Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 14 September
Tuesday, 14 September
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Care of Children Bill—Parental
Question No. 2 to Minister
2. Prisoners—Human Rights
3. Community Safety—Policing
4. Employment Relations Act—Unions
5. Work and Income—Job Partnerships
6. Employment Relations Act—Individual Agreements
8. Rail Services—Planning
10. Employment—Small to Medium Businesses
11. Thailand—Trade Agreement
Question No. 12 to Minister
Question No. 11 to Minister
Questions to Members
Foreshore and Seabed Bill—Submissions
Civil Union Bill—Submissions
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Care of Children Bill—Parental Responsibility
1. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that the Care of Children Bill supports parents in fulfilling their responsibilities to their children; if so, why?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes. In addition to establishing a principle that the welfare and best interests of a child are to be paramount, the bill acknowledges the primary responsibility of parents in the care of their children, and contains a number of provisions to support that role.
Murray Smith: Does he see the irony that the parents of a girl aged between 11 and 16 years are required to know whether she is fed, her whereabouts, that she is attending school, not drinking alcohol, not taking other drugs, and her progress at school, yet are excluded from information that is necessary to help them provide such care and support if she seeks an abortion or is sexually assaulted; if not, how does he answer the concerns of the loving mother of the 14-year-old girl who was raped and contracted a sexually transmitted disease, yet she was not told this critical information even though the events affected all those aspects of her daughter’s life?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I understand that most young women do involve their parents in such decisions and that it is best practice for health professionals to encourage them to do so. However, in the small number of cases where young women do not involve their parents there are good reasons not to, such as an abusive family environment. It is exactly that protection that the Supplementary Order Paper to the bill seeks to remove.
Moana Mackey: What does he believe would be the result of Parliament overturning the consensus of the last 27 years regarding the rights of young women to seek professional medical advice, to make their own decisions about pregnancy and abortion, and to have the privacy of that decision protected?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am advised by health professionals, and agree with them entirely, that interfering with the current law will lead to more dangerous later-term abortions, the increased risk of dangerous self-induced abortions, and an increased risk of unsafe, illegal. backyard abortions. That is also the advice of the New Zealand Medical Association and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, which between them represent some 5,000 health professionals in this country.
Judith Collins: What message did he think he was giving to paedophiles and child abusers when he said, in relation to a 12-year-old girl, that if she is sexually mature and she is pregnant, she is also a woman?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I meant that it would be quite wrong to assume that young women are not capable of being involved in this kind of decision making and that their views should not be ignored, as is being advocated by National, simply because of their age. Neither the current law, nor the royal commission of inquiry 27 years ago, thought that an appropriate course of action.
Dail Jones: Why does the Government intend to pursue this bill, which fails to deal adequately with the care of children in violent relationships; and if it does intend to continue with the bill, will there be a lengthy Supplementary Order Paper to deal with its failings?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not agree with the premise of the questioner. The answer to whether we will continue with the bill is yes.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether there will be a Supplementary Order Paper, and I did not get a response to that question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a previous question. The Minister has to address only one, if he wishes, as I ruled.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sometimes members ask three questions at the same time. I asked only two questions. Are you now saying that Ministers have to answer only one?
Mr SPEAKER: As I said before, that is up to the Minister.
Murray Smith: Does the Associate Minister accept that the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion, in recommending on page 277 of its 1977 report that a girl should have the final right of say in abortion, predicated that on the assumption that the parents would have had an opportunity not only to know of the situation, but to participate in the child’s counselling sessions?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware of the recommendation of the royal commission, that the removal of this right of a young woman would be cruel and unnatural.
Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a transcript of yesterday’s Morning Report programme, quoting the honourable Minister, David Benson-Pope, referring to a 12-year-old girl as being sexually mature and pregnant, and that she is then also a woman.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I seek leave to table three documents. The first one is a letter from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the New Zealand Medical Association.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The second document is a public address web log of yesterday, referring to this issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The third one is a briefing paper from the American Civil Liberties Union in the United States on this matter.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Question No. 2 to Minister
Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition): This question stands in my name, and was originally addressed to the Prime Minister. It was accepted by the Clerk’s Office in that form. I was later advised that it had been transferred to the Minister of Justice. The question was addressed to the Prime Minister because it deals with an offer from the National Party to support the Government in very important legislation. Only the Prime Minister, I suggest, can answer that question appropriately. I therefore seek leave of the House to have the question transferred to the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to do that. Is there any objection? There is.
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Justice: Will the Government accept an offer from the National Party to pass through all stages this week a bill to prevent convicted criminals from collecting significant taxpayer compensation for alleged human rights breaches; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER (Acting Minister of Justice): No, but the Government will look forward to National Party support when the Minister of Justice does bring a bill before Parliament. The Government wants to ensure that the bill is properly drafted.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Minister seen reports of lawyer Tony Ellis asserting that he is preparing to lodge claims for another 18 prisoners before the Minister could change the law; if so, why, in light of his earlier tough statements on the issue, would he not accept National Party help to facilitate legislation passing through all stages this week?
