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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 9 Nov. 2004

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

Tuesday, 9 November 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Legal Services Agency—Youth Law
2. Schools—Parental Funding
3. Privacy—Voyeuristic Photography
4. Somalian Refugee—Inquiry
5. Prisoners—Compensation
6. Foreshore and Seabed Bill—United Nations
7. Taxation—Average Households
8. Trade—Dispute Resolution
9. Cabinet—Appointments
10. Education Standards Act—School Reporting
11. Pharmacies—Policy
12. Constitutional Inquiry—Process

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Legal Services Agency—Youth Law

1. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: How much funding has the Government committed to Youth Law through the Legal Services Agency, and is that funding likely to continue beyond the current contract?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Firstly, the funding for the Youth Law organisation is not predominantly from the Government; it is actually from the New Zealand Law Society’s special fund. Secondly, under its current 3-year contract with the Legal Services Agency, Youth Law is expected to receive about $407,000 this financial year. To the best of my knowledge it has been funded through the Legal Services Agency, and before that the Legal Services Board since the early 1990s. Funding for the future is a matter of negotiation between the Legal Services Agency and Youth Law, rather than the Government.

Marc Alexander: Why does this Minister’s Government, despite his answer to the first question, at least partially fund Youth Law when the organisation’s website explains to young people how they can avoid apprehension for drug offences, and is accompanied by a picture that shows a young man taking a hit from a P pipe; and does the minister see any contradiction between supporting this organisation and the Government’s claim that it is taking a hard line on drugs?

Hon PHIL GOFF: My first answer might have been inconvenient to the member, but, nevertheless, it is predominantly not the Government that funds this organisation but the New Zealand Law Society fund.

Lianne Dalziel: On what basis and for what purpose does the Legal Services Agency contract with Youth Law?s

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Legal Services Agency funds Youth Law as a specialist community law centre. The purpose of funding that organisation is to meet identified unmet legal need. Therefore, Youth Law will be funded to tell young people about their rights even though that may not be convenient from the viewpoint of those who are trying to enforce or take action against them for things such as drug abuses.

Richard Worth: Why does the Minister say that the substantial proportion of funding is from the Auckland District Law Society, as he did in answer to the primary question, when the Youth Law website says that most of its funding is in fact derived from the Legal Services Agency; and is not the question asked initially correct in that we have a situation where the centre is accepting of the drug culture and more concerned about identifying the rights of drug dealers and users than curbing the culture?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member is going to quote my first answer, he should take care to get it right. I never suggested it was funded by the Auckland District Law Society, although the society, through its $50 levy, does put $30,000 a year into Youth Law. Predominantly, the funds come from the Legal Services Agency and, as the member should know, that is drawn from the New Zealand Law Society’s special fund, which is the consolidated interest rate on lawyers’ trust accounts. The member, as a lawyer, should know that.

Craig McNair: Is the funding that the Government has committed to youth law issues resulting in improved youth offending figures; if so, in which specific areas?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I can quote the Principal Youth Court Judge, who said that youth offending figures have remained remarkably consistent over the last 5 to 7 years. That is a good thing because the proportion of the population that is in that youth bracket has doubled over that period of time.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does anyone believe that?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Obviously the Principal Youth Court Judge does.

Mr SPEAKER: Has the Minister finished?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Well, I could take a number of—

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister could if he wanted to, but he would be holding things up.

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister aware that the Youth Law website advises young people that they can escape apprehension for dealing class C drugs such as cannabis if they give them to others rather than sell them, and is he also aware that the website tells young people that if they are under 17 and are caught dealing drugs they are unlikely to go to prison, and does he condone this?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not condone anyone who promotes the use of illegal drugs, but there is nothing to stop the Youth Law centre explaining what the law requires and where it operates.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that in terms of the statutory direction to the Legal Services Agency, in particular regarding community law centres, to address unmet legal needs, one of the greatest areas of unmet legal needs in this country is young people and that the Youth Law project is the only community law centre to focus exclusively on young people’s legal needs?

Hon PHIL GOFF: What the member has said is, I think, substantially correct. Young people have few resources and therefore they cannot afford to meet their legal needs.

