Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 4 Nov. 2004
Thursday, 4 November
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Immigration, Minister—Confidence
2. Cancer Control Council—Objectives
3. Local Government—Voting System
4. Contaminated Land, Auckland—Testing
5. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
6. Working for Families Package—Taxation
7. Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
8. Youth Offending Teams—Objectives
9. Teachers—Training Quality
10. Broadcasting—Government Policy
11. Superannuation—Married Rate
12. Foreshore and Seabed Bill—Ancestral Connection
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Immigration; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is it that this hard-working and conscientious Minister had his officials at the Finance and Expenditure Committee yesterday admitting that of the Afghan refugees refused by Australia from the MV Tampa, three have already brought 11 people each into this country, and how is it that Asha Ali Abdille can be claiming and demanding to bring in another 14 of her relations, even though she is on a benefit and has a conviction record that would make Al Capone proud?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the latter matter I understand the Minister’s office has contacted Mr Peters, and we look forward to cooperation on that matter in terms of establishing the facts. Members will note, I am sure, that Ms Abdille first got into the public arena because she was complaining of the harsh treatment by the New Zealand Immigration Service in demanding DNA testing on her supposed relatives—yet to be established whether they are her relatives.
Keith Locke: Will the Prime Minister be suggesting to the Minister of Immigration that she issue a simple regulation change to the Immigration Act to make sure that Mr Zaoui can be released into the custody of the Dominican friars, as proposed in a recent statement by one Catholic cardinal, one archbishop, eight Catholic bishops, one Anglican archbishop, and 10 Anglican bishops?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I suppose that would take him out of the pot into the friars, but beyond that I am not terribly interested.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was it that the Prime Minister’s hard-working and conscientious Minister of Immigration gave my office a phone call this morning asking me to provide him with the information, for which he is paid a ministerial salary, and has all the baubles of office—a ministerial home, a full department, a police force, and a Customs Service—and why does she think this hard-working and conscientious Minister needs to be employed one more day, given that clearly he cannot do his job?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have to say I am upset that the member is offended that somebody should seek his information and his advice on immigration matters. I thought he regarded himself as an expert on those things.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would the Prime Minister have confidence in any of her immigration Ministers who have been there since she came to power, when they let in a known terrorist in three jurisdictions, Switzerland, France, and Belgium—all with far higher legal status than that which is applied in New Zealand thus far—who could be out of prison tomorrow if he would only go back and join his family in Malaysia?
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the question Mr Peters referred to Switzerland. There was no court case or designation of Mr Zaoui—
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is correct in stating that Mr Zaoui has had convictions in France and Belgium. I believe he was paid by Switzerland to go to live in Burkina Faso, and he certainly had residence within Malaysia, which is by no means a country that would be unsuitable, one would have thought, for a Muslim refugee. The fact is that Mr Zaoui claimed refugee status once he landed, and under international conventions, certain consequences have flown therefrom. If his lawyers had been avoiding the extremes of litigation we have seen this matter would have been settled long since, one way or the other.
Cancer Control Council—Objectives
2. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: How will the recently announced Cancer Control Council help to address the burden of cancer in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The council has been established in response to the cancer task force recommendation to bring together under an independent body oversight, monitoring, collaboration, and leadership in cancer prevention, treatment, services, and research. The key tasks for the council will be to monitor and review implementation of the Cancer Control Strategy and report annually to Parliament; provide independent strategic advice to the Minister of Health, the Director-General of Health, district health boards, and non-governmental organisations on matters related to cancer control; foster collaboration and cooperation between bodies involved in cancer control; and foster and support best practice in an evidence-based approach to improvements in the effectiveness of cancer control.
Steve Chadwick: What has been the response to the announcement of the Cancer Control Council?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Cancer Society said today that the establishment of a dedicated, independent council is a major achievement for all of those who are concerned about the consequences of cancer in our society. The New Zealand Cancer Control Trust described the council as a significant and critical milestone, and added that these initiatives reflect the Government’s recognition of the significance of cancer, and its commitment to taking a long-term, coordinated approach to addressing the devastating impact of cancer in New Zealand. I thank both those groups for their cooperation and for the constructive approach they have taken in helping us to establish the council itself.
Judith Collins: Will the Cancer Control Council investigate the possibility of a private cancer treatment facility being established in New Zealand, or will patients still be forced to head to Australia for treatment, as happened to 171 patients last year?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Cancer Control Council will have the ability to look at anything that is put before it. However, it will probably find what others have found—that when one sets up a private facility for the treatment of cancer, one has to staff it, and where will the staff come from? For a decade, the 1990s, we never trained enough staff.
