Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 20 October
Wednesday, 20 October
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Secondary School Teachers—Recruitment]
2. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Ministerial Future
3. Regional Development—Assistance
4. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Integrity
5. School Leavers—Age Exemptions
6. Cellphones—Cost Comparisons, Australia
9. Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board—Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Act
10. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
11. Health Services—Rural Areas
12. Local Government—Election Results
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Secondary School Teachers—Recruitment]
1. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to recruit secondary teachers in subject shortage areas?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): A new $18.8 million teaching scholarship scheme will pay for people who are training to be secondary teachers and studying towards degree programmes in the areas of te reo Mâori, maths, physics, chemistry, and technology—all areas where there are shortages of qualified teachers. These scholarships will be worth more than $20,000 to some students, and will meet the study fees for a 3-year degree and a year of teacher education. In return, recipients will be bonded and expected to teach for the same number of years for which they receive the scholarship.
Helen Duncan: What other initiatives has the Government put in place to help recruit secondary teachers during this period of worldwide shortage?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Other initiatives include secondary subject training allowances, worth up to $10,000 and available to graduates and near-graduates who will be teachers in biology, chemistry, computing, English, maths, physics, te reo Mâori, and technology, and there are national and international relocation grants, student loan support for teachers in certain subjects, and funding for retraining.
Hon Bill English: Why has the Minister excluded several thousand students who are training to teach at privately owned institutions from his scholarship scheme?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that there are only two areas where people are training. One is at the Christchurch graduate college and the other is at Bethlehem, and both are eligible for this scheme.
Bernie Ogilvy: If scholarship recipients do not fulfil the bonding requirements and are required to repay the loan in a similar manner to student loans, will they also be charged comparable interest on the outstanding amount; if not, are they not effectively getting an interest-free student loan?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The answers are yes and, therefore, irrelevant.
Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Ministerial Future
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What did the Acting Prime Minister mean by reported comments that Mr Tamihere’s ministerial future would be a “political decision”, and does that mean the Prime Minister may make a decision prior to receiving a report from Douglas White QC?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): The report the member relies upon misquotes me. However, questions around Mr Tamihere’s future will, in the end, be political decisions, following the report of Douglas White QC.
Dr Don Brash: Why can the Prime Minister decide that Lianne Dalziel should pack her bags within 48 hours of misleading the public, yet she cannot decide that Mr Tamihere should resign for misleading the public over a vastly more important matter—one involving monetary benefit to him—and can the Prime Minister explain why her Government persists with two different standards for Ministers?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I reject the insinuation that was made in the latter comment; it is not worthy of the member to keep repeating that statement. In relation to my colleague Lianne Dalziel, the issue revolved around one word and a comma, I think it is fair to summarise. The issues around Mr Tamihere are very complex, and I note, indeed, that members opposite are retreating from most of the accusations around illegal or improper behaviour.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why were Ruth Dyson and Marian Hobbs restored to their full ministerial positions, yet after a full inquiry, which found no blame whatsoever, Dover Samuels was not; and how does the Acting Prime Minister square that with his comments?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Samuels has been restored to ministerial status, and is a full and active part of the Government, and I work very well with him.
Rodney Hide: Will the Prime Minister rule out sacking John Tamihere before Douglas White QC concludes his inquiry?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Like the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders, the Government believes that the evidence should be properly considered. [Interruption] The member will find out tonight that he is in a very small minority on that issue. The overwhelming majority of New Zealanders believe that Mr Tamihere’s case should be heard carefully and considered carefully before a decision is arrived at. That is the purpose of the inquiry by Mr Douglas White QC.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under her administration it is not wrongdoing that determines a Minister’s future but, rather, the level of political embarrassment to the Prime Minister; and does her lack of action in this case mean that she is simply waiting for her focus group reports and media clippings before deciding what is right and what is wrong?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, but I invite the member to look immediately to his right, at a person who committed assault, and, next door, at somebody who was found guilty of contempt.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In response to the comment from the Acting Prime Minister, which you seemed to think was perfectly acceptable in Parliament—despite personal explanations having been made, and despite it being against your own ruling—let me make it very clear to the House that I was never paid for my actions.
Mr SPEAKER: That is irrelevant and is not—[Interruption] Order! My patience has gone. That is not a point of order. The member is skating on very thin ice with regard to his staying in this House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: On what date did the Prime Minister learn of John Tamihere’s golden handshake, if it was not in Parliament on 27 July 1999, or soon thereafter?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a primary question, question No. 10, which asks when the Prime Minister first learnt about the golden handshake. I am quite happy to answer the question, as long as it is appropriate for me to do so at this point, thereby pre-empting the question that is set down on the Order Paper for later.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Peters is asking the question.
