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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 21 October

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

Thursday, 21 October 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Education—Centralised Services
2. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
3. PILLARS Family Programme—Inmate Reintegrative Support Services
4. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Polytechnic Financial Practices
5. Local Government—Resource Management
6. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Assurances to Prime Minister
7. Painted Apple Moth—Aerial Spraying Programme
8. Lincoln University—Payment to Vice-Chancellor
9. Petroleum Exploration—Government Initiatives
10. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Register of Ministers' Interests and Assets
Question No. 9 to Minister
Question No. 11 to Minister
11. Local Government—Election System
Question No. 10 to Minister


Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Education—Centralised Services

1. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What services to improve the quality of education are delivered centrally, and why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Professional development is provided centrally in order to ensure that teachers have access to high quality professional learning opportunities to ensure that there is consistent high quality across schools, and to ensure that all schools and teachers can access a wider range of quality providers. Recent key professional development strategies that have lifted achievement in literacy and numeracy have been centrally provided. Curriculum support is provided centrally, as is the supply of teaching and learning materials to ensure that they are of a high quality. There is also central purchasing of computers and software, which achieves economies of scale. It means that schools have access to things that they could not otherwise afford.

Helen Duncan: What reports has the Minister seen about nationally coordinated programmes for schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen a report that promises to scrap nationally coordinated programmes for schools, and, in particular, to scrap the curriculum support that schools receive and the professional development programmes that are provided to lift the quality of teaching. Those programmes help thousands of teachers to improve how they teach reading, writing, and maths, with the ultimate benefit going to children around New Zealand—

Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.

Hon Bill English: What will the Minister do about the widespread perception among schools that all the new money for schools is being spent on education bureaucrats and his favourite projects, and when will he front up to the campaign by the School Trustees Association to improve the funding of schools, rather than filling up the ministry with even more cash that it cannot use?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are two points to be made. I do plead guilty to having literacy and numeracy as pet projects. I have poured tens of millions of dollars into them. That is necessary and has been necessary for a long time, as we can tell from the spelling mistakes in that member’s press statements. I will not apologise for spending $200 million on putting teachers into New Zealand schools, over and above roll growth. That member does not like it. He does not like extra teachers going into schools. He wants bulk funding, but he will not get it.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Given the recent report on the wide variance in activities of resource teachers of learning and behaviour, has he considered bringing them under Special Education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In brief, there is work to do in that area to work out how the administration and reporting functions can be improved for resource teachers of learning and behaviour. They are certainly not working evenly around the country.

Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister think that the quality of support staff is best served by funding through the operations grant, or will he consider funding support staff directly with teachers, thus acknowledging the vital role that they play?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It would be relatively easy to take the money from operations grants, which are currently used to pay support staff, and to employ them directly. I am not sure that it would be consistent with the general thrust of Tomorrow’s Schools, which has generally worked pretty well in New Zealand.

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust

2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: What is her response to today’s statement from the deputy chair of Te Whânau o Waipareira that the Hon John Tamihere received the $195,000 golden handshake for “particular issues … which he was expected to deliver on”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): My response is that the nature of the payment is part of the inquiry being undertaken by Douglas White QC. I do note that the chair of the trust issued a statement that clarified what the payment was for.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement of the deputy chair of the trust that Mr Tamihere was paid for “some things that were expected in terms of supporting Waipareira in its Waitangi 414 claims”, an assertion that Mr Tamihere was paid a success fee for negotiating access for Waipareira to taxpayer funding; and does the Prime Minister accept that any such arrangements would be quite wrong?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a couple of statements from the deputy chair. One was in response to the question: “Can you confirm right now that it was not for stuff that John Tamihere would do for the trust while he was in Parliament?”. “No, it was not while he was in Parliament.” Also, there was another statement this morning in the same interview: “Yes, it was a net payment as far as we were concerned. We were the ones who were expected to pay the tax.”

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do hope that in answering that way, the Minister is not leaping to conclusions before Douglas White QC does.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member cannot make those sorts of parenthetical comments. If he has a point of order, it is a point of order, not a comment.

Gerry Brownlee: My point is that the transcript we are dealing with has many parts to it, and the most damaging part is the suggestion that Mr Tamihere was paid to advance Waipareira’s Wai 414 claim through to the Waitangi Tribunal in the hope that it would get the same recognition as other iwi and, therefore, access to considerable Government funding. I simply asked whether that was wrong. Is the Acting Prime Minister not prepared to make a comment on that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have made a comment on that. The deputy chair made it clear that the payments were not for anything that Mr Tamihere would do for the trust while he was in Parliament, which is directly contrary to the assertions made by members opposite.

