Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 1 December '04
Wednesday, 1 December
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of
Technology —Conflicts of Interest
2. Proceeds of Crime Act—Review
3. Labour, Department of—Employment Policies
4. Civil Union Bill—Election Manifesto Commitment
5. Taxation—Increased Taxes, Levies or Duties
6. Early Childhood Education—Quality
7. Foreshore and Seabed—Reserves
8. Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Act—Entitlements
9. Contaminated Sites—Identification and Remedial Work
10. Drugs—Public Forums
11. Aquaculture Reform Bill—Treaty Settlements
12. Tauranga Harbour Link Project—Funding
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology —Conflicts of Interest
1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he have confidence in the ethical judgments and management action taken by Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology Chief Executive, John Scott—I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that questions are to be heard in silence. As I stand here, I can hear many conversations going on in the back benches.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot say that anybody was doing anything that I could call out of order, but questions are to be heard in silence. I ask the member to start again.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Does he have confidence in the ethical judgments and management action taken by Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology Chief Executive, John Scott, with regard to conflicts of interest at that polytechnic; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Auditor-General has concluded, with regard to conflicts of interest relating to the Computing Offered Online Programme, that it would have been prudent for the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology management to have excluded Ms Vicki Buck from anything other than the most peripheral involvement in the COOL IT programme and declined to consent to her appointment to the joint venture committee as a representative of Brylton Software. I accept those findings. Moreover, John Scott himself has publicly stated that if a similar situation arose in the future, the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology would be more cautious, and the council chair has accepted the Auditor-General’s criticism of the polytechnic’s council, saying: “In hindsight, we should have looked more closely at this situation.” [Interruption] But then, of course, the National Party in hindsight would also look more closely at a number of situations.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that it is consistent with his so-called strong ethical framework that Ms Vicki Buck was party to a commercial arrangement whereby $320 was paid to her private company for every one of 18,000 students she enrolled as the promoter of the COOL IT course, and if that is not ethical, who is accountable for this breach of public service standards?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is worth drawing the attention of the House to the fact that the Auditor-General’s report explicitly looks at the issue of the ethical standards of people who are dealing with public money. What they find in the report—
Hon Bill English: What’s your opinion?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If Mr English would like to shut up for a while, I would be happy to give him the answer. I know what he is going to do. So what the report shows—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I do not mind interjections, but they are not to be addressed to me, or to be in the second person. The member knows that; he has been here long enough to know that.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The report shows that they did look at the ethical issues. They found that in Ms Buck’s case, the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology placed her in a position where she could have misused that position. But they are explicit in their report in saying: “We wish to emphasise that there is no evidence that Ms Buck acted to misuse her position.” But in response explicitly to the question of what my own views might be about this, I say that my own views are that I agree with the Auditor-General that it was not appropriate to place Ms Buck in that position. Her polytechnic-funded time should not have placed her in a position where she could have used it for her own advantage. The fact that she did not protected both the institution and herself from claims about ethics—but that situation should never happen and no institution should place a person in that position.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Did the problems associated with the computing programmes come about as a result of the management lapses identified by the Auditor-General with regard to managing conflicts of interest?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: They did not. The critical stage of negotiations between the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology and Brylton Software was from June to early August 2003. The Auditor-General states in paragraph 4.14 that there was no conflict between Vicki Buck's polytechnic duties and Brylton Software interests during that period. Even if Ms Buck's involvement had remained peripheral, as the Auditor-General advises that it should have, the COOL IT programme would have essentially been the same. So the following three problems associated with COOL IT would still have existed—that is, inducement issues, ____________ engagement issues, and concerns about the level of funding per student.
In relation to the last point, the Tertiary Education Commission funding guide for 2005, which was released yesterday, imposes tougher rules on contact hours and calculation of equivalent full-time student values, as it should.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Associate Minister confirm that the Auditor-General's report records that although the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology has a code of professional practice that was adopted on 30 November 2001, there are no documented procedures for ensuring compliance with the code, and does he find this situation acceptable?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm that. It is not acceptable and it is one of the things that the polytechnic will have to change.
Hon Bill English: When the Minister does get around to considering accountability for this whole debacle, will he take into account that the judgment of the chief executive, John Scott, may have been impaired by the fact that these issues came to light publicly while he was taking several weeks' sick leave in China, or because he has a shareholding, along with Ms Vicki Buck, in a company called Creative Thinking?
Mr SPEAKER: There was an interjection made by one of Mr English's own colleagues while the question was being asked. That is the only warning today.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I cannot speak on what is in the mind of Mr Scott; I will leave that to Mr English. I am relying on the report that Mr English asked for, and which he has to accept, that states that there was nothing illegal and that the organisation does need to review procedures such as the one raised by Brian Donnelly. Those are things that it must take into account. I am sorry: I know that Mr English is disappointed. I know that he would like to be back being leader, but he cannot get that from this.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he intends to exercise no accountability for this $13.6 million scam with taxpayers' money, or can he tell us how long it will be before he agrees with the Christchurch Press, which states "The Auditor-General has suggested changes to CPIT's rules on conflicts of interest. For damage of the scale that has been caused in this case, that will not be enough."