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister aware that the Youth Law website refers young people who want further legal advice on drugs to NORML, the lobby group for the legalisation of cannabis; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have not looked in detail at the Youth Law website, nor indeed the websites of the other community law centres. As I have said to the House before, I do not support any action that encourages people to use illicit drugs or creates an environment where they are more likely to do so. If that is implied in any of their material, then I deplore it.

Stephen Franks: How does the Minister distinguish his position from a view that telling people their rights is the same thing as telling them how to avoid being convicted instead of telling innocent people how to insist on due process when the Minister has just heard the description of the advice on the website, which is not advice on how innocent people can show their innocence; it is how to take drugs without being caught?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I guess most lawyers in this country earn their money by telling their clients of their rights and doing their best to get them off charges if they face them—probably including the member in his time.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that in the year 2000, Youth Law received the Human Rights Commission millennium award—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think it is appropriate that the Minister should accuse another member of Parliament of committing illegal acts that were such that he would need a lawyer to defend him, which is what he did in the last part of his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: He did not accuse him of illegal acts. I listened carefully to the answer that was given.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that in the year 2000, Youth Law received a Human Rights Commission millennium award for its legal services to young people, and would he not expect the Youth Law community law centre to refer young people to factual information about the law with regard to young people regardless of the source of that information and as long as it was factually accurate?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, I would expect Youth Law to provide factually accurate information. I think that, by and large, Youth Law probably does things that most members of this Chamber would strongly agree with, but there may be exceptions to that, particularly in the drug area.

Marc Alexander: I seek leave to table a picture showing a young man taking a hit from a P pipe from the at-least partly Government-funded Youth Law website.

Leave granted.

Schools—Parental Funding

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government’s policy on parents being required to provide financial contributions to their children’s schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Notwithstanding that member’s comments that schools are awash with cash, State schools are allowed to ask parents for a donation. I understand that if the privatisation model proposed by Dr Brash were implemented, it would result in fees of $7,000 per year, per child.

Hon Bill English: Does Government policy endorse the activities of Western Springs College, which has sent out to parents an invoice that states: “This statement is issued to let you know just how much your daughter owes.”, and then lists: “School donation one child $180. Please pay this amount. Please pay the amount due: $180.”; does the Government endorse that kind of practice?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. In fact, I condemn it.

Helen Duncan: What reports has the Minister received on possible changes to the way our education system is operated and funded?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen one report on the administration of schools that suggests our education system is run like a 1950s coalmine or an Eastern European shipyard. The same report suggested that State funding of education resembled a Soviet-style monopoly. It was the same speech where the privatisation agenda was raised by Dr Brash.

Hon Brian Donnelly: What is the Minister’s response—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There is one member on each side who made irrelevant interjections and also grossly out-of-order interjections. I will not warn them again. That is the one warning.

Hon Brian Donnelly: What is the Minister’s response to the finding in recent research of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research that effective schools are “now dependent for the most part on the funds they are able to raise from sources other than their Government funding”, which obviously includes increasing demands on parents’ wallets?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am accepting the member at his word that it is a direct quote. If it is a direct quote, it is inaccurate, because they do not mostly rely on parental or locally raised funds. That is absolutely inaccurate. Staffing and property costs are way above that.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that schools that require a child to work off a school donation, as reported in yesterday’s New Zealand Herald, are simply involved in child exploitation, and will he immediately advise all schools in this country that no child is required to pick up rubbish or undertake minor maintenance in exchange for his or her free public education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, and no.

Bernie Ogilvy: What impact does the Minister think the dramatic downturn on foreign fee-paying students will have on schools’ financial position in light of the fact that the deficits have doubled from $14 million to $29 million in 8 years, and will he adjust operation grants accordingly?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As that member is aware because he is an astute questioner, the over operating surpluses in schools last year were substantially above the year before, which was above the year before that.

Hon Bill English: If the Minister condemns the practice of schools sending out invoices, what will he do about this correspondence from Hillcrest High School: “Thank you for your school fee donation of $80 for your daughter. Our records indicate that fees of $80 remain to be paid. School fees are $160 for the full year.”—this is a letter from Hillcrest High School demanding payment from one of its parents; and will he actually do something about this if he is opposed to it?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will work with the ministry to instruct the school of its rights in that area. It does not have the right to send out such a letter.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister intend to allow the situation to continue where parents in schools are raising almost half a billion dollars per year, while the ministry spends hundreds of millions of dollars on his pet projects?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This Minister has raised the amount spent on literacy from almost zero to nearly $60 million, and the amount on numeracy, from absolutely zero to a significant amount. If they are pet projects, which those members in Opposition do not like, the numeracy and literacy programmes—things that have placed us third in the world—then they can campaign on that at election time.

