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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 19 October

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

Tuesday, 19 October 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Confidence
2. Non-governmental Organisations—Funding
3. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
4. Papua New Guinea—Regional Security
5. Meningococcal Disease—Vaccination
6. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Taxation
7. Waipareira Trust—Te Puni Kôkiri
8. Sustainable Farming Fund—Reports
Question No. 7 to Minister
Question No. 9 to Minister
Tabling of Documents--Fay Richwhite
9. Police, Commissioner—Confidence
10. Accident Compensation Corporation—Family Violence
11. Schools—Information Technology
12. Local Government—Election Results

Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Confidence

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in Hon John Tamihere; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): A number of allegations have been made against Mr Tamihere. An inquiry has been set up to consider those allegations. I hope that the outcome will enable me to reaffirm my confidence in Mr Tamihere as a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that she has been given a written guarantee by Mr Tamihere that he has done nothing that would embarrass her, and can she tell the House why she is not embarrassed that Mr Tamihere has accepted a $200,000 golden handshake after giving an unequivocal assurance to the public that he would not do so?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot answer the first part. I am aware that Mr Tamihere certainly has given a verbal assurance to the Prime Minister, who, of course, is in India at the present time. On the second issue, the issue that was in play in 1998-99 was the extraordinary tendency of the National Government to keep paying people large sums of money to go away when they were no longer wanted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall these comments on radio on 29 July 1999 from Mr Tamihere, on the question of a golden handshake: “Oh, it’s never happened before, so I want to make a number of points clear. As of last night there won’t be any severance pay. No, there won’t be. I don’t mind. Well, it hurts me, and, obviously, if my bank manager is listening, it’s going to hurt him.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have been reminded of those comments on a number of occasions in recent days.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister tell the House why she finds it acceptable for Mr Tamihere to mislead the country by stating he would not accept a golden handshake, and then accept a payment of almost $200,000, when she had earlier stated that Ms Dalziel was required to resign for misleading the public, and can she tell the House the reason for her acceptance of two different standards of ministerial behaviour?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will ignore the implication in the last part of that question, which, I am sure he is aware, is clear to most members on this side of the House. In terms of the first part of the question, I suggest the member waits for the outcome of the inquiry when the nature of the payment, hopefully, will be made clear. On this side of the House we prefer to see the evidence in full before arriving at judgment.

Rodney Hide: Did the Prime Minister believe John Tamihere when he said he would not accept a golden handshake; if so, does she believe him now?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: This question places me in difficulties because it is addressed to what the Prime Minister believes, and she is in India. I am the Acting Prime Minister. [Interruption] I believe the statement made by Mr Tamihere in 1999.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Did the member hear the Minister’s full reply?

Gerry Brownlee: Well, that is—

Mr SPEAKER: I wonder whether the Minister could repeat the last part of the sentence. The member can raise a point of order when it is complete.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I was saying on my own behalf, as Acting Prime Minister, that, yes, I did believe Mr Tamihere’s comment made in 1999. We shall await the outcome of the inquiry to see the nature of the payment made.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. These questions are not asked of the Acting Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, you have made it very clear when in the past we have questioned the ability of Ministers to answer, that Ministers answer as if they were the Minister. Surely, today, Dr Cullen answers as if he were the Prime Minister.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: To be more precise, for the purpose of question time I am the Prime Minister. I have the authority of Cabinet to be the Acting Prime Minister. Strictly speaking, the question should therefore not be addressed to “she” but to “he”.

Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall these comments made on radio on 29 July, when Mr Tamihere said: “And as I have indicated to you this morning, as of this morning, it’s no longer an issue for whânau Waipareira or John Tamihere”, alongside the letter he received, dated 3 May 1999, from the secretary for that trust, setting out the golden handshake he was about to receive; if so, what did she as Prime Minister do with that information, either then or later?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The information the member referred to has just been released, so the Prime Minister did nothing with it in July 1999; and that payment was not received at that time.

Dr Don Brash: If the Prime Minister does not believe that misleading the public, failing to pay tax on $200,000 of income, providing an inaccurate return on electoral expenses, failing to declare the gift of a motor vehicle, and failing to declare the gift of a $2,000 insurance premium are sufficient grounds for removing a ministerial warrant, what more will Mr Tamihere have to do to justify the Prime Minister’s action?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I have said, an inquiry is under way into these allegations. Depending on the outcome of the inquiry, action will be taken as appropriate, whereas the member who asked the question, when one of his colleagues was convicted by a court, left him on the front bench of the National Party.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Prime Minister take any notice of the proceedings in Hansard of 27 July 1999 when she was warned by New Zealand First of this, and when the then Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, said: “If it is as alleged, and if the Waipareira Trust does not receive any income, other than from the Government-funded sources, it may well be a significant issue, but I would not want to conclude that until I have knowledge as to whether the trust has sources of income other than Government contracts.”; if so, what did the Prime Minister, or for that matter the previous Prime Minister, do with this very serious information?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am certainly not responsible for what the previous Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, may have done with that information. All I can say is that the issue of the nature of the payment, and the timing of that payment, and who insisted on that payment being made, is properly a matter for the inquiry; and I suggest members wait for the outcome.

Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table a document setting out seven golden handshakes, six of which are smaller than John Tamihere’s payout, headed “A decade of shame”.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has had quite long enough to discuss what is in the document. Is there any objection? There is.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting the Acting Prime Minister’s comments that the information about John Tamihere’s golden handshake came to light only in recent days, I seek leave to table comments made on Friday by Mr Tamihere stating that information about the golden handshake was known in 2000 when he was investigated by the five organisations, including the Prime Minister’s own department.