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I, too, have been very clear that I think the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology has caused itself quite considerable damage in the way that it has handled this issue, as the Christchurch Press editorial suggests. Mr English suggests that the Government ought to sack John Scott. I am afraid, as Mr English well knows, that Mr Scott is employed by the council. The council is, of course, responsible for his behaviour. It has a report in front of it. Hector Matthews has said that he will be taking this into account in the way that the council holds Mr Scott accountable, and that is the way it should be done.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell this House today—the House that allocated the $13.6 million to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—whether or not he will take any measure of accountability for this $13 million scam?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member knows, the issue of the COOL IT programme itself is now being evaluated by the Tertiary Education Commission. They are the people who hold the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology accountable for this money. They are evaluating it, and no amount of shouting by Mr English to try to return to being leader will speed that up. The members of the Tertiary Education Commission are the people who should make that accountability work.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the official company record of a company called Creative Thinking, which demonstrates that John Scott and Vicki Buck both have a shareholding in that company.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Proceeds of Crime Act—Review
2. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: What changes is he proposing to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1991 and why?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Cabinet has agreed that the existing Act should be replaced by new legislation to introduce both a new conviction-based regime and a civil forfeiture regime. Civil forfeiture will allow the proceeds of crime to be taken away from organised crime where there is clear evidence of benefit having been derived from criminal activity, but where the evidence falls short of a very high threshold required for a criminal conviction. The High Court will be able to order civil forfeiture where the Crown can show, on a civil standard of balance of probabilities, that a person has benefited from criminal activity.
Martin Gallagher: Why is it necessary to allow confiscation of proceeds of crime on the civil standard of proof?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Experience both in New Zealand and overseas shows that conviction-based regimes are not effective at disrupting organised crime. Gang bosses who direct organisations such as drug production operations do not actually have a hands-on role, and therefore there are real difficulties in securing a criminal conviction against them. Because we cannot get a criminal conviction, the profits stay in the hands of the gangs, which are then free to reinvest them in criminal activity and lifestyles. A civil forfeiture regime will enable us to make inroads into organised crime by targeting the profits that fund it.
Dail Jones: Why is the Minister taking such a soft approach to this issue and refusing to accept the Western Australian model, which is clearly the most effective way of dealing with drug barons and gang bosses, and has proven to be totally successful in Western Australia; why is he being so soft on law and order?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is wrong in just about every fact that he tried to raise there. Firstly, this is the regime that is supported by the New Zealand Police, the administration, and the police union. Secondly, this Government happens to believe that, before we confiscate somebody’s assets, the onus in the first instance should be on the State to prove on the balance of probabilities that those assets have been criminally derived. Thirdly, when I look at the track record of Western Australia I see that it has raised less through its proceeds of crime legislation in 4 years than New Zealand did with its old legislation in 1 year—last year. The Western Australia model simply has not worked.
Nandor Tanczos: How does the Minister justify this significant attack on the principles of justice, when he intends to allow police officers who lose a case just to have another crack, at a lower standard of proof, after restraining the assets of the defendant?
Hon PHIL GOFF: This bill does not breach at all the principles of justice that the member is referring to. The civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities is the standard that we have used for a century in this country. What we are doing in this bill is not getting a criminal conviction that will allow us to deprive a person of liberty; we would do that if we had the standard of proof for that. Under this bill it must be demonstrated that, on the civil standard of proof, this property has been wrongly acquired by the individual, does not belong to the individual, and should be taken over by the State. That does not breach the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act or any other principle of justice. In fact, it operates in countries that have high respect for civil rights, like Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Mr SPEAKER: That answer was too long. [Interruption] I was not commenting on the noise or otherwise of the answer, just the length.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister also intend to include the concept of stripping those who engage in criminal activity of unexplained wealth, whereby they lose all wealth that they cannot legitimately explain as being lawfully received, and not just that directly connected with criminal activity, to send the clear message that living off a criminal lifestyle will not be tolerated in this country?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think that this legislation does send the message that living off a criminal lifestyle will not be tolerated, and that those people will be cracked down on in a way that has not happened in this country to date. But there are three stages. First, one has to show a reasonable cause to believe that the assets have been criminally acquired. That allows one to freeze them. Then one has to show on the civil standard of balance of probabilities, before the High Court, that the assets are more likely than not to have been criminally obtained assets. Thirdly, the defendant is then able to say: “Well, I’ve got a million dollars’ worth of property, but not all of it was criminally derived, and I can prove that a part of it legitimately belongs to me.” I think those three stages are absolutely appropriate. They are based on best practice across the Western World.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister explain why it is better for the criminal, for New Zealand, and for the justice system to have a process that requires the criminal to show that his or her assets and lifestyle have not been criminally acquired than to have a process that requires the criminal to demonstrate how his or her assets and lifestyle have been legitimately gained?
