Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 14 Dec. 2004
Tuesday, 14 December
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Police, Minister—Confidence
2. Primary Health Organisations—Progress
3. Broadcasting, Minister—Confidence
4. Schools—Enrolment Scheme Legislation
5. Tertiary Education Commission—Funding Outcomes
Question No. 6 to Minister
6. Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve—Marine Reserves Act
7. Security—National Security
8. Television New Zealand—Newsreader's Salary
9. Television New Zealand—Salaries and Funding
10. Algerian Refugee—Solicitor-General
11. Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Consultation Fees
12. Labour Market—Reports
Questions to Members
Immigration—English Language Tests
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Police; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There was one interjection that was out of order, and the member knows it.
Dr Don Brash: How can she have confidence in the Minister of Police when the December edition of the Police Association magazine reveals that police communication centres have been experiencing serious staffing and technology problems resulting in 20 percent of calls from the public being lost in some centres?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, those centres are being reviewed. A report is due in March. Submissions were called for by the external panel, which is reviewing the call centres, and I note that when submissions closed on 10 December the Police Association had not made a submission.
Rodney Hide: Does she accept that it is important not just for her to have confidence in the Minister of Police but for the police themselves to have confidence in that Minister, and how can they have confidence in that Minister when five police officers are being pursued relentlessly through the courts simply because they assumed that the Prime Minister did want to get to the rugby on time, and could confidence not be restored all around by the Prime Minister just accepting responsibility for the fact that she was in charge?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member knows that it is not appropriate for me to comment on matters that are before the courts. The member also knows that the Police Minister has no jurisdiction over such matters.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better be a point of order. That question was certainly addressed.
Rodney Hide: My point of order is this: this case certainly does not apply to the sub judice rules like the Prime Minister explained before. That is incorrect. It is certainly OK for her to comment on this case—
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member does not even know the Standing Orders, and he should take occasion over the adjournment to read them.
Judy Turner: Does the Prime Minister have any confidence that the Minister of Police is fulfilling his obligations under her Government’s Health and Safety in Employment Act when police communications centres are so understaffed that some employees have developed urinary tract infections because they are unable to take comfort breaks?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For all I know that may have been asserted in the material the Police Association is putting into the public arena. The external panel is quite happy to reopen the submission deadline if the Police Association would like to make a submission to that effect.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that it is her intention to sack the Minister of Police in the upcoming reshuffle, given recent revelations of failure of the 111 call system, strong suggestions that the police have been directed not to go looking for methamphetamine laboratories unless they make the crime statistics look bad, and generally low morale in the police force; if not, just what further revelations are required for her to dismiss the Minister of Police?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can advise the House that the Minister of Police is substantially more likely to have his job next week than the Leader of the Opposition.
Ron Mark: How can the Prime Minister continue to have confidence in a Minister who cannot answer a simple written question asking him to tell New Zealand First the registration plate numbers of the police cars involved in the high-speed movement from Waimate to Christchurch, or is he simply taking a lead from her, the Prime Minister, who has also refused to tell New Zealand First the registration plate number of the car she was travelling in?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not commenting on matters before the court, and I imagine that the Minister is taking the same view.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to know just how the sub judice rule now extends to car registration numbers. This is an extraordinary confinement of the rule to knowledge in this House. All we have asked for is the car registration number. That could be obtained in other ways as well, but we have sought it the proper way by merely asking for that information, and we have received the reply that that information is sub judice. With respect, if the car was being sold at this point of time, then the market place would be entitled to know what the registration number was, and it is not sub judice. So could the Prime Minister please answer the question properly?
Mr SPEAKER: Let me tell the member that I am not here to judge whether the question was answered on the actual answer given. The Prime Minister is entitled to reply like that, and she did, but that does not mean to say that I am saying the reply was good, bad, or otherwise. She certainly addressed the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that is the case, unfortunately “rhubarb” becomes a satisfactory answer in this Parliament. All we are asking the Prime Minister is the registration number of the car that she was travelling in, because certain matters relate to that that the public would be interested in.