Gerry Brownlee: I realise we are supposed to table documents at the end of a question, but the Acting Prime Minister is choosing to suggest we have it wrong. For that reason, I seek leave to table the transcript now.

Leave granted.

Rodney Hide: Following the deputy chair’s comments on Morning Report this morning, did John Tamihere alert the Prime Minister that he had drawn up the terms of reference for the Deloitte inquiry, and that he had also sent a letter from his ministerial office alleging “incompetence, negligence or corruption” within the Waipareira Trust; and would the Prime Minister think that a Minister who had evidence of incompetence, negligence, or corruption would raise that with other Ministers and, indeed, with the authorities?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that Mr Tamihere did start the process that led to a review of the trust on the grounds of negligence, incompetence, or corruption. There appears to be a certain amount of biting back as a consequence of that.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether Mr John Tamihere had alerted the Prime Minister to his involvement in drawing up the terms of the inquiry and alerted his ministerial colleagues to his view that there was incompetence, negligence, or corruption. All that Dr Cullen did was to affirm my question, not answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: No, he addressed the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister, in light of today’s most revealing comments from the trust, asked Mr Tamihere for an assurance that he did not take money from the trust or any other external organisation for the purpose of “delivering on particular issues”; if so, what was Mr Tamihere’s response?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I have not talked to Mr Tamihere since the interview. I repeat: what Ms Glavish said in an interview that seemed to fall over itself in a number of contradictions was that Mr Tamihere was not paid for anything while he was in Parliament. That is the nature of the charge the Opposition was originally making. It is now shifting its ground, during this week, to a different claim.

Rodney Hide: My question to the Prime Minister repeats my first one: did John Tamihere alert the Prime Minister or his ministerial colleagues that he had evidence of “incompetence, negligence or corruption” within the Te Whânau o Waipareira Trust, and would the Prime Minister expect him to do so?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot answer that question. I do not know whether Mr Tamihere made that information available to the Prime Minister. I can certainly say that at some point, and I cannot tell when, I was aware that Mr Tamihere was taking action in that respect because of his concerns about mismanagement at the trust.

Gerry Brownlee: How can the Acting Prime Minister expect the House today to accept the view from him that Mr Tamihere did not take the payment while he was in Parliament, when he made it clear to the House yesterday that Mr Tamihere did take the payment in 2001?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I said yesterday was that he received a payment in 2000 or 2001. The question is when the payment was first offered and what it was for. What both the chair and the deputy chair of the trust have now said is that it was not for anything that Mr Tamihere was to do, or had done, in Parliament. We now have the Opposition questioning both the opponents of Mr Tamihere, and Mr Tamihere. They are the only people who know what was in anybody’s mind at the time.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I put the same question twice—in different ways, it is true—to the Prime Minister. The first time I did not get anywhere near an answer. The second time—

Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Rodney Hide: I am coming to that.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, come to it immediately.

Rodney Hide: Be patient.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not. Come to it immediately or the member will leave.

Rodney Hide: The second time I put it—

Mr SPEAKER: Come to the point of order. What is the point of order?

Rodney Hide: If you let me explain, I will tell you.

Mr SPEAKER: It had better be pretty concise. That is the Standing Order.

Rodney Hide: The second time I asked the question, the Minister said he did not know. Now, it would have helped if he had said that the first time, but usually it is helpful if the Minister says that he or she will get back to the member and provide the answer. I am asking through you, Mr Speaker, whether it would not be acceptable for the Prime Minister to do that.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

PILLARS Family Programme—Inmate Reintegrative Support Services

3. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Is he satisfied with the outcomes of the PILLARS family programme run as part of the reintegrative support services to inmates and their families pilot; if so, why?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): I am advised by the Department of Corrections that the PILLARS programme has met the requirements of the contract. However, the pilot programme, of which PILLARS is a part, is currently under review. A decision on the future shape of reintegrative support services is expected shortly.

Marc Alexander: How can the Minister claim to maintain his confidence in the PILLARS programme, to the extent that he recently requested a further $2.3 million rollover of funding for the next 2 years—the third since the pilot started in 1999—when the only evidence he could provide to the Minister of Finance that such continuance is justified is “anecdotal”, and he could give only a flimsy assurance that overseas research supports that broad type of programme?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, I think the figure the member quotes was the global sum across both programmes—one in Auckland and one in Christchurch. The initial evaluation for 2002-03 showed encouraging results. Across both programmes there was at one time an indication that something like 90 percent of inmates were finding employment, so the results were encouraging. But, on the basis of the evaluation of the programme, decisions are to be made shortly about what we should do in the future.

