Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 15 September
Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 1 to Minister
1. Justice, Acting Minister—Prisoners' Compensation
2. Boys—School to Work Transition
3. Health Services—Pacific Children
4. Fisheries—Wage Compliance
5. Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Unions
6. Drugs—International Trafficking
7. Health Services—Waiting Lists
8. Patient Safety—Ministerial Responsibility
10. Resource Management Act—Proposed Changes
11. Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Small Business
12. Government Initiatives—Sporting, Cultural, and Business Events
Questions to Ministers
Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 1 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We notice that this question has survived today to go to the Prime Minister, but we know, in fact, that it is to be answered by the Deputy Prime Minister—and he has just acknowledged that. We are wondering what the rules are for the transfer of questions. You will appreciate, Mr Speaker, that yesterday we set down pretty much the same question to the Prime Minister. She transferred it to the Acting Minister of Justice. We notice that the Acting Minister of Justice, although he clearly did not answer yesterday and did not appear to know what was going on, is in the House today, yet the question has been left on the Order Paper in the name of the Prime Minister and is to be answered by the Deputy Prime Minister. Can we assume that, if the Prime Minister cannot answer it and the Acting Minister to whom it is transferred makes a hash of it, sooner or later it will end up with the Deputy Prime Minister, and maybe we should just send the question there in the first place?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows the Standing Orders. He is just trifling with the House. It is at the discretion of the Government.
Questions for Oral Answer
Justice, Acting Minister—Prisoners' Compensation
1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is she satisfied with the performance of her Acting Minister of Justice who yesterday rejected a National Party offer to facilitate urgent legislation removing the entitlement of prisoners to compensation from the Department of Corrections, in light of news reports that 18 new compensation claims have now been lodged; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because legislation needs to be effective, well drafted, and well considered. Rushed legislation would be likely to be none of those, as the member might consider when he thinks about the difference between his question yesterday and his question today.
Dr Don Brash: What message does the Prime Minister wish to give to the victims of 18 of New Zealand’s worst prisoners in Auckland’s maximum security prison now that those inmates have been able to lodge claims for large sums of compensation, only because her Government refused to accept the offer of cooperation from the National Party?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member cares to read his question today, he will see that what he is asking for today is a bill to remove the entitlement of prisoners to compensation. Yesterday his question proposed that a bill be passed to prevent prisoners from collecting significant taxpayer compensation. There is a significant difference between the two. In the case of yesterday’s question, it was implied that compensation would be payable but then paid to the victims, which is the Government’s position. Today he is proposing that no compensation be payable, which would open up our prisons to any form of activity without any penalty applying.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Prime Minister agree that rights must be enforceable to be genuine rights and that removing the ability of inmates to sue for compensation for abuse gives a green light to abuse in the prison system? [Interruption]
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The person interjecting is one of the few people in this House who have been convicted of anything, as far as I am aware. I point out that this is where there is a difficult balance to be arrived at, and why the legislation has to be carefully considered. Rushed legislation is likely to err significantly in one direction or another.
Rodney Hide: Back in September 2000, did the Prime Minister not in fact invite prisoners and their lawyers to take the Department of Corrections to court, when, following the secret payouts to the Mangaroa Prison inmates by Margaret Wilson, she stated: “If they want payment they should sue. I’d rather go to court and lose than pay out, and that should be the method.”; and how is it that 4 years later we still do not see any legislation to fix the process of compensation that 4 years ago she invited prisoners to undertake?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed, the Prime Minister did say that, and one of the issues around this legislation is whether there should remain any right to sue, at all—and if there is not, the member might care to think about the possible consequences of that—or, if there is any form of right to sue, whether the victims of the crimes of those criminals then have the first right to payment, which, for example, is the position taken by the leader of New Zealand First.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister aware of media reports that a further 200 compensation claims may be lodged by prisoners against the Department of Corrections; and why is her Government doing absolutely nothing to legislate against those claims, when it has been assured of cooperation from other parties to do so?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is not doing nothing; the Government is preparing legislation. That question was from a man who used to take 6 weeks to make up his mind whether to put interest rates up or down, which is a very simple thing compared with a bit of legislation.
Ron Mark: How much credibility can there possibly be for a Government that promised no more payouts and no more golden handshakes, that since coming to power has allowed about $350,000 in payouts to Mongrel Mob members as a result of Margaret Wilson’s interventions at Mangaroa and a $42,000 payout to inmate Rees in Dunedin, and that now is only just starting to move on legislation because it has been severely embarrassed by the likelihood of perhaps $1 million or $2 million in payouts in this latest fiasco—what credibility can this Government possibly have?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is quite significant credibility in this area, because work is being done on legislation. But I remind the member that his leader has called for legislation that would give the victims the compensation that any prisoners might receive. That is totally different from the proposition just made by the leader of the National Party.
Stephen Franks: Could the Prime Minister explain just exactly what is so complicated about deciding whether any compensation should go to victims or whether there should be compensation at all, given that the Government has had 4 years to think about it and it is 2 years since these proceedings were filed?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What is complicated about that is that it is answered by the member’s own question: should there be compensation, at all?
Opposition MemberOpposition Member: Yes.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Well, the member says “Yes”, but the National Party says “No”. So already we do not have a majority in the Opposition for this particular form of legislation. We are to rush through legislation where the major Opposition parties cannot agree, and the National Party cannot agree with itself from one day to the next!
