on the success of the Government’s initiatives in the areas of literacy and numeracy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have seen a report that indicates that United States’ literacy levels are higher than New Zealand’s, when in fact Programme for International Student Assessment results show that our 15-year-olds are third in the OECD for literacy and the US is in 16th position. I have also seen a report that concedes that previous Governments did not do enough to address literacy and numeracy issues, and that, after 20 years of arguing, this Government has finally got things on the right track. I welcome that endorsement from Bill English of our work to lift education standards; it contrasts with the comments made by Don Brash running down the New Zealand education system.

Mark Peck: What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that all our students develop essential literacy and numeracy skills?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As part of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, all students are now required to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards. For the first time, we have level 2 literacy requirements for entrance to university. We have raised the standard of education so that all students can develop the skills needed for a modern workforce. However, literacy and numeracy do appear to be a problem for some. For example, I have found no evidence to support the claim that 25 percent of our school leavers are illiterate. I am glad to see that Bill English does not agree with that. It would be good if Don Brash used one of his occasional visits to the House to stop running down New Zealand.

Mr SPEAKER: The last part of the last sentence is not in order.

Simon Power: Is the Minister satisfied with the prioritisation of education spending, when literacy and numeracy projects play second fiddle to pet projects of his Associate Minister whose successful Budget bid for a new polytechnic slush fund was slammed by Treasury, which said it had “no clear funding needs or benefits”, would “create risks of double-dipping”, and would be “low value for money”; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: While I am Associate Minister of Finance, and am always very careful to be respectful of the comments of Treasury, I think that if the member looked at the money that went into the polytech capitalisation fund and into literacy, he would see that an enormous amount more goes into literacy than into the polytech fund. I do not agree with that member, or with Bill English, who say that our schools are awash with cash. It is just not true. [Interruption]

Gerry Brownlee: They’re all losing it.

Mr SPEAKER: And the member is about to lose his place in this House.

Murray Smith: Does the Minister accept the comments made by Kevin Bryant, Chief Executive of the Agriculture Industry Training Organisation, who told a recent principals’ conference that the school system had failed them because of Government underfunding; and in the light of Mr Bryant’s justification of those comments, is he prepared to give priority to the literacy and numeracy needs of secondary and tertiary students, given that the Government’s own research shows that 20 percent of agriculture trainees have major literacy problems, and 25 percent have significant difficulties with numeracy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member has an important point—that is, historically, there have been problems in the literacy area. This Government has put an enormous amount of funding into, mainly, the primary education system but also, more recently, secondary literacy work. I know that my colleague the Associate Minister who looks after tertiary education is doing a lot of work on foundation courses in order to ensure that people who are in industry training and in our polytechnic system get the literacy work that is necessary. However, for some people, especially Don Brash, it is just too late.

Murray Smith: I seek leave to table an article dated 4 September and headed “Underfunding blamed for failure of school system”.

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

Question No. 1 to Minister

GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In respect to the questions that were raised about the actual wording used by the Minister of Finance in answer to question No. 1, we now have a transcript taken from the Sky broadcast tape. In fact, the Minister did say: “The National Business Review Outlook observes good news in the economy seems to be everywhere. And although the Reserve Bank raised interest rates today, it did so because growth is so strong.” In our view, that is quite a breach of the confidentiality that should surround that announcement. We were wondering at what point the Minister might make a ministerial statement. I would suggest that a point of order in a speech that might follow is an inappropriate way to deal with this serious mishap.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I certainly do not need to make a ministerial statement. I regret the fact I appear to have misread my own notes. If I can read my handwritten version—it is not easy to read my handwriting—it states: “The Reserve Bank has raised interest rates and has done so because growth is so strong.” That is factually correct. The Reserve Bank has raised interest rates on a number of occasions this year because growth is so strong. [Interruption] Wait, little man, wait! Goodness me! The member should quit while he is ahead—OK? He should just calm down. The word “today” was inadvertently used by myself. I certainly regret the fact if I might have caused the Governor of the Reserve Bank—[Interruption] There was no announcement about interest rates today. No announcement is made until tomorrow.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no point of order involved.