Martin Gallagher: What plans does the Government have to improve reintegration and resettlement of prisoners once they are released?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Reintegration of ex-inmates into the community is a key priority over the next 12 months. If we can ensure that people are resettled properly and do not return to prison, that is a good outcome. I will be launching three new initiatives in this area in November.

Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that the unsuccessful other tenderer for reintegrative support services funding was the Family Help Trust, an organisation that Marc Alexander has personal links to, including his donating to it part of the proceeds from the sale of his book—a book which is advertised on its website and in its newsletter?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, I cannot confirm that, but I am happy to investigate it further if the member so wishes. As for the second part, I have not had a look at the website, but I certainly take the member’s word as to what is on the website and in the newsletter.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the Minister’s reintegrative policies are so successful, why has the reimprisonment rate of released offenders increased?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As that member would know, reintegration and resettlement into communities is a very difficult thing to achieve; he would know that from when National was in power. But my having said that, the current performance is not good enough, and the focus of the next 12 months is on this particular issue of resettlement and reintegration. I will be launching some initiatives in November that, I am sure, will find support from the National Party.

Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that of all the reintegration and rehabilitation schemes that the Department of Corrections has been running over the last 20 years, the only two that he can point to as having any notable successes at all are orientated towards sex offenders, and, on that basis, does he not think it is about time he went into his own department and gutted it of all the sociologists and thumb-twiddlers who have been wasting taxpayers’ money on rehabilitation for year after year; if he does think that, when will he be doing it?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No and no.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister believe that his officials’ 2003 evaluation of the PILLARS programme that it “did not provide any substantive evidence of the effectiveness of the model” constitutes the kind of full evaluation that his predecessor Matt Robson promised in exchange for a rollover of a million dollars of pilot funding in 2002; and can he explain why, when a further sum of a million dollars was agreed to last year strictly on the condition that a final evaluation of the programme would be conducted, that evaluation has not yet been done?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I concede that the full evaluation has not been done, but I will say that evaluation of these kinds of programmes and projects is very, very difficult. The member will know that it takes a long time after these programmes start to evaluate, for example, their long-term effects on how people reintegrate back into the community, obtain log-term jobs, reintegrate with their families, etc.—all of which are important. However, as I said to the member, this issue is currently under review, and decisions will be announced shortly.

Marc Alexander: Why, when $4.5 million has been spent on this pilot to date—that is, nearly $12,500 for each offender involved—does he continue to refuse Ministry of Justice advice that this pilot must be formally evaluated, which is the accepted notion of what a pilot scheme is supposed to be all about in the first place?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, I have not “refused” the ministry’s advice. I do not do the evaluation; it does. I am hoping, though, that the member thinks that programmes such as this, which allow people who come out of prison to reintegrate into the community, re-settle with their families, and get jobs, are a good thing. I am hoping the member supports that kind of approach.

Ron Mark: Given his answer to my supplementary question, is he telling the House that he thinks it is a hallmark of success that 85 percent of all prisoners released into the community go back to jail for reoffending within 5 years, and does he expect to get United Future’s sign-off, and support on supply and confidence, for his budget for the next year?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is relevant to the Minister’s portfolio.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, no.

Nandor Tanczos: I seek leave to table a couple of pages from the Family Help Trust website showing where we can find Marc Alexander’s book.

Leave granted.

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Polytechnic Financial Practices

4. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Is he able to follow through with his indication on 6 October 2004 to check whether the Hon John Tamihere did say at a recent New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers function a comment to the effect that, if we want to find real rorts in the tertiary system, we need to look no further than the polytechnic sector; if so, what was the outcome of his investigations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): I think it is fair to say in answer to the substance of the question that it is an ongoing matter. As to Mr Tamihere’s comments, he did reflect the fact that the private education providers sector, which was previously the focus of concerns about quality, has put a lot of effort into this area. The focus of concerns—both some real concerns, which I think the member and I share—and some unreal concerns that Bill English has, seem to have moved elsewhere.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY: Is it not true that there is no person in his caucus more qualified to know a rort when he sees one than John Tamihere?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am told that the comments were made in a light-hearted manner, and that the person who giggled the loudest and the most vigorously at the comments was Brian Donnelly.

Lynne Pillay: What measures has the private training establishment sector taken to take responsibility for addressing quality concerns in relation to its sector?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It has set up a quality commissioner, and I understand that the Associate Minister congratulated the sector on this initiative.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that one of my, what he calls, “unreal concerns” has been about 13,298 students at Christchurch Polytechnic—for whom there is no evidence that they even started a course for which they were enrolled—and when is the Associate Minister going to honour his promise to this House to get the money back from Christchurch Polytechnic, which would amount to some $12 million?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I understand that the Associate Minister has reported as to the collection of some of those funds already.