Hon Bill English: Just answer it.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to answer it, but I was giving Mr Hide the chance to ask it first, as he wrote it. As far as I am aware, the first time the Prime Minister heard of this payment was when allegations were reported last week.
Rodney Hide: There you go, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: The question has not started. Please ask the question.
Rodney Hide: So that is the rule now?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and it always has been.
Rodney Hide: In light of the Acting Prime Minister’s commitment to hearing the evidence, will he now rule out sacking John Tamihere before the Douglas White QC report is finished?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member has evidence, and wishes to support a further allegation with evidence that might bear upon the question he has just asked, I invite him to bring it forward. But so far the evidence produced by that member has not exactly been very solid.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order, Mr Brownlee?
Gerry Brownlee: Yes, it is.
Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
Gerry Brownlee: The point of order is about the quality of the answer and whether the Minister addressed the question that was asked of him. He was asked whether he would rule out Mr Tamihere being removed from his ministerial post prior to the completion of the report from Douglas White QC, and he answered in a completely spurious way by talking about his view that there was not enough evidence to sack Mr Tamihere.
Mr SPEAKER: I would like the Hon Dr Michael Cullen to answer.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen nothing so far to suggest that anything should be done other than follow a proper process—which I know the member does not like—of allegations first, then evidence, then response to the evidence, then consideration of the evidence, then a conclusion, and then a determination of consequential action.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the answer to my last question the following: that despite the allegation being made on 27 July 1999, and the fact that John Tamihere was a candidate, the Prime Minister at no time made any inquiry—then or later—as to whether the allegation was true; or is it that John Tamihere gave her an assurance that it was not true, and last week she found out that that assurance was false?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member is getting a little confused about the chronology—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I’m not.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, he is. The original offer came from the trust in May 1999, and was declined by Mr Tamihere at that point. The renewed offer occurred much later than that. There was nothing in July 1999, at all.
Rodney Hide: Has the Prime Minister seen Mr John Tamihere’s speech of 24 March 2004 where he said: “… we need to make sure that we adhere to the highest standards. We must lift our own standards, conduct and ethics to ensure that we are beyond reproach.”, and does he think it acceptable that Mr John Tamihere should be on full ministerial pay and perks with no ministerial responsibilities, and hiding out in Henderson, rather than his coming down to Parliament?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said before, it is perfectly appropriate for the evidence to be considered properly before a conclusion is arrived at. It is more appropriate that Mr Tamihere is in Henderson than it is for that member to keep covering up for Mr Henderson.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—[Interruption] I will not be shouted at by Mr Brownlee. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the last part of that remark should be withdrawn.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to make it clear that Mr Henderson is involved in the sex industry in Christchurch, and had a long record of dispute with the Inland Revenue Department, before I became Minister, over matters of taxation payments.
Mr SPEAKER: As with other comments made this afternoon, that was not a point of order.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hesitate to say so, but my question asked whether the Prime Minister had seen that speech. That was not addressed. I also asked the Acting Prime Minister about that member being on full ministerial pay with perks, with no ministerial responsibilities, and hiding out in Henderson. Neither of those two questions was responded to.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the second part. He did not address the first part. He is not obliged to address every part.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister why she, through her Acting Prime Minister, is disputing the chronology of events, when the fact is that at the Taipâ meeting in April the $50,000 offer was made, which John Tamihere rejected, and that a later, late May 1999, offer included the $280,000 offer, which John Tamihere accepted; why is he disputing that fact when it is part of the minutes of that organisation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister John Tamihere did not accept the offer that was made in May 1999, although, of course, that was the original date that the offer was made. It was renewed much later, and then accepted.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Acting Prime Minister is going to stick with the view that Mr Tamihere did not take the payment in 1999, but, rather, accepted it at a much later date, does he still stick by his statement yesterday that the income would be taxed in the year in which it was derived, and does that not mean that Mr Tamihere is up for the 39c rate rather than the 33c rate?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because the date of derivation of income is the date at which the offer was made. The member could be receiving income today that derived from the 1999-2000 tax year. I suggest he get a tax adviser on these matters.
3. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What recent announcements has he made that indicate further Government assistance to aid regional economic development?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Last Thursday I launched a major regional development initiative for the Eastern Bay of Plenty, the National Centre of Maintenance Engineering Excellence. It is supported by $2 million from the Regional Partnerships Programme. That initiative will lift skill levels and address the major shortage of maintenance staff both in the region and nationally, and is an essential element in removing barriers to economic development. The latest growth figures for June 2004—the annual average figures—for the Bay of Plenty, an area known well to some members on the Opposition side of the House, show 5.3 percent GDP growth, compared with the June 1999 figure of 0.5 percent under the previous National-led Government. That is a tenfold increase in growth performance.
Hon Matt Robson: What are the benefits for the regions from such regional development programmes?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: For the Eastern Bay of Plenty engineering training initiative, the economic impact on GDP in the region is estimated at $14 million per year. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research estimates that over 12 years, the value of the project to the New Zealand economy will be $1.3 billion.
Moana Mackey: How many major regional development programmes are currently under way?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: So far there have been 14 major regional initiatives launched in New Zealand, with a further 13 in the immediate pipeline. Three regions are well on the way, or have had, their second major regional initiative approved. The end result, of course, is that we have a national growth rate of 4.3 percent. Compared with the same time under the National-led Government, when the rate was 1.5 percent, that is a 187 percent increase in the performance of New Zealand.
Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Integrity
4. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What did he have in mind when he stated that: “There’s always those possibilities” in response to an interviewer’s question asking whether it was possible that the Hon John Tamihere had done some things “that are not so honest”?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I meant that allegations made against my colleague need investigation to see whether there is truth in them.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister seen the statement of Mr Eynon Delamere that the payment made to John Tamihere was not a golden handshake but “for some things we wanted him to achieve in Parliament”, thereby suggesting that as Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs, he had a private arrangement with the Waipareira Trust to procure a more generous treaty fisheries settlement for that organisation in return for a payment of a cash bonus; if so, would the Minister accept that arrangement as being totally proper?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I did see the press release and I did see the retraction.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to look at the last part of that question. What is it to do with the Minister of Mâori Affairs’ responsibility whether a payment made to another Minister, supposedly for a certain purpose and later corrected in a press statement, was proper? Yes, one can ask for the Minister’s opinion, but it must be related to his responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did answer the question yesterday and that is why I have allowed it today. The Hon Parekura Horomia can comment.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I did see the press release, and I also read his retraction.
Rodney Hide: Does the Minister stand by his answer yesterday that it is not acceptable for a Government-funded Mâori trust, like the Waipareira Trust, to finance a Labour Party political campaign; and does he think it acceptable for one of his Ministers or colleagues to accept money from a Mâori trust for a Labour Party political campaign?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes and no.
Gerry Brownlee: To the Minister’s knowledge, did his Associate Minister have direct influence on the increase from $10 million to $25 million for the development pûtea from the 2004 Mâori fisheries settlement, of which the Waipareira Trust will receive up to $5 million, and was that what the trust “wanted him to achieve in Parliament” and why it paid him at least $195,000?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That member was not the Minister responsible for the fishing deal, and I do not understand the latter part of his question.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave of the House to explain to the Minister what the question was about.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member can just repeat the last part of his question.
Gerry Brownlee: Did Mr Tamihere directly influence the increase from $10 million to $25 million for the development pûtea from the 2004 Mâori fisheries legislation, of which the Waipareira Trust will receive up to $5 million, and could that be why the trust paid him $195,000 to come to Parliament?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was the Minister on the select committee the day the former lawyer for the Waipareira Trust alleged that there were 32 forged cheques involved in respect of that trust, and is that what he means by “There’s always those possibilities”; if not, what was he referring to?
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that the member can be asked questions about his responsibility as a Minister. Whether he was on a select committee is not really pertinent to this particular point. If the Minister wants to comment, he can.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has said: “There’s always those possibilities”. That is why this question is correctly in this House, because we want to know what he meant by that, having regard to the primary question he was asked by the media. I am saying that here is an example where he was there as Minister, and is that one of the possibilities he was referring to?
Mr SPEAKER: If he was there as Minister he certainly can answer that question.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I was not on the select committee. For the member’s benefit this question was preceded by my saying that John means well and he has done a whole lot of honest things. The full question—[Interruption]—from the interviewer, and this is for that member too was: “But if he’s done a whole lot of honest things, is it possible that he has done some that are not so honest?”. My full response was this: “There’s always those possibilities, Linda, but you know, certainly to be fair to myself and other colleagues in here, it’s really important that we go through due process and that is beginning today.”