Hon RICK BARKER: I am aware that the lawyer referred to is filing applications. I have said that the Government will accept the National Party’s offer of support when the bill is properly drafted. There are complex issues that need to be gone through, and this Government will move expeditiously to bring a bill before the House.
Dave Hereora: Why is the Government moving on the issue of compensation payments made to inmates?
Hon RICK BARKER: Most New Zealanders would agree that the harm suffered by inmates pales into insignificance when compared with the harm done by offenders to their victims. That is why the Ministry of Justice is working on a law change that will ensure that victims, who have in all likelihood never been compensated for the harm done to them, have the first call on any such payments.
Ron Mark: Is it not the case that despite all the rhetoric we have heard from the Government as to how unacceptable this is, this Government has, in fact, faced this situation on numerous occasions, such as the case of the man in Dunedin who was let out of prison, got $40,000, and did not pay the $500 that he owed in reparation to the barber whom he had punched in the mouth; and can the Minister tell the House what, after a record of doing nothing for 5 years, it has taken him to move to do something now?
Hon RICK BARKER: This Government has worked very hard on law and order and justice issues in the last 5 years. The fact is that the number of police on the road is up, the number of people being caught and convicted is going up, and the number of people in prison is going up. In addition to that, the crime rate is falling. This Government has an outstanding record on law and order issues, and this issue will be fixed.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister tell the House what would be just about a law that allowed a millionaire to murder, to be sentenced to prison, and to keep all of his or her assets, but that, if a poor person were to be tortured in prison, would remove his or her basic right to compensation?
Hon RICK BARKER: This is a matter for the courts to decide. If a person was a millionaire and did conduct a regime of torture, then the victim could very well take a common law case against him or her for compensation. This legislation is not going to change that at all.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister may have misunderstood my question. My question was about a millionaire who murdered someone and went to prison. There was no reparation order granted, so none of that person’s assets would be lost, whereas an inmate who was in prison and was tortured would, under this proposal, lose his or her right to compensation.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard the question that was asked. I could see that it was open to two possible interpretations. The Minister chose which one he was going to give, and he is entitled to do so.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that prisoners alleging breaches of human rights have a number of avenues for complaint, but that in most recent cases those avenues were not exhausted before the inmates took their case to the High Court; if so, will he change the law to ensure that prisoners must attempt to exhaust those other avenues for complaint before they start to hire lawyers?
Hon RICK BARKER: That could well be part of the consideration of the legislation that the Government comes back with. I think that is a very good suggestion, and we will take it into account.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Minister seen reports that state another 200 prisoners may be eligible for compensation from the Department of Corrections; if so, can we take it from his refusal to accept the National Party’s offer of immediate assistance that he has no intention of backing up his tough words with tough actions?
Hon RICK BARKER: That member has the answer completely wrong. This Government will take tough action. This Government will go through the legislation and get it right first time. We are not going to act rashly and quickly, and get it wrong—that may be the National Party’s style of doing it, but it is not the Government’s style.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers—and particularly the answer to my colleague Ron Mark as to why this legislation is taking so long—does the Minister recall that some years ago the Government paid out something like $340,000 on the instructions of the Hon Margaret Wilson, with much of it going to that ratbag who took to a police sergeant with a screwdriver; can I ask the Minister again why it has taken so long to address this issue?
Hon RICK BARKER: I cannot give the member a precise answer on that, but I can give him a precise answer on this: this Government will introduce law to fix this problem expeditiously—watch this space.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that if the Department of Corrections is unable to segregate prisoners due to claims that that breaches human rights, then allowing dangerous inmates to mix with the general prison population could also potentially breach the right of other prisoners and Department of Corrections staff to their safety; if so, whose rights should prevail?
Hon RICK BARKER: That is more a matter for the Minister of Corrections than for the Minister of Justice, but I would make these two quick comments: firstly, the Government does accept that prisoners have basic minimum rights and that those rights should be adhered to, and, secondly, that Department of Corrections staff must have the ability to control and manage prisoners in their care.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Minister explain why, when it has become clear that up to 200 prisoners may be able to claim up to $4.5 million in compensation from the Department of Corrections, he has refused to even consider the offer from the National Party to get legislation through immediately without delay, or can we take it that he simply does not care?
Hon RICK BARKER: This Government cares very much, but I want to make the point to the member that this was an issue—
Opposition Members: Ah! [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am not having Mr Power interjecting at me, and he knows he is out of order. [Interruption] He did. He interjected in the second person. He should not have done so, and I am warning him. He has done that a lot of times today. I want the Minister to now continue with the answer.