Rodney Hide: How can this Government—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There was a comment from both sides. That is the one warning.

Rodney Hide: How can this Government have any credibility chasing down rorts, as long as John Tamihere is in Cabinet and caucus?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: About the same as the pyramid financier can.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Does the Associate Minister agree with the statement made by Mr Tamihere about rorts in the polytechnic sector, or was Mr Tamihere talking bunkum?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Associate Minister is aware that the Minister of Education, who is in charge of the education budget, is concerned about the explosion in some areas of 5.1 and lower-level courses, and is working very hard to reduce this.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that Christchurch Polytechnic has repaid $80,000, which it had spent on book vouchers to induce enrolments, but that it has not yet paid back 1c for 13,298 students who enrolled in a course that they never started or completed, for which the Crown paid around $12 million, and when is he going to recover the money, as he promised?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that member was the Minister of Finance who set up the financing arrangements for that very approach. The other point is that there is another question hanging around, and that is when he is going to apologise to Aoraki Polytechnic?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now address the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This Government is working very hard to stop the rorts of the sort that were set up by that member.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister still has not answered a very clear question from the Hon Bill English asking when the Minister will recover the money. It was a simple question, it needs a simple answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister did address that with the last answer that he gave.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No, he did not. I listened very, very carefully to the answer given by the Minister. He did not address the question. It was a simple question: when is he going to recover the money?

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I respect the member as a member who rarely raises points of order unless they are justified. I think the Minister could make a further comment.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will elaborate with a further comment. I hope some money is recovered, but it appears that the system set up by the previous Government allowed that rort.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that the work that the Minister has been doing to prevent those rorts of 5.1 funding has, in fact, set arbitrary caps on institutions, which has advantaged those that have been involved in the rorts, and disadvantaged those that have been playing by the book?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, and it will not last.

Local Government—Resource Management

5. LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent steps has the Government taken to support the resource management processes of local government?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): This week I launched the Making Good Decisions programme for councillors and commissioners. All chairpersons and most hearings panel councillors or commissioners will have to have training. The programme will help secure good environmental outcomes and ensure more timely and efficient hearings.

Lianne Dalziel: What responses has the Minister seen to these and other proposals to improve the implementation of the Resource Management Act?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: These proposals have won wide support from local government, business, and community groups. I also note that the environmentalist Guy Salmon, a high-ranking National Party list candidate in 2002, has removed from the Internet any links between himself and the National Party, presumably because of National’s stance on the Resource Management Act, climate change, and the environment generally.

Hon Peter Dunne: Would the Minister agree that one of the big problems that local government has faced since the original Resource Management Act was passed in 1991, in terms of being able to institute proper processes, has been the complete failure by every Government since 1991—with, I think, one exception—to put in place the framework of national policy statements that the Resource Management Act originally envisaged; and does she have any plans for change in that regard?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I totally agree with some of the points raised by the questioner. I remember that, in 1991, the then National Government gave no central support or leadership to local government. It changed the entire planning world and left local government to deal with it all by itself. This Government has already introduced national environment standards, and we have planning and funding for many more.

I seek leave to table printouts no longer available on Guy Salmon’s website in which he criticises Nick Smith.

Leave granted.

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Assurances to Prime Minister

6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Has the Prime Minister received an assurance from the Hon John Tamihere that he has done nothing to embarrass her or her Government; if so, on the evidence to date, does she believe that Mr Tamihere has lived up to such an assurance?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Mr Tamihere has repeated to the Prime Minister what he has said publicly—that he has done nothing that would bring shame on him, his family, or the Labour Party. A process is under way to look into the allegations that have been made.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Prime Minister tell the House why anyone, including Helen Clark, should have any confidence in assurances given by a man who publicly stated that he would never accept a golden handshake, and who we now know secretly accepted at least a $195,000 golden handshake when he thought he could get away with it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latter matter is one that will be dealt with by the inquiry. But certainly, the Prime Minister would give no weight to accusations by a man who pushed a pensioner downstairs.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not acceptable for the Prime Minister to give the answer—and it is the first part of his answer that I am referring to; I am not worried about the second part.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am, but I will deal with this. Personal comments like that are not in order and I would caution the Minister about making them.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had a week, and a whole range of accusations have been made against a member, including accusations relating to past conduct. I was referring to a matter that is on public record and has been in the courts. If that cannot be raised in this House, what on earth can?