Rodney Hide: Given that the Minister is defending his colleague John Tamihere by saying: “I think that he has done many honest things,” is the Minister aware of some dishonest things that John Tamihere has done—in particular, pleading guilty to two counts of forgery and uttering, to obtain $160,000 out of Housing New Zealand?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, I am unashamed in supporting my colleague John Tamihere, just like that member supported Donna Awatere when she was in—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I do not know what the member is on his feet for. I presume he wants a supplementary question. He may have one if he calls properly.
Rodney Hide: I was actually doing a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member did not. The member made irrelevant comments that had nothing to do with it. This had better be a point of order. This is the member’s opportunity to make one.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question on the point of order was this: was the answer no, because he did not think that he was doing anything dishonest?
Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister addressed the question.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister is going to stick to the position that Mr Tamihere was not involved in increasing the pûtea from $10 million to $25 million, how does he explain a memo from his Associate Minister to the Minister of Fisheries stating that giving effect to a bigger settlement for urban Mâori, which includes the Waipareira Trust, was the purpose of his election; and does he now think that an increased amount from the larger pûtea, some $5 million, was why the Waipareira Trust paid Mr Tamihere $195,000?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That supplementary question does not flow from the previous answer the Minister gave. The Minister gave an answer to the first part of the previous question that the Associate Minister was not responsible for the fisheries matter. He answered a blanket “No” to the second half when he was asked to answer the second half of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I would like the member just to restate the question so I can hear it.
Gerry Brownlee: Just so we are very clear—
Mr SPEAKER: No. I want to hear the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on a point of order at the moment.
Gerry Brownlee: May I speak to it?
Mr SPEAKER: The member may speak to it.
Gerry Brownlee: Dr Cullen said that the Minister answered the second part of my question. The reality is that when you suggested that I could make an explanation to Mr Horomia I simply reread the question, and he did say that Mr Tamihere was not involved in the increase from $10 million to $25 million. The Hansard record will show that very clearly. This second question follows on from that.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: What the member forgot to tell you, Mr Speaker, is what you said to him previously, which was that the Minister should answer the second half of the question, and that is what the Minister proceeded to do.
Mr SPEAKER: He did.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The second half of the question asked whether Mr Tamihere had been involved in increasing the pûtea from the Mâori fisheries settlement from $10 million to $25 million, and the Minister said “No.” Surely I am entitled to ask a question when I know that that is not the case.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has not answered my question.
Mr SPEAKER: The supplementary question that the member originally asked was in order and the Minister may answer it. If the member can repeat it, I ask him to do so.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister is going to stick by his view that Mr Tamihere did not influence the increase from $10 million to $25 million in the pûtea as part of a Mâori fisheries settlement, of which the Waipareira Trust will receive up to $5 million dollars, how does he explain a memo from his Associate Minister to the Minister of Fisheries, stating that increasing that amount was the purpose for which he was elected to Parliament, and is that, in his opinion, perhaps the reason why the Waipareira Trust paid him $195,000 to come here?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: In reply to the first part of the member’s question, Mr Tamihere did not have that influence directly. In relation to the second part, it is well known that John Tamihere has a long history of pushing urban issues and speaking up for them—the same as a whole lot of other members in this House. He is a good member representing his constituents’ needs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which other Mâori MP in the Government coalition has had nearly as much effect in attempting to introduce what some call “post-box tribalism”—that is, an urban authority, regardless of where one was originally born or one’s family—which is surely underscored by the letter that the deputy leader of the National Party recited; so how can the Minister reconcile what he has just said with the facts?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I recall a time back when Mr Tamihere was challenging traditional leadership. He has moved through and he is consistent with that. I am quite comfortable in reconciling what I said to that member opposite.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek the leave of the House to table the memo from the Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs, John Tamihere, to the Minister of Fisheries, the Hon Pete Hodgson, in which he states that he was elected to Parliament to effectively increase the amount of payment to urban Mâori.