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The comment that I made was: “Why doesn’t the Prime Minister answer?”.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that was not the comment that I ruled the member out of order on. He said: “Tell me …”, and all that sort of thing after that. I did not rule that comment out.
Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on this matter, because Mr Power has just given the House a very firm undertaking as to what he did or did not say in the earlier exchange. You know that members are obliged to accept the word of other members in situations like that, but it appeared to me that you may have been casting doubt on Mr Power’s comment. I want to be assured that you were not doing that.
Mr SPEAKER: I was not. I did not rule the member’s interjection out when he referred to the Prime Minister; he is entitled to do so in that way. I ruled subsequent interjections out of order.
Hon RICK BARKER: I want to assure that member and the House that this Government does take this issue seriously. I would also like to make the observation that this issue arose weeks ago, and it is only now that the National Party is issuing press statements and jumping up and down in this House. I say to Don Brash that he should catch up with where the Government is at. We are miles ahead of him; we have done lots of policy work so far.
Dr Don Brash: What responsibility will the Minister take if a prisoner receives a compensation payout before his proposed law is passed, or will he just hope that it will be someone else’s problem when it is, in fact, paid?
Hon RICK BARKER: I am sure that the Minister of Justice takes this responsibility very seriously and, secondly—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has not finished.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not appropriate for a Minister answering on behalf of a Minister—who is answering on behalf of the Prime Minister—to say that if the Minister who was initially to answer on behalf of the Prime Minister but who is not here was here, he would think that. Surely, he should answer as if he were the Minister of Justice.
Mr SPEAKER: And the first comments the member made were: “the Minister of Justice”, etc. I presume he was referring to himself.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What he actually said was: “I am sure that the Minister of Justice …”
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that is the same thing.
Gerry Brownlee: I would have thought that if he were answering for himself he would be a little more certain, rather than expressing some doubt about what he is saying.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon RICK BARKER: This matter is taken very seriously by the Government. A good deal of policy work has been done, and I have given the member an assurance that legislation will be brought into this House as expeditiously as possible, and it will be thoroughly worked out. I make the point yet again that the Government had been working on this issue for 2 weeks before the National Party put out a press statement.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to clarify your earlier ruling. I realise I should have brought this point of order up immediately, but I was obviously hesitant to raise it because I do not want to be seen to be challenging your ruling in any way. You ruled, Mr Speaker, that my question could have been interpreted in a way consistent with the Minister’s answer. In my question—to give you the actual wording—I asked the Minister about a situation that allowed a millionaire to murder, to be sentenced to prison, and to keep all his or her assets. I am asking for your clarification, because I do not see how that question could have been interpreted in line with that answer. I am pushing the point because I think it is important that the Minister justify what is a significant proposal to remove the right of inmates to go to the law—a proposal that is not being questioned by any other party in this House. The Greens have an important role in standing up for these fundamental human rights.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not agree with the member. The Minister addressed the question by dealing with whether a civil action could be brought against the millionaire.
Nandor Tanczos: My question did not refer at all to whether civil proceedings could be brought against that millionaire.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot carry on with this. I could not quite understand the member’s question. The Minister addressed it as he heard it. I adjudged that he addressed that question.
3. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does he have any concerns that police face impediments to working collaboratively with other Government agencies and the public to ensure community safety?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Police: Generally, no.
Ron Mark: How acceptable is it to the Minister that in the case of Jesse Moore, who killed his father’s former partner only hours after he was freed on bail for attempting to kill his workmate, the arresting officer stated: “From my point of view, this was a totally preventable homicide. If they had kept him in, done the assessment, recognised there was [a history of] bipolar disorder—there was no reason for that woman to die.”; if it is, what does he intend to do about it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The statement was made by a senior police officer and clearly he felt there was a failure in the mental health system. That—problems with the mental health system—is, of course, not the responsibility of the Minister of Police. There is certainly no objection to be taken to the statement made by the police officer.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister read the police statement of intent that gives a commitment to “ensuring communities are adequately protected from crime through a whole-of-Government response that fits within the framework of the Crime Reduction Strategy.”; and can he tell the House how a totally preventable homicide was able to occur, given that rather noble statement?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that statement does represent the view of the Government. Judgments occur within the system, and sometimes those judgments are wrong, and sometimes those wrong judgments have tragic effects. That clearly was the case in this instance.
Hon Tony Ryall: Who will be held accountable for the granting of bail in this case?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The police opposed the granting of bail in this case, supported by the family. Clearly, in the end, the responsibility lies with the courts in the granting of bail.
Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that the reason we are seeing totally preventable homicides committed, such as in this case and the McNee case, is because the Minister, by his own admission, takes no active interest in his portfolio, asks no questions of the police regarding cases of high public interest, does not lobby vigorously enough to have changes made in other departments that affect policing, and, indeed, is quite divorced from policing to the extent that he is about to be replaced?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, but what the Minister will not do is act illegally. As long ago as March 1993—and I would be interested to know what the circumstances were for the Solicitor-General being asked for this opinion—the Solicitor-General stated, at that point, in terms of the constitutional relationship between the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Police: “The Minister may not direct the Commissioner in the latter’s duty to enforce the criminal law either in particular cases or classes of case.”