Barbara Stewart: Is it not a fact that the only way to increase capacity to deal with the demand for cancer treatment in New Zealand is to address the staff shortages that have been cited continually as the key component in New Zealand’s disastrous ability to cope with this devastating illness—not introduce yet another layer of bureaucracy?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I need to inform the member that this council is not a layer of bureaucracy but something that was asked for by the Cancer Society of New Zealand, the Cancer Control Trust, non-governmental organisations, and the New Zealand community in general, following the disaster of the National Cervical Screening Programme, which showed there was a need for an independent group to have oversight of cancer control. So it is not another layer of bureaucracy; it is the Government’s response to a need identified by the community itself.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister agree that one of the first priorities of the Cancer Control Council should be to lobby the Minister of Research, Science and Technology to boost funding for the hamstrung Health Research Council—the largest funder of cancer research—in light of recent reports that indicate that New Zealand’s expenditure on health research has declined to a point where we are seriously lagging behind international standards?
Hon ANNETTE KING: It will probably not be necessary for the council to do that. I think the Minister has that matter in hand.
Local Government—Voting System
3. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he agree with the statement provided in the Vote Local Government estimates examination responses for 2003-04 that “The critical current issue faced by Government in Vote Local Government relates to the successful application of the STV (Single Transferable Vote) election method in the Local Authority Elections to occur in October 2004.”; if so, does he think the Government has done a good job of dealing with that critical issue?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): Yes, and yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister possibly tell this Parliament that the Government has done a good job of introducing STV, when 26 days after the ballot 144 candidates do not know whether they have been elected, particularly when we compare that delay with the election results in the United States, which has just counted 119 million votes and given a result within 24 hours?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The facts of this sorry situation are that a computer system has failed, and it has taken time to fix it and to ensure that the results it produces are absolutely correct. The computer system is not one that Ministers were involved in selecting, designing, or testing. Contrary to the belief that the member is putting out, the Government does not run local elections. Councils do that, and they have done so since the 1860s.
David Parker: What did the Government do to assist with the implementation of STV?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Government was responsible for coordinating the development of the STV calculator and a publicity campaign, both of which it did very successfully.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the Minister reconcile the statement made by Helen Clark as Leader of the Opposition in 1999, when she damned National Ministers for the 2-hour delay in election results, stating: “Ministers must take responsibility.”, with his refusal to take any responsibility for this 26-day delay, or is this just like the situation of John Tamihere and the golden handshake—saying one thing in Opposition, and applying a different standard when in Government?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer the first part of that question.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member still fails to grasp the fact that although central Government is responsible for running general elections, local elections are run by local government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister tell this Parliament that he has no responsibility, when his own department, in the estimates for the financial year for which he was responsible, clearly stated that it was the critical current issue for that year; is he saying the department is wrong, or is he wrong?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I repeat to that member that the Government was responsible for developing the STV calculator, which worked perfectly. It was also responsible for a publicity campaign, which also seemed to be very effective.
Contaminated Land, Auckland—Testing
4. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Will the Government assist Aucklanders who are worried their backyards may be contaminated by pesticides to have their properties tested?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister for the Environment), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: The Minister is advised that the Ministry for the Environment will assist Aucklanders by working with their regional and city councils. This Government’s Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund exists to help overcome the unwanted legacy from the past use of chemicals, and the ministry will consider any application from the Auckland Regional Council for assistance from the fund.
Sue Kedgley: Is she saying not only that the Auckland Regional Council has applied to the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund but that the Government will agree to fund testing for potentially contaminated properties, and given the uncertainties for owners of these properties, can she reassure them as to when they can expect the testing to commence?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am not saying what the member suggests. I am saying that the ministry is working with local authorities to progress this matter, and when tests will be available is really a matter for local authorities and the property owners. But the ministry, as I said, is working through both, through those councils, and I am sure that, with the level of cooperation we already have to date, we will ensure that this issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the community.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What is the Government doing to assist councils to deal with contaminated sites around the country?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Ministry for the Environment is working closely with seven regional councils on 13 separate remediation projects on behalf of local communities and landowners. The ministry is developing a national approach to the management of contaminated land, in partnership with regional councils and unitary authorities.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree, in the light of the answer to the previous question, that the Auckland situation could be just the tip of the iceberg and that it does require serious Government action to make sure that people outside of Auckland whose homes might be on the sites of former orchards or market gardens are not left in the dark as to whether there is contamination in their backyards?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I certainly agree it is unlikely that issues like this, which are, really, a legacy of the past, are isolated to Auckland. That is why the Ministry for the Environment wrote in 2002 to councils recommending that they require soil testing of land that had previously been used for horticultural production prior to 1975, before approving subdivisions for residential purposes.
