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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 30 November

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

Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Human Rights Obligations
2. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Conflicts of Interest
3. New Zealand Superannuation Fund—Reports
4. Supreme Court—Appointment of Judges
5. Industry Partnerships—Number Established
6. Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Supreme Court Decision
7. Civil Union Bill—Protection to Couples
8. Treaty of Waitangi—Standing of Treaty Settlements
9. Rail Network—Reports
10. Civil Aviation Authority—Helicopters
11. Retirement Village—Residents' Concerns
12. Hospitals—Productivity
Question No. 11 to Minister

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Human Rights Obligations

1. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Immigration: Is he confident that the Government’s treatment of Ahmed Zaoui is in accord with New Zealand’s international human rights obligations; if so, why?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Immigration), on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes. Throughout the process the relevant agencies have taken account of those obligations.

Keith Locke: How can keeping a recognised refugee in jail for 2 years without a specific charge or accusation being made against him accord with international human rights standards, from the centuries old habeas corpus principle to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which even a former Labour Government—the Fraser Government—was involved in formulating?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The detention of Mr Zaoui has been found by the courts to be lawful, and the court decisions to date have indicated no breach of any international obligations.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why has the Government so mismanaged this affair that a man who is a risk to our country could soon be roaming the streets of New Zealand on bail?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Under international law, anyone who claims refugee status in this country is entitled to a legal process. We are going through that legal process.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister accept and agree with the Supreme Court’s determination that Mr Zaoui is entitled to an urgent bail application, and will he be advising the Attorney-General not to oppose such a bail application?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Supreme Court ruled that detention is potentially available elsewhere and that bail is potentially available. It will rule on that on 9 December.

Mr SPEAKER: I point out to the member that the bail application is still before the court. We cannot reflect upon the issues to be heard in that application.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister heard or read the reported comments made by Dr Harrison QC at a recent law conference or those of Deborah Manning on Radio New Zealand last Friday that liken Zaoui’s treatment here in New Zealand to that of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and if he has, has he launched an inquiry to see whether Mr Zaoui has been blindfolded, shackled, led around in an orange jumpsuit, mistreated, and abused; if he has not found any such evidence, what damage does he think comments like that do to New Zealand’s reputation?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There have been many comments made about Mr Zaoui’s detention. He is entitled to the process of the law. That is what we are currently going through.

Hon Tony Ryall: How is it that a man whom the Prime Minister accepts is a risk to national security could soon be out on bail, and what will the Government do to protect the country in that circumstance?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I am not prepared to comment, or to prejudge the outcome of the 9 December hearing. This Government is always focused on protecting New Zealand from any risk.

Keith Locke: Why does the Minister keep relying on the SIS’s advice in relation to the security risk certificate applying to Mr Zaoui, when that agency is now under a black cloud and the Minister has the power not to rely on that advice and to free Mr Zaoui to live in our community at any time, particularly as it is now clear that Mr Zaoui is a democratic politician who has been unjustly slandered by the Algerian regime?

Mr SPEAKER: Parts of that question require far too much discussion in relation to what is going on, but the Minister may comment on the other parts.

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The process we will rely on will be the process of the law. That will take into account all information provided on the issue.

Rod Donald: Can the Minister name one flaw in the Refugee Status Appeals Authority’s extensive analysis and criticism of both the Belgian and the French court processes, which takes up an extensive part of its 215-page report?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: No, I am not prepared to comment on that. There are very learned people in the Supreme Court who will take those issues into account.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—Conflicts of Interest

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he stand by his statement that, “I have such a strong ethical framework that I am deeply concerned about anybody who has a conflict of interest.”; if so, is he satisfied with the way Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology has managed conflicts of interest?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): This is the subject of a report by the Auditor-General undertaken in response to requests from both the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology itself and Mr English, and tabled in the House today. The report does not find that anything unlawful occurred, and it commends the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology for having conflict of interest policies in place. It finds that it would have been prudent for Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology management to have excluded Ms Buck from anything other than the most peripheral involvement in the COOL IT programme, and to have declined to consent to her appointment to the joint venture committee as a representative of Brylton Software. The report emphasises: “… there is no evidence that Ms Buck acted to misuse her position.” I accept the conclusions of this carefully considered report, and recommend that not just the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology but all tertiary institutions read it carefully.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister’s ethical framework mean that he now accepts that Vicki Buck had a conflict of interest because she personally was marketing the COOL IT course on behalf of the polytech at the same time as a company of which she was a director and a shareholder collected over $6 million in 3 months; does he accept the Auditor-General’s conclusion: “… CPIT allowed Ms Buck to be put in a position which gave her the opportunity to use her CPIT-funded time, resources and position to enhance the value of her private financial interests in BSL.”; and does he care that the enhancement to that private financial interest was $6 million of public money?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member is known for raising his voice to try to emphasise what he sees as an outrage, but I say to the member that on this side of the House—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now answer the question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I say to the House that what I have to do, as the member himself has to do, is to accept that, both the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology and the member having asked the Auditor-General for a report, the Auditor-General has produced a report that says it can find no misuse of position by Ms Buck, and can see no grounds for it to do anything other than to suggest to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology that it review its procedures. Nothing criminal happened and nothing unlawful happened. If it had, the member would not need to ask this question; we would be acting.