Hon Brian Donnelly: I seek leave of the House to table the New Zealand Council for Educational Research paper.

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

Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table an invoice from Western Springs College for payment of $180 school fees.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection to that course being followed?

Leave granted.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to make sure that it does not identify the child.

Hon Bill English: No, it does not. This is written out for the Minister. I seek leave to table a letter from Hillcrest High School to parents demanding payment of $80 in school fees.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: On the same basis?

Hon Bill English: Yes

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

Leave granted.

Privacy—Voyeuristic Photography

3. TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Justice: What action is he taking to protect persons from becoming victims of voyeuristic photography or filming in intimate and private situations?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Under policy decisions made this week by the Government, legislation will be drafted shortly that makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to 3 years’ imprisonment, to make or publish such a voyeuristic recording without a person’s consent. In circumstances that would reasonably be expected to provide privacy, possession of such a recording will become a criminal offence, punishable by up to 1 year’s imprisonment.

Tim Barnett: Are any of those activities currently offences under the law; if so, why is new legislation needed?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Under existing law there is no provision that specifically prohibits the taking and publishing, without consent, of a visual record of a person in a private situation who is nude, partially nude, or engaging in sexual or other intimate activity, although alternative indecency charges may sometimes be applied. The advance of new technology, and in particular the use of cellphone cameras, has enhanced the ability of voyeurs to engage in such recordings. This legislation will bring New Zealand into line with what has recently been done in the US and the UK, and with what is now being considered in New South Wales and Canada.

Somalian Refugee—Inquiry

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What will the inquiry into Somali refugee Asha Ali Abdille, announced on Friday 5 November, involve that was not completed by his officials at an earlier date?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): The investigation into Asha Ali Abdille will confirm the facts of her case, including her earlier declarations and her current sponsorship application. A preliminary report is to be provided to me by Friday.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is a so-called refugee who has a police record a mile long, who has been here for 10 years bludging off the New Zealand taxpayer, and who still is trying to bring in 14 of her relatives; only now the subject of an inquiry by the New Zealand Immigration Service?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, she is not a so-called refugee; she came in as a refugee under the previous National Government. There are, of course, allegations about convictions, and she has admitted some. I note the member said that the number of convictions would make Al Capone proud—although I would be surprised if bootlegging were among them. But it is important to get to the bottom of the case, particularly in relation to her sponsorship application, and that is primarily where the investigation is going.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister be including in his investigations into Asha Ali Abdille the 33 family members of the three Tampa boat people—that is 11 each—who have been approved for refugee status, and also the person reported in today’s Dominion Post as having been found guilty of lying in respect of his permanent residence application in that he declared he did not have AIDS; frankly, why do we have these people in our country?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the first part of the question, no. In relation to, particularly, the last part of the question, about the person who supposedly has HIV, that matter will now go through the normal process whereby the status of somebody who lied in an application is considered by the department. I imagine that that investigation is likely to end in revocation proceedings.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is it so easy under this Government for refugees to come into the country, when people who want genuinely to contribute to the New Zealand economy are having to wait 8 weeks for a work permit from the Hamilton office and 5 weeks for a work permit from the Wellington office, whereas they would find, if they go across the Tasman on a plane, that the wait for a permit from the Sydney office was 5 days?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I understand that the member raised that matter at the select committee last week. It is true that the amount of time people wait for a work permit from the Hamilton office is not acceptable. In some parts of the country it is much, much better, as the member says. But by and large we are wanting the application turn-round to be shorter, because there are a lot of people who want to come and live in New Zealand, notwithstanding the whingeing, whining, and moaning of the National Party. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Well, there was interjection the whole time the Minister was speaking.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it true that three of the Tampa boat boys have brought in 11 people each since they arrived in this country, and why is Helen Clark not telling the country that, instead of maintaining that we have a quota of 750 United Nations refugees?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, it is true that that is the number of people who have been brought in. I do not think there is any need for the Prime Minister to say that, because it has been in the newspapers.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that his department has confirmed that 35 of the Tampa boys have brought in over 207 family members, and what restrictions will this Government put in place to stop each of the 33 who were brought in by three of the Tampa boys from bringing another 11 refugees into New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, firstly, I cannot confirm the absolute number—