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

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table a statement by the Rt Hon Helen Clark on 5 February 1997 in which she said: “Aotearoa Television is a private television company, sustained almost entirely by taxpayers’ money. The manner in which that company spends that money is a matter of great public interest and should be of great interest to the Government.”

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a letter dated 3 May 1999 from the secretary for the Te Whânau o Waipareira Trust to John Tamihere, setting out the circumstances of the payments that he was going to receive at that time.

Leave granted.

Non-governmental Organisations—Funding

2. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Is all Government funding that is allocated to non-governmental organisations, including trusts, conditional upon audited accounts being produced by the recipient; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Government agencies are expected to ensure accountability for public money, and Government contracts are monitored for proof that public money is used properly. That information comes from a range of sources, which is not limited to audited accounts. Payment can be withheld until information required under the terms of contracts is provided.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister accept that until the capacity to monitor Government funding arrangements with non-governmental organisations is vastly improved, then Pipi Foundation and Waipareira Trust - type scandals will become a recurring and painful nightmare, and the people who are supposed to benefit from such public funds will continue to be ripped off?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not accept that. I do not accept necessarily that that will always follow. I do accept the member’s underlying assertion that it is useful to revisit some of the issues surrounding what evidence is provided, but I am sure he and I would both agree, in the context of other legislation before a select committee, that one must also be aware of not overloading voluntary organisations with compliance costs.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that the Auditor-General stated as far back as February 2003 that there are “real problems in the capacity of agencies to monitor Government funding arrangements with the NGO sector” and that that would be treated by him as a high priority; if so, why has that gaping hole in best-practice procedures not yet been plugged?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thank the member for reminding me of that, but I do repeat, again, that it is important not to overreact to particular circumstances and end up with an excessive range of compliance costs on voluntary organisations whereby they spend all their time meeting Government requirements for information, as opposed to actually doing their work.

Gerry Brownlee: Would the Minister agree that the audit processes on organisations like the Waipareira Trust have been wanting, especially since John Tamihere was able to say on Friday that the information about the golden handshake was known in 2000 when he was investigated by five organisations, including the Prime Minister’s own department; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the last point, I think there is some confusion. An offer was made to Mr Tamihere in 1999. He did not accept that offer at that point. That has been made clear in recent times.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The comment from Mr Tamihere was that the golden handshake was known about in 2000, not 1999. It was known about at the time that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was itself investigating some activities relating to Mr Tamihere and the Waipareira Trust. I think that is a very salient point that the Acting Prime Minister should not try to dodge.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The principal part of the question was about the auditing requirements. I would point out that even in the great United States of America, massive corporates have had troubles with auditing in recent years, not just small voluntary organisations.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was the Prime Minister aware that in past times the Waipareira Trust has declared an unrealised profit on a development as being present income, which is something that is totally illegal, and, bearing that in mind, what are we to make of the inquiries that she instituted, including a Serious Fraud Office inquiry, and, more particularly, of its competence in doing the job it was asked to do?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I was not aware of that first point. Matters relating to the trust were investigated very thoroughly in 2000. If one cares to reread those reports, one sees they can scarcely be regarded as a whitewash, given some of the criticisms that were made of the management of the trust.

Gordon Copeland: Why, when applicants are unable to access grants from the Lottery Grants Board unless they provide audited accounts and agree to provide detailed information on how grants are spent, do non-governmental organisations continue to receive funds from the Government without those essential safeguards, and when will such folly come to an end?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member raises a useful point, which should be looked at. But again, the purpose from the Government perspective is to make sure the money provided for a particular purpose is spent on that purpose. The other aspects of the accounts may not be relevant to the Government’s concerns.

Gordon Copeland: I seek leave to table a series of documents: firstly, my letter to the Controller and Auditor-General of 24 February, raising an issue about accountability.

Leave granted.

Gordon Copeland: Secondly, the Controller and Auditor-General’s reply to me on 28 February 2003, stating that there are real problems in this area and that it is a high priority.

Leave granted.

Gordon Copeland: And thirdly, an extract from the annual plan of the Auditor-General for 2004-05, stating that this issue remains a matter of concern to him.

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

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust

3. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: What is the nature of the inquiry into allegations surrounding the Hon John Tamihere and the Waipareira Trust established yesterday by the Government, and can she assure the House that all relevant matters will be fully inquired into?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): It is to be an independent inquiry by Mr Douglas White, a respected Queen’s Counsel with expertise in tax.

Opposition Member: It sounds like a whitewash.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I invite the member to accuse Douglas White of that outside this House; he may find himself a lot poorer as a consequence of that. If the Opposition member seriously thinks that Mr Douglas White is connected to this Government, he should ask some of his friends about those matters. It is the intention that all relevant matters will be inquired into.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister agree with the comments of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who stated: “I think it is also important to say that this is not a commission of inquiry. This is not a body that will hold public hearings. It does not have the power to compel evidence and to cross-examine people. It relies on the voluntary cooperation of the people about whom the inquiry is being launched.”; if she does, how can the public be confident that Mr Tamihere will cooperate voluntarily, when he has shown himself capable of saying one thing and doing the opposite in secret?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On that particular matter, I think it is important to remind ourselves that this inquiry is being carried out by a respected Queen’s Counsel, that the two essential groups involved—that is, Mr Tamihere and the trust—have both indicated very clearly that they will cooperate fully with the inquiry, and that Mr Tamihere has every vested interest in cooperating fully in order to defend himself. I would, of course, like to refer to Mr Douglas White QC a number of matters relating to tax avoidance promotion by people like Mr Rodney Hide, for example.