Lynne Pillay: What lessons for the future can the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology and other institutions take from this report?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The report’s recommendations in relation to conflict of interest policies cover such issues as their application to independent contractors, having procedures in place to assist with their implementation, and coverage of passive interests such as shareholdings. The report also emphasises that because conflicts of interest can present political or representational risks for an organisation, they are a legitimate matter of concern at governance level. There are lessons that have applicability to the whole of the tertiary education sector, and I urge those organisations to read the report and take those lessons into account.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the statement made by the Office of the Controller and Auditor-General that Vicki Buck’s conflict of interest raised a “serious management issue”, and with the Auditor-General’s statement that the office does not agree with this approach in the public sector; and, given that he said that nothing unlawful had happened, can he tell the House whether he believes anything unethical happened—because the Auditor-General certainly believes that something unethical happened?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think the member should talk to the Auditor-General’s staff themselves; I have, and that seems to me to be an important step for the member to take, because he asked for the report. What he will find is that the Auditor-General made it clear that nothing unlawful had happened, that Ms Buck did not misuse her position, that the Auditor-General’s office was concerned—

Hon Bill English: Was it ethical?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If the member will stop yelling, I will answer the question. The Auditor-General’s office was concerned to convey to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology that although it had conflict of interest policies in place, the governance process should have been one that was more active, and the office is urging the institute to do exactly that.

Hon Bill English: What confidence does the Minister have in the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology council and its chief executive officer, John Scott, who marketed a course and enrolled 18,000 people in it, 603 of whom completed that course; who have refused to pay back any of the $13 million of taxpayers’ money that they collected; and who allowed a senior employee to market the course at the same time as her own company benefited from it to the tune of $6 million? Is the Minister now telling the House that he believes that all of that is ethical, and nobody will be held responsible?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My approach to claims that are raised in this House is always to allow the process to work its way through. The member made a complaint, and I know that he is unhappy that he did not get the report he wanted, so now he has moved on to the next issue. I say to him, in answer to that, that he knows that the organisation has now paid back around $83,000 in relation to one issue, and that it is currently subject to an investigation in relation to the very issue he is raising. I suggest he waits for that, too. I know that he is disappointed today, but that disappointment should not lead to the silly anger he is undertaking now.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member might take the opportunity to correct his answer to the House. The $83,000 repayment was totally unrelated to this particular investigation.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I said so.

Hon Bill English: Did the Minister say so? OK, I will accept that. I asked the Minister a question: does he believe it is ethical, and will someone be held accountable? He has refused to answer either of those questions.

Mr SPEAKER: There has not been a point of order raised.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: It was not a point of order. I did not rule that to be a point of order. It was a debating point.

Hon Bill English: No, I asked those questions specifically in my supplementary question, and the Minister did not answer them.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address that question.

Hon Bill English: No, actually, the Minister did not address them, either.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry but the Minister did address that question.

New Zealand Superannuation Fund—Reports

3. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any reports on attitudes toward the New Zealand Superannuation Fund?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes. I have read that it is a “serious mistake” and “nothing more than financial smoke and mirrors”. Despite these comments from Dr Brash, I welcome his flip-flop that he is now saying National will support the fund. This proves the truth of the old saying “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Clayton Cosgrove: What further reports has the Minister seen on this issue?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is clear that this flip-flop has been welcomed on the grounds that we get greater stability in policy in the long term on retirement income, but of course if the contributions to the fund are going to be maintained, then substantial tax cuts are possible only if spending is cut elsewhere, or debt allowed to balloon out.

John Key: Will the Minister approve the $1 million budget increase requested by the Guardians of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, so that they have the capability to assess opportunities in New Zealand infrastructure and New Zealand venture capital; and if he is now going to get to his feet and tell the House that he has miraculously approved this $1 million increase, does it mean it takes the National members to sign up before he gives the guardians the tools to do the job properly?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the approval was given some few days ago in terms of the decision being taken, and I am happy, if it is required, to have a full royal commission of inquiry to establish that fact if that is what National is demanding now. I am not subject to the member’s blandishments as much as Dr Brash is. I congratulate him on convincing Dr Brash of the sanity of supporting the fund.

Peter Brown: In the reports he has on National’s change of heart on the Superannuation Fund, is it clear whether it is because they have not got their game plan together, something like Tottenham Hotspurs, or has he been inspired—

Mr SPEAKER: I am not having people interjecting while the question is being asked. Please be seated or the member will be out. He knows full well he cannot interject. I will judge the question when I have heard it—I have not yet heard the whole question—I want to hear the question.