Hon PHIL GOFF: What the member is proposing is the Western Australian system. The Western Australian system says that the individual must prove to the state that the assets were legitimately acquired in the first instance. No individual should have to do that until the police have met the requisite standard of demonstrating that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the assets were criminally acquired, and then that, on the balance of probabilities, they were so acquired.
Ron Mark: Soft.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member says “soft”. I tell the member that for every 100 cases that the Western Australian police have brought on their standard, only 25 percent have proceeded, which shows that the other 75 percent were insufficiently based. The Western Australians have acquired less money under their system than we have under our old system, which we will improve upon.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that any regime for stripping assets from gangs should be accompanied by a system to reinvest those assets back into initiatives that will prevent such offending in the first place, or, at least, into initiatives for victim reparation; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No. The money that comes in that is confiscated proceeds of crime will go into the consolidated account, just like fines and other things that the Government raises. In New Zealand we do not have a tithe system of saying that X dollars have come from Y sources and will go to Z outputs. That has proven to be inefficient. It is a fact and it is on record that this Government has the largest ever police force in this country, which is more highly resourced than ever before, with the highest ever resolution of crime rate. That is not a bad record.
Labour, Department of—Employment Policies
3. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Labour: Is he satisfied that the Department of Labour sets a good example for New Zealand employers; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Acting Minister of Labour): On behalf of the Minister of Labour, who I note has recently been taking his labour and productivity responsibilities very seriously, I consider that the department does perform well as an employer in a number of ways. But as a result of changes to its structure currently being implemented, it will perform even better.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Acting Minister seen the Department of Labour’s 2004 staff satisfaction survey, which shows only 39 percent of the department’s staff were happy with their workplace; if so, what does she think that says about the department’s ability to develop policies that promote its stated goal of helping New Zealanders to “achieve higher-quality working lives”?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have seen the survey, and I commend the department for providing an opportunity for its staff to comment honestly on issues that they are facing at work and to give their views about the department as a place to work.
Gerry Brownlee: Does she still have confidence in the Secretary of Labour, Dr James Buwalda, in light of the fact that during his watch the morale of the department’s staff has plummeted, the Community Employment Group’s grants allocation regime has been so badly discredited that it has been disestablished, and its whitewash of the “lying in unison” scandal has been roundly discredited by the Ombudsman; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I do have confidence in James Buwalda and I do want to note that even in the area of the department with the highest turnover of staff, it would only be comparable to the turnover of members of the National Party caucus if the New Zealand Herald poll was the election result.
Civil Union Bill—Election Manifesto Commitment
4. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Prime Minister: Is she satisfied with her Government’s handling of the Civil Union Bill, in light of her 2002 election manifesto commitment to introduce such legislation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Prime Minister confirm, notwithstanding the fact that this bill was originally introduced as Government legislation, that the Government members of Parliament will be able to exercise a conscience vote on this matter, and vote according to the dictates of that conscience, free from any undue influences?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I can confirm that. It is similar to the situation of the Human Rights Commission amendment legislation in the 1990s, which was also a Government bill but a free vote was available on that.
Peter Brown: Is the Prime Minister aware that this bill is creating quite some anguish in New Zealand society, and if she does acknowledge that, will the Government support a New Zealand First Supplementary Order Paper that would provide for New Zealanders to decide whether they want such legislation by way of a binding referendum; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes it is clear that there are divided views in society on this issue. No, we will not support a binding referendum. We had divided views on the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in the mid-1980s. I doubt there are many members of this House who would want to go back to revisit and reimpose criminal penalties in that respect.
Dail Jones: What discussions took place between United Future and the Prime Minister with regard to the Labour Party’s stated position in its election manifesto that it would introduce a Civil Union Bill, and what steps were taken by United Future to ensure that its support would only be given if there was to be no Civil Union Bill brought before the House, a bill that is continuing only because the United Future party supports the existence of a Labour Party in Government?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Labour Party, the Progressive Party, and the United Future party have a 3-year confidence and supply agreement, which has given stability to this Government and to the MMP system. The United Future party was well aware that the Government’s position was that a bill would be introduced. The United Future party, of course, also has a conscience vote on this issue. It is not a matter of a collective vote by the party.
Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table the agreement between National and New Zealand First in terms of their coalition, which states that they would provide stable government for New Zealand for a 3-year term, concluding with the 1999 general election.
Ron Mark: In order to add balance, I seek the leave of the House to table the New Zealand First coalition agreement with the National Party, which is a considerably bigger document than the coalition agreement between the “Poodle Party” and Labour.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member knows that he cannot use that sort of language.
Hon Peter Dunne: I seek leave to table an exchange of correspondence between the Prime Minister and me on 29 November this year, regarding the Civil Union Bill.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Prime Minister aware of any other incident in New Zealand’s history when a member has pledged to fast to change the mind of the Government on such a bill, and can she advise whether withdrawing confidence might be a more effective way by which a member of Parliament might persuade the Government that this is not a route to proceed down?