Hon Ken Shirley: Would the Prime Minister expect the Inland Revenue Department to investigate a case of alleged non-payment of tax on a payment of the magnitude of that made by the Waipareira Trust to her Minister, the Hon John Tamihere?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member is familiar with the Tax Administration Act, he will know that as well as being the Acting Prime Minister I am also the Minister of Revenue. Ministers are in no position to direct the Inland Revenue Department about what inquiries are undertaken. It will therefore be a matter for the commissioner to monitor what is happening in this particular instance. In this instance the issue is: did Mr Tamihere have good reason to believe the tax was paid at source? I would suggest the member waits for the evidence before jumping to a conclusion.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Acting Prime Minister did not answer the question. The question was not whether the Minister of Finance would instruct the department. The issue was: did the Prime Minister expect the Inland Revenue Department to investigate an allegation of that magnitude?

Mr SPEAKER: That was the question that was asked. The Minister addressed it.

Gerry Brownlee: How can the public, or this House, have any confidence in the inquiry when Douglas White QC has no statutory authority, has no ability to subpoena witnesses, documents, or files, has no ability to cross-examine witnesses, and cannot look into any matter without the express permission of those being inquired into; and does that not lead us to assume it is a powerless, toothless, Clayton’s inquiry designed to whitewash the issue?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Of course, I am sure that if the inquiry comes out arguing that the allegations are correct that will be warmly welcomed by the Opposition members, who will suddenly decide that Mr Douglas White acted fully independently, as I am sure he will. As I said, both the trust and Mr Tamihere have promised full cooperation on these matters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister if, whether or not tax was paid on the golden handshake at source, it is not a fact that Mr Tamihere would have been required to declare the income that he received because it would have affected his overall tax rate with respect to his primary source of income? Yes, it is!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely not. I have excellent outside advice on that matter. Income incurred during the year 1999-2000 did not require a declaration to be made as long as the person who received the income had reason to believe that it was taxed at source. [Interruption] There is the sound of glass houses cracking all over the place. There will be a vast number of members in this House who have not made a tax return for a number of years as a result of the law changes brought in in 1998 by Bill Birch.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the tax on this golden handshake was paid at source without knowledge of the overall taxation of this one income earner, would it not affect the taxation rate if it was not declared?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The income was incurred during the tax year 1999-2000. The top marginal tax rate was 33 percent on income above $38,000. Therefore, if there was reason to believe that tax was deducted at that marginal rate, then no further tax liability would have been incurred.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the independent inquiry investigate the material concerning the six payments made by the trust when Mr Tamihere was the chief executive officer to five bogus companies, matters concerning the vehicle made available to Mr Tamihere, and aspects of his requirements to file accurate information on his ministerial interest return; and to whom will the inquiry report?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The first two matters are the ones, of course, that are of significant issue. My view is that the terms already cover those particular matters, but if Mr White is uncertain whether that is the case—and I will make sure that the officials contact him about this—then the final term of reference makes it possible for the Prime Minister to refer those matters off, and that would certainly be done. The report of the inquiry comes back to the Prime Minister, and it will certainly be made public.

Papua New Guinea—Regional Security

4. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Will the Foreign Minister consultations with Papua New Guinea today address threats to regional security; if so, what are the priority areas for consideration?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Yes. Discussions will encompass broad issues involving regional security, including counter-terrorism measures, transnational crime, regional interventions dealing with the Bougainville peace process and the regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands, and other threats such as HIV/AIDS.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What progress has been made in areas that particularly affect Papua New Guinea, such as the Bougainville peace process and HIV/AIDS?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Very good progress has been made in Bougainville—in particular, with regard to weapons destruction, with over 90 percent of weapons now having been destroyed. The law and order situation there has also improved, and New Zealand is providing support with five community police officers on Bougainville. Following final agreement on the Bougainville constitution, provincial elections are expected to be held sometime after March next year. On HIV/AIDS, estimates vary but the World Health Organization has estimated that between 1 to 2 percent of the population in Papua New Guinea could be HIV-positive, and the threat of a serious epidemic is real and present. The Papua New Guinea Government is showing leadership in that area, and is working with international organisations on preventive measures. New Zealand is providing support for that process.

Keith Locke: Will the Minister be talking about the threat to regional security posed by Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua, and will he be trying to enlist Papua New Guinea’s support for the UN’s review of the bogus 1969 Act of Free Choice, by which West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: West Papua has been part of Indonesia since 1969, albeit through a process that left many people around the world less than satisfied about its legitimacy. That is not a formal topic on the agenda, but we will be encompassing a range of issues that deal with the wider region. Obviously, Indonesia is a significant country in the region, bordering Papua New Guinea.