Mr SPEAKER: That is true. What the Minister says is perfectly true. However, this is question time and not debate time.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was asked, because the Acting Prime Minister stated in the House yesterday that Mr Tamihere got his payment in 2001. It would seem that the House should take the Acting Prime Minister at his word that Mr Tamihere got a payment. How can it be fair for him to address the question today by saying that this was a matter still under consideration—in other words, putting doubt on the fact that Mr Tamihere ever received a payment, when it is plain and clear he said on the one hand he would not take it, and then when he thought he could get away with it, took it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The issue the inquiry is looking at is what is the nature of the payment and what the payment was for. I invite the member to join 82 percent of New Zealanders in suspending judgment until the inquiry is completed.

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

Mr SPEAKER: No, please be seated. I want to say something to members. Points of orders are matters concerning procedures in the House in which I can take action—for example, by giving a ruling, or putting a request for leave. It is not a means of making a statement or asking another question. I cannot resolve this issue, because this issue goes to debate, not to my rulings as Speaker.

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

Mr SPEAKER: I would like a point of order this time.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave of the House to respond to the Acting Prime Minister’s invitation.

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

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister find it embarrassing that John Tamihere took a golden handshake after saying that he would not, when Helen Clark stated in the Address in Reply debate in this Parliament on 8 February 2000 that her Government wanted to abandon the culture of golden handshakes negotiated in secrecy, or is there now nothing that can shame Helen Clark and this Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The one thing that is clear—and nobody has tried to argue this—is that Mr Tamihere received no payment to get rid of him from a job that he was not wanted in. If we are to talk about doing deals in secret, then I invite that member to finally tell this House who has been paying him money since he became an MP.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister still stand by her statement: “I want politicians to say what they mean and mean what they say.”; and how would she characterise the actions of Mr Tamihere, who said one thing publicly and did the opposite when he thought the coast was clear?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I have said many times, the issue of the nature of the payment and its purposes is a matter for the inquiry. I again invite the member to wait until the inquiry is completed, just as 82 percent of New Zealanders said should be the case. Sixteen percent of New Zealanders are supporting the Opposition’s position.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting the Acting Prime Minister’s suggestion—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why are we having a question starting with “Noting” in his statement again?

Mr SPEAKER: The point is well made, because it was the member himself who raised the point of order. Would he please start with a question word.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister indicating to the House that Douglas White QC is likely to determine that the known payment of at least $195,000 to John Tamihere in 2001, a couple of years after he said he would never take it, is to have a new name—a name other than “a golden handshake”—and will she find that acceptable and somehow manage to line it up with her statements that the culture of golden handshakes will go, under this Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister has an open mind on the inquiry and will accept its conclusions—unlike members opposite, who have hung, drawn, and quartered somebody before the evidence has actually been presented. One thing is clear: no payment was made to get rid of Mr Tamihere from his job. In fact, it is the opposite: people wanted him to stay on in that job—unlike members opposite and their leaders, one after the other.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister accept that the payment Mr John Tamihere said he would not take was authorised in May 1999, and afterwards he said he would not take it, and that that is precisely the payment he then took?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding is that the board authorised a payment in 1999, but Mr Tamihere declined to accept that. Something like 1 year later the board reaffirmed that offer. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I say to Mr Hide that he is very lucky, because after his comment he had just said the first word. The member is the one who has called to attention to it, and I am listening.

Gerry Brownlee: Could the Acting Prime Minister speculate, or give us his view, on why a charitable trust that did not want to lose a chief executive officer would decide 12 to 18 months after he had gone to pay him a sum of this size?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, it is a matter for the inquiry to determine what the nature and the purpose of the payment was. But there is no question that Mr Tamihere succeeded in lifting the Waipareira Trust from a small organisation of 12 people to about 200 people, whereas the member opposite is part of a caucus that has shrunk in size with each successive election.

Painted Apple Moth—Aerial Spraying Programme

7. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Will he follow the recently published advice of the scientist who was the lead author of the Wellington school of medicine report into the health effects of the painted apple moth spray programme, that it would be prudent to avoid aerial spraying of biological insecticides, such as Foray 48B, over populated areas until the results of detailed follow-up of exposed populations are available; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Biosecurity): I have not seen that advice, so I cannot comment on the specifics of it. However, I note that the spray, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, that the member refers to has been used in populated areas for more than 50 years without verified serious health effects. I note also that the school of medicine reported not on verified health impacts but on perceptions, which may well have been influenced by the relentless scaremongering of certain parties.