To say that is sub judice, and that that is an answer, just tells me that we have a contempt here for Parliament and a contempt for parliamentary questions. I know it is an answer, but it is an answer on the same basis as “rhubarb” would be. If that is the sub judice rule, how did it go from being what it once was—that is, if it did not relate directly to the case, then it could be mentioned—to being narrow and restrictive when it comes to parliamentary democracy?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Prime Minister did not say the matter is sub judice—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: She did.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: No, she did not.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is the last time today.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: What the Prime Minister said was that she was not commenting on matters before the court. That brings the answer into the category where a Minister declines to answer a question on the grounds of public interest, or other matters, which the Minister herself has to be the sole judge of.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is right; the Prime Minister did not invoke the Standing Order by asking the Speaker to rule the question out. She gave an answer and she addressed the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I point out that the Deputy Prime Minister is not right. In a written answer to my colleague Ron Mark, that is precisely what she said and she knows it. I am putting it on the record that she is pleading the sub judice rule—first, in a written answer, and, secondly, by inference in her answer in this House today.
Mr SPEAKER: I am talking about an oral question that has been asked in this House, and it was addressed.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not entering into this argument any further, but if it is a point of order, I will be interested.
Rodney Hide: It is. Is this not the point—that the Prime Minister is not prepared to answer, and she can do that, but she is just invoking the rule that she does not have to answer any particular question. It is not bringing in the sub judice rule; she is just not prepared to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member does not raise a point of order. He is just wasting the time of the House.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister aware that new charges have today been laid against the officers who accompanied her on her high-speed dash across Canterbury in July; if so, is she prepared to demonstrate her confidence in the Minister and her police by offering to give evidence at the trials of those officers?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am only aware of what I read on the NZPA news screen, and I repeat that I will not be commenting on matters before the court.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the reason why she will not give us, via her Minister of Police in whom she has enormous confidence, or herself, the answer to the question of the car registration is that the speeds involved created significant damage to the vehicle she was in, and even to the windscreen, but in all that time she did not notice the speed she was going, at all?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have had no advice to the effect of the member’s question, at all.
Hon Richard Prebble: Could the Prime Minister advise us what standards she is following when she is indicating confidence in the Minister of Police? Is it the same standard that she followed when she savagely criticised a National Minister of Police and said he should be sacked over the failure of the police’s centralised computer system—INCIS—or is it a different standard when under her watch her Minister has been in charge of the police’s latest centralised computer system—the Comm Centre—for handling 111 and other calls, where 20 percent of calls at many centres are regularly unanswered; and to give her a local example, when a call was made from Molesworth Street, which Parliament is in, the communications centre did not even know where it was and sent the vehicle to the wrong address. Now, if she following the same standard, why is that Minister still a Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: That question is too long. There are three questions, the Prime Minister may address two.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My recollection of the INCIS affair is that under a previous Government a rather large amount of public money went up in smoke. That is the first point. The second point is that the accusation in this case appears to be that not enough money is being spent. The third point I would make is the police do not always get everything right, but generally they do. With the 111 system there have clearly been problems. That is why there is a review, and I invite the Police Association to front up to the review and make a submission.
Primary Health Organisations—Progress
2. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: Has she received any reports regarding the progress of primary health organisations?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes. There are now 3.7 million New Zealanders enrolled in primary health organisations—91 percent of the population. We knew primary health organisations were delivering cheaper health-care to many New Zealanders, but after reading South Link Health’s survey of South Island primary health organisations released yesterday, it seems that even greater reductions have occurred. Well over half the actual charges are less than the advertised fee, or are free. I commend South Link Health’s members for their constructive approach in working with the Government to provide affordable primary health care.
Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister seen any other reports regarding the future of primary health organisations?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen many reports. The only report that concerns the health sector, however, is the flip-flop by National’s leader and his ever-changing health spokespeople on what they would do with the primary health organisations. He has gone from asking what they were last year to saying they would be gone by lunchtime this year. Meanwhile, his spokespeople have ranged from scrapping them to revisiting the matter. But who knows? One gets dizzy from looking at their twists and turns, and their flip-flops. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: If members interject, they must expect a response. [Interruption] The member is about to leave the Chamber. I will not have him make comments like that. He should be quiet. Supplementary question—
Judith Collins: Judith Collins. I haven’t had my hair done like the Hon Annette King, so there’s no excuse.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise.