Prisoners on Remand—Police Supervision

8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: What assurances can he give that the personal safety of police officers will not be jeopardised as inmate overcrowding worsens, and when does he expect this situation to end in light of the warning from a senior police officer that “The more we have to put in there the more it turns into a powder keg.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The personal safety of police officers is always a high priority. The police are trained to protect themselves and the public. I am advised that around 120,000 people are held in police custody annually. The police are working on a daily basis with Department of Corrections staff to manage prisoner levels.

Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister confirm that yesterday in the overcrowded cells of the Manukau District Court, remand prisoners nearly rioted, smashing their cells, and that it took the intervention of police officers to restore order; and could that risk to the safety of our police officers be another reason why the Prime Minister will not reassure him of his ministerial warrant?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the first question can be answered.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am not aware of the information the member has, but I will immediately get an answer for him.

Martin Gallagher: Could the Minister explain to the House again some of the reasons that inmate numbers have risen in this country?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are doing a magnificent job of catching criminals. Police resolution rates are the highest they have been in 20 years. As well, the Government has toughened up the sentencing, parole, and bail laws, which means more criminals are being locked up.

Marc Alexander: Has the Minister received any assurances from the Minister of Justice that the safety of police officers will not be jeopardised further by the passage of the Parole (Extended Supervision) Amendment Bill, the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Bill, and the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), given that all those measures increase custodial sentences and raise the possibility of an even bigger increase in the number of remand and sentenced prisoners being detained in police cells?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have talked with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Corrections over the present problem. I have not discussed whether any of those bills will add to the problem, because we think the problem is short term.

Dr Muriel Newman: Why is it that as at 31 July 2004, the Government’s DNA testing agency had not analysed police samples for 21 alleged homicide cases, including two that had been waiting for analysis for over 9 months; and is that delay in investigating those 21 murder-case samples linked in any way at all to the fact that the police know that even if they were to get convictions there may not be any police cells available for the offenders?

Mr SPEAKER: Right at the end of that question the member became relevant. The first part of the question was very, very wide; it was really another question.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am pleased to tell the House that this Government has put in a lot more money, so we can do DNA tests and palm-print tests—which means that we have found another four rapists whom we would not have found before.

Hon Tony Ryall: In light of the Minister’s answer to a previous supplementary question, has he seen the Ministry of Justice report that indicates that one of the major causes of the current muster crisis is the length of time it is taking to get criminal cases through the clogged courts system; and does he think he is being blamed for the mismanagement of the Minister for Courts?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That report is being looked after by the Hon Rick Barker, who is right on top of it, as Government Ministers work together to make sure that this crisis is fixed.

Mr SPEAKER: I call Stephen Franks. [Interruption] Mr Franks had not started his question, so I will ignore the interjection, but it does lead to riposte.

Stephen Franks: Has the Minister inquired to find out exactly when each of the three new prisons in Northland, Auckland, and south Auckland will open—which, in 1999, were planned to open last year—so that every police officer now tending prisoners can get back to policing; and if he has not asked his seat mate that, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. Even when this crisis is over, there are police officers who will work at guarding prisoners. It is part of police work. However, I must say that I was surprised to read in the Waikato Times of 18 July that the National Party was telling people to protest against the building of prisons, using wâhi tapu as a powerful reason for that. Amongst the MPs who were at that meeting were Dr Paul Hutchinson, Shane Ardern, and Richard Worth. They do not want prisons in their areas.

Hon Tony Ryall: What responsibility will the Minister take if a police officer is seriously assaulted by a remand prisoner, considering the Manukau District Court cell-trashing, the recent attack on a west Auckland policewoman by a remand inmate, and the potentially tragic placement of an at-risk remand prisoner with dangerous criminals in a police cell; or does the Minister think that in a few weeks this crisis will be someone else’s problem?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government is always concerned when criminals attack police. Whether it occurs in a cell or out on the street, we are concerned about that. We put money in for training, and the commissioner makes sure that safety is a major consideration in all police work. I seek leave to table the news report in the Waikato Times dated 18 July 2001.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table an article in the Manukau Courier in which George Hawkins, as the local member, objected to prisons in his community.