Sue Kedgley: Surely if a leading expert in this field is so concerned about the health effects of aerial spraying that he is calling, in a peer-reviewed international journal, for a halt to spraying until—

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot start a question with “surely”. I want to hear a question, please. The member is quite entitled to ask the question. Please ask it.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that the Government has an obligation to heed the advice of a leading expert in the field who is so concerned about the health effects of aerial spraying that he is calling, in an international peer-reviewed journal, for a halt to spraying until detailed follow-up work has taken place, and that the Government should guarantee that it will heed the advice and not carry out further spraying until these studies have taken place?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I certainly do not accept that the person concerned is a leading expert.

Clayton Cosgrove: Why are sprays such as Foray 48B used in New Zealand?

Hon JIM SUTTON: These sprays are used for significant economic and public health reasons. The potential damage that the white spotted tussock moth, the painted apple moth, and the Asian gypsy moth would cause if they got into our forests would run into hundreds of millions of dollars, and there are also potential health risks from the caterpillars of these moths.

Judy Turner: Will the Minister clarify whether the contingency plan for further aerial spraying if the existence of a residual moth population is discovered, as referred to in the answer to question for written answer No. 15097, includes the tactic of spraying over populated areas, and if this plan is called into action tomorrow, can he give those affected by the spray the assurance that adjustments will be made to comply with the findings of the Wellington school of medicine report?

Hon JIM SUTTON: There certainly are contingency plans to resume spraying should there be a further outbreak of the pest concerned. The advice is, as I understand it, that the concerns of the Wellington school of medicine report relate not to people occasionally exposed to the spray but to people exposed to the spray for many hours a day over many years. I am referring to occupational exposure such as that experienced by organic market gardeners.

Sue Kedgley: Are there any detailed follow-up studies of exposed populations under way to assess whether there are any long-term health effects of the spraying, as the expert is calling for; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON: As I mentioned before, this spray has been used over populated areas for at least 50 years and there have been many studies. Indeed, there is ongoing monitoring and evaluation in New Zealand of any impacts.

Sue Kedgley: Now that the lead author of the Wellington school of medicine study is calling for a halt to spraying—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Please start the question with a question word. I have to apply the rule fairly to everybody, and that means questions must be questions, otherwise they will not be allowed.

Sue Kedgley: Thank you, Mr Speaker, but I would—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no—just start the question or there will be none.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I request that this rule that you are applying to me applies to every single member of this House.

Mr SPEAKER: It does, and in fact it was raised originally by Mr Brownlee, and the first person I picked up today was Mr Brownlee.

Gerry Brownlee: Congratulations!

Hon Trevor Mallard: Five other people helped him!

Mr SPEAKER: Now we will have the question.

Sue Kedgley: Will the Minister instruct the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to stop pursuing the $8,000 court costs against the Hamilton community group WATCH—Waikato Against Toxic and Chemical Hazards—and bankrupting them in the process, when the group was simply seeking an injunction to halt the spraying of Hamilton with Foray 48B on the grounds that it would expose them to health risks, which the recent reports seem to suggest it may have; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I certainly will not be instructing the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in that way. The ministry will take professional advice from appropriate quarters. However, I would comment that when people rush to court, they must take responsibility for their actions.

Sue Kedgley: Was the ministry aware when it went to court last year over the spraying of Hamilton with Foray 48B that the affidavit it presented, claiming there were no new concerns about the health effects of the spray, was in fact incorrect, and that 7 days earlier the Ministry of Health had received a report raising serious concerns about health effects?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Certain parties raise concerns about spraying over populated areas every time it happens. That could not in itself be grounds for us not to spray. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Government, and I take very seriously our obligations to public health and safety, and we obtain the best possible professional advice on these matters before we act.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a quite explicit question as to whether the ministry was aware that the affidavit it presented claiming there were no new health concerns was incorrect, when 7 days earlier the ministry has received a report outlining new health concerns. The Minister did not answer that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might like to comment on that.

Hon JIM SUTTON: Of course, I do not accept that the affidavit was incorrect, but how could I know who was aware of what.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that as there is now clear evidence that the affidavit the ministry presented to court was misleading, and that there was new evidence of health risks in the possession, certainly, of the Ministry of Heath, it would be unfair and, indeed, immoral for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to pursue court costs and bankrupt the community group WATCH, which was merely seeking to protect the health interests of Hamilton residents?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am certainly not aware of any new evidence of health risks. I certainly am aware of plenty of new allegations—and the member should learn the difference.