Meningococcal Disease—Vaccination

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Health: When was she informed of the heightened concern among the New Zealand public regarding meningococcal disease, and is she confident that the vaccine for meningococcal disease now being prescribed by the Ministry of Health is safe?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I became aware of the epidemic in the 1990s. The disease rates had doubled from 1991 to 1992, and again from 1994 to 1995. By that time it was obvious that the disease had reached epidemic proportions. Yes, I am confident that the vaccine is safe. That confidence is based on the independent safety monitoring board’s report on the vaccine, released on 15 October, which found there were no issues of concern regarding the vaccine’s safety.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the question of safety of this vaccine, is it not a fact that 80 percent of trial “victims” had a reaction to the vaccine, and that no placebo tests were done—without which there is no credibility in any drug trial?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The clinical trials carried out on this test were up to international standards. There is no doubt about that. The reactions from the vaccine have all been predicted. No reactions that have been reported to the reaction centre are outside what was expected.

Nanaia Mahuta: Has the Minister seen any reports claiming that the epidemic is ______

, and that there is no longer any need for a vaccine; if so, what is her response to that claim?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I am aware, and a number of people have claimed this, but it is not a view I share. There were around 50 confirmed or suspected cases in 1990, before the epidemic began; today there are over 500. We would have to wonder at people who believe it has finished—at this stage I am certainly not convinced, and neither are the people responsible for the roll-out of this vaccine.

Judith Collins: Does she believe that the efforts of the Northland District Health Board, to stop general practitioners displaying a vaccine poster because it had a slightly cropped picture of a woman’s head were correct; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not a matter whether I think it is correct. There are—

Judith Collins: Don’t you have an opinion?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, if the member would like to wait for me to finish the answer before she starts screeching, I will give it to her.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I never heard you say a thing.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard an interjection. I heard a reply—I heard a response to the interjection. The response went a little far. If a person interjects, then the Minister can reply to it.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw and apologise. It is not for me to decide which poster will be used. There are a number of posters that can be used, and I do not mind which one they do use. I am more interested in getting maximum coverage for the immunisation programme. However, I have to agree with my colleague Dover Samuels, who said: “There is not need to do a haka over the poster.”

Metiria Turei: Why did the Minister say in July of this year that the meningococcal epidemic “has shown no signs of abating”, when answers to written questions show that the number of meningococcal cases has been declining since 2001 and that as of week 38 of this year, there has been a 73 percent decrease in the number of deaths, compared to 2001?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member will be aware, from the answers to that question. She was also provided with this graph. It shows that we peaked at the same amount in 1997 as we did in 2001. It dropped down, and then spiked up again. To say that we are not going to continue that trend means that she knows a lot more than the experts.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with the comments of the Ministry of Health Meningococcal Vaccine Strategy Director, Dr Jane O’Hallahan, that: “Amateur interpretation of complex scientific data is dangerous.”, and that people in the public eye and media should not resort to emotive claims which could result in vulnerable children missing out on this much-needed vaccine?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Again on the question of this vaccine’s safety, why is the ministry referring to the extensive trials conducted in Norway where the parent vaccine, similar to MENZB, was trialled, which was tested on 180,000 adolescents, yet never refers to the fact that the Norwegian Government decided against the use of this vaccine, after research concluded that it was not effective enough to justify a national campaign; why did that happen?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Norway, unfortunately, had the experience of suffering meningococcal-B for 25 years. When the Norwegian Government trialled a vaccine on 180,000 people, with 360,000 doses, it was in the 19th year of that epidemic. A decision was taken by then, based on the evidence they had, that it did not stack up in terms of cost-benefit, so they did not continue with it. If we have had it for 13 years, on the basis of what happened in Norway we would need to have another 10 years of this epidemic with all of the consequences that come from it, including 220 deaths to date, and over 5,400 New Zealanders affected.

Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table an email from the Northland District Health Board instructing general practitioners not to display the poster because it might be considered “culturally unsafe”.

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

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table a press release from Mr Heatley wanting to have the vaccine in Northland as fast as possible.

Leave granted.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a copy of the so-called culturally unsafe poster.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a 7 October 2004 press statement from the UK in respect of Chiron, the manufacturer—site licence suspension in the UK.

Leave granted.

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Taxation

6. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Is it Government policy to require all taxpayers to declare all income to the Inland Revenue Department, and has she or her deputy asked the Hon John Tamihere whether he declared his reported “golden handshake” from the Waipareira Trust?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): No, because the law changed in 1998 in that respect. As to the latter part of the question, I invite the member to look at the press statement from the Waipareira Trust today about the nature of the payment made.

Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister telling the House that in the year in which John Tamihere received the golden handshake he filed no tax return?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister has no knowledge—

Rodney Hide: Ah!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member would like to make it that the Minister of Revenue can look at all of the tax returns of members of Parliament, I suggest he asks a question along those lines. I would be quite interested to do that in some cases.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is the one and only warning today.

Rodney Hide: The Acting Prime Minister never addressed the question. If John Tamihere had no obligation to declare his income, then clearly he must have filed no tax return. My question was straightforward and I think it should be addressed.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister is not responsible for any member of Parliament filing a tax return. The person is responsible for following the law. The law is actually quite clear and not what Mr Hide has been trying to pretend it is on radio over the last few days.

Gerry Brownlee: Did the Prime Minister read Mr Tamihere’s recent autobiography in which on page 3 he states that at university he “concentrated on commerce, company, and tax law”; and does she expect the House and the New Zealand public to believe that Mr Tamihere, a legally trained fellow with chief executive officer experience, did not have the knowledge to know that tax should have been paid on his golden handshake?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, the issue around the nature of the payment is, of course, one for the inquiry. Secondly, the issue is not—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, fudge it!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Since that member got convicted he seems to have got even chirpier than he used to be.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It needs to be a matter of public record that I was never convicted. In fact, if I had been, your ruling would be quite different. It was a finding, which is not a criminal matter.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept the member’s word on this occasion as I must and I will. Could the member repeat his supplementary question.