Judith Collins: Is the Minister aware of a primary health organisation in the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board area offering special tax-paid taxi rides for people of Mâori and Pasifika descent, which are only available to other New Zealanders based on need; and is she happy that that district health board insists on race-based assistance for some races but needs-based assistance for others?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I suggest the member has a perm. In answer to her question—
Mr SPEAKER: I know this is getting into the Christmas spirit, but just reflecting on hairstyling, I want to say that the last bit of Brylcreem I had in my hair was when I was about 9, and I still have quite a lot left. I call the Hon Annette King.
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I am not aware of it. If the member would like to provide the information, I will certainly look at it. I can tell her that the Hawke’s Bay board, like those in other parts of New Zealand, does not provide race-based policies; it provides needs-based policies. The sooner that member works out that there are people who have needs, the sooner she will become a better health spokesperson—or maybe she is about to be changed.
Barbara Stewart: Why is access to primary health organisations at subsidised rates for elderly New Zealanders still dependent on where people live, and when will she finally ensure that our senior citizens get universal access to subsidised primary health care?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is quite a few months out of date. Since 1 July this year every person over 65 years of age anywhere in New Zealand in any primary health organisation has had subsidised primary health care.
Heather Roy: Is it correct that primary health organisations that have more than 50 percent of their enrolled patients of Mâori and Pacific Island descent get more Government funding than others, and therefore their patients get cheaper doctors’ visits; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Two years ago when we rolled out the primary health care strategy, we rolled it out into areas with high need, including low-income, Mâori, and Pacific people. That was in the first year, under access funding. Since then we have progressively rolled out money, regardless of where people live, based on age bands. I have never heard the member complain about giving cheaper care to old people—only to Mâori and Pacific people.
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Broadcasting; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is also a hard-working, conscientious Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is this the same conscientious and hard-working Minister of Broadcasting who has seen Judy Bailey’s salary go from $400,000 to $800,000, despite the fact that the Prime Minister herself said that she was revolted by Paul Holmes’ $760,000 salary; and, what on earth is going on in her ministry when such hypocrisy lies so rampant in our politics?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If—and I underline “if”—the salary is as high as that, the directors appointed by the Government have some explaining to do to shareholding Ministers.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister of Broadcasting been able to establish from TVNZ whether in fact the salary is $800,000 a year or thereabouts; if so, and if it is true, will she be requiring the board of TVNZ to resign, as she suggested back in 2000 over the John Hawkesby issue?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my understanding that salaries are subject to confidentiality agreements. As I have said, a salary at that level, for the amount of time on air each day, I would consider to be evidence of a culture of extravagance that requires explanation to shareholding Ministers.
Rodney Hide: Will the Prime Minister be requiring the board of TVNZ to disclose to her or to her Minister what Judy Bailey’s salary is; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It would be my understanding that the Government could not require that to be divulged, but the Government makes it very clear to directors that it does not expect a culture of extravagance in public broadcasting when money can be well deployed to making programmes for the general public.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I notice that a number of other questions are set down today related to this issue. It might help the Prime Minister in her answers—and it might help the House to get answers—if she were to be made aware of the fact that Television New Zealand, like all State enterprises, does declare the salaries it pays, in $10,000 bands, in its annual report. Is the Prime Minister really suggesting that she cannot find out about this salary and we have to wait for the annual report?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that is not a point of order.
Larry Baldock: Is the Prime Minister aware of whether Judy Bailey received her $400,000 pay increase in a brown paper bag over a meal of fish in an Auckland restaurant?