Employment Relations Act—Unions
4. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that the amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 “will enable unions to be more effective and thereby give a stronger basis for recruitment.”; if so, how do the amendments give unions a stronger basis for recruitment?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, I stand by the full statement, which was: “The passage of the forthcoming amendments to the Employment Relations Act cannot guarantee growth in union membership, but they will enable unions to be more effective and thereby give a stronger basis for recruitment.” That is because Labour believes that more effective rules around collective bargaining do benefit workers.
Dr Don Brash: Can she confirm that the bill now before the House proposes a $10,000 fine for breach of good faith where an employer offers terms and conditions to a non-union employee that are similar to those in the collective agreement; and can she tell the House what the objective of that provision could be, if it is not to undermine completely the notion of voluntary unionism in this country?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding, in terms of the penalty in the Act applying to a breach of good faith—a fine of $10,000—is that where an employer’s bad behaviour also has effectively sabotaged the employees’ collective employment agreement, and the only effective remedy is to set the terms and conditions of the agreement, the Employment Relations Act can do that. Bad faith is viewed very dimly on this side of the House.
Rod Donald: Why does the Labour Government support the right of New Zealand workers to bargain collectively, when it is undermining those very same workers by negotiating a preferential trade deal with Thailand—a country that refuses to ratify ILO Convention 98, thereby denying Thai workers the same rights to organise and bargain collectively?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government does not accept for a moment that any trade agreement it enters into with the Government of Thailand will undermine workers’ rights there.
Paul Adams: Can she confirm that the provisions in the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill that make it a breach of good faith for an employer to do anything that induces people not to join a union include paying non-union staff the same or more than union members?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only refer the member to the Minister’s statement yesterday that the select committee’s key recommendations clarify that employers can pay employees on individual agreements the same rates as are paid to employees on collective agreements, provided that the bargaining has been carried out in good faith.
Dr Don Brash: Can she confirm the announcement made by the Minister of Labour yesterday that in order to receive pay and conditions similar to those of their unionised colleagues the majority of New Zealand workers, who have chosen not to be members of unions, will now be forced either to join a union or to write out a sizable cheque to a union; if so, does she honestly believe that it is consistent with voluntary unionism?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I cannot confirm any such thing. The Minister’s statement, which I have just read to the House, is quite specific that there is nothing to stop people from being paid the same, provided that good-faith provisions are followed. What I can confirm is that I heard on Morning Report this morning that the business community is broadly happy with the Employment Relations Act—a statement made by Dr Don Brash.
Rod Donald: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the Prime Minister misinterpreted my question. I made it very clear I was talking about the rights of New Zealand workers being undermined. She commented about the rights of Thai workers being undermined, and I would like to give her the opportunity to answer the original question.
Mr SPEAKER: I was pretty generous in allowing the question, because it was right outside the scope of the original question. The Prime Minister did address the question, however.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has just told the House that she heard on Morning Report this morning evidence that the business community likes the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill. All the evidence that we have had before the select committee suggests that the business community does not like the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill. It seems to me that the Prime Minister has been quite misleading.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would be more than happy to table the member’s transcript from this morning where, when the member was asked about the Employment Relations Act, he said: “ Secondly, we would review the Employment Relations Act. I think the business community is broadly happy with that Act.”
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister has attributed a statement to the Leader of the Opposition. If he disputes that the statement is his, he is entitled to do so.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This whole question has been about the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, or the amendments to the Employment Relations Act. I was asked on radio this morning what we would do with the Employment Relations Act, and I said the business community is broadly happy with it. It is very unhappy with the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That may well be so, although, of course, its members did not say that at the time the bill was passed. The fact is that the Prime Minister, in her answer, referred to the Employment Relations Act.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, all I can say is this is a matter which is debatable.
Work and Income—Job Partnerships
5. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has he received on Work and Income job partnerships with industry to assist people into employment?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Work and Income has established job partnerships with five major industry groups. They are hospitality, road transport, retail, master plumbers, and roading. Job partnerships with industry create formal agreements ensuring industry skill and labour needs are met, and that people currently on the unemployment benefit gain sustainable job opportunities. Further partnerships are being developed in areas such as the meat industry and construction, all of which are helping push our unemployment numbers down to the lowest they have been in 20 years.