Ron Mark: Does the Prime Minister recall on 8 September 2000 her Minister of Justice, Phil Goff, using unministerial language, saying that the Government had been “forced to make a compensation payment to a group of scumbags”—with reference to the Mongrel Mob payouts; if the Prime Minister can remember those very unministerial words, can she tell the House why, 5 years later, the Government has still not done a thing?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The recent case involved a somewhat different range of issues, as I understand it, and, therefore, we now have to consider what the nature of any legislation should be. But the member and other members do need to think carefully about what should be done. Mr Franks, for example, has said there should still be compensation, because I think Mr Franks understands the dangers of removing any right to compensation in these circumstances.
Dr Don Brash: Will the Prime Minister now accept the offer of the National Party to pass through all stages this week a bill to prevent convicted criminals from collecting significant taxpayer compensation; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I invite the member to be clear, first, on what it is he is actually proposing should be passed, because what he said today is different from what he said yesterday. If the member is to come to the House for 2 days in a row, for the first time in his career, he could at least keep his mind constant over that length of time. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I would remind the Government that I am not moving on supplementary questions until those members are quiet.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had understood that it was not appropriate under Standing Orders for members to refer to the absence of other members from the House, just as I have not, for example, referred to the absence of the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct. I tried to listen as best I could, but there was a lot of interjection at the time. The member is absolutely right.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is hardly a satisfactory way to leave that answer. You may judge that the Minister standing on his feet and making some personal reflections is an address to the question, but we certainly do not. The question was pretty clear: will they support the legislation being changed this week, as the National Party has offered, or will they not?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if that was all the Minister did, it would certainly be correct, but it was not.
Rodney Hide: In light of the Government’s proposed legislation to deal with compensation for prisoners, did work begin on that back in 2000 when the Prime Minister directly invited prisoners and their lawyers to use the courts to seek compensation; if not, why not, and, if it did, where is it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, that work has just commenced. What happened in 2000 was that the Prime Minister made it clear that the Government would not simply give people compensation without the court first saying that they were entitled to it.
Peter Brown: Noting the answers to those questions, am I right to conclude that this Government puts a higher priority on the passing of the sherry tax legislation—which was passed overnight under urgency—than it does on this sort of legislation, which reflects a problem that has been ongoing for 4 years?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The issue of putting up tax on alcohol, unfortunately, is a much simpler thing than deciding the framework of this legislation. I remind the member again that members have heard today at least three different versions from Opposition parties of what the bill should be.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the Prime Minister’s statement in the Dominion on 22 September 2000 inviting lawyers and prisoners to sue the Crown for money.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that statement. Is there any objection? There is.
Rodney Hide: They do not like the truth.
Mr SPEAKER: Objection was taken, as any member is entitled to do.
Boys—School to Work Transition
2. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What initiatives does the Government have in place to help boys make a successful transition from school into jobs in industry?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): There is widespread concern, highlighted by my colleague John Tamihere, that we need to help boys to make a successful transition from school to work. A good example of how to do this is Whangarei Boys High School. It has complemented the very successful Gateway programme through a partnership with local engineering firms called Apprenticeships Work, which was the focus of a recent Morning Report feature. Whangarei engineering employers are so enthused about the scheme they have bought Whangarei Boys High School $100,000 worth of lathes and other modern equipment for its workshops, so they know that young men can take their place in industry and are trained on good, safe equipment. This example of Gateway in action is indicative of what is happening now in 126 schools around the country—and I am about to announce a number more.
Lynne Pillay: What other initiatives are in place to help not just boys, but girls as well, to make the transition from school to work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Apart from Gateway, which will reach 4,000 students this year, our youth transition initiatives include 6,874 Modern Apprenticeships, not to mention the 18,000 young industry trainees outside the Modern Apprenticeships programme; the $56 million put into the youth transition umbrella services, which will open in Whangarei, Waitakere, Rotorua, New Plymouth, and Porirua from early next year and then expand throughout the country; and the announcement today from Trevor Mallard, the Minister of Education, of the 75 schools taking part in the Designing Careers pilot, which was a fabulous announcement.
Health Services—Pacific Children
3. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: What concerns does she have, if any, regarding Ministry of Health chief Pacific health adviser Debbie Ryan’s reported comments: “the statistics made grim reading and showed the health system was failing Pacific children.”, and what is she doing about this?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: The comment was made in response to a media question, and honestly recognises that health services have not worked as well for Pacific people as we would all have liked. The article failed to explain, however, that Tupu Ola Moui: Pacific Health Chart Book 2004, which is a stocktake of Pacific peoples’ health, is a summary of the use of health services over the past 10 years. It does not attempt to cover key health service initiatives that are currently addressing the health needs of Pacific children.
Barbara Stewart: Will the Minister accept, after 5 years as Minister of Health and given the health budget available, that there is no excuse for the fact that Pacific children in New Zealand are almost three times as likely to get meningococcal disease, twice as likely to fail the school entry hearing test, five times as likely to get rheumatic fever, and more than six times as likely to get tuberculosis when compared with the rest of the population?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think the needs of Pacific Island peoples in terms of their health is a serious issue that all Governments have the responsibility to address. But let me remind the member, when she mentions meningococcal disease, that the Minister of Health has been primarily responsible for initiating a magnificent programme in which the Government has invested $250 million for meningococcal vaccination. That has had a very high take-up rate by the Pacific Island population—I am advised it is something like 95 percent. I think the Minister should be congratulated on that account.
Dianne Yates: What other policies has the Government put in place to address disparities in the health system?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: We have established primary health organisations, in which more than 95 percent of Pacific people have enrolled. Primary health organisations will enable improved access to a wide range of appropriate health services—something that the report identified as a big issue. I have already indicated to the House by way of example the $250 million investment by this Labour-Progressive coalition Government in the meningococcal vaccination programme.