Mr SPEAKER: That question is a little facetious. I am not allowing it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you could tell the member to go outside and say that, whereupon I will sue his little pants off.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, either. But I caution members to be careful about what they say inside this House and outside this House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What has happened to TVNZ’s announcement that it will be introducing and embedding a more transparent and comprehensive remuneration and job banding model in this country; and given that, say, for a 40-hour week Judy Bailey is to receive $384 per hour, is the Prime Minister not embarrassed when a single pensioner receives less than $250 per week?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think I have made it abundantly clear that I would consider any such salary level to be evidence of a culture of extravagance.
Schools—Enrolment Scheme Legislation
4. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on possible changes to school enrolment scheme legislation?
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, Lynne Pillay. The Minister will sit down. Lynne Pillay is at the back of the House. She is entitled to be heard in silence, and was not. I will now have her ask her question again.
LYNNE PILLAY: What reports has he received on possible changes to school enrolment scheme legislation?
Mr SPEAKER: I will not warn members again. I will ask a member to leave if there is any more noise during the asking of a question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have recently seen suggestions that children “can be herded like cattle to a local school of the Government’s choosing.” Those comments ignore the fact that under current enrolment legislation—passed by a National Government—parents are not forced to send their children to any particular school. In fact, they are guaranteed the right only to send their child to their local school if they so choose. I suspect that once Dr Brash looks at the facts and consults the member for Epsom, he will do yet another flip-flop on this issue.
Lynne Pillay: Has the removal of school zoning been considered before?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. School zoning was abolished under the previous National Government, which was then forced to bring it back in 1998—well supported by Christine Fletcher—in order to combat overcrowding. Removing zoning did not result in parents or students getting greater choice; it resulted in school principals hand-picking their students. This Government believes in the right of students to go to the school next door.
Mr SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Hon Bill English: If the Minister believes that his current rigid zoning policy is so good, why did he put out a press release in November claiming that the number of schools with zones was dropping, and that that was a good thing, when the real figures showed that the number of schools with zones was rising; when will he admit his flip-flop on that issue?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have already apologised on this matter. I relied on inaccurate figures. I also relied, in making the statements, on the support for zoning from Bill English, who said that abolishing it would not work.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that school-zoning legislation was reintroduced by the National Government in late 1998, that the legislation had the full support of the ACT party at the time, and that the only person in the House to raise objections to that zoning legislation was one Trevor Mallard?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. I think the legislation that went through at the time could have been better. That is why we improved it when we came into Government.
Question time interrupted.
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Question time resumed.
Tertiary Education Commission—Funding Outcomes
5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does he stand by his statements that: “The TEC will bring clear strategic direction to the system as a whole.” and “It is very important to ensure our research efforts and our student enrolments are concentrated in areas of high performance and high strategic relevance.”; if so, is he satisfied with the quality of spending in tertiary education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Yes, I do stand by those statements, made just last year when the Tertiary Education Commission was launched. I have been very pleased with measures that have been put in place to achieve that goal, such as the Performance-based Research Fund; the Modern Apprenticeships scheme; the centres of research excellence; the programme of industry training; strategic funding for private training establishments; restrictions on aviation, community education, and growth rates; and a new performance measure that will focus on retention and completion; and I look forward to being further satisfied as the Tertiary Education Commission moves into its third calendar year of operation.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that since 2000 he has spent $2.2 billion on diploma and certificate courses in tertiary education, and that 70 percent of the students who enrolled in those diploma and certificate courses did not complete them?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am aware we have inherited a number of programmes from the National Government where we have had to move to a more strategic approach to funding in order to prevent a continuation of the very problem he now complains about, after 9 years of doing not a single thing.
Nandor Tanczos: What does the Minister think the strategic implications are for the sector—in particular, for the smaller players within in it—when institutions are having, realistically, to open for enrolment from August but are not being informed about Tertiary Education Commission funding decisions until mid-December?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member is referring to the profiles that all institutions have to put in, which are, fundamentally, a funding agreement with the Tertiary Education Commission. All those institutions, many of which I have spoken to personally, understand that this is the first year of their profile and that they are being communicated with verbally by the Tertiary Education Commission, and they are confident they will get their funding.