Hon Tony Ryall: You gave it to me.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, I have not got the number in front of me, but I can confirm that a number have been brought in. Of course, a lot of these people came in under the previous National Government—a point that is often forgotten—and that was in the days when National honoured its international obligations, instead of attacking the most vulnerable in the community just to try to get a few miserable political points.

Mr SPEAKER: There is far too much noise. I allow a bit of interjection. The Minister was giving an answer that was objected to, and I was going to allow that interjection to go on, but that was too much.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that, when we have women having to go abroad for cancer operations, all manner of people on hospital waiting lists for longer than has ever been the case since 1999, and there is so much in this country that needs to be paid for, he and his colleagues are constructing a bludgers’ paradise for people who are not refugees at all?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: If someone is granted refugee status as a resident in New Zealand—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s one.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: —yes—he or she is entitled to the services. In fact, the hospital waiting list has gone down under my colleague the Minister of Health. Finally, many of the policies around refugee status were in place when that member was Treasurer.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table an official Government document that shows every single one of the refugees sponsored by a Tampa refugee has come in under this Government’s watch.

Leave granted.

Prisoners—Compensation

5. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Justice: When is he expecting to introduce legislation making changes to prisoner compensation procedures?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Before the end of the year.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Government yet secured the support of United Future or the Greens for his proposal?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Until I have finalised the legislation, I will not pass it to any member of the House. I myself have not seen it yet. But I would be very surprised if, for example, the member’s own party would not be supportive of such legislation, unless, of course, he wants the old practice to keep on going on.

Moana Mackey: What steps is he taking to prevent inmates from making windfall gains from compensation for abuse of their rights?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Three steps, basically. First, a review is under way to ensure that breaches of rights either do not occur or are dealt with promptly. Secondly, payments will be restricted to exceptional circumstances, and where complaints avenues have first been used. Thirdly, any money that is actually paid would be held in trust to allow victims to make the first call on it to compensate for the wrongs they have suffered at the hands of inmates.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister believe that criminals such as Michael Anthony Manihera, a convicted murderer, and Alan Wayne Mareikura, a man who committed aggravated burglary and forced a husband to watch his wife being raped, will fall into the category of “exceptional circumstances”; and why would the Minister run the risk that some liberal judge will decide that those people should be entitled to compensation, when that Minister will not stop these payments in their steps?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The measures I just announced in response to the previous question indicate that I will do everything possible to stop inmates from wrongly receiving compensation.

Hon Tony Ryall: Retrospective.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member just mentioned “retrospective”. When he was the Minister of Justice he railed against retrospectivity, except immediately before the election, when he made retrospective law that was turned over within 8 months by the Court of Appeal. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There are too many interjections from one source. [Interruption] Not while I am talking.

Ron Mark: Will the Minister, having just said that he will do everything he can to prevent those payments from being made, bring his Minister of Corrections to account for the sloppy operation, poor management practices, and even illegal activities that have gone on over the last 5 years in his own Department of Corrections that have resulted in prisoner abuse, in charges being laid, and in compensatory payments being made; will he bring his own Minister to heel?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As I recall, the compensation cases that have just been dealt with by the court were about the behaviour modification regime introduced in 1998, when National was in Government, and when New Zealand First had just ceased supporting that party in power.

ÎStephen Franks: In view of the Minister’s statement about retrospectivity, and his eagerness to do everything possible, I seek leave at the end of question time to introduce my bill, at least as an interim measure, which the Minister might replace with his when he eventually gets one.

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

Nandor Tanczos: Earlier, Marc Alexander tabled a picture from the Youth Law website. I have the whole document, and I seek leave to table the whole document, which is a very responsible and restrained outline—

Leave granted.

Foreshore and Seabed Bill—United Nations

6. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Has the Government received any urgent requests for information from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination regarding the Foreshore and Seabed Bill; if so, what is the nature of those requests?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes, we received a request from the committee on 20 August seeking further advice on the timetable and process for discussion and adoption of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.