Peter Brown: In the reports he has on National’s change of heart on the Superannuation Fund, is it clear whether it is because they have not got their game plan together, like Tottenham Hotspurs, or does he share our view that the National leader has been inspired by the Rt Hon Winston Peters and his merry band of four-sided MPs who voted for the Superannuation Fund 4 years ago?

Mr SPEAKER: Well I do not think there is any ministerial responsibility in that question.

Rodney Hide: Is there any new information since Don Brash said: “The Cullen Fund is nothing more than financial smoke and mirrors. It does not change the overall cost of superannuation one bit”, and is this new-found agreement yet another example of the two old parties holding hands, hoping that national superannuation is sustainable, when the real answer to superannuation is strong, consistent growth with New Zealanders saving in their own accounts?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the latter point no, because many people would never be able to save enough to give them a retirement income equivalent to New Zealand superannuation. The failure to secure New Zealand superannuation would lead to large numbers of elderly people living in poverty. As for the notion of Dr Brash and I walking off into the sunset hand in hand, I hope we will do that on the Civil Union Bill in a similar context.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister now prepared, in the light of the National Party’s policy announcement, to resuscitate negotiations for a new multiparty accord on superannuation, to provide certainty and security into the future; and if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I accept the sincerity of the member’s position, but in my view the basis for an accord is already there because the superannuation Act provides the capacity to sign up to Parts 1 and 2 of that Act. United Future is signed up to both parts; the Labour Party is; the Progressive Party is; the Greens are signed up to Part 1, and presumably National will now sign up to both Parts 1 and 2. So in my view it already establishes a very substantial accord, with any other party being able to sign up to either part in the future.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of that answer, does the Minister therefore consider that the mere act of signing up, or making policy announcements, provides the level of security and certainty required for the future, and if he does consider that, what sanctions are in place to effectively ensure, other than I guess the public will, that those parties keep those policy commitments?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: At the end of the day the sanctions are political as we saw in 1999 when the accord was broken with National lowering the floor on New Zealand superannuation, and that undoubtedly contributed to that party’s loss at the next election.

Supreme Court—Appointment of Judges

4. RICHARD WORTH (National—Epsom) to the Attorney-General: Does she agree with the reported view of Hon Trevor Mallard that it is “a pity” that the Supreme Court was not appointed on merit; if not, on what basis were the appointments to the Supreme Court made?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General): All New Zealand judges are appointed on merit, and it goes without saying that the Supreme Court judges were meritorious appointments.

Richard Worth: When Mr Mallard made his criticism in a formal setting to an influential group of New Zealanders, was he concerned about specific judges in the Supreme Court or was he condemning the whole group as being devoid of merit?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I suggest that the member directs that question to the person who made the statement. I certainly would not want to delve into the mind of Mr Mallard.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Has the Attorney-General received similar comments; if so, what did they say, and from whom?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. Mr Worth was actually reported in the New Zealand Herald on 11 November 2003, stating that appointments were dictated by the Prime Minister and were definitely not merit-based. He went on to expand on this further in the Dominion Post on the same day, which reported him as saying that “the appointments made a mockery of the Government’s promise to select on merit based on the recommendations of an independent panel.” He then concluded by saying that Prime Minister Helen Clark’s bidding had been done by elevating judges purely on the basis of seniority.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Attorney-General take the opportunity to repudiate, in the strongest possible terms, the comments made by Mr Trevor Mallard criticising Her Majesty’s Supreme Court judges in light of the excellent judgment shown by those judges in their first case Prebble v Mrs Huata?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am delighted to see that the honourable member has in fact changed his mind on this matter and now agrees with me.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Attorney-General agree that establishing an independent judicial appointments commission as proposed by the Green Party and subsequently outlined in the Ministry of Justice discussion document would reassure New Zealanders about future judicial appointments, particularly in light of what appears to be a tax on judicial independence by members of the executive and Parliament?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, a discussion paper is being prepared, and I hope it will be available in the new year to build on the discussion paper that has already been out there because of the few submissions we received, as I want to make sure there is proper consultation. I am not sure, of course, whether that will satisfy some people—those who support courts only when they agree with them.

Richard Worth: How do these ill-judged attacks by senior Ministers, including the Prime Minister and Mr Mallard, advance the relationship between the executive and the judiciary?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: A robust debate in any relationship is good for it, and I am pleased to report that the relationship is an extremely good one.

Industry Partnerships—Number Established

5. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: How many industry partnerships have been established to address skill and labour shortages and assist people to move off a benefit and into employment?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Work and Income has established job partnerships with seven major industry groups: hospitality, road carriers or road haulage, retail, master plumbers, roading, the Bus and Coach Association—that partnership was launched by the Hon Rick Barker last week—and the meat industry. The latest of these partnerships, with the New Zealand Industry Training Organisation Inc. and the Meat Industry Association, was launched yesterday and will see up to 1,500 unemployed people trained for jobs over the next year. This will help to push unemployment even lower.