Sue Kedgley: Will the Government expand the modest amount of funding available in the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund so that there is sufficient funding for nationwide testing of contaminated sites, and does she accept that the Government does have a moral responsibility to New Zealanders to do so because successive Governments have permitted the widespread use of the pesticides that are causing concern, and reassure New Zealanders that they are perfectly safe?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Two million dollars per year is available from the fund, and last year we did expand the criteria for who could apply to that fund. We currently have no plans to expand that funding but will monitor the operation of the fund and its effectiveness closely. While many sites in Auckland may not reach the high-risk category, our aim, as set out in our policy manifesto in 2002, is to investigate and have a remediation plan for all high-risk contaminated sites by 2015. Can I add that I think the key issue in this is that, while making good progress on resolving the issue for concerned residents, we are not alarmist and we make sure we get the facts of the matter and have useful and comprehensive information.
Sue Kedgley: Does she agree that the Government should long ago have withdrawn approval for pesticides whose residues persist in the environment, and introduced a levy on toxic substances to fund restoration, clean-up, and compensation of innocent landowners, such as in the Auckland situation today?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: We have no plans to introduce the eco-tax that the member’s party is advocating but we are prepared to continue assisting regional councils to manage contaminated land within their regions to provide the best possible value to ratepayers.
Sue Kedgley: Why is the Government still permitting the use of pesticides that persist in the environment for very long times—such as the organochlorine endosulphin, which is still turning up as residues in our food?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Work continues towards pesticide risk reduction. A pesticide risk reduction strategy working-group has identified a range of ways of reducing pesticide risk. The recent ratification of the Stockholm convention is just one example. Also, the Environmental Risk Management Authority held a 2-day symposium in July bringing together all the groups involved in reducing pesticide risk. Further, the Ministry for the Environment has commissioned HortResearch to report on trends in usage of pesticides and their quantities and risks. That report is due in early 2005.
Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Is she satisfied that John Tamihere has disclosed all his financial dealings with the Waipareira Trust that might cause her or the Labour Government embarrassment; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister has suspended judgment on the financial dealings Mr Tamihere has had, or is alleged to have had, with the Waipareira Trust, while they are the subject of inquiries.
Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister aware that former trust board member Dennis Hansen claimed in a letter dated 11 June 2000—a letter that I understand he is under some pressure to withdraw—that the Waipareira Trust board loaned Mr Tamihere $100,000 in 1991-92 interest free, a loan that, at Mr Tamihere’s request, the board wrote off in 1993; and does the Prime Minister think it appropriate that John Tamihere received both a golden handshake and a golden kia ora?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of that. I am also aware that today the member received a fax from the same person, stating: “However, I was wrong.”
Rodney Hide: Would it help the Prime Minister, in forming a view on whether she thinks that was appropriate, to know that board members have said it is correct and that the minutes state: “The motion was passed that John Tamihere did not have to pay the $100,000 loan back provided, futuristically, if and when his contract expired and he moved on, there was to be no further package deals, financially or otherwise.”; and, in light of that, will the Prime Minister ask Douglas White QC to consider all lump-sum payments made to Mr Tamihere by the trust and whether the appropriate tax was paid?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of those accusations. I repeat that the member has received a fax denying them. As the member has already indicated to Mr White that he will release information to him, I invite him to release whatever information he has. We will see how it all works out in the wash.
Gerry Brownlee: Since the Prime Minister is now aware of that allegation, why will she not ask Douglas White QC to include that particular matter in his investigations?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That matter has been in the public arena for a long time; it is not a new allegation. Mr Peters raised this issue some 5 years ago, as I recollect, within the public arena. There is no need to revisit the issue unless, of course, Mr White chooses to consider it to be relevant. If Mr Hide wants to raise the matter with Mr White he is perfectly free to do so, but I trust that he will table all the documents he has, and not just some of them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister satisfied with that, given that Mr Tamihere in November 1999 admitted receiving the loan but then said that he could not remember the details; and if the loan was connected with a prohibition against any other exit package, will she now begin to think that this matter has more relevance than she originally gave it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If that is the evidence that members wish to present to Mr White, I am sure he will consider it to be relevant for consideration. I would say that—in terms of simply issuing a loan—if the notion of an employing body issuing a loan to an employer is in itself wrong, then an awful lot of people in this country will be in trouble.