Metiria Turei: How does the Minister justify the statement made in the Government’s response to the committee that the debate “indicates an open process of engagement by a Government with New Zealanders interested in the issues at stake”, when only 232 of the 1,800 submitters who wanted to be heard were heard, because Government members on the select committee denied the committee extra time to hear properly and address New Zealanders’ concerns?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Speaker, am I responsible for the select committee?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may comment briefly.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, of course, a discussion document was put out for public submissions. We then had a full select committee process, which went for the 6 months required. A number of the countries represented on the committee that we wrote to would not have a select committee process at all for Government legislation.

Nandor Tanczos: Will the Government support the recommendation of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to allow existing reclamation applications for freehold title to the foreshore and seabed, yet cut off the 18 applications for customary title filed prior to the Ngâti Apa case, and how does he justify the blatant discrimination against tangata whenua in favour of private companies?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will have to wait for the final shape of the Supplementary Order Paper, which is still under discussion.

Metiria Turei: Does the Government support the recommendation of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to confiscate Te Whanga lagoon, in the Chatham Islands, under the bill, when this lagoon does not fall within the definition of foreshore and seabed, when the department admits that it is an anomaly, and when the applications by iwi for customary status have been filed with the Mâori Land Court since 1993?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will have to wait for the final shape of the Supplementary Order Paper. In respect of the particular case she refers to there are, of course, competing claims to the lagoon.

Keith Locke: How much are New Zealand’s efforts to gain a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Committee being undermined by this complaint to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination coming on top of the recent criticism by the United Nations Committee Against Torture of the security risk certificate procedure applying to Ahmed Zaoui, and the imprisonment of people like Mr Zaoui for long periods in solitary confinement?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Zaoui is free to cross over the foreshore and seabed at any time, which is more than one can say for some of the countries represented on the United Nations Human Rights Committee at the present stage.

Taxation—Average Households

7. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Revenue: Does he believe that the average household is overtaxed; if so, does he rule out announcing tax cuts before the next election?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Revenue): No.

Rodney Hide: Does he think it fair that for the average household the tax take has increased by $5,840 since Labour came to office, while its income has increased by only $4,800; and if he thinks that is fair, then why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I would strongly challenge those numbers presented by the member. I do note that on the key polling question of “right track, wrong track” there is very strong support for the notion that this country is on the right track, which suggests a degree of fairness is accepted out there.

John Key: Does the Minister think it is justified that for the year ended 30 June 2004 hard-working New Zealand individuals and companies paid an extra $8 million a day in tax, according to Statistics New Zealand’s release this morning ?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not know what time frame the member is presenting—an extra $8 million a day compared with when? I assume he means over the previous year. We had extraordinarily strong growth in the last year—strong company profit growth, and strong household income growth—and that translates into strong revenue growth. What I can tell the member is that the present fiscal projections for the coming years show that under the Government’s planned expenditure and revenue reduction forecast, the debt to GDP ratio will remain flat.

Hon Peter Dunne: If he believed that New Zealand families were overtaxed, what steps would he propose to reduce the level of overtaxation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If I believed that, I would look at ways in which to particularly assist low to middle-income families, as we did in this year’s Budget. I thank the member for his party’s support for the Working for Families package.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister believe that reducing taxes would improve New Zealand’s comparative advantage with respect to Australia; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If we had the Australian capital gains regime and the Australian payroll tax regime, we could probably more than halve our company tax regime in New Zealand.

John Key: When the Prime Minister said today in the Christchurch Press that the Working for Families package was “tax relief for 300,000 families”, did she know that two-thirds of the 300,000 families she mentioned are welfare beneficiaries and do not pay PAYE tax, while 400,000 working families that actually do pay tax got absolutely nothing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is wrong on both counts. He should investigate the benefit structure in New Zealand rather more closely. More than half the families are, and 60 percent of the money goes to, working families, and beneficiary families in New Zealand pay tax.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister think this Government can spend the increase in taxation better than Kiwi families can; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure this Government can spend it better than the ACT party ever would.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That last reply from the Minister did not address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister should address the question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The alternative proposed by the member’s party is that people pay for their own health and education. I think it is better that we have publicly provided health and education.