Jill Pettis: What has been the reaction of industry to the job partnership initiative?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As one might expect, industries have warmly welcomed the industry partnership approach because it means that training is industry focused, practical, and gets people straight into productive jobs. As Carl Ammon of the New Zealand Industry Training Organisation Inc. noted, the partnership approach leads to improved selection, shorter lead times, and a more practical focus in helping fill vacancies and keeping industry producing. The next industry partnership, to be launched on Friday with Transfield Services New Zealand, will see currently unemployed people trained for work in rail and track maintenance, giving more New Zealanders an opportunity to gain a decent paying job and ensuring industry labour needs are met. I congratulate those industries on taking a practical approach to meeting their skill and labour needs.

Dr Muriel Newman: In light of his answer, has he any concerns that the number of people granted a sickness benefit because of depression has increased by over 3,000 since he has been the Minister—from 2,179 in 1999 to 5,222 today; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I am concerned about the number of people on the invalids benefit and the sickness benefit. I have been concerned since the 36 percent increase took place during the middle of the 1990s. We have been concerned to make sure that unemployment goes down, and it is now the lowest it has been in 17 years. Against that backdrop we have now introduced world-leading policy relating welfare to health, and I will be launching another part of that policy later this week, which I am sure the National Party will come around to endorsing, as it does every other policy the Government introduces.

Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Supreme Court Decision

6. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service: Has she received any reports from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Justice Paul Neazor, in relation to national security risks as a result of the recent Supreme Court declaration that it had the power to consider bail for Ahmed Zaoui?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service): No.

Dail Jones: Will the Minister take up the offer from New Zealand First, approved by its caucus today—and I have been given the authority to express it—to amend Part IVA of the Immigration Act, under urgency if necessary, back to its pre - 25 November 2004 judicial interpretation given by, for example, Justice Paterson in the High Court on the Zaoui case, when he stated, and I quote from the Supreme Court decision, that he was satisfied that the legislative intent was that a person detained under Part IVA has no right to apply for release on conditions. He also said: “An inherent jurisdiction cannot exist against this specific legislative intent”; if the Minister will not support that offer, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the Act will be reviewed after the completion of the Zaoui case.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that there will be very few reports from a part-time inspector-general in a poorly resourced office, and that that inspector-general and the barely functional Intelligence and Security Committee of our Parliament are grossly inadequate to monitor a service that, as the reputable journalist Jane Clifton puts it, is “perfectly capable of sinister incompetence and incompetent sinisterness.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, no, and no. I refer the member to the front page of today’s Dominion Post.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister aware that Auckland University senior law lecturer Scott Optican has said that allowing the Supreme Court to hear Zaoui’s bail application is “absolutely unusual”, and that it would effectively be “writing a new page in the history of bail”; if so, why will the law not be changed in order to put a halt to that action, protect the integrity of New Zealand’s national security, and prevent our national security services from becoming the laughing stock of the Western World?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The court has ruled that it has inherent jurisdiction to consider the bail application. I should say that it has not ruled that the Government has been free to release Mr Zaoui; it has ruled that the court has inherent jurisdiction to consider a bail application. That will proceed through to completion by the court. No doubt that matter itself will be part of the review of the Act subsequently.

Dail Jones: What does the Minister intend to do to take up the challenge, seemingly issued by the Supreme Court, to present to it the substantial information regarding Zaoui’s history available to the Minister, and if she does not intend to present the substantial information to justify Zaoui’s detention and the expenditure of about $1.5 million on his detention, will she take the honourable step and resign as Minister in charge of the SIS, as the ultimate responsibility for that debacle—which it would then be—must rest with her as the Minister?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that the ultimate responsibility for what the member calls a debacle lies with the Act passed in 1998. That is why it is clearly in need of review. This is the only case that Act has had to deal with, and clearly it has not been satisfactory.

Civil Union Bill—Protection to Couples

7. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Does he stand by his statement in last Thursday’s press release that the Civil Union Bill offers “greater protection to couples in committed relationships”; if so, how does the bill achieve this?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Justice): I most certainly do stand by that comment. There are many situations in society where people are treated differently because they find it difficult to prove that they are in a relationship. Many people in long-term relationships have been discriminated against because their relationship has been treated as merely a friendship and not as family. Clearly, that can have negative consequences for those people, particularly in times of crisis or sorrow. The mere fact of being in a civil union will provide social and legal recognition of a relationship, and therefore provide those couples and the community with certainty over the status of that relationship.