Mr SPEAKER: The Acting Prime Minister has no responsibility for the first part of the question. The second part of the question is in order.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Labour, Progressive, and United Future parties entered into a confidence and supply agreement with a clear understanding that there were policy differences and that there were conscience issues, but that it was desirable to have a stable Government for 3 years. On the other matter, I could refer to the fact that it is a very good reason for taking some urgency next week so that Mr Adams, who is a good person, could be allowed to eat again.
Taxation—Increased Taxes, Levies or Duties
5. KENNETH WANG (ACT) to the Minister of Finance: How many new taxes, levies or duties, or increases to taxes, levies or duties, have there been since he became Minister of Finance, and how many more are planned?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I am advised that no new taxes, levies, or duties have been introduced since 1999 other than specific levies in areas such as horticulture and agriculture, which are usually the result of requests from the industry involved. We have introduced six increases of any significance to existing taxes, levies, or duties since taking office. We are, of course, planning an increase to excise duty and light road-user charges on 1 April next year. The carbon charge is assumed to come in on 1 April 2007. That will be revenue neutral. That will simply take me through to the end of my next term in office. I am not looking out beyond that at this point.
Kenneth Wang: What taxes, levies, or duties has he reduced, and by how much has he reduced them?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have to say that the new member has found a better question to ask me than any other member has done so far in this Parliament. I cannot think of a single one that I have reduced, at this point.
John Key: Is the Minister ruling out a cut in the nominal company tax rate in Budget 2005; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Nothing is ruled out at this stage, but I draw the member’s attention to the latest OECD report, which congratulates the Government on its fiscal management and points out that there is not room at the present time for a fiscal stimulus. Structural changes in taxation are a fiscal stimulus.
Peter Brown: How much windfall tax has the Government collected in the time that the Minister has been the Minister of Finance by fiscal creep or whatever, such as, by way of example, the $289 million he collected in the 3 months ended 30 September last?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have a breakdown in front of me of the exact division between bracket creep—the 39c in the dollar rate, for example—and changes to excise duty and so on. I tell the member that over 80 percent of the increase in taxation revenue since 1999 is simply due to the change in GDP, without any bracket creep.
Gordon Copeland: Is he prepared to give an undertaking that the cost of the 5c per litre petrol excise increase planned for next year will be offset by a decrease in income tax, so that New Zealanders will not face a net increase in their tax burden; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot, because that money will be spent on new roading. If it was accompanied also by a decrease in income tax, that would be a fiscal stimulus. I refer members again to the OECD report, which is very important in a period when we face severe capacity constraints.
Rodney Hide: Does it not concern him, as Minister of Finance, that he can rattle off a long list of new taxes and tax hikes, but cannot think of one thing that he has done to lower the tax burden, or the charges of Government, on hard-working New Zealanders; if not, why does it not worry him?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because the Government has produced 230,000 new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years, and strong growth in household incomes. Going by the latest opinion polls, the public does seem to approve of that record.
John Key: Has the Minister of Finance forgotten that he has reduced taxes in New Zealand—that he reduced taxes on Mâori trusts to 19.5 percent, which will give a lower cost of capital to, amongst others, Aotearoa Fisheries when competing with other companies that do not have a lower rate of company taxation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the member well knows, had the 33 percent rate been applied it would have been necessary to have a large number of individual tax adjustments at the end of the year, a large proportion of which would have cost more to process than the actual level of the rebate.
Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister explain, with regard to his proposed tax on petrol, why it is a good idea to index the taxes on petrol and cigarettes, but it is not a good idea to index the thresholds for income tax; and is not the result of his policy that the Government is now inflation proof, and the citizens and business are having to suffer the effects of inflation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the first part of the question, clearly what happens is that there is declining real revenue in relation to the demand for new roading, etc. On the latter matter, if the member cares to look at past Budget documentation, he will find that the long-term assumption is that tax revenue remains constant as a proportion of GDP.
Kenneth Wang: Is there anything that would convince him that New Zealanders are overtaxed; if so, what would that be?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It would be if we had, for example, substantially higher tax rates than Australia—which we do not—and if we had an average tax take that was higher than that of the rest of the OECD as a percentage of GDP. We are below the average of the OECD, and way below the average of nearly all countries that have higher per capita GDP than New Zealand, and certainly I will not be convinced by some strange argument that people will work harder if they are slightly lower taxed at the margin. I have not noticed anybody except for the National Party working less hard since the 39c in the dollar rate went on.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave of the House to table a list prepared by the Parliamentary Library of the 30 changes in taxes and levies since November 1999 that have gone upwards.
Early Childhood Education—Quality
6. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to lift the quality of early childhood education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Funding rates have been changed so that early childhood centres that employ qualified teaching staff are rewarded financially. An estimated 1,370 non-profit and private services will benefit from the first stage of rates that flow out of a $307 million, 4-year package. Those increases have been welcomed by the early childhood sector, especially by private providers.