Deborah Coddington: In light of that answer, does the Minister not think that parents would be in a better position to contribute to their children’s schools and education if they were allowed to keep that money and spend it themselves on that, rather than to have this Government take it off them and spend it on what it thinks is best for them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member’s proposition is that somebody in her circumstances would get many, many thousands of dollars a year in tax reduction, which would not be spent on schools or hospitals, and that somebody on a lower, modest income would get very little tax reduction and would end up paying far more for his or her health and education.

Trade—Dispute Resolution

8. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: What recent successful resolutions have there been regarding trade disputes?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): I am delighted to confirm that our second - longest running trade access issue has been successfully resolved. From the end of this month, the export of honey bees and honey bee semen from New Zealand to the United States will be allowed.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What is the impact of this trade breakthrough?

Hon JIM SUTTON: It is estimated that the initial value of the new United States market might be about $140,000. That is not a large amount, but this market is an important new market for our bee industry and it has the potential to grow. It will also help our $1.09 million honeybee exports to Canada, as they can now transit through Hawaii. This Government works hard to provide new opportunities for exporters.

R Doug Woolerton: What progress can the Minister report to the House on the access of New Zealand apples into the Australian market?

Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of the original question, but the Minister may answer.

Hon JIM SUTTON: The member refers to our longest-running trade dispute. Some have been going for over 80 years now, and I am hoping that the sheriff might follow the good example of the deputy sheriff, or vice versa, in this matter.

Rod Donald: Has the Government successfully achieved its Speech from the Throne - goal of better incorporating labour and environment standards in trade agreements, especially with Thailand and China; and will it require both countries to comply with core ILO standards before it signs agreements with them?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am honestly unaware of any labour or environmental issues associated with the trade in honeybee semen. I can inform members, however, that it might well be an animal welfare issue, because, as members probably realise, the act of mating for a drone bee involves its head falling off, and the experience of being involved in the donation of semen is no more pleasant.

Cabinet—Appointments

9. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Why has she decided that no new appointments will be made to Cabinet following the resignation of John Tamihere from his ministerial portfolios?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Because I deem it inappropriate at this time.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Prime Minister assure the House that there has been no backroom deal to allow John Tamihere back into Cabinet following the completion of the White inquiry, an inquiry that has no proper powers to call for witnesses or evidence and that will not address Mr Tamihere’s chief misdemeanour in misleading the Prime Minister, Parliament, and the public of New Zealand when he took a golden handshake after saying he would not take it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latter matter has been dealt with by Mr Tamihere’s resignation from Cabinet. I have every faith in the independence of Mr Douglas White, and would encourage the member to make available to Mr White any evidence he may have.

Rodney Hide: In considering the member’s rehabilitation to Cabinet, did the Prime Minister or her deputy vet and approve his personal explanation to the House last week?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Not as far as I am aware.

Gerry Brownlee: Will all the matters raised in Mr Tamihere’s statement to the House last week be subject to inquiry by Mr Douglas White QC?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think so. I cannot recollect the exact content of the statement at this point. There is, of course, one area that is a matter of inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office.

Hon Richard Prebble: Which of the following is correct: Mr Tamihere’s somewhat boastful article in the New Zealand Herald on Sunday where he stated “my ministerial portfolios were well geared”, that he was just about to launch a series of youth expos up and down New Zealand as Minister of Youth Affairs, that as Minister for Small Business he had 19 policy recommendations on behalf of small business, that on behalf of Statistics New Zealand he was about to spend millions of extra dollars of resources, and that as Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs he had superb programmes ready to roll—he was just proud of being Minister for Land Information—or the Prime Minister’s assessment that Mr Tamihere was doing nothing that could not actually be done by other Ministers, who are presumably busy; and, if it is the second option, how many of the 25 Ministers could she dismiss without them being missed?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there—

Hon Richard Prebble: No—two, Mr Speaker. There are just two.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry; I made a mistake.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to try to answer however many questions there were. I see no conflict between those two statements. The member who asked the question has been the most effective parliamentary MP for the ACT party, but he will not be missed when he goes.