Dr Paul Hutchison168Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister accept that her Government has failed over the last 4½ years to improve some of the basic preventive interventions for Pacific children, given that she has repeatedly been unable to tell me what percentage of children complete their immunisations, and the report notes an estimated coverage of only 50 percent at 2 years of age for Pacific children?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: No, I would not accept failure. I accept that this area needs considerable Government investment, and I know that in the last 3 years, and going on into the fourth year, this Government has invested a further $3,000 million in the health system. Much of that funding is aimed at the most vulnerable citizens in the community, which, of course, includes Pacific Island children.
Barbara Stewart: What evidence does the Minister have that the numerous Pacific Island health providers contracted by district health boards around the country, at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer, are doing anything to address the appalling Pacific Island health statistics?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I would have thought the member would be pleased that Pacific Island peoples, just like organisations that take responsibility for Mâori health care, are taking their future into their own hands. They are participating in health care and are developing educative programmes as well as preventive health-care programmes. That is a very good example of how the future looks a lot brighter than the past did.
4. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Minister of Labour: On how many occasions in the past 5 years have Labour inspectors exercised their powers under section 103 of the Fisheries Act 1996 to ascertain whether work permit holders employed on foreign charter fishing vessels are being paid at the levels required under the Minimum Wage Act 1983 and the Wages Protection Act 1983, and what has been the result of those inspections?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): Since 1999 the labour inspectorate has conducted two such investigations. In one of these, three Russian seamen approached the inspectorate and complained of non-payment of wages. When the New Zealand agent for the vessel was approached by the inspectorate, the matter was remedied by immediate payment of the outstanding amounts due. The second case involved a vessel that was not fishing in New Zealand territorial waters, so the provisions of section 103 of the Act did not apply. However, I am aware that concerns have been expressed about labour issues in the industry, and officers from the Department of Labour and the Immigration Service will be undertaking an investigation to ensure compliance with New Zealand labour and immigration laws.
Paul Adams: Is the Minister aware that a number of foreign charter vessel operators evade employment laws, such as the minimum wage, by making substantial deductions from their employees’ pay packets for expenses like airfares, food, and accommodation, which result in them receiving net rates of pay far below the minimum wage; and is he concerned about the implications of such practices for the competitiveness of fishing vessels that employ mainly New Zealand crews?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am, and that is precisely why officials from the Department of Labour and the Immigration Service are due to start an investigation into the industry to ensure that New Zealand laws, when people are fishing in New Zealand, are complied with. It is for the reasons outlined by the member that that is happening.
Phil Heatley: Why are the wages of foreign fishing crews half those of New Zealand fishing crews, when section 7 of the Minimum Wage Act expressly states that employers may not deduct wages by more than 15 percent for board or 5 percent for lodging?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is one of the issues that will be looked into. The Wages Protection Act has a lot to say about the kinds of things the member has raised. There is also the issue of the Minimum Wage Act, which the member from United Future has raised. As I said, the officials will be conducting an investigation shortly.
Keith Locke: When the department conducts this long overdue investigation that the Minister has just referred to, will the department follow up on the leads provided through New Zealand third parties, and not apply the policy until now of trying to get direct evidence from the seamen, when we know that Ukrainian, Filipino, and other workers on foreign vessels are reluctant to come forward with direct information, because they fear they will be put on the first boat, or plane, back?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is a fair point, and the point I make now is that if people have information on the kinds of things that have been going on that would help the investigation, I would welcome it.
Paul Adams: Is the Minister concerned that the practice of minimising payment obligations to work permit - holding foreign fishing crews has created an environment in the fishing industry that is so uncompetitive for New Zealand crews of fishing vessels that a number of New Zealand - owned deep-water fishing vessels have had to be sold or tied up in recent times and their crews laid off; and has he discussed this issue with his colleagues the Minister of Fisheries and the Associate Minister of Immigration?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen reports similar to what the member has said. I am not sure how much of that is due to things like quota around hoki, and changes to quota, or whether in fact it is due to labour or immigration laws. As a result of the investigation, we should be a little clearer in regard to knowing what is happening.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked also whether he had discussed this with the Minister of Fisheries and the Associate Minister of Immigration. He did not address that part of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: He does not have to but if he would like to, he may.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I certainly have discussed the matter with the Associate Minister of Immigration. I have had reports from the Minister of Fisheries about quota issues.
Paul Adams: What steps, if any, will the Government take to investigate and then eliminate the anti-competitive and unfair practices of minimising payment obligations to work permit - holding foreign fishing crews?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have said, we will begin an investigation into this matter very shortly, and the investigation will be addressing precisely the matters that the member has raised.
Paul Adams: Will the Government consider making it mandatory for inspectors to be present at all times on all foreign-crewed charter vessels; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not sure how many fishing vessels there are, and therefore requiring an inspector on each one might be a little burdensome, not just on the industry but also on the taxpayer. I think what I would like to be able to do is get to the bottom of the issue and then work out what we do about it after that.
Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Unions
5. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Labour: How does he believe the bargaining fee arrangements he intends introducing to the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will benefit the nearly 1.7 million members of the New Zealand workforce who have chosen not to join a union and pay union fees?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): What a non-union employee decides to do about a bargaining fee arrangement will be a matter of free choice. The bargaining fee arrangement recommended by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee would apply only where an employer and a union agree on a bargaining fee arrangement. Affected employees take part in a ballot to decide whether a bargaining fee should operate in their workplace, and non-union employees who do not want to pay the fee may opt out. A non-union employee who decides to pay the bargaining fee would receive the benefits of the collectively bargained terms and conditions. Non-union employees who do not wish to pay are free to negotiate their own terms and conditions.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why cannot the 1.7 million workers who choose not to belong to unions pay another third party, not being a union, their own fees so that they can negotiate their arrangements, which may be the same or substantially better than those of the collective?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Employment Relations Act specifies quite clearly the relationship between collective agreements and individual agreements. The Act is quite clear that the negotiation of collective agreements is for unions. That was Government policy, and it is in the Act.