School Leavers—Age Exemptions
5. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Minister of Education: How does he explain the 37 percent increase in the number of students who have been granted exemptions to leave school before they reach the statutory leaving age, from 2,802 in 1999 to 3,842 last year?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The numbers have risen in a consistent manner since the increase in the school leaving age in 1993.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister of Education continue to believe that “Many of the students being granted exemptions are truants.” and that by agreeing to exemptions the Government is basically relieving itself of any responsibility for those young people, as he stated in a press release in 1997 when the number of exemptions was 2,024?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I am concerned that young people are leaving school early. I think the matter is slightly more complicated now, with—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It’s got worse. You’ve been caught out.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is slightly more complicated now because of the lower unemployment rates and the fact that so many of those people are moving into apprenticeships and jobs. I know that Nick Smith hates young people to get jobs, because he tried to stop them. I am concerned about this matter, and that is why the Government has introduced a student engagement initiative worth $8.6 million over 4 years. It is designed to see which of those young people can stay for longer at school.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had hoped you might move to indicate to the Minister that that particular address to the question was inappropriate. I know that you do tolerate a degree of latitude when it comes to answers—and, for that matter, questions—but to make a statement as he did about the Hon Nick Smith, who has considerable commitment to young people in this country, I think is totally unacceptable.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member had not interjected by making that comment I most certainly would have interrupted. But he made a comment. An interjection can be replied to.
Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister just not admit that he has changed his mind about the statements he made in Opposition, and why does he not also admit that his 42 different initiatives for young people at risk all appear to have failed as the rate of truancy grows, the rate of suspensions grows, and the rate of exemptions grows?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member was right, I might agree with him. He is wrong.
Metiria Turei: How many students have applied for exemptions because their school unlawfully asked them to leave, such as the exceptional student in Whangarei whose haircut offended the principal, and when will the Minister finally put in place a transparent, accessible legal process for families to contest those unlawful decisions by schools?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are some unfortunate cases where schools react inappropriately to students. As a result of that this Government put considerable extra funding into the Office of the Commissioner for Children so that it could advocate for those young people. We do have clear, transparent processes—they are called courts.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister confident that the exemptions process is robust, when although students who leave school must have a course or job lined up, a secondary principal from his own electorate claims that the students often quit soon afterwards, leading them into crime and drugs, with little or no follow-up from the Ministry of Education; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the school, the employer, or the course provider has information that that is happening, it has an obligation to inform the ministry. I read Rob Mill’s comments in the paper this morning, and I will be checking to see which cases he has taken up with the Ministry of Education.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister then stand by the claim by the Ministry of Education’s support manager, Murray Williams, that 99 percent of students granted early leave exemptions were successful and went on to good careers; if so, whom should we believe: the school principal or the Minister’s officials, who have been accused by the former of not keeping in touch with the students?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I repeat my comments that if people—schools, employers, or training providers—have specific examples of cases where kids are not attending as per the requirements, then they should report them to the ministry. I will check to see whether that is happening. Having said that, I think that the reported comments of 99 percent being successful may be a little optimistic.
Bernie Ogilvy: How many exemptions does the Minister believe are granted to students who are found by schools to be increasingly difficult to control, and given recent publicity criticising schools for excluding students with such behavioural problems, what is he doing to ensure that parents take more responsibility for their child’s behaviour, rather than playing the victim and blaming the school?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think at some stage we are going to have to face facts. A number of years ago there was a decision taken to raise the school leaving age from 15 to 16. Some 15-year-olds are better off in a job and in getting training with that job, as in an apprenticeship. I think, for those kids, the exemption should be used.
Cellphones—Cost Comparisons, Australia
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Communications: What explanation can he give for the Commerce Commission reporting that cellphone users in New Zealand are paying twice what is charged in Australia?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Associate Minister of Communications), on behalf of the Minister of Communications: The Commerce Commission has not said that cellphone users pay twice what is charged in Australia, but it has said that there are some pricing issues that need to be addressed.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Referring the Minister to the Commerce Commission report, is it not a fact that the reason the Minister has done nothing to prevent Telecom’s dominance and monopoly of telecommunications in New Zealand, enabling it to make huge profits at the expense of New Zealanders, is that Telecom has made generous donations to the Labour Party—and what does one call that?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I would observe that the company the member has mentioned does not hold a dominant position in the mobile services market, which was the subject of his initial question.
Russell Fairbrother: What process will be followed, now that the Commerce Commission has issued its draft report?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The commission’s draft recommendation is that the wholesale price of mobile termination be regulated, that the initial pricing principle be benchmarking, and that the final pricing principle be efficient cost-based. The commission is now following a public consultation process, following which it plans to make a final report on the matter to the Minister of Communications in the new year. The Minister can then accept the report, reject the report, or send it back for further work.
7. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister for Crown Research Institutes: What progress has been made in reducing the backlog in the scientific investigation of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Crown Research Institutes): Excellent progress. The backlog has been effectively halved since January, down from around 180 cases, to around 90 today.