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

Trade Negotiations—Jakarta Meeting

9. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: What progress was made in trade negotiations from last weekend’s meeting in Jakarta?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): Significant progress has been made. ASEAN Ministers, along with their Australian and New Zealand counterparts, have endorsed a recommendation that their leaders begin negotiations on a trade agreement linking ASEAN and CER. In addition, Malaysia and New Zealand have agreed to begin studies to explore whether to have a bilateral trade agreement.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Are these negotiations consistent with New Zealand’s policy of supporting a comprehensive World Trade Organization arrangement?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Certainly. The Government’s top trade priority is the World Trade Organization’s Doha development agenda. However, we are also working on plan B—a network of comprehensive regional, plurilateral, and bilateral trade agreements to ensure that our exporters have the market access they need for New Zealand as a whole to prosper.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree that trade sanctions played a vital role in defeating apartheid in South Africa; if so, why does his Government want to give priority to negotiating a preferential trade deal with Burma—a country ruled by an oppressive, undemocratic regime, which, according to Amnesty International, frequently violates the human rights of ethnic minorities, has locked up over 1,300 political prisoners, and exploits forced labour?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I will answer the first question first. I believe that the sporting boycott of the Springboks, which I regret to say was not supported by all members of this House, had more effect on the South African authorities at the time. In answer to the second question, active engagement between nations and peoples encourages peaceful development, democracy, and human rights. By refusing to trade with people we only thrust them into deeper poverty.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister explain why, following the decision of the ASEAN States to seek a trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand and to complete those negotiations within 3 years, and the concurrent decision of the ASEAN States at the weekend to conclude a free-trade agreement with China by 2010, New Zealand now needs separately to conclude a free-trade agreement with China?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The rules of origin, which are a feature of every bilateral and plurilateral trade agreement, would mean that we cannot simply take advantage of other countries’ bilateral agreements with third parties, and thereby escape the need to negotiate trade agreements of our own.

Foreshore and Seabed Bill—Treaty Claims, Waikato River / West Coast Harbours

10. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Can he confirm his reported statement that Tainui concerns about whether the Foreshore and Seabed Bill cuts across claims over the Waikato River and west coast harbours will have to be worked through as it goes through the House; if so, what action has he taken so far to work through Tainui’s concerns?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I can confirm that Tainui has raised the issue of whether their claim over the Waikato River and west coast harbours will be affected by the foreshore and seabed legislation that is currently progressing through the select committee process. I can confirm that the Crown has met with Tainui representatives on several occasions this year, as it has done with other iwi. Assurances were given at these meetings that the foreshore and seabed legislation does not pre-empt any future treaty settlements and negotiations.

Gerry Brownlee: If, as his colleague the Hon John Tamihere stated yesterday, the Minister is part of an “open, robust, and transparent Government”, then why will he not reveal the Government’s intention to negotiate with iwi over the foreshore and seabed, rather than striking backroom deals to grant them ownership interests while telling the public that the Crown will own the foreshore and seabed?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This Government is very transparent and we are not doing any backroom deals.

Moana Mackey: How does the foreshore and seabed legislation impact on Tainui’s historical claims?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Tainui’s historical claims are not affected by the proposed foreshore and seabed legislation. The legislation provides for a forward-looking regime for the recognition of existing or surviving customary rights and interests. It also addresses any potential effects on existing customary rights and interests resulting from the vesting of full title in the Crown.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the negotiations that he and his fellow Ministers are having with Tainui now result in seabed and foreshore partial ownership being accorded to Tainui?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As the member will be aware, the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995 provided for settlement of Waikato Tainui’s raupatu claims. Their claims to the Waikato River and west coast harbours remain unsettled and we are working on it. That member’s party did all the easy bits; we are doing the tough bits.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the negotiations that the Minister and his fellow Ministers are having with Tainui result in some of the seabed and foreshore of this country passing into some form of ownership for Tainui?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That matter is the subject of ongoing discussions and it will be resolved when we resolve it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Is the Minister aware of any treaty settlements that have involved the transfer of ownership of the foreshore and seabed to iwi?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought that this Minister might be on top of his portfolio, but if he likes to look at the arrangements around Te Waihora in the South Island—

Mr SPEAKER: I declare that a vexatious point of order. It was unnecessary and was made just to make a political point. That was not a point of order and the member knows it.