Rodney Hide: Effective, but not to be missed.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am one of those who will miss Mr Prebble when he goes, too.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the Prime Minister assure the House that all the matters raised in Mr Tamihere’s statement to the House last week will be investigated by Mr Douglas White QC?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Except for, as far as I am aware, one area that is now properly a matter for the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could just indicate that that being the case—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Speaker, that is as complete an answer as I can give. As far as I am aware, on the basis of my recollection of the statement, there is one area surrounding the accusations that have been made that is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We know that, and we do not dispute that. But there are a number of other things that Mr Tamihere brought up in that statement that we thought were—we will say at this point—interesting. We would just like to know that the Queen’s Counsel who is investigating this matter will, in fact, have Mr Tamihere’s statement placed in front of him, so that he is able to verify as truthful all the claims made in that statement.

Mr SPEAKER: I think that perhaps the Minister could comment to me that when he gave his answer he said “Except for” that—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Speaker, it is very much for Mr Tamihere to make the statement in the House available to Mr Douglas White. I think I would like to seek advice from the Clerk before suggesting in any way that a statement made in this House should be referred by somebody else to an inquiry.

Education Standards Act—School Reporting

10. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on the value of school reporting requirements introduced in the Education Standards Act 2001?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have seen a report that suggests that the requirements reflect a nanny State mentality and are the enemy of an effective education system. By contrast, at the time the legislation was introduced the changes were welcomed and the Government was accused of stealing the ideas of the previous National Government. Both reports are inaccurate. The negative comments came from Dr Don Brash; the positive endorsement came from Dr Nick Smith—I think the doctors need to get their prescriptions together.

Lynne Pillay: Does the Minister intend to promote any changes to the Education Standards Act; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. Under the Education Standards Act, schools have a single coherent charter and reporting document that incorporates a school’s vision, its goals and objectives, statistical and financial information and, most important, objectives and targets for student achievement. These reporting requirements give parents the information they need to make informed choices. It seems ironic that the very people who advocate additional parental choice want to starve parents of useful information in making those choices.

Hon Bill English: What action is the Minister taking on the growing chorus of complaint from schools about the endlessly growing bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education, the fact that it has by far the strongest growth in employment in the education sector, and the creation of endless contestable pools to which many schools apply but only a few get money? What action is he going to take on those continuous complaints?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am going to share with them the directive from Dr Brash that he would cut out the pools. I think they will find it particularly interesting that he has indicated that there will be no extra cash for education under any future National Government. It is safe for him to do, of course, because he will never be part of one.

Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister have any sympathy for schools suffering from bureaucratic overload, as evidenced by the requirement for every school to possess a copy of either a birth certificate or a passport for every student; if so, how will he ameliorate the situation?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I know that some schools are finding it tough, but we have found that some people have attempted to avoid the foreign fee-paying student fees payable to schools and have bludged off the New Zealand taxpayers by pretending to be residents when they are not.

Pharmacies—Policy

11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Is she prepared to give a guarantee to New Zealanders that her policy with respect to pharmacies will not put New Zealanders’ lives at risk; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am prepared to guarantee that the Government’s policies with respect to pharmacies are designed to improve the health of New Zealanders. We have reduced the cost of prescribed medicine through reduced co-payments for thousands of New Zealanders, made it more convenient for people to collect their medicines all at once when it is safe for them to do so, and increased access to more medicines.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister a very simple question: is she prepared to give a guarantee to New Zealanders that her policy with respect to pharmacies will not put New Zealanders’ lives at risk; if not, why not? I have not got an answer yet.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I will repeat my answer. I am prepared to guarantee that this Government’s policy with respect to pharmacies is designed to improve health rather than put people’s lives at risk.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking the Minister to give me a guarantee that her policies will not put the lives of New Zealanders at risk. I do not want to hear a diatribe about what is not happening; I want to know whether we can have an assurance now that her policies will not put people’s lives at risk. It is a pretty simple question—yes or no?