Lynne Pillay: What steps is he taking to ensure that an adequate supply of places is available in quality early childhood education centres?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Over the last couple of months I have announced an extra $12 million of investment to create places in early childhood education centres. Since 2000 we have funded places for an extra 4,550 children to take part in early childhood education, at a cost of about $35 million. A new funding pool of $4.2 million will also help cover start-up costs such as equipment, teachers’ resources, and beginning time for teachers.
Hon Bill English: What does the Minister have to say to those 30,000 New Zealand families whose lives will be thrown into chaos from 1 January next year when up to 400 childcare centres could be closed because they do not meet his unreasonable regulations about registered teachers?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have said on a regular basis not to listen to Tory fibs.
Mr SPEAKER: Having heard that answer—[Interruption] Do not talk to me like that. That answer implies that a member of this House is not telling the truth. The Minister will withdraw and apologise.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The figure of 400 actually came from the Minister’s own advisers.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and the member knows that.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps now the Minister should address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister did address the question. He made a comment at the end of it, which was out of order, but he most certainly did address it.
Gerry Brownlee: No, no.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. I have said that the Minister did address the question. The last word was out of order and he had to withdraw and apologise for it.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No offence would have been taken at what the Minister had said if in fact he had addressed the question. He simply said that he had advised people, and then used the phrase that you have now ruled was inappropriate. That cannot be addressing the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it can, and I have ruled that it is.
Deborah Coddington: How can the Minister claim to be improving the quality of early childhood education, when last week the Kâwhia pre-school, which had received a glowing Education Review Office report and has the full support of the community, had to go to the Hamilton High Court to stop the ministry from closing it down?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member should probably catch up with the facts. The judge in that case indicated that the ministry had followed proper procedures, and that it was appropriate for quality of service to be improved—that that is a role for the ministry. If the member had read the judgment, she would not be silly enough to have asked the question.
Mr SPEAKER: That last comment was not really within the terms of the Standing Orders. It was unnecessary.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister satisfied that the childcare subsidy continues to be an appropriate mechanism to increase participation in early childhood education when it goes directly to the provider, with no guarantee that the savings will be passed to parents in the form of reduced fees—a potential flaw in the Labour Party Government’s voucher system?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is not a voucher system, because it does not go to parents. Most people involved in the industry are aware that the ministry has increased the monitoring of early childhood facilities by Statistics New Zealand to make sure that the charges do not move in that way. If they do, then regulation will be introduced.
Deborah Coddington: Will he, in light of Justice Young’s decision to throw a lifeline to the Kâwhia pre-school centre, assure the other 400 early childhood centres around New Zealand that they will not be closed because they cannot, within the ridiculously short time of January next year, comply with his draconian legislation, which requires them not to employ primary school teachers?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Early childhood centres were given notice in 2000 of this change. They had an inordinate amount of time to prepare for it. As the member is aware, the rules around provisional licensing are very flexible, and they will be used.
Foreshore and Seabed—Reserves
7. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What advice, if any, has he received from his department on the proportion of the foreshore and seabed that is expected to be set aside as foreshore and seabed reserves as a result of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): I have not received any advice from my department on that matter.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Which of these two statements is correct: the statement made at a press conference of Mâori MPs prior to the bill’s passage, at which the Minister was present when John Tamihere said that at least 10 percent of the coastline would be set aside in foreshore reserves, or the statement made by Ministers after the bill was passed that the legal test was so hard it would be a “very small fraction”—or is this another case of the Government speaking with a forked tongue, telling Mâori one thing and the rest of New Zealand something different?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: In relation to the first point, yes that is possible, because around 10 percent of the land adjoining the coastline is in Mâori ownership. However, in response to the second question, it will be up to Mâori to apply to the High Court and then for the court to decide whether the tests have been met and a territorial customary right exists. Ministers have been very clear on that point.
Mark Peck: What is the purpose of a foreshore and seabed reserve?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The concept of a reserve is not new to Mâori, and is in fact practised every day of the year on marae around the country. The purpose of a foreshore and seabed reserve is to acknowledge the practice of kaitiakitanga by the group, but the reserve is held for the common use and benefit of all New Zealanders.
Tariana Turia: Is it not correct that the Mâori members of Parliament have been duped into voting for this legislation on the basis that 10 percent of the coastline would be set aside in reserves for tangata whenua, when in reality the legal test is so tough that only a few areas will qualify; and, now realising that, will the Minister publicly dissociate himself from the new law?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly not. The foreshore and seabed reserves will give real and meaningful redress to those who have successful claims for territorial customary rights. They will also give powers to hapû and iwi to administer the foreshore and seabed reserve with local and central government, and to play a significant part in coastal planning.