Helen Duncan: As an example of the good work the Tertiary Education Commission is doing, can the Minister tell us about its efforts to satisfy itself in relation to the quality of spending in Christchurch Polytechnic’s computing online course?
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On a number of occasions when members on the Opposition side of the House have not commenced a supplementary question with a question word, you have pulled them up for that. On this occasion that matter was pointed out to you at the start of the member starting her supplementary question, and I ask you to bring her to order.
Mr SPEAKER: All I will say to the member is that it was Mr Brownlee who originally raised the point. I agreed with him and I thought he made a very sensible point. I now ask the member to re-ask her question, starting with a question word.
Helen Duncan: What progress has been made in the Tertiary Education Commission’s efforts to satisfy itself in relation to the quality of spending in Christchurch Polytechnic’s computing online course?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am pleased to tell the House today that Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology chair Hector Matthews has issued a media release announcing that the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology council has confirmed that the polytechnic will cooperate fully to complete an evaluation by 22 December. It resolved that if the report identified that there are students who have not engaged in the COOL IT course, the polytechnic will work with the Tertiary Education Commission to reach an acceptable solution, and instructed the management of the polytechnic to continue to work with the commission in a cooperative and supportive manner to bring about an accord on the issue. I thank Mr Matthews for his comments, and I look forward to progress on the matter.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that parents of schoolchildren are selling raffle tickets so they can employ teachers, at the same time as he has spent, during his 4-year reign as Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education), $2.2 billion on formal diploma and certificate courses that 30 percent only of those who enrolled in those courses have finished, which equates to $1.5 billion spent on courses that were never completed?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Of course, I would have to check those figures, as I check everything from the member because he is so unreliable. I also point out to the member that without this Government we would not have a Performance-based Research Fund, a Modern Apprenticeships scheme, and industry training that is going through the roof. We would not have a Private Training Establishments Strategic Priorities Fund, we would not have controlled the growth of organisations so that we know what we are getting, and we would not have a performance measure. I could go on, but the 4 years of work make the list far too long.
Question No. 6 to Minister
DAIL JONES (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the member, before he asks the question or during the question, could clarify the word in line four: is it “precedence” with a “ts” or “ce”? It is a little confusing at the moment; the two do mean slightly different things.
Mr SPEAKER: The member raises a very good point. I have only just observed that, not having read the question before, but I tell the member that he has to read it as it is worded.
Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve—Marine Reserves Act
6. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by his statement in his letter to Mr Friend of Outdoor Recreation NZ’s marine committee, regarding the proposed Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve, that: “It is not possible for any number of submissions in support to create precedence for the future, since the statutory path of the Marine Reserves Act 1971 directs me, as decision maker, to consider my objections received on a marine reserves proposal, not submissions in support. I do not base my decision on the number of objections versus submissions in support,”; if so, why?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is precisely the problem. Now that the member has read it out, we can hear that it is not a spelling mistake he is guilty of; he has just got the wrong word. It should be brought to his attention that he is talking about something that is entirely different from what he has expressed in his question. I thought that the Clerk’s Office should have helped him out at the time, rather than let him come down to the Chamber and be a smart alec, raise silly points of order, and show what a silly boy he is.
Hon Peter Dunne: I draw the House’s attention to the fact that what the member was doing was quoting from a letter from the Minister of Conservation. It was not the member’s quotation but the Minister’s quotation. If there is any error in the quotation, it is actually in the quotation itself, not in its reporting. I appreciate the point that has been made, but I say that the error lies with the original writer, not with the drafter of the question. I make one further point, Mr Speaker: I was concerned to hear you say at the time the original point of order was raised that you had not seen the question. I was under the impression that all questions were vetted by you before they went on to the Order Paper.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and on this occasion I made a mistake; I did not read the question carefully enough. I am occasionally known to make mistakes. [Interruption] I am tempted to comment, but will not. I say that this is a quote from a Minister’s letter. I assume that it is correct, because that is the way the question was originally submitted. It stands, and the Minister must now give his answer.
Larry Baldock: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It may be better if I seek the leave of the House to table the letter from the Minister, which has that exact quote and spelling in it, so that the matter is made clear.