Hon Richard Prebble: Would it help the Prime Minister to stop suspending judgment if I was to tell her that the letter was to myself, is handwritten, is dated 11 August 2000, and states: “Mr John Tamihere in 1991-2 borrowed $100,000 from the Waipareira Trust board without interest. In 1993 John asked the Waipareira Trust board to write off the $100,000, which was a personal loan to him. I moved a motion that John Tamihere did not have to repay the $100,000 loan back provided, futuristically, if and when his contract expired and he moved on, there was to be no further package deals, financially or otherwise.”; having now heard that, why should we accept a fax sent today, and why is this matter not being referred to the QC, or can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that tax has been paid on the second golden handshake?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister certainly could not give an assurance about taxation at all, and nor could the Minister of Revenue, because they would be in breach of legislation were they actually privy to an individual taxpayer’s information.
Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister aware that—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I gave a warning, and somebody has interjected. However, I am prepared to give another warning. I am being fair to the member, as two comments were made. I now want there to be no more interjections during question time.
Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister aware that, despite this claim having been around for some years, John Tamihere has never denied receiving a loan from the Waipareira Trust and having it written off; and given the inquiry that is under way, why will the Prime Minister not ask Douglas White to check the minutes of the Waipareira Trust board regarding that loan?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Tamihere, I believe, has stated quite clearly that he received a loan from the trust in, I think, 1991. There is no great secret about that. If the member feels that he has some other evidence, I invite him to give it to Mr White. Mr White has sufficiently broad terms of reference that he can cover those matters if they are relevant to the payments made in 2000.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr White is likely to be inundated with all sorts of people making allegations against Mr Tamihere; if so, why is she not prepared to take the information that comes from Mr Hide and Mr Prebble that would indicate that during John Tamihere’s time at the Waipareira Trust he received almost half a million dollars worth of extra payments by way of his severance payment, the car, and the $100,000 interest-free loan, and why will she not ask Mr White to investigate whether or not the tax was paid, which is a simple question?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The issue of the tax, again, is an issue for the trust, not an issue for Mr Tamihere. The responsibility for the payment of fringe benefit tax rests with the employer, and has been deeply criticised by National for the last 20 years because of that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: At this point in time has Mr Tamihere advised the Prime Minister that his loan was written off and, more important, what the effect of the golden handshake was upon his ordinary salary taxation, which he seems to be overlooking?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot answer the first part of the question. Regarding the second part of the question, I am not sure whether any Minister could give that answer—only the people involved could give it. I repeat that it is actually illegal for the Minister of Revenue—or, through him, the Prime Minister—to have details about individuals’ tax status, irrespective of the information that is given to them by the person involved.
Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister aware that John Tamihere has never denied having the $100,000 loan written off?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding is that Mr Tamihere has denied the loan was of that size, but, obviously, I am open to correction on that matter. What the Prime Minister is certainly aware of—at least, the Acting Prime Minister is—is that today the member received a fax denying the original allegation. I note that he is not inviting the Prime Minister to send that to Mr White for investigation.
Hon Richard Prebble: I seek the leave of the House to table a letter from Mr Dennis Hansen, who says he is a kaumâtua and a board member of the Waipareira Trust, dated 11 May 2000.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will not take objection to that if I can also have leave to table a fax sent today to Mr Hide.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot do that on behalf—[Interruption] Dr Cullen has no objection to that.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I first seek leave to table the fax sent today to Mr Hide.
Mr SPEAKER: First, I will deal with the first issue.
Hon Richard Prebble: No, we can deal with Dr Cullen’s request first. Let us get them all on the table.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table Dr Cullen’s fax first.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is now sought to table Mr Prebble’s letter.
Working for Families Package—Taxation
6. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Does his answer to question No. 3 yesterday indicate that he considers the tax regime that applies to families is fair?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): In general terms, yes. There is always room for improvement, and that is one of the reasons for the tax elements in the Working for Families package.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does that answer, the Minister’s comment yesterday that he was not in favour of income splitting, and the Minister for Social Development and Employment’s comment earlier this week that the Government was not looking to allow capitalisation of benefits arising from the Working for Families programme for the purpose of home purchase, mean that, as far as the Minister is concerned, the Working for Families package as it presently stands is as good as it gets for families?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. I look forward, in the long term, to a Labour-led Government, supported by United Future and whatever other parties, continuing to deliver substantial gains for families, progressively, year by year.