Helen Duncan: What reports has he seen about responses to the select committee’s report on the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a report that states that the business community is broadly happy with the Employment Relations Act. And I have seen a report that states that those comments are broadly consistent with National Party policy, but that the person making the statements is not sure because he has not reread his own party’s industrial relations policy. That person is Don Brash, the leader of the National Party.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Is the Minister aware that it is the National Party’s specific policy to totally repeal each and every provision of the Employment Relations Law Reform Act, and why does he not understand that simple proposition?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Like the vast majority of New Zealanders, I do not have a clue what National Party policy is on anything.
Dr Wayne Mapp: What does the Minister say to employers negotiating with their employees, who will now be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 simply because they offer them the same terms as a collective, which the unions would say has the effect of undermining the collective, when that is all that is required by new section 59A(2) inserted by clause 19 of the bill?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That if they do so in good faith, they will be fine.
6. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Customs: What action is the Government taking to stop overseas drug syndicates from trafficking illicit drugs into New Zealand?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): In the 2003 Budget the Government injected $1.9 million for the recruitment and training of additional specialist drug intelligence and investigation staff of the Customs Service. This funding was to strengthen the service’s ability to identify and investigate overseas-based syndicates trafficking illegal drugs into New Zealand. The Government has backed this up with a further $5 million in the 2004 Budget, to increase the service’s inspection and detection resources at international airports and seaports.
Steve Chadwick: Has this additional funding had a positive result, and is the Government sending the right messages to the international drug community?
Hon RICK BARKER: Yes, it has. I have received reports from the Customs Service that show that in the last financial year the service seized more than 178,000 Ecstasy tablets; 22 kilos of cocaine, compared with 0.2 kilos the year before; 10 kilos of crystal methamphetamine, compared with 0.9 kilos the years before; 1.2 kilos of heroin, compared with 0.2 kilos the year before; 6,000 LSD tablets; and 1.3 million ephedrine and pseudoephedrine tablets, which was more than double the amount seized the year before. In addition, 30 arrests have been made in New Zealand and overseas as a result of the increased cooperation with overseas agencies. The message to international drug traffickers is clear: their chances of being caught in New Zealand have gone up dramatically.
Pita Paraone: Has he any concerns over the running and the effectiveness of the Customs Service coast watch programme, especially pertaining to matters of privacy; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: Not at this stage, no.
Health Services—Waiting Lists
7. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: What was the total number of people at the end of June 2004 who, following first specialist assessment, were on waiting lists, booked or given certainty of treatment within 6 months, on active review, or had been referred to the care of their general practitioner?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: In June 2004 the number booked or given certainty totalled 25,028. This compares with the 30 June 1999 figure of 18,075 in those categories. There were 31,099 on active review as at 30 June 2004, many of whom were assessed and rebooked. That compares favourably to the 55,066 who were languishing on the residual list as at 30 June 1999 with no continuing care.
Heather Roy: Given that there were 50,000 people on residual waiting lists when Labour was elected, that the Minister has just told us there are 25,000 people booked for, or given certainty of, treatment, and that 31,000 patients—as given to me in answer to a parliamentary question—are on active review, is the Minister now telling us that the waiting lists are longer, that more people are waiting for treatment, than when this Government came to power?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: There is not a country in the world that is not grappling with the challenge of public health sector funding and treatment, and New Zealand is doing better than most. This year alone—the 2004-05 financial year—this Government has allocated two hospitals a further $296 million without any constraint whatever on how they can use that funding. That is the kind of commitment this Government is making, but with an ageing population and new technology there will be a consistent challenge before any Government to deal with the health system. I have yet to see any realistic alternatives to those that the Government is following at the present time.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I listened very carefully to the answer given by that Minister, and I listened very closely to the question that was asked, which was very specific. The question asked whether waiting lists were longer today than when the Government came to office. It was a very simple, succinct question, and there were no other parts to it. The question asked whether the Minister could confirm that waiting lists are longer today than they were when the Government came to office. He did not answer that question, at all.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister to address that part of the question.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: If we were comparing exactly the same circumstances, that would be a fair comparison, but the circumstances are different.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hesitate to raise this point because I know you are not responsible for it, but the Minister was also asked in the primary question how many patients had been referred to the care of their general practitioner. As I heard it, the Minister did not address that, at all. What has happened is that the books have been cooked so that we now have three categories rather than just one. I think it would be helpful if you could ask the Minister to address that part of the question. If he cannot do it now in the House, perhaps he could do it if given some time.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister did address the question. He gave a number of statistics in response to quite a few parts of the question. If he wants to add anything further later, he can.
Darren Hughes: Is the Minister aware of any advice given to hospitals when the system was first introduced as to how they might manage waiting list growth?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes. I have received that advice. The then Minister of Health, the Hon Bill English, wrote to chief executives on 16 September 1997 and advised them: “It is the Transitional Health Authority’s responsibility to manage growth in the number of people who have been placed on a waiting list after 7 May 1996. This can be achieved through either raising the interim and/or financially sustainable threshold or by diverting resources. No additional funding will be made available from the Government to clear growth in waiting list backlogs since May 1996.”