Lincoln University—Payment to Vice-Chancellor

8. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of State Services: Did the former Lincoln University vice-chancellor who resigned last year receive a golden handshake; if so, what was the value of that payment?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): I am advised that the total remuneration reported in the recent annual report of the State Services Commissioner included salary from January to October 2003. Other contractual entitlements at the last day of duty end in an ex gratia payment made at the discretion of, and within the authority of, the council of Lincoln University after it had received legal advice. I understand that the council decided to make that payment rather than to pay extended sick leave to someone who had that entitlement. I was briefed on the matter after it became clear that there had been an inappropriate relationship with a student and that—

Judith Collins: Obviously not sick enough. [Interruption]

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Members might think that these are laughing matters, but I take them seriously. I was briefed on the matter after it became clear that there had been an inappropriate relationship with a student, and that the State Services Commission was not informed of that relationship when it was consulted on the proposed ex gratia payment. I should note, however, that there was not a statutory requirement to consult on that payment; it was something that was entirely at the discretion of the council of Lincoln University.

Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister said “This Government wants to abandon the culture of golden handshakes negotiated in secret”, did the Minister think that she meant that anyone who was leaving a job under a cloud would still be entitled to “payment of contractual entitlements at last day of duty”, instead of a golden handshake, and is this the terminology we can expect to hear from Douglas White QC?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Some of us are very concerned about the payment made to Dr Wood. Some of us think it was inappropriate. Unfortunately, in this case there was no requirement for concurrence from the State Services Commission or from any Minister. I regret that the payment was made.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister then confirm that Mr Wood, as the former vice-chancellor of Lincoln University, did receive a golden handshake, which was against the known Government policy, and that he was the Minister responsible?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am the Minister responsible for the commission and I am the responsible Minister for payments in universities. I regret the fact that the university attempted to bring forward the resignation of Dr Wood, who at the time was suffering from a life-threatening illness and was wanting to move forward. I think we should make it clear that Frank Wood was appointed to the job at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority by the previous Government and we do not condone his behaviour, even if it does.

Petroleum Exploration—Government Initiatives

9. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Energy: What reports has he received indicating the success of Government initiatives to increase petroleum exploration?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): I have received a report from the Ministry of Economic Development that shows that for the year to date a total of 23 wells have been drilled in New Zealand, with seven more expected to be drilled before January. This is more than double the number of wells drilled in 1999, and reflects the success of the Government’s exploration incentives package, which has generated international interest in gas exploration in New Zealand.

Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise the House what impact the increase in exploration activity is having at a regional level?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: A report released on Tuesday by the operators of the Kupe gasfield in South Taranaki indicates that this project alone will employ around 800 workers. I expect to see more positive spin-offs such as this for local communities, in what has been described in newspaper reports as a boom period for the exploration industry.

Rod Donald: What is the annual fiscal cost of the Government’s tax concessions for its oil and gas exploration strategy, and how many times greater is this cost than the amount the Government spends, for example, on developing alternative fuel such as bio-diesel, on energy efficiency and conservation encouragement, and on helping to foster greater development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I thank the member for his question; I do not have the details to answer it. I can tell him that $15 million has been set aside for seismic work. The rest of the costs of the incentive package are probably more than offset by increased expenditure in the economy, taxation of wages, GST, etc.. However, in terms of renewable energy, the member will be well aware that the Government has a comprehensive package. I agree that it is never enough—nothing ever is in this field. But I am very encouraged by the reaction from the exploration industry. I would also add that his co-leader has said that we should concentrate on small gas wells.

Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister clarify that the incentives are aimed at gas rather than oil; if so, will he extend the scope of the incentives to cover oil, given the huge benefits to the New Zealand economy, and the enhancement of our national security, of such discoveries?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The exploration incentives package, while focusing on gas, also incentivises oil exploration, as, obviously, the two are inextricably linked. This means that funding for additional data acquisition, allowing the deduction of prospecting and exploration costs against the accounting profits royalty, and the lifting of the 183-day tax rule on drilling rigs will apply, naturally, to both oil and gas.

Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Register of Ministers' Interests and Assets

10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Are Ministers required to make accurate disclosures of property, payments, and gifts over $500 in the Government’s Register of Ministers’ Interests and Assets, and does Mr Tamihere’s “nil return” in the register as at 31 December 2003 mean that he had no property and had received no payments or gifts that year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Ministers are required to make accurate disclosures of the categories of interests and assets that are laid out in the Cabinet Manual. Mr Tamihere’s return means that he declared a nil return in terms of those categories of interests and assets.