John Key: Does the Minister think it is fair that by 2008 207,000—or 64 percent—of the recipients of the Working for Families package will be welfare beneficiaries, and was that the policy intent when he designed the scheme?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The policy intent was both to increase the gap between paid income and benefit income, which the package does, and to lift the incomes of all low to middle income families, which the package does. Under Labour, the number of families who depend upon benefits has been falling.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that there is some sympathy on this side of the House for the tax relief suggestions that United Future occasionally makes; if he is aware of that, would he recommend that United Future members show a bit more fortitude and stick to their guns, in which case they might succeed, or is he quite happy that they roll over continually?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have a positive relationship. Mr Copeland is full of many ideas for reducing the Government’s revenue, not all of which are affordable—at least, not simultaneously.
Gordon Copeland: Why should a family with a single income of $60,000 per annum pay $57 per week more than another family in which one partner is earning $40,000 and the other $20,000, when both families have the same pre-tax income; how can that be regarded as fair?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member does point to a difficulty that is created by progressive tax rates, but income splitting creates the opposite problem, in that there is significant disadvantage for the single-income family in many respects, particularly in that higher-income families get much better tax relief than lower-income families. That will always be the problem around income splitting.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister recovered physically from the injuries no doubt inflicted on him by the rigorous and aggressive presentation and prosecution of the United Future party’s case whenever its members talk to him?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding is that the United Future party incorporates a large Christian party element. I have always found those members gentle Christian knights to deal with in these respects.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister believe that there is wisdom in the statement “That in all cases where a woman elects to superintend her own household and to be the mother of children, there shall be a law attaching a just share of her husband’s earnings”, as stated by Kate Sheppard in 1896; and would not income splitting fulfil at long last those aspirations?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. I am afraid that relationships within families are a bit more complicated than that. If the result of that was that the income of, say, a family earning $60,000 a year was split into two amounts of $30,000, and the husband kept one lot and the wife with, say, three children had the other, that would be distinctly unfair, I would have thought.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister prefer working with a party that engages reasonably in discussion, or would he prefer to work with a party that demands its own way every week?
Mr SPEAKER: I say to Mr Hide that I said on a previous occasion that that was my final warning. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister prefer working with a party that has reasonable discussion and recommendations, or with a party that would demand its own way every week, and would, if it did not succeed in that, put the country and the economy at risk by pulling down the Government every other week?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is not my experience at the moment, working with Mr Dail Jones on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill matter, but I would say that the Government’s motto in this respect is “Working with Families”, and the Government’s policy is that families are often quite different one from the other.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the true reason that the Minister cannot consider income splitting the fact that his Government, supported by the United Future party, brought in amendments to the Property (Relationships) Act that mean it is almost impossible now to define what a family is, anyway?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely not! Technically, income splitting for tax purposes is no more difficult than a number of other aspects of the current taxation system.
John Key: I seek leave to table the answer to written question No. 13537, which shows, amongst other things, that 64 percent of recipients of the Working for Families package are welfare beneficiaries.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Member for Tamaki Makaurau—Waipareira Trust
7. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Was she advised of reports that John Tamihere told colleagues he had accepted a golden handshake from the Waipareira Trust; if so, did she inquire whether any of those colleagues were members of her executive?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: No.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister intend finding out whether any members of her executive have known for some time that John Tamihere accepted the golden handshake, while she was out in public defending him?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No.
Gerry Brownlee: Is she aware that today John Tamihere has stated that he was always going to accept a golden handshake, despite the fact that he had gone on record saying he would not, and what confidence should anyone have in Mr Tamihere, when he deliberately sets out to deceive her, the media, and the public of New Zealand; and why on earth is she considering putting him back in Cabinet?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen that comment, there is an inquiry under way, and consideration will be given to all matters at the end of those inquiries.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a Radio New Zealand transcript in which Mr Tamihere admits that he always intended to take the golden handshake, and that he knew it would be offered again when he turned it down.
Youth Offending Teams—Objectives
8. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that Youth Offending Teams are achieving the purpose for which they were established?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes, the Police, Child, Youth and Family Services, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education are now working together much more effectively in responding to youth offending, which was one of the purposes of setting up the teams. In the member’s own electorate of Hamilton, the youth offending team there is a model example. The agencies now work together as a team, instead of, as in the past, with at-risk youths dealing with a series of authorities, none of which were talking to one another. The new joint initiatives from the youth offending team are now delivering outstanding results, and the youth offending team has won very strong community support because of that.