Police—Offence Report, Auckland

11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: With regard to the Prime Minister’s comments in the House yesterday, at what level was the decision made not to prosecute Phillip Layton Edwards for the aggravated burglary at 8 Rocky Nook Avenue, Auckland, on 12 September 2002, and why was the decision made at that level?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): It is not my practice to get involved in specific police investigations. However, given inferences that some have tried to draw from this situation, I have decided, because of public case in this case, to advise the rank of the police officer concerned. Police have advised me that the decision not to prosecute was made by a detective senior sergeant because he was the officer in charge of the investigation, in accordance with police procedure.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Who is that person—that is, what is his name and in what office does he reside?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Giving out the names of police officers doing their work is something that I do not want to do, because it could damage the safety of the individual or lead to unwarranted political pressure on the police not to do their job without fear or favour.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Prime Minister said that if such a question was put down in writing, it would get an answer. Today we are back to the behaviour of last week and every question until the Prime Minister gave that assurance. The Minister began by saying that he would break from what he has established as his own convention—which is not to be found anywhere else under any previous police Ministers—and give out the detective’s rank. The fact is that a number of the officials engaged in this investigation have spoken and are already known. We are entitled to know this person’s name, and to know what office he operated in at that time. How long do we have to go on in this House putting up with this sort of obfuscation, when the Minister knows that he has had weeks to get ready for this answer, and the Prime Minister promised this House that we would get an answer?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think this is a classic example of the operation of Standing Order 370. The Minister is perfectly entitled to decline to give the name in the matter of the public interest—that is, to protect the police officer, because police officers should be protected from inappropriate pressure that might arise by naming them in connection with certain events.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has given his answer. It is over to him how he does so.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister what office the decision maker operated in when the decision was made?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think that giving those details is not usually very helpful to the safety of police officers, and it adds to the political pressure that can go on to police. It is very easy to find out who the detective senior sergeant is, because there are not very many of them at individual stations. In fact, some stations do not have them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether you are aware of it, but in our law, one may not challenge a police officer’s decision to prosecute. Three years ago there was a famous case in the UK in which the decision not to prosecute was challenged successfully. It was ground-breaking law, and it would apply in this case, as well. There was no case; there was a decision not to prosecute, and no one in this case needs to be protected by Parliament other than anyone who happens to be an innocent victim. So I think I am entitled to know what office made this decision. If I am not entitled to know that, then the public is being shut out and shut down by a cover-up, and this House cannot tolerate that. So I ask again for the Minister to advise this House what office made that decision.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister answered that question in the primary answer. He stated that it was the detective senior sergeant who was the officer in charge of the investigation. That is a complete answer to the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it is not. Point of order!

Mr SPEAKER: No, I will rule on this. The Minister has given an answer, and he is entitled to do so in the way that he did it, and I judge that he did address the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Cullen’s point of order is totally erroneous.

Mr SPEAKER: It was not the member’s point of order. He was speaking to your one.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: So you are telling me that I am not entitled to an answer now.

Mr SPEAKER: I have given the answer. The answer is that the Minister gave an answer, and that is satisfactory as far as I am concerned.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is simply this. What we are seeing here is now collusion in a cover-up. Yesterday that Minister was admonished by his own Prime Minister to the extent that she said: “If that question is put down in writing, then the member will get an answer.” Today, 24 hours on, we are being told the reverse. This House—and any self-respecting democracy—is able to hold any other Minister of the Crown to account. Now we are being shut down completely by a Minister who began by saying it is not his practice, but that he would answer the question, and who then gave out a snippet of information and denies this possible fact: if the decision making was shifted to another person of equal rank in some other office, then that is relevant to this case. I want to know what the answer is. That is my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The point of order was that the Prime Minister said that the question could be put down. It was put down. The Minister gave an answer, and he is entitled to give that answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was it not made known to the jury in the McNee case that Edwards was not a stranger to McNee, but had known him for at least 3 years—a failure that obviously led the jury to reduce the verdict from murder to manslaughter—which elicited the comment last night from Bill Hodge, a criminal law specialist at Auckland University, that: “The jury must have started with the presumption that Edwards and McNee were strangers and it was a one-off, and if the defence were aware of the missing evidence, they would have no choice but to go to murder.”; why was that information not known and made known to the jury?