Judith Collins: Does the Minister remember the comment of Helen Clark in November 1995: “I give you my word: Labour will blitz those waiting times for hospital treatment.”; and can the Minister confirm that the word “blitz”, when used by her Labour Government, means to throw thousands of people off the waiting list, and to force those remaining into a revolving series of lists, only one of which means an operation this side of the grave?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I remember every comment made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand at the present time—both currently and in the past. Those comments have come true: waiting times are down.
Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister of Health have any concerns regarding the burgeoning health bureaucracy, given that Ministry of Health staff numbers have more than doubled since 1999, and is she confident that it has not been at the expense of reducing waiting lists?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Well, one could call more nurses and doctors, for example, burgeoning bureaucracy. But I can advise the member that in 2002-03 there were 267,374 surgical procedures in New Zealand hospitals. This year, to date—and the figures for the full financial year are not in yet—that figure has improved to 272,881.
Heather Roy: Given that $188 million in operating spending for the last financial year was unspent, when it could have been used to cut the waiting lists or active review lists, can the Minister of Health deny that this money was announced as part of last year’s Budget, was not spent, and was announced again as part of this year’s Budget; if not, what has actually happened to the $188 million?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: In terms of bureaucracy, I recall when there were regional health authorities all over New Zealand, and now there are functioning district health boards in—[Interruption] In regard to the member’s question, she will have to repeat it because I have actually lost the plot.
Mr SPEAKER: Please repeat the question.
Heather Roy: Given that $100 million in operating spending for the last financial year was unspent, when it could have been used to cut the waiting lists or the active review lists, can the Minister of Health deny that this money was announced as part of last year’s Budget, was not spent, and was announced again as part of this year’s Budget; if not, what exactly has happened to the unspent $188 million?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: In a health budget of approximately $10,000 million, $180 million is a very small amount to be carried forward. That money was carried forward from the previous year because it had not been totally expended, but it will continue to be allocated to the programmes that it was allocated to in the first place. Is the member suggesting that it should be removed from the health system? This Government does not agree with that.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the precise trouble we get into in this House. I ask you to consider this for this Minister. I know he is not the real Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Please be concise. Those comments do not help the point of order.
Rodney Hide: Well, the specific question was that as the Government had announced that it was going to spend an extra $400 million, and as $188 million had not been spent—money is fungible; it is the same money—what had happened to that money, and had it been announced twice. The Minister got up and gave a long, verbose answer. We just want to know what has happened to the $188 million, and why the Government promised us an extra $400 million of spending.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rodney Hide: Well, let me finish. Putting it in the context of saying that the health budget is a big budget—$10 billion—does not get away from the fact that it was this Government that sat here during the last Budget and paraded the fact it was spending an extra $400 million, but it actually did not spend it.
Mr SPEAKER: The point of order was far too long. The member must be more terse in future.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The last point was totally irrelevant, and purely debating material, which is why the member should have stopped when I rose. The Minister gave a perfectly adequate answer: the money was carried forward from last year to this year—much of it, in fact, because meningococcal meningitis vaccination money was unspent and was carried forward to the current year.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was addressed.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just struggling to find the particular Standing Order that requires members’ words to be taken as honest because they are honourable members. In respect of the Standing Orders, I have to say I have noticed we have a rather large gathering of senior New Zealand citizens in the gallery. Whilst the Minister was giving his answer on waiting lists they were shaking their heads. If they cannot believe him, why should we be required to?
Mr SPEAKER: The member is being given a final warning. I should have asked him to leave the House. He knows full well that no one may refer to anyone outside the 120 members of this House. He knows that is against the rules. If he did not, he now does.
Heather Roy: Did the Minister of Health, a Labour Minister in a Government that has experienced large surpluses, actually cut real, per person health spending in the 2001-02 financial year; if so, why?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I can tell the member is this: of approximately $800 million of discretionary funding that this Government had in that financial year, $400 million—in other words, 50 percent—was allocated to the health budget. Any Minister of Health who achieves that deserves an accolade, not criticism.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to respect Parliament and question time. I know that you are not responsible for the quality of the answers, but it has to be unacceptable for a Minister who has been asked a specific question to answer that question with “What I can tell you”, then talk about something completely different. That cannot be considered, under any interpretation, as addressing the question, as required by the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: I can tell the member that if that was all that the Minister said, then of course it would not be acceptable, but he then went on—[Interruption] The member is very, very lucky that I am in a generous mood. I can tell the member that that was not all that the Minister said; he did go on to address the question.
Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 147/1, which states that replies should be “no longer than need be in order to answer the question adequately”, and which should be read with Speaker’s ruling 146/7, which states that the Speaker will call the Minister to order if an entirely unrelated subject is addressed, and may permit further supplementary questions to a particularly uncooperative Minister. In this particular series of questions we have repeatedly had answers of completely unnecessary length, which is obfuscation. I ask you to consider offering some extra supplementary questions.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I will not be doing that. But I can say to the Minister that his replies have been too long. I think he should be concise in his replies, and I shall be watching him very closely.
Heather Roy: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is an answer to a parliamentary question that shows that, from Treasury’s estimates, the real, per capita spending per person dropped—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that question. Is there any objection? There is.