Moana Mackey: What other reports has he received on alternative measures to assist people off benefits and into real jobs?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen reports that ask the unemployed to queue outside post offices, and reports about work-for-the-dole schemes and raising the age of eligibility for superannuation. None of those schemes would get one person a real job. We were, of course, promised a full welfare policy from the once-great National Party, but I now understand that divisions and splits in the caucus mean they have nothing to say.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you going to allow that sort of answer to stand? Whilst you might want to say that it is just a debating point, I think it invites disorder and that it will make it very difficult for you to maintain a reasonable standard of behaviour in the House if Ministers are able to get away with that sort of free shot and total misrepresentation of the truth when they finish an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say to the member—
Gerry Brownlee: I haven’t finished.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I have. Points of order must be expressed tersely. I think what the member says has some validity in it and that the last comments made by the Minister were out of order. I take the point that the member makes.
Bill Gudgeon: Will the Minister tell the House why it is that after 5 years with a Labour Government we have so many people unskilled in literacy and numeracy, and can the Minister give a figure on those who fall into this category?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The identification of adult literacy as a major problem has, of course, been a focus of this Government. We understand that literally hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders need their skills lifted, which is exactly why, over the last 5 years, we have spent tens of millions of dollars—now hundreds of millions of dollars—lifting the skill base of New Zealand. We are focused heavily on adult literacy and numeracy.
Employment Relations Act—Individual Agreements
6. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Labour: Why has the Government introduced a bill making it a breach of good faith for an employer to enter into an individual agreement which has the effect of undermining a collective agreement, given the statement by Graeme Harrison, chairman of ANZCO Food Limited, that in the “bad old days” the unions “led by people not employed on site, effectively controlled the plant yet were not interested in addressing issues to ensure its survival.”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): The objectives of the Employment Relations Act are, among other things, to promote collective bargaining while maintaining the integrity of individual choice. The Employment Relations Law Reform Bill is clear, therefore, that individual employment agreements should reflect genuine individual bargaining. However, the bill also makes it clear that employers may pay employees on individual agreements the same, or substantially the same, as those on collective agreements, provided the bargaining is carried out in good faith. These are not the “bad old days”.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why did the Government change clause 19 of the bill in the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee so that employers now face a penalty of up to $10,000, simply because they offer an employee an individual contract that might have the effect of undermining a collective contract, when all employers want to do is to ensure that employees on individual contracts get a reasonable rate of pay?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have said before, the bill makes it clear that employers can pay employees on individual contracts the same, or substantially the same, as those on collective contracts, provided they act and bargain in good faith. What can be wrong with that?
Helen Duncan: Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting that the Employment Relations Act is working well?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen a report from someone who stated that he thought the business community was broadly happy with that Act. This contrasts sharply with comments made in October 2003 by the same person, that the Employment Relations Act would be scrapped. Those comments come from Dr Don Brash, the leader of the National Party. It seems that the Employment Relations Act was to be gone by lunchtime but now may be here until teatime.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why would the Government legislatively force employers to conclude collective agreements that effectively promote multi-employer collective agreements, when it is precisely those types of agreements that caused so many problems on the waterfront when there was a single national award that led to huge strikes?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I understand from my colleague who is the chairman of the select committee that multi-employer collective agreements were the subject of a lot of submissions. One of the things the employers objected to was that employers would be forced to go to the first meeting, and the select committee in its wisdom decided to take out that provision.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Is the Minister aware that the Government has now made it a requirement of good faith to force employers to conclude a collective agreement, even though an employer may oppose or object in principle to a collective agreement, and has added a new penal provision with a $10,000 fine?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The answer is yes. The employers are required to negotiate in good faith to fulfil one of the objectives of the Employment Relations Act, which the leader of the National Party now supports and says is working well—that is, to promote collective bargaining.
7. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers, and what is her view on her Minister of Police telling Parliament the police are “unable to comment” on whether the Prime Minister has been interviewed by the police investigating the Prime Minister’s speeding motorcade?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, and the Minister’s comment was appropriate.
Rodney Hide: In respect of the Prime Minister’s expectation that her Ministers be upfront and honest, will she advise whether she herself has been interviewed by the police investigating the speeding motorcade; and if she has not been interviewed, what sort of whitewash investigation is under way here?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, Ministers are not commenting on matters currently before a police investigation.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Prime Minister at any time had knowledge that the police were exceeding the speed limit in meeting her travel arrangements to the rugby?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat that the Government is not commenting on any matters before a police investigation.
Hon Ken Shirley: In light of the Prime Minister’s expressed confidence in all of her Ministers, does she support the expressed views of the Minister for Rural Affairs, who is promoting public access over New Zealand farmland, and does she concede that in some people’s eyes this is akin to the public having free access to roam over the backyard of her Mount Albert villa?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Nothing that the Minister for Rural Affairs, or any member of the Government, said suggests that a right to roam is being considered. However, the Minister commissioned an excellent report from John Acland in a reference group. We have been working on how to proceed with the general spirit of that report.