Gerry Brownlee: Did the Prime Minister read Mr Tamihere’s recent autobiography, in which he states that at university he concentrated on commerce, company law, and tax law, and does she expect the House and the New Zealand public to believe that Mr Tamihere, with that background and his experience as a chief executive officer, did not know that he had to pay tax on his golden handshake?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I would expect Mr Tamihere to know is that, firstly, if income is incurred during a tax year in which there was no other income and he had good reason to believe that tax was deducted at source, he had no reason under law to make a tax declaration. [Interruption] That is the law as passed by this Parliament and as proposed by Mr Birch, the outgoing National Party Minister.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, is this a point of order?

Gerry Brownlee: Yes, it is a point of order. These are important questions, and I think the Acting Prime Minister should treat them as serious questions, and answer them that way. Everyone in this House knows that John Tamihere received income as a member of Parliament in the year that he received the golden handshake. It is a simple question for the Acting Prime Minister to answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The second time the Minister answered the question he most certainly addressed it, and addressed it seriously.

Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister therefore saying that in Mr Tamihere’s mind the $195,000 was net of tax, making this secret golden handshake, which the public had been told that Mr Tamihere would never take, a gross amount of $320,000 at the 39c rate, meaning that Mr Tamihere’s secret golden handshake from the Waipareira Trust would be No. 2 in Helen Clark’s “decade of shame” that she campaigned on against the National Party?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the Opposition has to make up its mind whether these facts were known in 2000, and whether the deal was a secret one. But let us at least get some consistency in the attack coming through in this respect. No, the member is wrong again on the tax law. If the income was derived during 1999-2000, the top tax rate was 33c, and the member is grossing up by the wrong amount.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does that mean that the Acting Prime Minister is saying that the payout was received in 1999-2000?

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, what is the point of order?

Rodney Hide: Well, it makes a difference in this way. If we are going to have this character stand up, attack Nick Smith for his convictions, and try to correct us, he should have to justify what he is saying.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister gave an answer and he has to stand by it in this House, and he does. There are ways of dealing with that if members are not satisfied.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Acting Prime Minister explain to the House, if the payment was received in the year 2001, is it taxed according to the rules in 2001, or is it taxed according to the rules when the payment was first mooted; if that is the case, can others forward-project their income to avoid higher tax rates?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sorry to disappoint the member showing his natural Tory instincts, but no. This is a matter in relation to when the income is derived, not when the income is received. If members are going to ask technical tax questions they had better bone up on the tax law first.

Waipareira Trust—Te Puni Kôkiri

7. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What is the total amount of funding made available by Te Puni Kôkiri to Te Whânau o Waipareira Trust since 1 January 1998, and what was the purpose of this funding?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I am advised that the total amount of funding paid to Te Whânau o Waipareira Trust since 1 January 1998 is $1,040,571. The funding has been provided for a range of purposes.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think that the Waipareira Trust putting a couple of hundred thousand dollars into Mr Tamihere’s back pocket is an acceptable way to distribute some of the millions of dollars it has received from that Government agency?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly not.

Darren Hughes: Does the Minister believe that the Waipareira Trust has provided value in respect of the funding that has been provided to it by Te Puni Kôkiri?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. For example, in relation to the direct resourcing project, the trust continues to develop and test an integrated whânau managed-care pilot. I am advised by officials that the strategy is proving very successful and is of considerable benefit to families in high need in west Auckland.

Stephen Franks: Does the Minister find it acceptable for a Government-funded Mâori trust to finance a Labour political campaign; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.

Gerry Brownlee: What did he have in mind when he stated: “There’s always those possibilities.” in response to a question asking whether it was possible that John Tamihere had done some things that “are not so honest”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Can the member repeat the question. I cannot quite understand it.

Mr SPEAKER: Please repeat the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, actually, we could not understand his response—that is why we asked the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked to repeat the question. That is not unreasonable.

Gerry Brownlee: What did the Minister have in mind when he stated in a recent interview “There’s always those possibilities.”, which was his response to a question asking whether it was possible that John Tamihere had done some things that are not so honest?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I need to see the whole script and recall what that member is trying to drop in; it is just part of an interview, apparently.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a transcript of a Nine to Noon interview between the interviewer and Parekura Horomia—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that interview.

Gerry Brownlee: Hang on!

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

Gerry Brownlee: Then I will withdraw the seeking of leave—it could have been for any old interview.

Mr SPEAKER: The member indicated the actual programme.

Gerry Brownlee: Yes—but what day?

Mr SPEAKER: Carry on, briefly—the date.

Gerry Brownlee: It was conducted between the Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon host and Mr Parekura Horomia, and in it he was asked: “Is it possible that John Tamihere has done some things that are not so honest?”, and he responded by saying: “There’s always those possibilities.” The question was what did he have in mind.

Leave granted.

Rodney Hide: With the Waipareira Trust helping those families in high need in west Auckland, does that include Mr John Tamihere and his family when he is out campaigning for the Labour Party, because “someone has to pay for his mortgage and feed his kids”; and when did this Minister first learn that the Waipareira Trust had paid for Mr John Tamihere’s election campaign?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. I think it is despicable that that member should wax lyrical on members who are under duress, and bring into account in this House their family members. It is disgraceful.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think Mr Hide, whether or not it is accidental, is asking a very, very sound question and a very reasonable one. That response from the Minister cannot, surely, be acceptable. There was no attempt to attack anyone’s family, at all. He is being asked, as Minister, whether he is happy, as the head of a Government department, with money going from the taxpayer towards paying for someone’s campaign.