Mr SPEAKER: The question is out of order, because this matter is still sub judice. I have taken advice on this, and that is the opinion I have been given.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The trial is over. It now awaits the matter of the sentence. I am asking about information that was not given to the jury. It is not sub judice, because the conviction has already been entered by the jury. The decision went against Mr Edwards. What could possibly be brought to bear now on the jury’s mind, as the jury is no longer hearing this case?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Even if that point were correct, I suggest that the question is out of order on another ground. The Minister of Police is not responsible for the evidence presented to a court by Crown counsel. Whether that matter was adduced in evidence is a matter for Crown counsel. It is also my understanding that the evidence probably would have been inadmissible, in any case. It is not a matter for the Minister of Police to determine whether Crown counsel presents evidence in a quite separate case.

Mr SPEAKER: Irrespective of that, I refer the member to Standing Order 112(2), which is quite specific. It states that the sub judice rule ceases to have effect when the verdict and sentence are given.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Notwithstanding the Standing Order, I know—as will the Clerk of the House know—that the sub judice rule is to protect any possible bearing on evidence before the court. The case is over, so how can you assert the sub judice rule, given that there is no longer any trial?

Mr SPEAKER: Because I follow the Standing Orders. If the member reads Standing Order 112(2), he will see that I am bound to follow it. It states that the sub judice rule ceases when the verdict and sentence are given. That is the end of the matter. Supplementary question, Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Murray Smith:I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a supplementary question that United Future has been trying to ask for some time—

Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon, I do acknowledge that. I will allow Mr Peters to continue as he has started his question. The member will get the next one. I am sorry about that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the police not make it known to the prosecutor that Edwards’ claim of not knowing Mr McNee was false, and that they had been seen together frequently before the night of the killing?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the same point again. I do not see what responsibility the Minister of Police has for evidence adduced by Crown counsel during a trial.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is patently obvious that the prosecutor will rely on the evidence given to him by the police. If the police do not give it to him, and he knows nothing about it, then he will not elicit it in a court of law. That is so absurdly obvious that I cannot believe anybody would rise to make a point of order. I am asking why a critical piece of information that went to the core of whether it should be a murder conviction or a manslaughter conviction was denied to the prosecutor.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That is not actually the question the member previously asked. His question was why was evidence not presented to the jury. The question of why it was not presented to the prosecutor is quite a different issue. I invite the member to present evidence that that information was not made available to the prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If we look at the Hansard, we will see that the last comment I made to distinguish the point of order sought to be made by Dr Cullen was that the police had not made that information known to the prosecutor. That is the responsibility of the Minister of Police. Now I am being asked by the Deputy Prime Minister to provide the evidence to the House, when the person who holds the warrant and the portfolio responsibility for that is the very person who for weeks has been obfuscating on this issue. On this day—about the 12th day of parliamentary questions on this issue—the Minister has decided that the issue is all sub judice. Why was that not raised from day one?

Mr SPEAKER: I say to the member that he is still referring to a case that is pending adjudication, and he should see Standing Order 112(2).

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister give a categoric assurance to the House that the decision that was made not to prosecute Phillip Layton Edwards for the aggravated burglary at 8 Rocky Nook Avenue was not subject to interference from himself or from any of his ministerial colleagues; if not, then which Minister was it?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, I can give that assurance.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Who gave the assurance to Edwards that his name and the events surrounding this case would never come out in public; who in the police force gave that assurance to Edwards, who had 50 convictions already at the time the assurance was given to him?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not read police files. I think it is very wise that Ministers of Police leave the police to get on with the job, instead of trying to do it themselves.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No one has asked this Minister of Police to get involved in a decision to prosecute or otherwise. I am merely asking this Minister what happened. What is the truth? What went on? For him to give the sort of answer that he did the other day—for which he is giving a different version now—that he does not have the information and does not want the information, shows contempt for this Parliament. He should not be allowed to get away with it, particularly since someone innocent died.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the member has not raised a valid point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to make it very clear to you that I know of no Western democracy where a Minister could get away with this, and be protected and shielded by rulings from the Speaker, in the way that I have witnessed these last few weeks.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is accusing me of bias in this way—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I am not, no, I am not. I am making a comparison—