Heather Roy: The second document is an answer to a parliamentary question showing that the number of patients on active review in June 2004 was 31,000.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Heather Roy: The third document is another answer to a parliamentary question that shows that the amount of operating funding underspent in the 2003-04 year was $188 million.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that question. Is there any objection? There is.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have brought up this issue before. I refer to Speaker’s ruling 127/8, which states: “Leave should only be sought to table papers that are not readily available from other sources.” Parliamentary questions, by definition, are available to all members of this House. I think the member is trifling with you and the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I repeat that the chances of documents like that being tabled are very remote, but every member has a perfect right to ask, because that is in the Standing Orders. I am required to use the Standing Orders, and members themselves would be very cross with me if I did not. The member is entitled to ask, but I do happen to agree with the member that the particular issues raised—answers to parliamentary questions—are already printed and available for everybody.
Hon Jim Anderton: I seek leave to lay on the Table of the House the letter from the Hon Bill English on waiting time funding when he was the Minister of Health.
Patient Safety—Ministerial Responsibility
8. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does she accept responsibility for the safety of patients in New Zealand hospitals?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Of course, every Minister takes his or her share of responsibility for the outcomes in his or her particular portfolio area—in this case, the health system. But no Minister can take total responsibility for every action that occurs in a hospital, as decisions are made by health professionals on an hourly basis. I would refute any suggestion or implication that the vast majority of clinicians do not make sound decisions, in the interests of their patients.
Sue Kedgley: How can the Minister assure patients that they will be safe in our hospitals, when emergency department nurses at North Shore Hospital are signing letters every day that state that they cannot guarantee patients’ safety because of staff shortages and huge workloads; and if someone were to suffer, or even to die, as a result of the lack of nursing care in such a situation, who would be responsible? Would it be the Minister?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: In the event of any untoward incident that resulted from inadequacies in the hospital system, there are health and disability commissioners and other procedures that can investigate that. The Government, on behalf of New Zealanders, is therefore responsible for that kind of supervision and will take responsibility for it.
Judith Collins: Will the Minister ever take any serious action to remedy the situation that last week saw one nurse looking after 12 patients in North Shore Hospital’s emergency care centre, when the accepted ratio is one nurse to four patients in emergency care?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The answer is yes.
Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister accept responsibility for the cost overruns on the new acute assessment unit in Hastings, which is having to be strengthened to ensure patient and staff safety, and which has been estimated by the chair of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board to be costing the board over $50,000 a day; if she does not, who will take responsibility for that poorly-managed project?
Mr SPEAKER: That is very wide of the original question, but the Minister can reply.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Quite simply, that is a district health board responsibility, and the accountability and responsibility for that lies at the local level.
Sue Kedgley: What does the Minister say to Paula Barnett, a nurse at North Shore Hospital, who said on National Radio recently: “It’s just an untenable working situation—untenable for staff to try to provide anything like compassionate care, or even adequate care or safe care, and it’s just ghastly for patients and families.”
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I would say to her that this Government has done more proactively to assist the public health system of New Zealand than any recent Government in living memory.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation that: “Dangerous overcrowding at North Shore Hospital’s emergency department is part of a nationwide crisis”, and when will she exercise political leadership and intervene to ensure patients are not being put at risk by unsafe levels of nursing staff, as she is entitled to do under the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Any Government, or any member of this House, is going to be concerned about conditions in hospitals, of course. But I say to the member that if there is a crisis in the hospital system now, it would pale into insignificance in comparison to what it would have been if the National Party or the ACT party was on the Government side of the House and running its health system.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was interesting to hear the Minister’s contemplations—
Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
Sue Kedgley: The point of order is that he did not attempt to address the issue. He just talked about historic experiences. I asked when the Minister of Health would exercise political leadership and intervene in that event to ensure patient safety.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could address that issue.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Minister does exactly that on every single day that she is in office.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that she has a responsibility under the Act to intervene when patient safety is clearly at risk, as it was, for example, on 25 August when the emergency department at North Shore Hospital had 11 staff responsible for up to 12 patients each, instead of the safe level of four, had 42 patients in 25 beds, had all corridor spaces and more filled, creating a health and fire hazard, and had four patients isolated with methicillin-resistant Staphyolcoccus aureus, etc., etc.?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: When the Minister is advised or has information that there are serious safety issues in hospitals, I am sure that she does intervene and act in accordance with the responsibility she has.
Barbara Stewart: I seek leave to table an article from the Dominion Post of 15 September, titled: “Quake fears lead to demands for back-up hospital”.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree that the standard of education delivered in schools is dependent on the funds each school is able to raise from non-government sources, as stated by the New Zealand School Trustees Association President Chris Haines; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Under this Government, real per pupil operational funding has increased by 10 percent. Under this Government, fewer schools have deficits. They have much bigger total surpluses, cash holdings, equity, and total assets. It is important that we get a consistent story. This member says that schools are awash with cash; his leader says that he is “not at all sure that spending on education should increase”—
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister is not even making an attempt to answer a very straightforward question. The House is getting very impatient with him.
Mr SPEAKER: And so am I. The Minister will start by addressing the question. [Interruption] That is the end of any more nonsense when I am giving a ruling. Now I will have the answer.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I indicated, under this Government real per pupil operational funding has increased by 10 percent. Under this Government, fewer schools have deficits; they have much bigger total surpluses. Cash holdings have increased, equity has increased, and total assets have increased. That is why I disagree with Mr Haines.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of the fact that parents and schools will raise this year about half a billion dollars over and above their Government funding; and can he advise the House whether it is still Labour Party policy that State education is free?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have read the report to which the member refers—at least, its beginning. I got it this morning; I haven’t read right through. I thought the most interesting point in the report to which the member referred is that the proportion of principals who thought that Government funding was inadequate has dropped by 14 percent since I became Minister.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister referred to a report in his answer that I did not refer to, at all, in my question. He did not in any way answer whether it is Labour Party policy that State education is free.