Mr SPEAKER: The first word the Minister said was “No.” I thought that addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is my point. He said “No.”, and if he had left it at that it would have been fine, but then he launched into a tirade against Mr Hide for even asking the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, that part of the tirade was irrelevant, and in fact it was probably out of order. But as far as the question is concerned, it was addressed and a direct answer was given.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was also a second part of my question, which I am sure the House is interested to know the answer to, and it was when did Mr Parekura Horomia first learn that the Waipareira Trust was funding John Tamihere’s campaign, when he was campaigning on behalf of the Labour Party in 1999.

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a series of questions. The member addressed one of them, and that is quite satisfactory.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So you are saying to this House that it is acceptable that the Minister answered “No.”, and that as the Minister, because of embarrassment, did not answer the second limb of the question, the Opposition has to burn another question asking it?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not saying that at all.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That member is making an assumption. Those matters are currently the subject of a ministerial inquiry the terms of reference of which were announced yesterday.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Hide’s question was when did the Minister learn, and is he happy with what he learnt. It is that simple. He has answered one part of it, but he will not answer the first part.

Mr SPEAKER: As far as I am concerned, the Minister has now expanded on his answer. He has given two answers to that particular question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do we assume, then, if you accept that answer, that the Minister is saying he will wait for the inquiry to tell him when he first knew about the election expenses being paid by the Waipareira Trust?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It is part of debate.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might recall that during the Watergate inquiry there was a headline “What didn’t the President know, and when did he know it?”. This is identical here. The Minister has been asked when did he know and first learn about this. At no part have I heard any date or an answer that states: “Well, I didn’t know until later, or yesterday, or last month.” That would be acceptable, but the Minister has said nothing at all.

Mr SPEAKER: If that had been the question, then I would have expected the Minister to address it. The Minister answered the first part of the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister accept full responsibility for Mr Tamihere’s actions as Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Within his portfolio, yes. [Interruption]

Rodney Hide: There they go. Someone yells out, but it does not seem to matter to you, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Please sit down. I will discipline the House, not the member. I first heard an interjection from this side of the House, then heard one from that side of the House. I decided to ignore both. That is my prerogative. Please ask the question.

Rodney Hide: When did the Minister first learn that the Waipareira Trust had paid for John Tamihere to campaign for the Labour Party, and pay for his election expenses?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The member is assuming that it paid for those. It is yet to be proved. On the other matter, I learnt as much as he did, at about the same time as a whole lot of other people in this House.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is one piece of progress here, and it is this: clearly, Parekura Horomia does not accept John Tamihere’s word, either.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. I am getting tired of the member raising points of order that are not points of order. That most certainly was not one.

Sustainable Farming Fund—Reports

8. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Agriculture: What reports, if any, has he received on the success of the Sustainable Farming Fund?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture): I have received an assessment of the benefits arising from the Sustainable Farming Fund projects undertaken by Business and Economic Research Ltd. It has found the actual and potential benefits to be between $300 million and $500 million per annum from a sample of projects. This makes the Government’s investment of about $10 million a year more than worthwhile.

David Parker: How likely is it that those potential benefits will be achieved?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Business and Economic Research Ltd assesses the likelihood of that as high, because of the high regard in which the fund is held, and the way it works—that is, by requiring significant community and stakeholder involvement, which is increasing producer and community capability and cohesion. The fund was established because of a Labour Party election promise, and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to fostering growth and opportunities in our rural communities.

Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Sustainable Farming Fund used to encourage the fencing and planting of the riparian margins of streams passing through farmland, in order to decrease the impact of effluent and fertiliser runoff on water quality; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I cannot say—because over 300 projects have been funded—whether there have been projects on that specific topic, but I think it quite likely that there have been. Certainly, applications covering all such areas could be considered.

Question No. 7 to Minister

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I seek the leave of the House to table the Waipareira Trust’s expenditure on Mr John Tamihere’s election campaign, including payment for a speeding ticket he got when racing to a meeting.

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

RODNEY HIDE: I seek the leave of the House to table Mr John Tamihere’s electoral return, which makes no mention of the expenditures that the Waipareira Trust made on his behalf.

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

GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are probably going to rule that this is not a strict point of order, but it is certainly a matter of keeping order in the House, inasmuch as Parliament should be a place where integrity is on display. The Acting Prime Minister has been out in recent days saying to people: “If you’ve got allegations about John Tamihere, if you’ve got information about John Tamihere, then lay it on the table. Give it to those who are investigating this matter.” Yet Rodney Hide has just tried to lay information on the Table—not some trumped up bit of stuff he has made up, but actual information relevant to this investigation—and Mr Mallard wants to say that the House cannot see it. Is that open government? Is that an honest position for the Acting Prime Minister to be taking?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): It would be very helpful if it were simply pointed out that the material being sought to be tabled is Mr Tamihere’s election return. That is already available in the public arena, and this side of the House refuses leave automatically for matters that are already in the public arena.

Mr SPEAKER: No member is obliged to agree to a document being tabled, and Mr Brownlee should know that. [Interruption] That interjection is out of order. The member is lucky; I am generous, having heard his good contribution last evening!