Dail Jones: Does the Minister accept that the foreshore and seabed legislation in fact carries out the provisions of the Ngâti Apa decision with regard to territorial customary rights, and that all Mâori claimants will receive that which they would have received if the Ngâti Apa decision had remained in the common law?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Now that the Minister has recalled the 10 percent figure being used by Mâori caucus members prior to the passage of the legislation, will he accept that Labour has failed Mâori if that 10 percent figure is not subsequently delivered?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly not.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm that a large proportion of concerns around coastal areas are still under historical treaty settlement claims?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes.
Tariana Turia: Can the Minister explain how the reserves set aside as a result of the foreshore and seabed legislation may have an adverse impact on the establishment of aquaculture management areas?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: They will not have an adverse impact or effect on that situation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister clarify for the House what he meant when he said “Most certainly not.” in response to my earlier question, which was quite simply: the Mâori caucus having told Mâoridom that this legislation will deliver over 10 percent in foreshore and seabed reserves, if it does not deliver that, will Labour accept that it has failed Mâori?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am not too sure what the member wants to discuss in relation to what, but this is what the report in the New Zealand Herald stated. It was written by one of the great journalists up there, and I want the member to note this: “… but it is understood the Mâori caucus believes they could yet cover more than 10 percent of the coastline.” I do not hear Mr Tamihere mentioning it; I see a journalist writing it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the Listener of 27 November, in which it states that John Tamihere said that Mâori would be able to get 10 percent of the coastline—and was Jane Clifton the great reporter he was referring to?
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Act—Entitlements
8. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Labour: What new entitlements are available to parents, effective from today, under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Act 2004?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Labour): From today, the period of paid parental leave rises from 12 weeks to 13 weeks. This will rise again to 14 weeks from 1 December next year. Also, eligibility for the leave has been broadened. An employee now needs to work for the same employer for only 6 months, for at least 10 hours a week, down from the previous 12 months.
Helen Duncan: How many women so far have accessed paid parental leave?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Over 40,000 new parents have accessed paid parental leave since it was established in July 2002. The latest changes mean that a further 3,400 new parents will benefit from this initiative.
Sue Kedgley: Why are 70,000 self-employed women still not able to access paid parental leave, and why, when self-employed women are entitled to benefits under accident compensation, can they not get them under the paid parental leave legislation?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Consideration to the extension of paid parental leave to self-employed people is a high priority, and work on that issue is progressing well.
Peter Brown: Noting that answer, is it true that a highly paid woman employee can get paid parental leave, but a modestly paid self-employed woman cannot; is that what the Minister is telling us?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Correct.
Contaminated Sites—Identification and Remedial Work
9. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: When will the Government identify, register, and ensure the clean-up of contaminated sites around New Zealand?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister for the Environment), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Our policy is to have implemented remediation or instituted a clear management programme for all high-risk contaminated sites by December 2015.
Sue Kedgley: What is the Minister doing to remove the lingering stigma attached to properties in Auckland that have been publicly identified as potentially contaminated, even if that is now removed from the Land Information Memorandum reports, and when will the Government fund the testing of these potentially contaminated properties, to remove the uncertainty surrounding them?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Government has committed to helping local authorities pay for soil testing and remediation of contaminated sites, and of course that funding is available from the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund. In relation to the first part of the question, I think the important issue there is the clear reaction of property owners to the placing of conditions on Land Information Memorandum reports, and I think the way to work through that is by not being alarmist but by developing strategies jointly with local government to carry out appropriate sampling regimes.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm whether Auckland properties built on land previously used for horticultural purposes are in fact sitting on high-risk, contaminated sites?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That is most unlikely. Some sites might have elevated levels of contaminants, but they are not considered an immediate risk to human health. Auckland City Council has reversed the decision to include such information as was discussed earlier on Land Information Memorandum reports, and the Ministry for the Environment and my colleagues the local Auckland MPs are working with local government to clarify the council’s responsibilities in this area.
Keith Locke: How is it that the Government can come up with $30 million-odd to fund an America’s Cup yacht campaign virtually overnight, yet it is procrastinating over funding the testing programme—beyond the very small amount in the remediation fund—that would enable householders to actually find out whether their sections are contaminated?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I see no link between the two events that the member raises, and nor do I agree that the Government is procrastinating. Our Government is working and making good use of its very productive, collaborative relationship with local government, to reach good outcomes on this matter.
Sue Kedgley: Why, 11 years after New Zealand was described in the New Scientist as a “poisoned paradise”, and 5 years after Ms Hobbs became Minister for the Environment, do we still not have a national environmental standard for defining contaminated sites, or national standards for testing subdivisions?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As the questioner knows, the ministry is working, and has provided advice to local government, on the second matter. The development of the appropriate environmental standards is also being worked through by the Ministry for the Environment.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that the contaminated site clean-up fund provides only $2 million a year, although the cost of cleaning up our worst contaminated sites was estimated in 1993 to be $2.6 billion; and does that not mean that it will take 1,300 years to deal with the problem?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Not necessarily. The figure of the annual funding is accurate, but regional councils have since 2003 been granted funding from the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund for the investigation and remediation of 13 high-risk contaminated sites, so we are clearly making progress towards our 2015 goal. As the questioner will also be aware, $10 million for two projects has been approved—for the clean-ups at Mâpua and the Tûî Mine.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with Pete Hodgson’s 1993 comment about contaminated sites—that “New Zealand is sitting on a time bomb.”—if so, would it not be better to act now, and rather more quickly than at the rate of the 13 properties a year he is boasting of, than fiddling until the time bomb explodes?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I certainly do agree with the comment attributed to my esteemed colleague, and I think that members of the House would agree that this Government is working productively and hard to control the ticking.
10. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Associate Minister of Health: What response has he received to the public forums that he has chaired on “P”, alcohol and other drugs?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): The feedback I am receiving is that many members of the public who have attended the meetings held so far in Tauranga, Waitakere, Manukau, and Morrinsville have found them helpful because the panel of officials from various agencies, including customs, police, health, and education agencies, are able to outline where communities can get help in the campaign to minimise harm caused by alcohol and drugs. I have found that the meetings so far have led to a good two-way dialogue between the officials of various Government agencies on the one hand, and members of the public on the other, which has resulted in information and ideas being shared on how individuals and communities can move forward.
Darren Hughes: What substances have members of the public who work on the ground identified to him as causing them most concern; if substances have been identified, what recent reports has the Minister received on those?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Without question, alcohol—or should I say the misuse of alcohol—is, in the view of most independent agencies such as the police, far and away the single biggest cause of pain, suffering, and ill health in our communities. The ministerial committee on drugs and alcohol, which I chair, received a report at its August meeting advising that the international evidence relating to raising the minimum legal drinking age from 18 or 19 years to 20 or 21 years showed that lower alcohol consumption, reduced traffic injuries, reduced non-traffic injuries, and probable sexual health benefits for young people would be the most likely result.
Judith Collins: What response has the Associate Minister received in his public forums to police instructing their front-line staff not to actively hunt for P laboratories?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: None whatsoever. Every senior police person whom I have spoken to has denied absolutely that that is true.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that the public, particularly parents, have good reason to be concerned about the proposal to develop a fourth regulatory class under the Misuse of Drugs Act, as this leaves the door wide open for cannabis to be slipped into this category and be controlled only by age-limits and marketing requirements; or will he give a guarantee that cannabis will remain a class C drug?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: This coalition Government has an absolute agreement that no such step would be taken in its term of office.
Aquaculture Reform Bill—Treaty Settlements
11. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Will the Government continue Treaty settlements giving iwi preferential tender rights to aquaculture space; if so, why is that, when all iwi will get up to 40 per cent of new space under the Aquaculture Reform Bill anyway?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes, if there is a breach of the treaty and the outcome of negotiations is that the appropriate redress is a right of first refusal to coastal space.
Phil Heatley: Is the Minister aware that 81 separate iwi are listed in the Maori Fisheries Act, which means that, possibly, 81 iwi can line up for further aquaculture space from a pre-1992 settlement as well as getting up to 40 percent of new space under the reform bill, and what does she have to say about 81 iwi lining up for more space?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I will take the member's word on the numbers, but I think he is confusing the process, post 1992 and pre 1992. The claimants for a historical breach are not determined by whether they are on the register of iwi that he referred to.
Moana Mackey: Will every treaty settlement incorporate a right of first refusal to coastline provision?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No. There is no automatic inclusion of that clause. It will depend on the nature of the breach and the redress negotiated.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Which words in article 2 of the treaty give Mâori preferential rights to aquacultural space, and what clause in the 1992 settlement gives Mâori preferential rights, or tender rights, over their fellow New Zealanders?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The nature of the breach in any particular case obviously depends on its circumstances, but normally those breaches are found to be in article 2 of the treaty. As to the second part of the question, the whole point, really, is that it was omitted from that settlement and it became unfinished business, as the record has shown. That is why this settlement was required.
Phil Heatley: Does the Minister acknowledge that some of these 81 iwi will get 50 percent of aquaculture space, based on 10 percent from pre-1992 settlements and up to 40 percent through the reform bill—up to 50 percent altogether—if so, why should iwi get a 50 percent stake in an industry that is only 40 years old and cannot possibly be regarded as being protected by the treaty?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The member makes the assumption that there is an automatic allocation under the historical breaches. It is a right of first refusal. In fact, if Mâori wish to buy more than that, they would also be able to do so, if there were a willing buyer and a willing seller at market rates.