Gordon Copeland: How does the Civil Union Bill protect the status of one partner in the event of the sudden death of the other, as the Minister claimed last week, when, in fact, that protection arises only from the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill, and then only when that separate bill becomes law?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Where rights are provided for in legislation, those provisions will, of course, be extended, as the questioner refers to, by the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill. Sometimes though, rights are not set out in legislation, but are a matter of policy in practice. A good example would be hospital visitation rights. Legal recognition of civil unions and civil union partners will provide a clear message that the relationship is a family relationship, and that they are next of kin. I am confident that couples in a civil union will not have to face the absurd situation of being denied access to, or the right to make decisions on behalf of, a long-term partner in an emergency, or in the event of his or her death.

Lianne Dalziel: What advantage does the Civil Union Bill provide over and above that which will apply to de facto couples under the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Entering a civil union will provide certainty of the status of a couple. The process of solemnising a civil union in front of family and friends will provide social and legal recognition of such a relationship. The certificate of civil union registered under the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act will provide formal evidence of the nature and duration of that relationship.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that if this Parliament fails to pass the bill it would mean that the law states that same-sex couples may shag, but they may not formally commit to a long-term relationship—

Mr SPEAKER: I do not usually interrupt questions, but I do like felicity of expression, which that clearly was not. I suggest that the member reword his question.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that should this Parliament fail to pass the Civil Union Bill it would mean that under the law same-sex couples may have sex on a short-term basis, but may not formally commit to a long-term relationship, and does he think that the real agenda of the Destiny Church – led opposition is to see gays locked up in jail once again?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for the second part of that question. He may answer the first part.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I certainly agree that the passage of the Civil Union Bill removes a form of discrimination that has no place in the inclusive, tolerant, and open-minded society that I believe New Zealand is.

Gordon Copeland: Does he concede that he was wrong in asserting that United Future is the only party not voting on the Civil Union Bill as a conscience issue; if so, will he apologise to us, this House, and the public for misrepresenting our position?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am delighted to accept the member’s assurance that United Future is voting on this matter as a conscience issue.

Gordon Copeland: Does he support a referendum on the Civil Union Bill in the light of the overwhelming opposition of submitters to the select committee, or does he think that the New Zealand public will be happy to leave it to MPs, who may be arm-twisted by their parties to vote for the legislation because it appeared in their election manifestos?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I do not. I believe that the Government has a legal responsibility to remove discrimination. I believe that that responsibility flows from legislation passed in 1993 by the then Government. It is not for me or the Government a question of negotiation over whether people are entitled not to be discriminated against.

Treaty of Waitangi—Standing of Treaty Settlements

8. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Do the following treaty settlements still stand: with Ngâi Tahu in 1998 and Ngâti Tama in 2003 giving them a preferential tender right of up to 10 per cent of aquaculture space, with Ngâti Awa in 2002 giving it a preferential tender right of up to 5 per cent, and with Ngâti Ruanui in 2003 and Ngâ Rauru Kîtahi in 2003 also giving them preferential tendering rights to aquaculture space?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes.

Phil Heatley: Did the Minister advise the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Mâori Affairs that those five specific iwi already had those full and final aquaculture settlements: if so, why have all three Ministers agreed that those five specific iwi are to receive a further 20 percent of existing space and up to 40 percent of future space?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, because the matters set out in the deeds of settlement are in respect of historical grievances before 1992.

Moana Mackey: Does the Government intend to continue making settlements that include the right of first refusal to coastal space; if so, why?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. In an open negotiation between the Crown and iwi to settle a historical grievance, the Crown considers all aspects of the grievance. Provisions in settlements to grant a right of refusal to purchase coastal space at market rates is one of the many redress mechanisms to provide redress to iwi as part of a comprehensive settlement of their historical claims.

Hon Ken Shirley: Can the Minister explain why the Government is granting preferential, race-based aquacultural space when the 1992 $1 billion Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlement was a full and final settlement of all Mâori claims to commercial fishing rights in view of the fact that all statutory definitions of “fisheries” include all forms of marine farming?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I am sure the honourable member is aware, in fact that settlement did not include aquaculture. That was specifically excluded on the instructions of the Ministers at the time, and therefore it became unfinished business. In answer to the first part of the question, I say that of course this legislation had a New Zealand Bill of Rights Act assessment, as all legislation does, and particular reference was made to section 19, which provides that everyone has a right to be free from discrimination. This bill passed its bill of rights vetting.

Phil Heatley: When should Kiwis expect those full and final treaty settlements to end: after the 1992 fisheries settlement, after the 1998 to 2002-03 deeds dealing with aquaculture space that I referred to, after the give-away of 20 percent of existing aquaculture space, after the give-away of 40 percent of future aquaculture space, or with some other full and final settlement in the distant future?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Each of those documents, of course, is full and final in terms of its own settlement. It does not speak beyond the document itself. Maybe the honourable member did not hear this, but the deeds relate to pre-1992 and the legislation relates to post-1992. They give rise to separate sets of rights and obligations, so they are not the same thing, at all.