Question No. 9 to Minister

RON MARK (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a point of order. It is not a speech but it will take a little bit of your time, and I ask your indulgence to hear me out before I ask my question. It relates to Standing Order 366. On 14 October I wrote to you seeking your assistance and advice regarding the failure of the Minister of Police to answer five specific written questions on time in accordance with Standing Order 366. I now seek further assistance from you in respect of parliamentary question No. 13998, which was referred to in that letter, which was lodged on 21 September and answered on 6 October. That question related to current response times to 111 calls.

Mr SPEAKER: Well—

RON MARK: I asked your indulgence, Mr Speaker. In the Minister’s answer, which was late, he told me that the information could be found in the yet-to-be-released 2004 annual report—which, as it turned out, was not made available until 14 October. There are two points of concern: firstly, that report does not give the current response times; it gives last year’s. Secondly, I would like your ruling on the practice of deferring answers in such a manner. This sets a precedent, whereby I, as a future Minister, might be able to tell that member in answer to a parliamentary question that the answer he seeks will be given in a report yet to be released, in 11 months’ time. I am seeking your assistance to ensure that Ministers do not show such cavalier disregard for the procedures of this House, and that Opposition members are protected from such delaying tactics.

Mr SPEAKER: A part of that was a point of order, and I will certainly have a look at that matter, and if necessary come back to the member. Members can criticise Minister’s practice in debate. There is nothing wrong with that. But I will have a look at the matter that the member has asked me to have a look at.

Tabling of Documents--Fay Richwhie

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the interests of fairness and disclosure of documents, I seek leave to table three press statements: one from the Labour Party, one from the New Zealand National Party, and one from the ACT party attacking Fay Richwhite’s dealings with Tranz Rail.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those three documents. Is there any objection? There is.

Police, Commissioner—Confidence

9. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does he have confidence in the Police Commissioner; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes, because under this Commissioner of Police, New Zealand’s crime rate is the lowest since 1983, and high resolution rates have been achieved.

Ron Mark: Does the basis for the Minister’s confidence in the commissioner lie also in the fact that in the last fiscal year, only 76 percent of 111 calls were answered within the stipulated 10 seconds, and only 71 percent of priority one calls were attended within the 10-minute deadline; does that justify the $70,000 pay hike the commissioner received?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There were 495,989 111 calls nationally and, of course, there were also other calls. The police have been improving their performance. They are not satisfied with it as yet, nor am I.

Tariana Turia: Under whose instruction did the Commissioner of Police approach Dr Pita Sharples, who had served the New Zealand Police for 32 years as a cultural adviser, and ask him to stand down from that position; and what was the reason?

Mr SPEAKER: This is wide of the question.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have the details of the reason but I suspect that it was because of his political role.

Ron Mark: What confidence can the public have in a commissioner who allows traffic patrols to silently sit idle, not responding to priority one calls; and is that not one reason why one-third of all people who have had contact with the New Zealand Police said they are not satisfied with the service, as reported in the Minister’s own report?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The New Zealand Police have been improving dramatically under this Government. The results are better. When one has a look at where crime was, one sees that it is now down to the same rate as it was in 1983. That member should be congratulating the New Zealand Police.

Tariana Turia: How long has it been Government policy that people having political involvement are asked to stand down from their positions more than a year out from an election?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have that information, but I think the New Zealand Police acted correctly.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek some guidance from you. The Minister said that the New Zealand Police’s performance has improved. These two pages show they have not met last year’s targets.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Ron Mark: The point of order is that he is misleading the House.

Mr SPEAKER: No. That is a matter the member can raise with me by letter if he wishes.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to table pages 44 to 45, which completely contradict everything the Minister just said.

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

Accident Compensation Corporation—Family Violence

10. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for ACC: Does she stand by her statement in the House on 13 October 2004 that Mr Steve Longford “appealed to ACC because of his outstanding work in the area of family violence injury prevention”; if so, why?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): Yes. I am advised that one of Mr Longford’s areas of expertise is in assisting practitioners to identify and investigate child safety issues through the use of behavioural intelligence.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware that Mr Longford’s profile on both the Bold Perspectives Shared Objectives website of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and the website of Mr Longford’s own company make no mention of his expertise in family violence prevention; if so, what information does the ACC have that verifies his expertise in that area?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That information was drawn to my attention by the member’s contribution in the general debate last week. Until then I had not checked Mr Longford’s personal website. One of the ways I can confirm his expertise, or relieve the member’s anxiety, is by assuring her of the validity of the advice that I received and reported to the House last week, and also by advising the House that Mr Longford has been engaged by Government agencies in Australia in the area of child safety.

Hon Mark Gosche: What is the Minister’s response to yesterday’s editorial in the Dominion Post on the matter?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I agree with the editorial’s statement that detecting fraud is part of the ACC’s job, and I strongly support that role. What the editor failed to reflect in the editorial is that I was advised, and reported to the House, that fraud detection is not the purpose of Mr Longford’s visit. This does not undermine my commitment to the detection and prevention of fraud.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware that Mr Longford’s speech at the Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association conference in March this year was entitled “Detecting deception through behavioural intelligence”, and can she assure the House that that will not be the primary focus of his speech to the Bold Perspectives, Shared Objectives conference?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, and yes.

Sue Bradford: How does it help accident victims’ rehabilitation from injury if they are living in fear that their case managers are more concerned to profile them as potential criminals or malingerers than to support them in their rehabilitation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: They may do well to reflect on the changes in the legislation, which ensure that rehabilitation is legislatively defined and does not meet the outcomes that member is alluding to.