Heather Roy: Given the Prime Minister’s confidence in her Minister of Health, why did the Minister of Health oversee a cut in the real per-person health spending in the 2001-02 financial year, and why did the Minister of Health underspend last year’s health operating budget by over $188 million when she has 31,000 Kiwis waiting for operations, on active review?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is clear these questions are becoming an opportunity for people to raise any subject under the sun without notice. The Minister of Health has an excellent record in getting waiting times down, and in this Budget we have provided for the number of hip and knee-joint operations to be doubled over the next 4 years, helping many elderly people.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question was entirely in order. If the Prime Minister does not want to front up—
Government Members: Aw!
Mr SPEAKER: I am about to ask somebody to leave.
Rodney Hide: I ask the Speaker not to ask the Prime Minister to leave, because we are so happy to have her here.
Mr SPEAKER: Will the member please carry on with the point of order or it will be the member who leaves.
Rodney Hide: That question was entirely in order, and you accepted it. The Prime Minister, rather than taking a point of order and questioning it, directed you, saying: “Oh, well, what’s now happening is we’re having these questions without notice put down.”, as though suggesting they were somehow out of order. Never once—I know she said some words—did she address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: First of all, the member is wrong. I allowed the question because it was in order. However, if members ask supplementary questions in such generality they cannot expect a detailed answer to every point made.
Stephen Franks: Why does the Prime Minister claim confidence in all her Ministers when the Minister of Justice has just spurned Dr Brash’s offer this week to save the taxpayer from more outrageous payments of damages to prisoners, and, of course, the accompanying millions in lawyers’ fees, and to what extent is this reluctance to intervene owing to embarrassment that these human rights damages awards are the product of naked judicial activism so long favoured by her friend the Attorney-General?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I fear on this occasion that I cannot blame it on judicial activism. The Government will be very happy to accept the support of any party in the House for the properly drafted legislation it brings to the House.
Deborah Coddington: What is her opinion on her Minister of Health’s advice that Christchurch families, whose children were examined by a medical officer of health at Glenelg Children’s Health Camp, should take their complaints to the Medical Council, and is this not a case of the Labour Government trying to avoid the legal implications that the Ministry of Health warned of in its confidential briefing of October 2003 by dumping the problem on a doctor who has not been registered for 8 years?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This House has spent endless time since I have been elected to it looking at medical disciplinary procedures, and the independent Health and Disability Commissioner’s legislation. Both are entirely appropriate places to direct such complaints.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of her confidence in the Minister of Police, what is her response to reports that police officers are being pulled away from emergency response duties, forcing them to act as untrained guards to the hundreds of prisoners being kept in dangerous and chaotic conditions in police cells?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My response is that the sooner the new cells are ready, the better.
Rodney Hide: In light of her Minister’s inability, in 5 years, to draft legislation to stop the prison payouts, will she accept the National Party’s offer of support this week if ACT drafts this legislation this week?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not expect the ACT party’s research unit is any more capable of drafting the legislation than the National Party’s research unit.
8. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What plans, if any, has the Government for rail in New Zealand?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): I am delighted to announce today that this Government is releasing a draft rail strategy for public comment. The strategy details how and why we are to invest an initial $200 million to upgrade and restore the rail network. We want more passengers and freight to go by rail, for the benefit of business, the economy, local communities, and the environment, and to help reduce congestion on our roads.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen comment that “The Government has no place in the rail business.”, and what is his response to such comment?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have. It reflects an approach of starving our transport infrastructure of investment for ideological reasons. It fits with one of the most incompetent privatisations ever seen; our rail system was sold for a song with no guarantees as to service or safety, the profits made a rapid exit to the Lake Geneva shoreline, and subsequent investment was minimal. Who would do that? The answer, of course, is the National Party.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that there is another alternative to using congested roads, and that is coastal shipping, and what is he doing about enhancing or developing coastal shipping?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I certainly am aware of that alternative, and I think the member makes a very good point. It is very clear that a sustainable inshore or coastal shipping service is in New Zealand’s best interests, and I do not know of anyone who disagrees with that.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How many years, and how much taxpayers’ money, does he expect it to take to restore our rail system to the state it was in before Ruth Richardson sold it, and Fay Richwhite milked it dry?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It has been 11 long years since that incompetent decision was taken, and this Government will have the rail system back on its wheels well within that time.
9. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with Transit New Zealand chairman, David Stubbs’, reported comments that “with the nationwide gap in funding for new roads, Transit’s approach tended to be that if a project can be tolled, then toll it.”; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): No. I am required in law to assess whether any proposal for road tolling has community support, and meets the Government’s transport objectives. It is those criteria, rather than funding, against which I must make each decision.
Peter Brown: Do I take it from the Minister’s comment that if there is no public support for tolling the second bridge in Tauranga, the second bridge will go ahead funded by Transfund?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, the member cannot take that conclusion from that statement.