Mr SPEAKER: That particular part of the question can be addressed.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Of course it is Government policy, and it is the law that State education is free. One of the things I thought interesting is that the vast part of the increase the member is referring to comes from overseas students—which cost schools. The major part of the increase in locally raised funds since I became Minister came from overseas students. If the member does not understand that, I will get someone to read the figures to him.
H V Ross Robertson: What does the report, commissioned by the School Trustees Association, state about the adequacy of school operational funding in the 1990s?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The report notes that from 1990 to 1996 real purchasing power decreased by 10 percent. I quote directly from the report: “Funding cutbacks may have had later repercussions for school budgets.” I give credit to Brian Donnelly, because between 1996 and 1999, school funding increased in real terms per pupil by 4.4 percent. He did not totally make it up, but he made a lot of progress. Since I became Minister, the real per pupil operational funding for schools has increased by 10 percent.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it true that of the nine schools in the School Trustees Association study being referred to, the teacher salaries grant fell between 4 percent and 16 percent short of its assessment of actual staffing requirements and that those schools spent, on average, 32 percent of operations grants and 80 percent of locally raised funds on teacher salaries, and does he believe that is satisfactory?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: One of the things this Government did in 2000-01 was free up the ability of schools to use operational funding and locally raised funding for employing teachers. It comes as no surprise to me that some schools, with their vastly increased operations grants, have chosen to employ more teachers.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister agree that the doubling of teacher numbers funded by that operations grant, from 1,672 teachers to 3,355 between the years 1998 to 2004, will have been matched by a doubling of teaching staff numbers funded by the fund-raising each school obtains from non-Government sources; if not, what justification does he have for the doubling of teacher numbers paid from the schools’ operations grant?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I heard the question and I did not totally understand it, but I think the point should be made that this year, this Government is putting over $120 million extra directly into staffing, so that would pay for a vast number of extra teachers over and above those required by roll growth. I think the fact that schools have chosen to add to that number is great.
Hon Bill English: How does the Minister reconcile his stated policy that: “State education is free.” with the fact that this year, parents and communities will raise half a billion dollars, or about one dollar in every three, of school operational funding?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because the community the member is referring to, which is the one that has made the difference in the fund-raising, is a Chinese community based in China.
Bernie Ogilvy: Will the Minister follow Chris Haines’ recommendation for the Government to commit to a significant increase in operations grant funding to ensure that the high standards of education expected by both the Government and the communities can be achieved; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This Government works really hard on increasing funding for education. Mr Haines has told me recently that he appreciates the extra money the Government is putting into school information and communications technology, into the Microsoft licensing arrangements that have been recently announced, and into a number of contestable pools. He has suggested that we look at operations grants, but he is also very keen on us increasing the number of teachers who go into schools, and this will be looked at as part of the next Budget.
Hon Bill English: Why is it that the Government decided to spend only $21 million in the last Budget on an increase in the operations grant, when in the same Budget, it is wasting millions of dollars on low-value tertiary education courses while parents sell raffle tickets to keep their schools running?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I indicated to the member earlier, and as my colleague the Associate Minister of Education has also indicated to him, there is a major realignment going on in the spend of tertiary education. There is a lot of work going on there, and I am not satisfied with the quality of spend in tertiary education. However, having said that, the member must realise that overseas students have, by and large, replaced cake stalls in New Zealand schools.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I seek leave to table page 15 of the report, How do effective schools manage their finances?, which outlines the facts and figures that I had in my question.
Resource Management Act—Proposed Changes
10. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Associate Minister for the Environment: What is the purpose of the Government’s proposed changes to the Resource Management Act 1991?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister for the Environment): The focus of this review is to improve both the legislation and the way the Act operates in practice. The improvements will increase certainty and reduce delays, costs, and abuse of processes, while not compromising good environmental outcomes or sacrificing public participation.
David Parker: What is being proposed by the Government?
Hon Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Government is proposing a comprehensive package of solutions that will enable central government to better express the national interest and provide decision makers with clear guidance on how to take such matters into account, and to enable consent processes to be undertaken in a manner that provides certainty of process for applicants while ensuring appropriate public participation and the meeting of environmental objectives. It will improve the effectiveness of planning documents and enable their timely development, provide certainty over the allocation of natural resources, ensure that decision making is of high quality, and improve public and user awareness of the Resource Management Act and its processes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the so-called comprehensive package now provides for Environment Court appeals on the 48,000 consents dealt with on a non-notified basis, will the Minister tell the House how this can possibly help avoid the delays and uncertainty that are at the heart of the concern about the Resource Management Act? It will take us backwards.
Hon Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It is hard to reconcile a statement like that with last week’s World Bank report about the ease of doing business in New Zealand, but I must say that the member must be out of touch, because his views do not reflect the view of business. If I could quote Mr Michael Barnett, from the Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce, who recently stated: “The issue with the Resource Management Act is not so much the content of the Act preventing developments proceeding, but it is how it is administered by local authorities.”
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I know what the member is going to say. Now I would like the Minister to come to the member’s specific question.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPEHon : I do not believe that the member accurately represents the situation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: The member was perfectly entitled to give that answer.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: My question was quite specific in respect of the issue of appeals to the Environment Court regarding non-notification, as provided for in the Minister’s package today. It was in the Minister’s press release. It is perfectly reasonable for me to ask how that will help.