Sue Bradford: Does the ACC have any commercial relationship with Mr Steve Longford or with any company with which he is associated, other than arrangements around the conference that is coming up; if so, what is that relationship?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am advised that the ACC does not have any commercial arrangement with Mr Longford. The only engagement it has with him is the invitation to the conference as a speaker next year.

Schools—Information Technology

11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to improve the use of information communications technology in schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): From the middle of next year, every school in New Zealand will have access to high-speed broadband Internet through Project Probe. With the final Probe contract signed, the Government has invested $48.3 million in the project. This investment will boost education and economic development across New Zealand, and is an important part of our strategy to grow a more innovative economy.

Lynne Pillay: How will he ensure that teachers are given the opportunity to improve their information and communications technology skills?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Through a variety of methods. Next year we will fund 10 E-Learning fellows. The teachers will be released from their teaching duties for a year to undertake research and to explore new and innovative ways of meeting students’ needs. We are also investing almost $10 million per year in information and communications technology professional development cluster programmes, and around 21,500 laptops have been distributed to teachers and principals through the laptop for teachers scheme. I should say that all those initiatives are in the group that the National Party has said that it would scrap.

Nandor Tanczos: Has the Minister asked his colleague the Minister for Information Technology to brief him on the potential benefits of non-proprietary software in terms of saving for his ministry and accessibility for schoolchildren, if New Zealand were to follow the lead of a number of other countries and move schools over to Linux operating systems; if not, will he do so in the future?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think I have briefed that member on that issue on a number of occasions. I am well aware of it.

Paul Adams: Is reducing the cost of information and communications technology not the biggest step to improve the use of information and communications technology in schools; if so, what is his response to the letter he received on Friday from Mr John Needham, board chair, and Mr John Inger, principal of Morrinsville College, stating that: “The reality is that we simply cannot afford to replace or lease existing computers, let alone add more to our networks, without moving further into debt.”

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that it is fair to say that I have not got to that letter yet, but probably my response will be that they are substantially better off under this Government, by about 10 percent real operations grant funding per student.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that I should have raised it immediately that the Minister answered, but I was just digesting his answer. I ask for clarification of his answer, because I was not clear whether he was saying that he had briefed me, which I do not think he has done, or whether he has briefed the Minister for Information Technology.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, the member that the member referred to.

Lynne Pillay: Do any of the programmes supplied to schools have spellcheckers, and how are they to be used?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, they do. I know that at least one of the programmes does. They are relatively easy to use. I would recommend them to members of the House, especially the Opposition education spokesperson, who sent out a press statement last week with not one, but two, spelling mistakes in it—that is the party of high education standards.

Paul Adams: Does the Minister agree that an important step to improve the use of information and communications technology in schools is to improve the safety of information and communications technology; if so, when will he support the installation of firewalls on school computers, especially in light of a recent school computer audit that revealed that one-quarter of all such computers contained inappropriate material?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not want to accept by implication the allegations of fact in the member’s question, but the question of Internet safety is something that this Government is dealing with as a matter of priority, as far as schools are concerned. We have put extensive funding into the Internet safety group, which is regarded as a world leader in this area, and I think that some of the people who are chipping should not throw stones too far.

Local Government—Election Results

12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Local Government: What advice has he received about when seven councils and 18 district health boards will get results for the local body elections that took place 10 days ago?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): The advice I have received is that the software problem seems to have been addressed and that KPMG and the office of the Auditor-General are now auditing the processes. Electoral officers will subsequently declare the final results. The first of those results is expected very shortly.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister not believe that the hundreds of candidates affected and the millions of people who are waiting to know the results deserve better from the Minister of Local Government than a statement that the results may be out soon?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Like all New Zealanders, I am keen to see the results come out. But, as with the results in Australia, assessing the results is a complicated process. The Australians are still waiting for their results, as well.

Dave Hereora: How many local authorities have completed their elections?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Seventy-nine of the 86 local authorities have declared or are about to declare their final results. The 79 local authorities include three that have successfully used single transferable voting (STV).

Jim Peters: Were the recent district health board elections, which were required to use the STV option by Government direction, meant to be a local, democratic process; if so why were so many rural districts almost completely disenfranchised, and why have over 100,000 New Zealanders had their votes disallowed and binned?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Government believed, and still believes, that STV will produce representation in district health boards that is comprehensive of the whole community.

Larry Baldock: When those results do finally come out, will the Minister conduct an inquiry to see whether the STV system has delivered some of the objectives that were promised of it; if not, will he then consider scrapping that crazy system for future elections?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I will wait with keen interest the report of the Justice and Electoral Committee, which will look at those matters.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What is the reason for the further delay, when David Allen, chief executive officer of New Zealand Post, said that the stuff-up by Datamail was corrected last Wednesday; is it that Datamail has further failed, or is there now a problem with Electionz.com?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I said in my primary answer, Datamail has assured us that it has corrected the electronic problem. There is now a process whereby the Auditor-General’s office is checking the integrity of the process. It is very important that all people have confidence that the counting of this vote is an accurate one.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What responsibility does the Minister bear for the worst-ever local body election in New Zealand’s history when this is the first election run under the new Local Electoral Act, which was trumpeted by Labour and passed in 2001?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am confident that we will learn from the mistakes that have been made this time and ensure that a better process takes place next time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the statement by New Zealand Post that the results would have been available last weekend.

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

Leave granted.

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

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