Phil Heatley: Does the Minister mean, then, that the five iwi I listed, which have already had aquaculture settlements and which will have another 20 percent and 40 percent of space thrown at them, are not alone—that we can expect all other iwi in the country not in that five also to put in a historical claim that will include aquaculture over and above that 20 and 40 percent give-away?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Obviously, the member did not hear my reply to the supplementary question that was directed to me by a member of my own party. The answer is yes, if that, in fact, emerges in the course of the negotiations and if it is part of the settlement of historical grievances, it will.

Phil Heatley: So there is no—

Hon MARGARET WILSON: There will be an end to it, in that the pre-1992 terms of that deed cannot be relitigated.

Rail Network—Reports

9. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has he received about the success of this Government’s decision to buy back the rail network and encouraging road freight on to it?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): Rail company Toll Holdings and dairy company Fonterra have recently signed a deal that will put one-third of Fonterra’s exports through a rail freight hub in Hamilton. This will see 45,000 truck journeys per year being taken off the roads. Fonterra said that this move was “made possible by the Government’s agreement to invest $200 million in rail.”

Hon Mark Gosche: How does this report compare with those made at the time—to the effect that the Government should not get involved in buying back the network?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Fonterra has said that the deal signed could not have proceeded earlier because of uncertainties about the rail network and the operator in New Zealand. At the time of the buy-back of the rail network, both the National and ACT parties opposed it. They preferred the rail network to stay run-down, unsafe, and lacking in investment. This deal, and others like it that will follow, have proved them wrong.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister guarantee that the rail-track that will carry this cargo—probably to the Port of Tauranga—is absolutely and totally safe?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Guarantees and “absolutely and totally” are not in the language I use. I am into risk management.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What other steps have been taken, under the new Land Transport Management Act, to encourage the movement of freight by methods other than the use of roads, in order to meet the objectives of integration, public health, and sustainability developed by the Government and the Greens?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can think of two examples, off the top of my head—a log depot in the lower North Island that enables logs to be transported by rail to Wellington, and in Coromandel, where the member comes from, funding is being given towards taking aggregate to Auckland by barge. Both of those moves take trucks off the road, make roads safer and less congested, and deliver local economic benefit.

Peter Brown: Noting the earlier answer to my question, does the Minister think it would be prudent to have an up to date, thorough inspection of the rail-track that will carry this cargo—in the light that there are concerns about parts of that rail-track?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I believe that an up to date inspection of the rail-track is an ongoing matter, but I would say to the member that new rail legislation that improves safety is due to finish its passage through this House presently.

Civil Aviation Authority—Helicopters

10. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Transport Safety: Does he have any concerns that Heli Logging Ltd is being prohibited by the Civil Aviation Authority from using its ex-military Westland Wessex helicopters for the commercial purposes for which they were purchased; if so, what is he going to do about this?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Minister for Transport Safety): I am advised by the Civil Aviation Authority that the director is considering the safety record of Wessex helicopters conducting commercial operations before making any decision on the Heli Logging Ltd petition for exemption from the Civil Aviation Rules. As the member will no doubt be aware, by law I am prevented from interfering in the director’s decision making.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that Heli Logging has undertaken all that has been asked of it by the authority, and that no reason has been forthcoming in recent times for the authority’s prohibiting the helicopters from flying; if he is aware of that, can he not do something to give this organisation a fairer go?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am aware that a number of activities have been undertaken by Heli Logging Ltd to verify the performance of the helicopters. I am also aware of previous accidents involving Wessex helicopters conducting logging operations. In February 2001, a Wessex helicopter that was lifting logs in a forest near Motueka crashed, killing its pilot.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that this issue has been ongoing for something like 2 years, and that these people are entitled to a definitive answer; if so, will he lobby hard to ensure the authority complies with that request?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am aware that the company proposed this activity 2 years ago. I am also aware that in or around August it filed for exemption from the Civil Aviation Rules—August of this year, just 3 months ago—and that the director is in the process of making a decision. I cannot lobby the director to make a decision either way. I would hope that decision was forthcoming.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister recall that some months back the Director of Civil Aviation allowed one of his inspectors to ground an airline, and then to receive payment for producing the manuals necessary to get that airline up and running, and that that was put down to naivety; if he does recall that, can he assure this House that no payment is being made to anybody to keep the helicopters grounded?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The last matter is an aspect that I have not considered, but I can give the member an assurance that if that is the case, it is called corruption and it will be dealt with extremely harshly and extremely rapidly. What I can tell the member is that the director has been considering all the information put before him, and I have urged him to make his decision as soon as he feels comfortable in doing so. I am sure that he will.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that the company is now taking legal action against the authority, as I understand it, and does he think it is prudent that a judge should rule on whether this helicopter company flies, or should it be the authority or, indeed, the Minister—does he think they have got that right?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am aware that just last Friday a legal injunction was served against the Civil Aviation Authority to bring this matter to a head. I do not think that a judge is necessarily the most appropriate person to rule; that is why we have a Civil Aviation Authority with the expertise that it has, and with the ability to call in outside experts, if necessary, to help make these decisions. But, as I am sure the member is equally aware, section 72I(4) of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 requires the director to exercise his discretion in the case, independently of the authority itself and the Minister. Therefore, I am not in a position to interfere with the director’s decision making. As I have said before, I have urged the director to make his decision as soon as possible.