Mr SPEAKER: And it is perfectly reasonable for a Minister to give a reply using the words that he did, within the Standing Orders. [Interruption] Just a minute, was the Minister going to give an answer? Carry on.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPEHon : Unfortunately, Dr Smith would appear not to have read the package.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Could we just let the Minister give the answer and then have a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: The point is that the Minister was asked a question about his own press statement, and his answer was that the member had not represented it properly. I hope we will not see the Minister dive off into all sorts of other strange burrows, as he might be wont, in this part of the answer. He simply needs to stand by what is in his press statement, or not do so.
Mr SPEAKER: That is for the Minister to do. That is not my job.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPEHon : Dr Smith’s representation is not accurate. Whether that is because he does not understand or has not read the package, I do not know. The fact of the matter is that the capacity of the Minister for the Environment to refer the issue of non-notification contestability to the Environment Court is an option that she can exercise at such time as the court reaches equilibrium point.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How exactly does the proposal for expanded ministerial call-in of a resource consent, followed by a formal hearing by a board whose decision can be appealed only to the High Court, differ in substance from direct referral to the Environment Court, which Labour has opposed for the last 5 years?
Hon Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It differs very substantially, because it is a process that can be triggered not only by the Minister but also by local community groups and applicants.
Hon Peter Dunne: Now that the Government has announced its package, can the Minister indicate what steps he has in mind, both to get buy-in to the proposals and also to pass them into law?
Hon Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I thank the member for the opportunity to say that the Government has had very good support from United Future in developing these proposals. I am sure that that will continue. I will continue to discuss these very wide-ranging proposals both with his spokesperson on this issue and the wider community.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why are ordinary people or community groups with no resources, who want a say on matters affecting them, to be forced to provide all their evidence, witness statements, and supporting information in writing before the council hearing starts, and does that not make it even harder for them to take part than it is now?
Hon Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I do not think so. I think it is a not unreasonable expectation of a process needing to be more robust at the initial level that that should be the case.
Employment Relations Law Reform Bill—Small Business
11. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister for Small Business: Does he believe the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, as reported back by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, addresses all the concerns that the small-business sector currently has with employment law; if not, why not?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Small Business): Yes, to this extent: I cannot think of any bill that has ever addressed all the concerns raised by a particular sector, especially when the sector includes over 285,000 individual businesses, accounting for 97 percent of all Kiwi enterprises.
Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister received any support from the small-business sector for the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill; if so, from whom?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Yes, I have received support. The Small Business Advisory Group has reported back on it, and the select committee has reported back on it. A number of matters that have been addressed by the select committee have helped the sector immeasurably.
Mark Peck: What evidence has the Minister seen that employment law is not the primary concern of small business?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Recent editions of the National Bank’s Small Business Monitor have shown that skill shortages are the major concern of small businesses, rather than compliance costs or employment law, which seem to be the obsession of members opposite.
Hon Richard Prebble: I wonder whether the Minister could reconcile his answer whereby he claimed he had received support from small businesses, with the fact that the select committee that heard the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill did not receive a single submission from any one of the 285,000 small businesses in New Zealand in support of the bill; and now that he knows that, how can he, as Minister for Small Business, support that bill?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Quite easily. The Small Business Advisory Group has made a fulsome report, with 19 recommendations, on behalf of the sector, and we will be working through that over the next 12 months.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer was very close to deliberately misleading the House. That small-business report in no way supports the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill. Not one of the 19 recommendations advises the Government to support the amendment through the House. In fact, when one reads that submission, it puts in a number of recommendations for labour reform that are not included in the bill.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his point, but that was not a point of order.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that several of his colleagues have told small-business people that the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill will have no effect whatsoever on their operations; if he is aware of that, and if he agrees with it, will he consider producing a Supplementary Order Paper, or ask his colleagues to produce a Supplementary Order Paper, that exempts small businesses from the controls and prescriptions stipulated in the bill?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No, I am not aware of that.
Hon Roger Sowry: If the Minister has today been unable in the House to name any small-business proprietors who support the legislation, how does he believe that the legislation has met the expectations he had for change, when he stated earlier this year: “We’ll see what Swainy and the boys can get up to, now the girl’s out of the way for a little while, when the bill gets reported back.”?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I am grateful that “Swainy” has reported back from the select committee, but let me broach just one or two issues in a whole list I have here. I respectfully refer the member to page 5, paragraph (4) of the report. It states that the circumstances of an employer’s situation will now be taken into account in determining whether a breach of good faith has occurred in individual bargaining, as is already the case for collective. This is particularly important for small businesses, because it takes into account the actual size of them. It is from a small test up.
Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient reply.
Government Initiatives—Sporting, Cultural, and Business Events
12. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Economic Development: What initiatives is the Labour - Progressive Coalition Government taking to encourage major sporting, cultural or business events to be held in New Zealand?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): Today I am announcing a detailed Major Events Strategy, which will help to position New Zealand as a highly competitive and desirable destination for the hosting of major events. The strategy has been developed to select events, to be supported by the major events support fund, that will maximise the economic, social, cultural, and international benefits to New Zealanders on a long-term basis. The 2004 Budget provided $12 million to support that work over the next 4 years.
Hon Matt Robson: What criteria are used to decide whether a major event is to be supported by the Government?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: There are three strategic criteria: economic development opportunities, social and cultural benefits, and international exposure. Economic development opportunities of regional and national significance may come from, for example, generating foreign exchange earnings, increasing tourism in a region, or building sector capacity. International exposure can be gained from international media coverage, which can stimulate interest in New Zealand for future events of tourism potential. Social and cultural benefits may come from an event that develops and promotes high achievement for New Zealanders in the arts, culture, and heritage area, or in sporting success.