Rodney Hide: If a Minister does not disclose significant assets and gifts, such as property and shares, is that grounds for dismissal from Cabinet; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that would depend upon the nature of the circumstances. Obviously, if there was a wilful failure to declare, then that would be a very serious matter indeed, as I hope it will be when the Members of Parliament (Pecuniary Interests) Bill is passed and the member does what he says he will do and not declare his interests and assets.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister clarify the position of what penalty a Minister faces for not making an accurate disclosure, who does the checking, and which court or committee administers the hearing process?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the last point is the crucial one. The court, as I understand it, is a one person court.

Rodney Hide: Is it the standard of this Government for Ministers not to declare assets and gifts, and then to say: “Oh, well, John Tamihere has a good explanation for this.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member wants to make a specific accusation, I invite him to do so, then I can respond.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister, or any other person acting on her behalf, asked for any advice or reports from the Secretary of the Cabinet on matters relating to Mr Tamihere’s declaration of assets and interests; if so, what specific advice was received?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have sought advice from the Cabinet Office this morning about certain declarations of interest to satisfy myself, and what I can indicate is that in 1 year Mr Tamihere made a return of assets that he did not need to make, which is why they did not appear in the return the following year.

Peter Brown: Are any spot checks ever taken on Ministers’ disclosure statements; if not, does the Prime Minister believe it would be worthwhile in order to give the public an assessment of a Minister’s integrity, or is that a risk that Ministers would not be prepared to take?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can speak only on my own behalf in that respect. I am perfectly happy for anybody to check my return, which is a half share in property. My other two major assets, a Kiwibank savings account and a BNZ managed fund, are not required to be returned, and that is specific in terms of the advice of the Cabinet Office.

Question No. 9 to Minister

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): I apologise, I should have sought leave at the time to table a sheet with data from the activity and expenditure reports of the Crown Minerals website from 2001-02.

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

Question No. 11 to Minister

JIM PETERS (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs, whose department’s statement of intent this year had specific provision for policy advice and information on local government issues. I am wondering why that has been changed.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member reads the Standing Orders, he will see it is the Government’s call to do that. Would he now ask the question.

Local Government—Election System

11. JIM PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Local Government: Is he satisfied there was adequate preparation to ensure electors would be fully informed regarding the STV style of voting in the latest local body elections; if so, why have there been so many problems?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): Yes, but, frankly, the delay in some of the results caused by a failure of this magnitude in the contractor’s software systems was not anticipated.

Jim Peters: Has the Minister read today’s Taranaki Daily News, which notes: “In Afghanistan, donkeys carrying ballots continue to step along winding mountain footpaths, almost matching the computers calculating winners in New Zealand.”; if so, will this Government - organised final election result be announced ahead of Kabul’s, and should, following this electoral shambles, the Minister still be Minister, will his ministry give further consideration to the “ADS” system—the Afghan donkey service?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: No, I have not read the article, but I can assure the member that I will read the report the Justice and Electoral Committee will prepare on this with keen interest.

Dave Hereora: What has the Government done to promote public understanding of the single transferable vote (STV) system?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Government allocated $1.2 million to a public information campaign to help electors understand how to cast an STV vote. The campaign conveyed that message through television, radio, and press advertising. There was also a website, media publicity, interviews, and brochures in seven languages.

Sandra Goudie: Why will the Minister not take responsibility for the voting shambles, given that he was specifically voted money to ensure the successful application of the STV system, which was described in the July 2003 Estimates examination as “a critical current issue faced by Government”.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The questioner seems to be confused between the accuracy of the STV calculator and the failure of software. There is no question but that the STV calculator has worked perfectly.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister now regret that he failed to respond to, and failed to act on, the Justice and Electoral Committee’s 2001 inquiry into the 2001 local elections, which unanimously recommended that an Electoral Commission - type body is needed to provide a voter education programme and to act as a monitor of local authorities’ electoral practices; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The issues the member raises will be looked at by the Justice and Electoral Committee. I look forward to reading its recommendations.

Dail Jones: Will the Minister be prepared to attend the hearing of the Justice and Electoral Committee himself, and will he be ready to accept the decision of the committee if it finds that he was responsible for the total farce and failure of the recent local body elections; and will he resign as a result?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I will, of course, cooperate fully with the select committee in its inquiry.

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table the Vote Local Government estimates examination, in which the successful application of the STV system is described as a critical issue faced by Government.

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

Question No. 10 to Minister

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I seek theleave of the House to table two title reports of houses that Mr John Tamihere owns with his mate Michael Tolich.

Leave granted.

RODNEY HIDE: I seek leave to table another title report of a house that John Tamihere has just bought, which would not need to be disclosed in this year’s result. He has bought the house with Mr Michael Tolich.

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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