Martin Gallagher: What programmes run by the Hamilton youth offending team does he believe have been particularly effective, especially in view of his recent trip to Hamilton?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think the programmes run by the agencies to share information and to coordinate case management of youth have been particularly effective. What has also been working really well are programmes designed to tackle the causes of offending, such as truancy, suspension and expulsion from school, educational failure, and drug and alcohol abuse. Finally, what has been really effective has been the use of alternative action, or diversion programmes. The number of offenders successfully completing those programmes has doubled; and the numbers failing to complete the plan have fallen to around 3 percent. That is an outstanding result.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister satisfied that family group conferences lead to effective outcomes for young offenders, when a Blenheim youth involved in the repeated burglary and assault of an 88-year-old World War II veteran who had recently admitted his guilt in a family group conference then subsequently denied it in court; or does he agree that getting offenders to own up in these conferences is pointless, unless it is also accompanied by swift punishment that actually provides consequences for their actions?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Like any form of justice and punishment, we do not get 100 percent success. What is really good about family group conferences is that they deal with the hard-core offenders and they succeed, in more than half of the cases, in either preventing reoffending or only further minor reoffending. If the members opposite who are speaking from the depths of their own ignorance would like to read the report Achieving Effective Outcomes In Youth Justice they would find good results. When we take a matter to a family group conference, rather than to the Youth Court, in fact the victim is most likely to achieve reparation and an apology that do not come through the Youth Court process, the level of reoffending is less, and it is seen by both the victim and the offender, not as a soft option, but as a more effective option for both the victim and the offender.
9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Can he confirm that the reason the New Zealand Teachers Council cannot release a report about the quality of teacher training in New Zealand is because he has not released it; if so, when will he release it?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)), on behalf of the Minister of Education: No, the Minister cannot confirm that. The report is not the Minister’s to release. I am advised that although the report was never intended to be officially published, it has already been released.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister of Education aware that the New Zealand Teachers Council is meant to be an independent statutory body, and can he confirm that the public comments made by the Teachers Council over this damning report show that he is exercising political influence, which, in this case, is against the law?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I cannot confirm that.
Lynne Pillay: What are some of the positive achievements of the Teachers Council since it was established?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Although the Teachers Council has had a challenging start, we should not overlook the good progress that has been made in some key areas. The council has made good progress in putting in place a code of ethics for the teaching profession, in implementing a greatly strengthened disciplinary system, in implementing the police vetting of non-teaching staff, and in re-registering a large number of teachers. In time, the Teachers Council has the potential to contribute considerably to the quality of the teaching profession.
Deborah Coddington: How can boards of trustees, principals, parents, and even teachers themselves have any faith in the quality of teacher training in New Zealand, when the Teachers Council, which specifically approves all teacher-training courses in New Zealand, has come up with its own report that states that even it cannot guarantee that all courses are turning out well-prepared teachers?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I understand that this report was commissioned following a suggestion made by the New Zealand Educational Institute as part of a working-party on qualifications for primary school teachers. The report was the initial stage of a four-phase research project being carried out by the ministry and the Teachers Council, and helped to establish the parameters for the rest of the research programme. The report looked at a sample of historical documentation on initial teacher education programme approvals by the Teachers Council. Of course, this research is being used, alongside the development of the council, to improve the qualifications of teachers.
Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister of Education—given the repeated muck-ups by the Teachers Council, such as the backlog of teacher registrations, the demise of several council chairs with golden handshakes, the concerns of the Education and Science Committee, and the continued absence of the council’s first item of business, which was the code of ethics—have complete confidence in his Teachers Council; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think it would be fair to say that the Teachers Council has had to overcome some pretty serious setbacks in the formation of its work plan and its organisation. Of course, the future of the council will be dependent upon its ability to continue to attract good management, staff, and members of its governing body. We hope that is the case, because, like most countries, we want to have a Teachers Council doing this kind of work.
Hon Bill English: What action does the Minister of Education intend to take on the findings of the report, which are that among the programmes reviewed there are many with poorly developed conceptual frameworks, narrowly conceived programmes based on a single theorist, an unidentified research base, inadequate practicum arrangements, unclear progression through the programme, and irrelevant courses not aligned with the New Zealand curriculum; and when will he take this issue seriously, given that very poorly prepared teachers are standing in front of thousands of children today because these courses are no good?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The report was commissioned, as I said before, by the ministry and the Teachers Council so that it could inform their thinking about initial teacher education and their respective roles in it. In other words, the research, the first stage of a four-stage piece of research, is to help the Teachers Council to do exactly what the member is seeking.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister of Education not see that much more urgent action is needed than a four-stage report and collaboration process, given that a recent report from the Education Review Office concluded that half of all beginning secondary school teachers and one-third of all beginning primary school teachers were ineffective, which affects the education of 30,000 children today?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would point out that the Minister of Education’s concern about initial teacher education has been of note for some time, which is why there is a moratorium on initial teacher education providers, and why organisations such as the Teachers Council and the Ministry of Education have been working actively on initial teacher education since that time.
10. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What recent reports has he received about the success of the Government’s broadcasting policies?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): I have received the report released today from New Zealand On Air’s research, which shows that 90 percent of New Zealanders regularly watch locally made documentaries. More than three-quarters believe that they want to see more television with New Zealanders in their proper place on the television screen, and more than three-quarters enjoy hearing New Zealand music on radio, and think radio stations should play more. This research endorses completely the Government’s policies in these areas.
Dianne Yates: What reports has the Government seen on the possible sale of Television New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen a report, which leaves open the possibility of selling TV2 and scrapping the charter, from someone who says that he never watches television. If he did watch television he would know that TV2 is a channel for locally produced children’s and young people’s programming. Selling it would fly in the face of the views of 86 percent of New Zealanders who want to see a lot more local programmes for children and young people on our screens. Furthermore, that member might like to know that it is impracticable to sell Television New Zealand’s second channel, because it is just a frequency. It would require, first of all, splitting an integrated business, but of course someone who does not watch television probably does not know that.
11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment: What has a married couple receiving New Zealand Superannuation been receiving as a percentage of the net average ordinary time weekly wage on a quarterly basis since and including September 2003, and is this consistent with the Government’s policy?
Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment): I am advised that as of September 2003 the average quarterly rate of New Zealand superannuation for a married couple, as a percentage of the average ordinary time weekly wage was 65.09 percent. This is consistent with the Government’s policy.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked that Minister as to what has happened since, and including, September 2003. He deliberately left out the “since” part, and that is the key part of my question.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct. The member has answered the question relating to September 2003, but the question stated “since and including”, so there need to be more statistics there.
Hon RICK BARKER: I can give the member a couple more figures, if he wishes. As of 1 March 2004 the quarterly rate was 64.88 percent, and at June 2004 the rate was 64.83 percent, but the average was 65 percent.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I thank the Minister for getting to the point he did not want to disclose, but can I ask him why he is being so mean and outside the law in respect of the elderly people of this country who, in comparison with the promise Labour made, are getting well in excess of $30 less per week now than they were getting before?
Hon RICK BARKER: The claim that superannuitants are getting $30 a week less than they should be is pure nonsense—absolute arrant nonsense. When one sets a figure in a simple way as a relative percentage it is to be expected that over time it may erode. The next time it comes up for inspection it will be adjusted back to its level—that member, and all superannuitants, can be assured of that.
Georgina Beyer: What is the Government doing to meet the concerns, and the welfare needs, of our senior citizens?
Hon RICK BARKER: When this Government came into office the previous administration had reduced the fall of superannuation from 65 percent down to 60 percent. That was the legacy of the National Party in Government. This Government reversed that and has now lifted the fall back. This means superannuitants, as a married couple, are at least $21 per week better off. In addition to that we have made changes in local driver licensing, reduced primary health organisation charges, brought down the cost of prescriptions, put money into knee and hip operation costs, and have maintained income-related rents. We have done an enormous amount for our senior citizens, and will continue to do so.
Foreshore and Seabed Bill—Ancestral Connection
12. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Does the Government intend to support the removal of ancestral connection provisions from the Foreshore and Seabed Bill; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): I am still involved in a range of discussions with my own colleagues, including Mâori caucus committee colleagues, and with New Zealand First. When those discussions are concluded I will be happy to provide the outcome of that process.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister have any concerns that the Government’s proposal to enable ancestral connection orders to be recognised for more than one iwi, hapû, or whânau over the same stretch of coastline will have an adverse effect on iwi capacity to establish coastal boundaries for allocation of fisheries and aquacultural quota; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, not necessarily, but I do note the range of submissions that have been made on this issue, and they will be considered before final decisions are made.
Dail Jones: Has the Minister seen the National Party’s report on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, which affects these matters, indicating that the National Party supports the recognition of customary rights now, and has he received any indication from the National Party as to the manner in which this change of mind can be implemented?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as this relates to the Minister being in charge of this particular legislation, yes he can answer that part of the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have put our report in. To my knowledge we certainly have not been notified that it has been tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: I tabled it today.
Gerry Brownlee: OK, I did not hear you.
Mr SPEAKER: The member should have been listening.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a new point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: This is a new point of order? What is it?