Mark Peck: What factors have influenced the reduction in times in getting things done through the methamphetamine laboratories?
Hon PETE HODGSON: All sorts of factors. New scientists have been hired, there is new equipment and increased funding, and there are new internal working practices with the police and the courts, which is why, if current trends continue, we expect to be down to a normal caseload by July next year.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree with the decision by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research to give priority to urine-testing workers for weekend drug use, such as its recent attempts to sell urine testing to the hospitality industry, and how does that impact on its ability to do real work, such as investigating methamphetamine laboratories?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret I do not have an answer for the member’s question, but would be happy to supply him with one if he would like to put it down as a written question.
8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Do the police despatch taxis in response to 111 calls; if so, in what circumstances?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that when a 111 call is received, a decision is made as to whether it requires a police response. If a police response is not required, police will often work with the caller to provide appropriate assistance.
Hon Tony Ryall: What reports has the Minister asked for on the recent Piha 111 matter, and in the meantime what action has he taken, or does he intend to take, in light of the public concerns on this matter and the police inquiry?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Commissioner of Police advised me that the initial response was inappropriate. The police should have sent a patrol. Judgment exercised by some staff is to be the subject of disciplinary action. Later today a news conference will take place, outlining the details of a police response and disciplinary issues.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why did the police decide to send a taxi instead of a patrol car in the Pîhâ 111 matter?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am informed that there were patrol cars there, and that it is not a resource issue. In the news conference later this afternoon those matters will be canvassed, but I am not getting involved in police disciplinary matters.
Ron Mark: Is it Government policy to have traffic units deployed on revenue-gathering duties and ignoring police dispatchers’ request for units to respond to priority one calls whilst their overstretched general-duties and eye cars bust their gut to respond not only to those calls but to traffic accidents that the traffic patrol units refuse to attend? If it is not Government policy, what will he, the Minister, do to redress this ridiculous situation?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: In the Pîhâ case, there were vehicles and patrols available to attend it, and that member ought to come up with specifics rather than generalisations that are not correct.
Hon Tony Ryall: Do women in distress need to be screaming before police will come to protect them rather than send a taxi?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police actually act on information they have. They make judgment calls. This time they made a very poor judgment call.
Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board—Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Act
9. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Is she satisfied that in appointing the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board she has achieved a balance of knowledge, skills, and experience across all matters required in section 8(2) of the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Act 2004?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why do none of the five board members claim in their CVs any specialist knowledge, skills, or experience in the ecology of braided rivers, as required in section 8(2)(b), yet they do have backgrounds in hydo generation and irrigation; and how does this lack of balance conform with the Act?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am satisfied that each of the members has the relevant knowledge, skills, and experience that make the board, as a whole, well-equipped to undertake the tasks it has been appointed to do. The board has on it members who have helped develop guidelines for assessing what river flows are required to sustain ecological values and how to monitor rivers for effects of ecological values.
Larry Baldock: Has the Minister seen any reports on how the Waitaki community and interest groups have received the announcement of the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board; if so, what did they have to say?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, I have seen reports in the newspapers, from Fish and Game, which was generally respectful of the balance on the board in the North Otago community; also, I think, from the chair or a senior person in the Aoraki Water Trust, who also thought that it was a good, balanced board.
David Parker: If the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board requires more information about river ecology, is there provision for it to seek that information?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, there is. The board can ask for specialist information and advice regarding any other matter that comes before it. I also have the ability to supply information to the board that might assist it.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why do none of the members claim in their CVs any local knowledge of the Waitaki catchment, as required in section 8(2)(c), and how, under the Resource Management Act, can she replace local councils with a Government-appointed board without the local knowledge that her Act requires?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have just had an email from a project manager of the Ministry for the Environment that talks about the board’s initial meeting on 30 September, and board members had a familiarisation tour this week on 18 and 19 October. I can report that the board has demonstrated that it has a good understanding among its members of the matters that will come before it, and a capability and appetite to deal with them. That includes a sound understanding of the catchment and its issues. It names three people: Nick Brown, Claire Mulcock, and Edward Ellison, in particular, who demonstrated their knowledge of the area.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: In replying to my written question on the matter, why was the Minister unable to give me any specific knowledge, or expertise, or skills relating to the Waitaki catchment or river ecology, other than the generalist knowledge one has from sitting on decision-making boards?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I gave the straight biographical information that had been handed to me. If the member likes, I have some further information. Sheila Watson developed the methodology for the Ministry for the Environment’s flow guidelines for in-stream values, which provide a way of establishing objectively the flows needed to sustain ecological and recreational values.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may give only one more example.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Claire Mulcock, who was a member of the Rangitata Water Conservation Order tribunal, was a team member developing an ecology-based tool, a stream-health monitoring kit, for rural communities.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Board a precedent for the non-local decision-making processes proposed in the next Resource Management Act amendment bill; if so, how is that override of both the environment and the local community consistent with the purpose of the Resource Management Act?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: No, it is not a precedent.
Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: When did she first learn that the Hon John Tamihere had received a “golden handshake” from the Waipareira Trust, and when would she have expected him to have informed her of the $195,000 payment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): As far as I am aware, the first the Prime Minister heard of this payment was when allegations were reported last week. It is for Ministers to determine what information they pass on about matters outside their direct portfolio responsibilities.
Rodney Hide: In light of the Minister’s responsibility to decide what to inform the Prime Minister about, in terms of the register of Ministers’ interests and assets, which all Cabinet Ministers fill out, listing directorships, payments, gifts, and assets, does Mr Tamihere’s statement in this year’s register—a nil return—mean that he had no outside income, assets, or gifts, or that he failed to provide a return?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no information to hand on that, but for the relevant period in relation to the vehicle, that would certainly be a matter to be looked at, in terms of the inquiry. I am sure that if that matter wants to extend further, that can be done.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did John Tamihere give the Prime Minister an assurance after 27 July 1999 that he had not taken and would not take a golden handshake; and, bearing in mind her campaign theme of 1999 about golden handshakes, how does she feel about all of that now?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The campaign around golden handshakes concerned the vast amounts of money paid to people whom other people wanted to get rid of because they were not doing their jobs properly. Nobody has yet demonstrated in any shape or form that any of the payments to Mr Tamihere fell into that category.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just so that the Minister is focused on what the question really was, I will repeat what I asked him: did John Tamihere give the Prime Minister an assurance after 27 July 1999 that he had not taken and would not take a golden handshake—yes, or no?
Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is my point of order; he never answered the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I thought he addressed the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No. I asked him: did the Prime Minister receive an assurance from John Tamihere that he had not, and would not, take a golden handshake, after the first time that it was raised in Parliament, in 1999?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I questioned the definition of a golden handshake. That is addressing the question.
Gerry Brownlee: If, as the Acting Prime Minister suggests, John Tamihere was not paid a golden handshake to get rid of him, does he now believe that Mr Eynon Delamare was right when he said that the Waipareira Trust paid him $195,000-plus to come to Parliament to do some things for it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, I do not agree with Mr Delamare’s statement, because he retracted it himself on 18 October.
Rodney Hide: Did the Prime Minister and her Deputy Prime Minister not find it odd that in terms of the Cabinet Manuel requirement that all Ministers fill out a declaration of interests, outside payments, and gifts, Mr John Tamihere filed a nil return—put in nothing—when, in fact, the year before, he had filled out a return declaring some assets; were they not concerned that those assets had just seemed to evaporate while he was working away as a Minister?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The fact that people’s asset position changes is neither here nor there. If the member cares to look at the Minister of Finance’s returns for 2 years in that period, he will find that for 1 year there was a declaration of an investment in a BNZ managed fund. The Minister of Finance was subsequently advised that it was not necessary to declare that asset.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the declaration of Ministers’ interests and assets for 15 September 2002, which includes declaration of a directorship and two ownership interests—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the declaration of Ministers’ interests and assets, which covers gifts and suchlike, for the period ended 31 December 2003, for which Mr John Tamihere put in a nil return.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that declaration. Is there any objection? There is.
Health Services—Rural Areas
11. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Associate Minister of Health: What steps is he taking to support the health of rural New Zealanders?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health): Last week I announced a $10.9 million annual funding boost to help rural areas retain general practitioners, nurses, and other health professionals. This workforce retention funding and reasonable roster of funding will provide extra payments to support primary health care workers stay in rural areas and help those practising in isolated communities to have reasonable on-call rosters.
Darren Hughes: Can the Minister tell the House what other initiatives are continuing in support of rural health outcomes around the country?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Certainly. Last week I announced the second round of Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner (Rural) Scholarships. The scholarships are worth approximately $40,000 each, so that nurses can take a year off to complete the required study. The mobile surgical bus is exceeding all targets. We have more students from rural areas going into medicine, thanks to the cap being raised at Auckland University and Otago University.
Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that the health of rural as well as urban New Zealanders will be adversely affected if junior doctors continue to be expected to work 72-hour weeks, including night shifts of 10 hours for up to 7 consecutive nights, and will he, therefore, be supporting junior doctors in their efforts to ensure that they have safe working conditions?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I saw that article this morning, and would like to quote from the New Zealand Herald and say that every time the doctors’ industrial document is up for renegotiation, we hear of these impossible hours that they are expected to work. We accept that it is a big ask of young doctors. However, it is part and parcel of the training that they go through to become qualified health professionals and do a very good job for New Zealanders.
Judy Turner: Which rural areas have been identified as having problems as part of the primary health organisation – induced, nationwide crisis in after-hours services, and can he explain what funding solutions, if any, are being proposed by his Government to ensure that rural general practitioners will continue to provide after-hours care?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am aware of some excessive charges for after-hours services in Queenstown, for example, where some general practitioners have been asking for over $200. That is unacceptable, and the district health board and the ministry are working with the primary health organisations to make sure that we do not have excessive charging for after-hours services by primary health organisation - contracted general practitioners.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table Damien O’Connor’s press release on rural health last week, so that Darren Hughes—who is not here any more—can read it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the traditional concerns of the National Party for rural issues, I seek leave for there to be one extra supplementary question on this question, on the basis that it is allocated to Dr Paul Hutchison, who knows about these matters.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that is against the Standing Orders.
Local Government—Election Results
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Local Government: Why did he say on National Radio this morning with respect to the local body election shambles that “I’m huffing and puffing because that’s all I can do really”? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: So far all the huffing and puffing has been done by others.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): Because that is the case. Local electoral officers are responsible for the conduct of local authority elections. I have no statutory power to take over their role, nor do I have any power to intervene in the contracts that exist between electoral officers and their service providers. I may add that efforts by that member to score cheap political points will not fix the software problem.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why on National Radio this morning, when he was “huffing and puffing”, did he not know that the counting of Dunedin City votes had not even started or who was paying for the Audit Office’s role in the counting, when his department chairs the single transferable vote (STV) steering committee; and does that lack of knowledge, days after this mess emerged, not show complete incompetence on his part?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: As usual, that member has misquoted my words. I made it clear this morning on National Radio that the counting of Porirua and Wellington votes was the priority because that was going to serve as the basis for seeing whether the system worked.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister clarify whether there are any contingency plans if the current software problems cannot be resolved?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes. My officials are working on such plans with electoral officers, including the possible use of another service provider who has successfully completed STV elections this year.
Jim Peters: When the Minister led this House through the Local Electoral Amendment Act 2002 did he have any understanding of the “New Zealand method” of counting single transferable votes; if so, is it acceptable that the Government-directed STV health board elections have almost completely disenfranchised rural New Zealanders and that more than 100,000 voters have had their democratic votes binned and disallowed, and when will the Minister wake up and do something about it?
Mr SPEAKER: That was three supplementary questions. The Minister can address two of them.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, and no.
Rod Donald: Does the Minister now consider that the procedures used by his Department of Internal Affairs staff to verify and authorise the systems used by contractors to process STV votes were sufficiently stringent; if so, why?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: My staff are not authorised to make those decisions. Those decisions are made by the chief electoral officers of the councils concerned.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister accept that the problems that have badly affected the recent local body elections have the potential to do much more harm than the short-term damage of delayed results and mass confusion, and that they could further deter voter participation in the future and increase voter apathy in local government elections; if so, what steps does he plan to take to improve voter participation in the future?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would certainly agree with that member that this process has not raised public confidence in local body elections. But I am pleased to report that today the Justice and Electoral Committee announced the terms of reference for its very wide-ranging inquiry into the local body election.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister, in response to an earlier question, suggest that I was incorrect in saying that counting had not yet started on Dunedin City STV votes, when that is exactly what the officials said yesterday to the Otago Daily Times?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can only be responsible for the answers that I give in this House, and I will stand by that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: When the Minister was talking on National Radio this morning about himself “huffing and puffing” did he have in mind the story of the three little pigs; if so, does he see himself as the big bad wolf who messed up the law and will end up in a heap of hot water?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would rather be seen as the person who at least helped to fix it up for next time.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does the Minister not simply ask Datamail and Electionz.com for a clear timetable of when the votes will be counted, and hold them to account for that?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have asked that question approximately every 3 hours for the last 11 days.