Stephen Franks: With reference to the Minister’s answer to my colleague, exactly what record showed “unfinished business” until the Government revived this a year or so ago, and exactly what words in the treaty give one race an entitlement, in preference to their neighbours, to something nobody owned, or could own in 1840, or until a few years ago?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: If I understood the question correctly, the answer is that the reason why the matters relate to Mâori is that the treaty was negotiated with Mâori; they were the people in New Zealand at the time. That is why there is “preferential treatment”. In terms of why, and the deed, evidence is, I think, what the member was asking about. I am very happy to provide that evidence to the member, in terms of statements made by Ministers at the time to the effect that this matter was not to be considered as part of the deed of settlement of fisheries. It was all just too difficult. As we know, these problems do not go away. They keep on coming back, because there is a legitimate grievance that is a breach that has to be addressed. It is this Government that cleans up the mess of the Governments in the past that did not have the courage to do so.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will be seeking leave to table deeds of settlement, over and above the 40 percent given to them.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection to their being tabled? There is not.
Phil Heatley: I’ve got to list them.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has been given leave to table them. He asked to table them all, I asked for leave, and he has been granted it.
Phil Heatley: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member asked for leave. He got leave. He has done it. He does not have to go any further.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you check the Hansard, you will see that when I raised a point of order and you called me, I told you that I was going to ask for leave; I did not ask for leave. What is more, when I do ask for leave I will be listing the date and what the document is, briefly. I hope to get leave for that. As it is, I have not asked for leave yet.
Mr SPEAKER: I took it that the member was asking for leave. I asked the House for leave, and it was granted.
Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the answer the Minister just gave the House she said she was very happy to provide to the member, Mr Franks, evidence of documentation that would help us with this issue. I am wondering whether there is a procedure for that, because the select committee has been asking for this information from the officials, and to date it has not been made available. So the select committee would certainly find it useful if the Minister is prepared to table it.
Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Minister to do that if she wishes to.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Ngâti Tama settlement of 2001, the Ngâi Tahu settlement of 1998 giving preferential rights to 10 percent of allocated space—
Mr SPEAKER: I thought I had already asked if there was any objection.
Phil Heatley: No, I haven’t asked—
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Ngâti Awa settlement of 2002 giving Mâori 5 percent of aquaculture space.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Ngâ Rauru Kîtahi and Ngâti Ruanui settlements giving an open-ended settlement of aquaculture space to Mâori.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is an interesting situation. It appears to me that the member actually was anticipating asking for leave to table those documents when you first put it to the House. He then specified what he wanted, and it was turned down. Am I correct in assuming that, in fact, once leave is given by the House it cannot be taken away, and so he can still table the documents even though, if we had known what it was he was asking for, we would not have given to it him?
Mr SPEAKER: The member is, as usual, perfectly correct. Question 12, Peter Brown. [Interruption] I have called the next question. It is obvious to me, and it should be obvious to members of the House if they read the Standing Orders and listen to my rulings—they are pretty clear.
Tauranga Harbour Link Project—Funding
12. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: What is the total amount that the Government is prepared to contribute towards the Tauranga Harbour link project under what has been reported as being the preferred package representing a “collaborative funding approach”?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): I raised the possibility—the possibility—of a special funding arrangement when I was in Tauranga in September, and that is still its status.
Peter Brown: So is the Minister telling us there is no truth in the rumour that such an arrangement is being considered this very afternoon or tomorrow afternoon, I think, by Transit and Transfund; is there no truth to the rumour that a specific package is being considered?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not know what the rumour is, so I cannot verify it.
Lianne Dalziel: What reports has the Minister received on transport funding for the Bay of Plenty?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have received two reports recently. The first said that the future petrol tax take should be used to fund the Tauranga Harbour Bridge. The second said that the legislation to allow this was garbage, and it was voted against. Who promised the money and then voted against it? It was Peter Brown, whose behaviour is, I think, hilarious.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister confirm that my colleague Larry Baldock has already approached him regarding this issue, and that a practical policy solution is currently being worked on as a result?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Mr Baldock has approached me on this issue on a number of occasions. I have told him and the region’s leaders that the Government is not saying no to a funding deal being reached. We will be looking closely at the Bay of Plenty’s regional land transport strategy and the funding issues associated with it.
Peter Brown: Why does the Minister not come clean and recommend a more businesslike approach to road funding in this country, and by that I mean identifying the project, specifying the costs, determining the time frame, and using the appropriate funding methods—borrowing, if necessary—to fund our roading?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member may not be aware that I am statutorily barred from taking project decisions on which roads are built. The member may not be aware of it, so I will tell him—and I will tell him what coming clean is like. Coming clean is not going back to Tauranga and asking: “Can we please have some petrol tax to pay for the bridge?”, and then returning to Wellington and voting against it.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that Tauranga has the highest number of household car trips in the country, and has he told the people of Tauranga that additional funding for roads will depend on them taking a more balanced approach to transport, with a greater use of public transport, rail, travel demand management, cycling, and walking, in accordance with the New Zealand Transport Strategy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Bay of Plenty regional land transport strategy has some good things in it, and it was the first to be written under the new Land Transport Management Act. For example, it has very, very good targets for public transport, but it is a little bit light on how they will be achieved. I am confident that any approach made to the Government will focus on the achievement of a multimodal and integrated transport solution for the Bay of Plenty.