Gerry Brownlee: Yes, it is. Firstly, I would hope that when a point of order like that was called you would not tolerate members making the sorts of comments for which I was slung out of the House yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. He was not thrown out of the House for that at all. He was thrown out of the House because he used an unparliamentary expression that he refused to withdraw. He knows why he was thrown out yesterday. It had nothing to do with that at all.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can the Minister responsible for that bill have any responsibility for what we put in our report?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked whether he had received communication from the National Party. He can answer that question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of the support for customary rights orders expressed by the National Party in the report. To do that requires legislation. Otherwise, one sits with the current law. First, there is the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to consider questions of customary title and aboriginal title, and under the Ngâti Awa decision, to award customary land status to Mâori. I understand that the latter is opposed by National. It completely fails to understand that simply regulating that side of the equation does not cover the issue of the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court in this matter.
Hon Ken Shirley: Under the current arrangements of the foreshore and seabed legislation, what would prevent a 1/64th Mâori living in Sydney from asserting ancestral connection rights through iwi affiliation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Under the bill as it stands at the moment, it is possible to apply for ancestral connection orders, which would be on behalf of a group of Mâori. Normally, they would be regarded as iwi, hapû, or whânau. The fact that somebody lives somewhere else does not remove the fact he or she has a connection back to his or her ancestors. I continue to support the Tottenham Hotspurs, despite their appalling record over recent weeks.
Metiria Turei: Will the Minister consider the Greens option that ancestral connection orders should give practical effect to the kaitiakitanga responsibilities that arise from whakapapa links to the coast, rather than pursue further backtracking on Mâori decision-making in the Resource Management Act, as announced earlier today?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What the Government seeks to do arising out of the select committee process is to give clear expression to the impact of common law rights within a New Zealand context. If one approaches that from the context of a treaty framework, then that is not, in fact, the correct legal framework for this matter to be dealt with.
Larry Baldock: Does the Government intend to support either the removal of clause 8(2) from the bill, or the amendment of that clause, to make it clear that nothing in the foreshore and seabed legislation will affect the common law fishing rights exercised in this country by recreational fishers?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, we are still involved in discussions on changes to the bill. However, a lot of very useful technical submissions have been made by a variety of organisations, and they will be taken account of in discussions now occurring, and in the drafting that is occurring as well as we move alongside in a dual process.
Gerry Brownlee: Can he confirm that the recently passed Mâori fisheries allocation bill prevented iwi from getting hold of their allocation in areas where there were coastal boundary disputes, and can he say how he expects the proposed law, which will give ancestral connection to more than one group, and therefore create boundary disputes between iwi, will assist poor Mâori getting the best effect of their fisheries settlement?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Even if the provisions remain in the bill it does not give ancestral connection to Mâori. Mâori have ancestral connection—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You’re being pedantic.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is not pedantic. That, in fact, is at the very heart of the issue that is under consideration. The reality is that Mâori do dispute where the boundaries are between them. One of the issues in the Mâori fisheries allocation bill was to provide a mechanism to ensure that those disputes did not drag on indefinitely into the future.
Metiria Turei: Will the Government look at replacing ancestral connection orders with some kind of substantive process for Mâori decision-making in the Resource Management Act, as was sought by submitters to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, or is this Government so desperate for popular appeal that it will follow New Zealand First and National, ensuring that Mâori have as little decision making as possible in the Resource Management Act?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are a number of issues. One is the issue of the recognition of specific customary rights. The bill provides, and no doubt will continue to provide, a clear set of mechanisms in relation to that, though customary fishing rights are already dealt with in legislation and will not be affected by the Foreshore and Seabed Bill. On the other matter, which is more relevant to the Ngâti Apa decision, it is clear from the Court of Appeal decision that there is not expected to be some kind of general right held by all Mâori everywhere. It is specific to those with particular rights in relation to what, in the bill, is called “territorial customary rights”. That, of course, is the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. I repeat, the National Party does not understand that if we do not legislate around that, then that inherent jurisdiction can continue to be exercised as freely as the court wishes.
Gerry Brownlee: In the light of Chief Mâori Land Court Judge, Joe Williams’, recent activist statements, does he think it is appropriate for the Government to be giving Mâori Land Court judges jurisdiction to issue ancestral connection, when clearly those ancestral connections will give some iwi leverage over others in preventing them getting at their fisheries allocations?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I know that I have said this a few times, but I will repeat it. The Government is in the process of discussions with its own caucus membership and with New Zealand First. We have not made a decision on whether that part of the bill is staying in.