Lynne Pillay: What comments has the Minister read on whether tolling should be used on New Zealand roads?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen two reports. One states: “Tolls can support borrowing to provide additional funds for roads.”, and the second states: “I am not looking to raise additional money from the tolls.” The source of those contradictory positions is the leader of the National Party, Dr Don Brash.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Given that one of the most-vaunted aspects of the Land Transport Management Act was that it would bring the private sector into New Zealand roading—we are one of the few countries that still does not have private sector roading—and that tolling would be introduced by the private sector, can he tell the House how many private sector projects we now have, and when he expects any more to come on stream?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The roads are, of course, built by the private sector now; it is just that they are built under contract and paid for with taxpayer funding. Should the private sector wish to stump up with its own money and go through a community support programme to see whether a road can be tolled, then we might get our first one away.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does he have in mind any funding to improve the efficiency with which existing roads are used—for example, providing vehicles that would transport 40 people rather than one—and is he convinced that Transit has fully accepted the new priorities under the new Act?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member asks a very good question, and the best answer comes from an examination of likely expenditure trends from Transfund over the next 10 years. If one takes a careful look at, for example, road passenger transport, it is very clear that Transfund will put in place the Government’s policy of a sustainable transport system.
Larry Baldock: Would the Minister have any advice about how counterproductive and detrimental to the interests of Tauranga it would be for some individuals to stir up opposition to tolling for personal political interest, in the light of his statement reported in the New Zealand Herald yesterday: “Even if the Tauranga harbour bridge were declared a state highway, that did not mean the $190 million harbour link project would be built as a non-toll road, Mr Hodgson warned. ‘You would still have this thing that looks like a tolling project, barks like a tolling project and probably is a tolling project.’ ”?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The conclusion of that quote is that I asked whether there was community support for it, and that does remain the question. The point that is often made in this House is that somehow the Government can borrow to fund that particular scheme without having any way of servicing the loan. Frankly, that is a resurgence of social credit.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister tell us precisely whether, if the Tauranga community says a firm “No” to tolling, the bridge project will have to wait, or will it be funded by some alternative method?
Hon PETE HODGSON: At the moment the bridge is on nobody’s plan, so I guess that it will not happen soon unless it is able to be tolled or part-funded. However, the decision on whether it should be tolled is mine, and that, in turn, depends on a high level of community support, or on the bridge being put into a regional land transport strategy.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister acknowledge that the harbour bridge in Tauranga services the foremost export port in this country, that the current bridge has been paid for umpteen times by Tauranga residents, and that it would be immoral and unethical to impose a toll on the second bridge?
Hon PETE HODGSON: In respect of the importance of the Port of Tauranga to the Bay of Plenty and to New Zealand, and, indeed, in respect of the very significant growth being faced by the Western Bay of Plenty, I strongly agree with the first part of the member’s comments.
Employment—Small to Medium Businesses
10. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister for Small Business: What data has he received on the contribution that small to medium enterprises have made to employment in the economy?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Small Business): I am advised that of the net 193,980 full-time employment positions created between 1997 and 2063, 162,150 of those positions will have been created by enterprises employing 19 or fewer fulltime equivalents. This data will be included in a report produced by the Ministry of Economic Development and Statistics New Zealand, which will be released next week. The report is entitled SMEs in New Zealand: Structure and Dynamics.
Mark Peck: What other evidence has the Minister seen of strong growth in the small to medium enterprise sector?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: According to the National Bank’s July Small Business Monitor, small business growth has exceeded that for the economy as a whole for eight quarters in a row. Annual average growth for the small business sector was estimated at 4.7 percent, compared with 3.6 percent overall. This wealth of evidence runs contrary to yesterday’s claims by the Auckland chamber of commerce—the bow-tied one—that small to medium enterprises appear to be passing up growth opportunities because of their inability to delegate red tape and compliance tasks. I am yet to receive any concrete evidence to support this claim.
Paul Adams: Is the Minister concerned, given the large contribution small to medium enterprises make to employment, about the effect their high failure rate of approximately 75 percent has on workers’ feeling of job security or lack thereof; if so, what does he intend to do about it?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I would be grateful if the member could listen to the answer to the original question in regard to the number of full-time employment positions being created by small businesses. They are going forward in leaps and bounds in the engine room of the economy. More particularly, I would like to table a note after this question, which indicates a number of difficulties in jumping to his conclusion that there is a so-called 75 percent death rate. That is not correct.
I seek leave to table a document created for me that explores the difficulty people would have in jumping to conclusions wrongfully.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
11. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: When she met with the Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in July to discuss progress on a trade deal between New Zealand and Thailand, did she raise any concerns regarding environmental and labour standards and human rights abuses in Thailand; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The New Zealand Government has raised trade and environment issues in the context of the negotiation of the trade agreement, and the approach we are taking was canvassed in my meeting with Mr Thaksin.
Rod Donald: Why is her Government negotiating a preferential trade deal with a country that routinely exploits child workers and flouts International Labour Organization conventions on child labour?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government acts in the belief that if Thailand’s economy grows through trade, its living standards will rise and Thais will be able to negotiate better pay and conditions.