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot stipulate the answer. The Minister addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If what the Minister says is true, why has there been a dramatic difference in the last 2 years in the number of drugs coming on to the Australian market as compared with New Zealand; with, for example, in 2003 only one new medicine listed in New Zealand compared with 30 in Australia; and is the Minister just selling Third World, second-class drugs to the New Zealand people?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The efficacy of drugs in New Zealand is not decided by Pharmac; it is decided by Medsafe, which ensures that they are safe drugs for New Zealanders to use. In the year 2003-04, 15 new medicines were listed on the pharmaceutical schedule in New Zealand, not one.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What specific measures has the Minister put in place to prevent children from overdosing on a predicted $13 million worth of wasted drugs that overflow New Zealand’s bathrooms as a result of stat dispensing; if she has not put any measures in place, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The use of childproof caps on drugs in New Zealand has been in place for many years and has been supported by the Parliament. However, the change to stat dispensing last year was a change from what happened in 1996. For many years we had stat dispensing. It was then changed to monthly dispensing to save money. We changed it to stat dispensing last year, and thousands of New Zealanders welcome it, including the Consumers Institute and Grey Power.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister a very specific question. What specific measures has she put in place to prevent children from overdosing?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker. In the first part of my answer I mentioned childproof caps on medicines. The member may not have heard that. That stops children from opening bottles so that they can take the medicine.

Mr SPEAKER: The question was addressed.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that a higher than expected number of close-controlled prescriptions issued by doctors is an indication that stat dispensing is not working because doctors are opting for safer prescribing models; if not, what does she think this trend suggests?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, there are some doctors who are still using close control to a higher extent than was expected. However, the saving has been over $20 million, which means that there are many more New Zealanders than before who are able to get their prescriptions 3-monthly, without having to turn up to a doctor to get another prescription, and they find that convenient. The only people who do not find it convenient are pharmacists.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why should anyone believe the Minister’s assurances when she is out there bullying all sorts of pharmacies into signing contracts, whether or not they are good for the people; and, more importantly, does she agree with this statement: “Current Government policies may achieve some short-term monetary savings but the real cost in terms of patients’ health and even lives being lost due to a lack of access to innovative medicines far outweigh dollars and cents. New Zealand’s patients deserve the best health-care. Pharmac should promote, not block access to, quality medicines that save lives.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have never bullied a single pharmacy into signing a contract. That is not my role. In fact, pharmacies around New Zealand have got signed contracts and I believe they are working very well. We provide in New Zealand some of the best quality drugs in the world at an affordable price. That means that if we do not have a blowout on drugs, we have the ability to provide money in many other areas. There is nothing Third World about what we provide in terms of pharmaceuticals in this country.

Constitutional Inquiry—Process

12. TARIANA TURIA (Leader—Mâori Party) to the Prime Minister: What guarantees can she give to New Zealanders that the process proposed for a constitutional inquiry will be conducted with integrity?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Cabinet has not finalised decisions on this matter, but I am sure that there will be every intention of guaranteeing that an integrity-based process is followed.

Tariana Turia: How can New Zealanders have confidence that their views will be aired fully, or will they be treated similarly to the submitters who were never heard, or who were ignored, at the Fisheries and Other Sea-related Legislation Committee?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That will be the responsibility of those conducting the inquiry. Of course if, as has been foreshadowed by some people, there is a select committee inquiry, then those inquiries have to report within a particular time frame.

Dail Jones: What guarantees can the Prime Minister give to New Zealanders that the constitutional inquiry will include New Zealand First’s policy of a binding citizens initiated referendum?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Cabinet has not made decisions. I think people are probably jumping to conclusions about what the framework of the proposal is likely to be.

Tariana Turia: Given the Prime Minister’s relationship-rebuilding activities with the Râtana movement, how will she guarantee the assurances given to it by Labour in the past that Labour will uphold the Treaty of Waitangi, and what will the treaty’s status be in the proposed constitutional inquiry?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is committed to upholding the Treaty of Waitangi. That does not mean to say that one has to agree with some of the more extreme interpretations of what the treaty means.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may remember that some months ago at a parliamentary lunch I made some rather complimentary remarks about you, and you were kind enough to say that at a future time you may give me an extra question in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I did, and because we have done well today I will allow the member to ask an extra question.

Gerry Brownlee: Why is it the Government’s proposal to have this matter dealt with by a committee over more than the life of the current Parliament—as an issue that a committee will be asked to look at—rather than to have it go out as an issue for people to consider at a general election?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Again, I think that the member is jumping to conclusions about what the nature of the inquiry is likely to be. I suggest that he waits for probably just a few more days, when the Government will announce its proposals.

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

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