Retirement Village—Residents' Concerns

11. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Senior Citizens: When did she first become aware of the concerns of residents of the Culverdencare retirement village?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Senior Citizens): My recollection is that I was advised of residents’ concerns concerning the Culverdencare retirement village on 2 April this year.

Judith Collins: What representations, if any, has she received from the local Labour member of Parliament on behalf of the Culverdencare residents?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have received direct representations from only one of my Labour colleagues on that—from Judith Tizard, not the local member.

Murray Smith: Can the Minister confirm that as a direct result of United Future’s involvement with the Culverdencare residents’ committee over the last 8 months, a well-documented complaint was lodged with the Securities Commission, which last August appointed an inspector to investigate the operation of the village as a prelude to possible statutory management; and what, in comparison, has been achieved for the Culverdencare residents by the National Party?

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the first part of the question can be answered.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I can confirm that the member who asked that question did prepare what has been recently described as a “well-documented complaint” to the Securities Commission. I understand that the commission is considering that complaint. To the best of my knowledge, no one from the National Party has done a single thing to assist the residents.

Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise the House of what the Government is doing to ensure that retirement villages operate to good standards and that the rights of residents are protected?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Retirement Villages Act introduced by this Government establishes standards of practice for all operators, including a requirement to fully disclose the terms and conditions of residency. It also establishes a code of residents’ rights and a complaints and disputes resolution process.

Judith Collins: Why was it left to the intervention of Mr Graham Miller of Covenant Trustee Co. for this matter to be referred to the Securities Commission, when the Minister has been sitting on the same information for at least 4 months?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As I would assume the member may know, given her previous occupation, I am cautioned by the principle that the Government’s role in civil disputes is to set up the framework for such disputes to be resolved, generally through civil action in the courts. However, I have ensured in this case that residents have applied for legal aid for their action.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister recall advice to Cabinet that Ian Anderson from the management of Culverdencare was misrepresenting the compliance costs of the Retirement Villages Act in order to force the elderly residents to give up their homes; if so, does she still think that adopting a wait-and-see attitude was the right decision for those vulnerable and elderly New Zealanders?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I do recall that. I also note that Mr Anderson is not the first person in New Zealand to misrepresent a compliance cost imposed by the Government. My concern is to ensure that the situation for the residents is addressed in a way that will have the greatest prospect of success and sustainability.

Judith Collins: Having received the information that she has clearly had—and has admitted to having—for the last 4 months, did she not consider that the evidence showed that there could well be a case for the Serious Fraud Office to investigate?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

Hospitals—Productivity

12. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: How does she explain, as found by Treasury, that in the last financial year a 7 percent increase in hospital spending has produced only a 1.5 percent gain in hospital service outputs, especially given that Treasury officers sounded the alarm on declining hospital productivity over a year ago?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The Government has done its bit for productivity today. Mr Swain has helped to produce a 5 pound 6 ounce baby daughter, and I would like to congratulate him on that. In answer to the question, the Treasury report itself contained the answer. The member has chosen, again, to quote selectively. I will read from the report and use Treasury’s words: “As discussed previously, officials are currently undertaking work looking at hospital productivity and the value gained from additional funding. Hospital activity does, however, cover only a portion of DHB activity—approximately 60 percent—and available data only covers, at most, half of hospital output within that.

xxxfoFurthermore, Government policy is increasingly focused on areas outside hospital activity, such as primary care.”

Heather Roy: What concerns has the Minister about hospital productivity, given that her own data shows that under her stewardship the number of people who have died while on her waiting lists has doubled, the number forced to go private has trebled, and nearly 1,500 people have been waiting for surgery for 2 years or more on her active review waiting list?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I refer the member to the Treasury report itself and to the ministry’s comment telling people to be very careful in selectively quoting from figures. For example, the member has just quoted that people have been forced to go private. Once again, the member cannot find her way around the data, and I suggest she looks again at that particular release from New Zealand Health Information Service. It is headed “Publicly Funded Events Only”. The figures she uses include operations paid for by the public purse and carried out in private hospitals. Is that not what the member was asking for?

Steve Chadwick: Is the Minister aware of any other inaccurate reporting of health information?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Let me give some examples. Claims have been made that funding for devolved services has been presented as a funding increase—wrong. Claims have been made that district health boards are not funded for cost inflation—wrong. Claims have been made that people have died waiting for, for example, fertility treatment, and that that has caused their deaths—wrong. Claims have been made that individuals have been funded on the basis of their race—wrong. I am afraid the inaccurate information of the ACT member is a daily occurrence.