Rod Donald: Did the Prime Minister ask Prime Minister Thaksin what benefit he and his family are likely to gain from a preferential trade deal with New Zealand, given that they personally own at least 10 percent of the Thai stock exchange, as well as vast assets in unlisted companies?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No.
Rod Donald: Did she ask him why he suppressed information about the bird flu outbreak in Thailand until after it had spread to neighbouring countries and infected large numbers of workers; and is that the kind of behaviour her Government rewards with a preferential trade deal?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, nor can I see any relationship of that to the primary question.
Rod Donald: Is the Prime Minister confident that the removal of the 19 percent tariff on this Nike jacket, which was made in a Thai sweat shop and sells in New Zealand at Rebel Sport for $160, would reduce its retail price and lift the 78c hourly wage rate paid to the women clothing workers who made it; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Whether or not that reduces the price will be entirely a matter for competitive forces here in New Zealand.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Prime Minister any reason to believe that if New Zealand took action to prevent the sale of products produced in Thailand, that may reduce the 78c-an-hour wage rate?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It almost certainly would do so if the Thais could not export their goods here.
Rod Donald: I seek leave to table an article from the Melbourne Age from 3 July—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will ask Mr Donald to start again.
Rod Donald: I seek leave to table an article from the Age from 3 July, which highlights the conflict of interests Prime Minister Thaksin has in relation to trade deals.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Question No. 12 to Minister
Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty): I seek leave to hold this question over until Mr Hawkins is in a position to be in the House to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to hold the question over. Is there any objection? There is.
Question No. 11 to Minister
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It goes back to the leave sought by Mr Donald. I want to indicate to him that I am quite happy to give leave for him to table the jacket. I would not like to think that the Green Party was taking advantage of sweat labour in Thailand.
Mr SPEAKER: Unfortunately, as the member knows, that is not quite a point of order.
12. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Has he received any reports from police on offending rates while on bail; if so, what do those reports say?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Police: I am advised that the police have not provided any recent reports on offending rates while on bail. The most comprehensive report that I am aware of is a report prepared by the Ministry of Justice, which was published in January 2003. The report showed that the number of violent cases that involved a remand on bail almost doubled between 1990 and 1999.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has he sought any background or other briefing on the Jesse Moore case to assist him in the House this afternoon; if so, what does that information detail?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have not had time to have a specific briefing on the Jesse Moore case in any form of detail.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does he think that the Bail Act is putting public safety first, in light of the reported incident, and does he think any amendments are needed to the Bail Act when bail can be granted to a man in an obvious acute psychotic state?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the purpose of the Bail Act is quite clear in that regard. As I indicated in an answer to a previous question, the decision was made by the court. The police opposed bail—backed by the family in that instance. If there was any problem, clearly it was in terms of the mental health elements. It is doubtful, therefore, that any different result would have occurred unless there had been a different judgment by mental health professionals.
Hon Tony Ryall: On what basis does the Minister draw that information about the performance of the mental health authorities in this case, and does he fear that further action may be needed to investigate this case to prevent another Burton situation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The only information I have to hand is the comments by a senior police officer in the newspaper in this instance. I have no other information to hand.
Questions to Members
Foreshore and Seabed Bill—Submissions
1. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Chairperson of the Fisheries and Other Sea-related Legislation Committee: How much time has the committee set aside to listen to submissions on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill?
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Chairperson of the Fisheries and Other Sea-related Legislation Committee): Yesterday the committee confirmed the dates of 15 September, 16 September, 20 September, and 4 October to hear submissions.
Gerry Brownlee: On which of those dates will Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta present her oral submission to the committee?
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: The committee resolved to receive late submissions with a cut-off date of 12 August, and to receive no submissions after that. Ms Mahuta’s submission was received on 26 August.
Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked on what date the submission would be heard.
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: It was received outside the parameters set by the committee, so at this stage there is no date set.
Hon Ken Shirley: Could the chairman tell the House how Nanaia Mahuta’s submission managed to meet the criteria, when some 3,000 submitters were denied the opportunity to be heard by the committee?
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: It did not meet the criteria.
Mr SPEAKER: The member said that it was not going to be heard. He said it did not meet the criteria.
Civil Union Bill—Submissions
2. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee: What criteria did the committee use to determine which submitters out of the hundreds of submissions received on the Civil Union Bill would be allowed to submit orally?
TIM BARNETT (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): The Justice and Electoral Committee agreed on, and is implementing, the criterion that every submitter who requested to be heard would be invited to submit orally. Therefore, we will be hearing up to 389 submissions.
Larry Baldock: Can the chairperson advise the House how many submissions have been received on the Civil Union Bill to this date—both complete submissions and form, 1-page submissions?
TIM BARNETT: Certainly. The committee has received 3,263 individual submissions and 2,907 form submissions.