Mr SPEAKER: Please sit down when I am on my feet. Do not interject when I am on my feet or you will leave straight away. I say to the member that I have been very tolerant and lenient, but he is asking questions to which the Minister has given his answer. The Minister was entitled to give that answer. That is where the matter rests. As I said before, I am not here as a quizmaster to adjudicate.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, Mr Speaker, you are here to ensure that, when questions are properly put, this Government, and this Minister in particular, are held to account. If you are not prepared to have someone make a comparison with other Western democracies, then, in my view, you are totally outreaching your authority in this House. I am entitled to make a comparison. I am entitled—

Mr SPEAKER: I have had quite enough. The member will sit down. I will not reply to that. That was a direct challenge to me and I will not have it. The member knows that he is out of order, and he should desist immediately.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: This had better be a new point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a new point of order. I do not know that I am out of order, at all. I say to you that there is no Western democracy where a Minister would get away with this. If you know in which democracy a Minister would get away with it, please tell us. This has come to a disgraceful level. A Minister is involved in a cover-up whereby someone was murdered and the jury never heard the evidence that would have brought that murder conviction. Please tell me where else in the Western world I would witness this.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not have to do that at all. I have made my statement. The member is grossly disorderly. If there are any more comments from him today, I will name him.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If I hear that threat one more time, it is my intention to leave this House and come back with a motion of no confidence, which I am entitled to put. If any members on this side of the House cannot see the point I am trying to make, then woe be them.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the member has now made that comment. He is entitled to do what he likes as far as notices of motion are concerned. I am also entitled to name the member. I name the member and ask that he be suspended.

Question time interrupted.

Question time resumed.

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Voluntary Sector—Government Assistance

12. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: What specific proposals does he intend to implement to ensure that the broader economic contribution of the voluntary sector is both valued and encouraged, in light of the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which estimates that the voluntary sector may be contributing more than a billion dollars to the economy a year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): As the member is aware, a summary of this report has been released in the last few hours and I am yet to see a final copy of the report. I will be interested to read the full report and see whether it makes any specific proposals. If so, they will of course be considered carefully by the Government.

Murray Smith: Is the Government prepared to give consideration to United Future’s policy of substantially increasing the maximum personal tax rebate on donations to charitable organisations, over the mere $630, given the fact that voluntary agencies are heavily reliant on such private funding, and that private funding is increasingly more difficult to get, but that voluntary agencies save the Government so much money; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We already have made one increase, and I indicated at the time that we will undertake regular reviews of that limit now for each year and during the Budget process, and obviously listen carefully to United Future on these matters.

Sue Bradford: Has the Minister been briefed on the economic contribution of New Zealand’s largest philanthropic organisation, the Tindall Foundation, and will the Government act on the Tindall Foundation’s submission on the Charities Bill, which stated:

“We do not support the intent of this bill. It will only add to the burdens carried by the community and voluntary sector, while not achieving what the Government and this sector want it to.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I have not been briefed on that, but yes, the Government will be undertaking a full review of the Charities Bill with a view to taking account of the submissions made, and some major recasting. Clearly the bill is too heavy on the regulatory side, and too heavy in terms of compliance costs.

Murray Smith: Given the Minister’s friendly attitude to United Future proposals, is the Government also prepared to give consideration to adopting United Future’s policy of a community volunteer rebate of $5 an hour, up to a maximum of 100 hours a year, which would strongly encourage the participation in the labour force of those aged over 55 who could otherwise be considered underemployed, in economic terms; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Perhaps I could invite the member to approach me formally on this matter, in writing, and we will get some reports on it. I must say, as Minister of Revenue, I always tend to be slightly cynical and wonder at the opportunities for tax avoidance that might occur as a result of this. I suspect there would be a massive flowering of volunteers if there were a special tax rebate for them.

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

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