Judith Collins: What confidence can the New Zealand public have in this Minister, given that these same concerns are reflected in earlier Treasury reports and letters from the Minister of Finance, yet nothing has changed other than the increase in budget, given that the waiting lists were going to be blitzed by Labour but remain static, and given that around the country the Health Service is reaching breaking point?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I refute all of the above. In fact, if the member reads the report—she obviously has not—she will see that Treasury stated in that report: “Treasury intends to work with the Ministry of Health over the coming months to improve the quality of performance indicators around reporting productivity.” No country in the world is able to accurately produce information on hospital productivity, although certainly in New Zealand we are going to have a go at it. The other thing the member might be interested to know is that hip and knee replacement operations this year are 30 percent up on last year.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that when Treasury reports that delay in implementing new programmes, rather than actual savings, is the reason for district health board surpluses, finding innovative solutions to health workforce shortages and not merely improving data collection of district health board performance is the key issue in combating declining health sector productivity; if so, when will we finally see “situations vacant” columns in our newspapers free from health job after health job that needs to be filled?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree with the member, but it actually needs both.

Rodney Hide: Does it not concern the Minister just a little, notwithstanding her bluff and bluster and her constant denial of the facts—

Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the question.

Rodney Hide: I am, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Come to it now, not with those irrelevant comments. Read the Standing Orders. Please ask the question.

Rodney Hide: You would not let me start again, would you?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes.

RODNEY HIDE: Does it not concern the Minister just a little that, on the best figures Treasury has provided, for every dollar she has put into the Health Service she has produced only 22c extra in health services; and does that not reflect the long queues, the people dying while on waiting lists, and the difficulties New Zealanders are having with the health system, notwithstanding the money she has poured in?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member might be interested to know where the additional money goes in health. In the last financial year, by far the most money went into increasing wages. In terms of the difference between clinical services and non-clinical services, it has not changed; in fact, it has improved from when National was in power. Most of the money has gone into wages. It has also gone into surgical supplies. It has gone into the cost of blood services. I can only imagine that the member does not want us to pay out those costs.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not allowed to refer to the bluff and bluster of the Minister, but my question was quite specific. I was asking her whether she had some concerns. We have had this report prepared. We have had this data. It is saying that there has been a very small increase in productivity compared with the increase in amount. The Health Service is going backwards. I asked the Minister whether she had any concerns. There is no way she addressed that. I know I am not allowed to say that it is all bluff and bluster, but that is what that answer was.

Mr SPEAKER: The member said it twice, and he is now trifling with me. The Minister did address the question.

Heather Roy: How can the Minister deny that the ongoing decline in hospital productivity will only get worse, given that hospitals now have to face the costs of pay parity, the move to national awards, and the millions of dollars in costs added by the Holidays Act?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I find it very hard to find how an increase becomes a decrease. The Treasury report that the member used as the basis of her question said there was an increase. On the basis of that, in the question she has just asked she said there was a decrease in terms of pay parity, in terms of nurses’ salary increases. Obviously the Government has to pay for it.

Heather Roy: What responsibility will the Minister take for the fact that hospital productivity—not output—has dropped for more than 2 years running, the number of people dying while waiting for surgery has increased from 850 to 1,187 in that time, and nearly 1,500 people have been waiting for surgery for 2 years or more on her hidden Active Review waiting list?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would caution the member on the figures that she is using. Today she has constantly said that people are dying on the waiting list, and has quoted figures. If that is a valid figure, why does the member not quote this figure, which is on the same piece of paper that she constantly uses: there were 68,000 electively treated people in 2001; the figure is now 114,905. As that is a valid figure, why is the member not trumpeting it? It shows a huge increase in what is being done electively. The reason that she is not doing so is she does not like good figures; she wants to trumpet old and bad figures that actually do not relate to the reality, at all.

Heather Roy: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is the Treasury report on district health board performance in the year ended June 2004.

Leave granted.

Heather Roy: The second document is some figures from the New Zealand Health Information Service—the ones that the Minister was just talking about.

Leave granted.

Heather Roy: The third is a media report from the Dominion Post dated 11 April 2003, showing that Government funding increases have not matched rises in productivity.

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

Question No. 11 to Minister

JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon): I seek leave to table a copy of a letter from Covenant Trustee Co. dated 4 August 2004 to the Securities Commission, referring the CulverdenCare Retirement Village matter to it.

Leave granted.

JUDITH COLLINS: I seek leave to table a Cabinet paper indicating that Cabinet knew about that matter on 19 April 2004.

Leave granted.

JUDITH COLLINS: I seek leave to table a decision of the High Court in relation to Culverden Group Ltd, Mr Anderson, and the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Leave granted.

JUDITH COLLINS: I seek leave to table a copy of a letter from the office of the Hon Ruth Dyson to Barry L Mackenzie, dated 16 November 2004, in which he is told that the matter has to go to the civil process.

Leave granted.

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

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