Mr SPEAKER: The member seeks leave to table the letter. Is there any objection. There is.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I tell the member that this had better be a point of order.
Ron Mark: I ask you please not to doubt me, Mr Speaker. My point of order is in line with the comments made by the Hon Peter Dunne. The member did not read out correctly either the exact quote of what the Minister said or what is written here on the Order Paper. I draw your attention to the second to last line of the text of the written question, which states: “… maker, to consider any objections …” The member actually said: “… maker, to consider my objections …”, and the Hansard will prove that what I am saying to you right now, Mr Speaker, is correct. I think that that brings into question the whole validity of the question, and the worth of having it read.
Mr SPEAKER: If there is a grammatical error in a question, that does not invalidate the question. In any case, the Minister may answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not a grammatical error that my colleague Ron Mark is raising with you; he is saying that when the member got to his feet he did not read the question out as it appears on the Order Paper. The member just makes one mistake after another.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to ask Mr Baldock one question. Did he read it out correctly?
Larry Baldock: No, it seems that I have made a mistake and have misquoted one word in the question. I should have said “to consider any objections” rather than “to consider my objections”. I apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Right.
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts), on behalf of the Minister of Conservation: Yes, because the letter went on to state: “The Minister must consider each objection against the criteria set out in section 5 of the Marine Reserves Act.”
Larry Baldock: Why did the Department of Conservation’s community relations manager, Warwick Murray, in his comments in the Rodney Times on Thursday, 4 November, and Auckland Conservator Rob McCallum, in his press release on 9 December and again in his comments on Radio New Zealand on 10 December, make such a fuss about how many submissions were in favour compared with how many were against the reserve, and does that not reveal the fact that the Minister’s staff do not understand the Act they are meant to implement; so will the Minister therefore call them in for retraining on the finer points of the law, and if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: The member is correct in that the number of submissions in favour or against is not a particularly relevant consideration. We take into account the criteria for judging a marine reserve, and I will certainly make sure that the people concerned are aware of that.
Edwin Perry: What did the ministry base its proposal for the Mimiwhangata marine reserve on, when neither the local iwi, Ngâti Wai, nor the local communities bordering the proposed reserve were properly consulted?
Hon RICK BARKER: I believe that in the setting up of any marine reserve, it is absolutely essential that local communities are consulted.
Dave Hereora: Are submissions in support of marine reserves considered when decisions are made on reserve applications?
Hon RICK BARKER: Yes, the, Minister can take into account submissions in support of a marine reserve, but the Marine Reserves Act spells out that the first task in making a decision on a marine reserve is to consider whether to uphold any objection before considering the overall merits of any application.
Larry Baldock: Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the independent review of the marine reserve proposal, which he has announced will take place, will investigate claims that the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand was informed of the department’s intentions earlier than other stakeholders and was asked to drum up submissions in support of the reserve, in order to seek to override the substantial objections from recreational users of the area proposed for the reserve and from the residents of Great Barrier Island; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: I will give the House an assurance that the independent review will cover the process very thoroughly, and the Minister will look at that very carefully.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How will the axing of 13 Department of Conservation staff, half of them scientists and some of them working on marine issues, progress the work to identify and protect key marine biodiversity in marine reserves?
Hon RICK BARKER: That is an operational matter. The Department of Conservation has had a substantial increase in its budget over the years but, like all other departments, it has to live within the confines of its budget.
Larry Baldock: Is the Minister aware that Ngâti Rehua hapû of Ngâti Wai objects to the director-general’s application for the Aotea Marine Reserve, as do the Auckland City Council, adjoining landowners, the Recreational Fishing Council, Option4, and the Big Game Fishing Council, representing hundreds of thousands of hard-working, taxpaying New Zealanders—or will this be just another case of a sham process of pretending to hear submissions, while the department does what it wants, regardless?
Hon RICK BARKER: No, it is not a sham process, at all. The legislation passed by this House, which I am sure that member supports, sets out very clearly the criteria for objections, and if one objection can be upheld to show that the objector has suffered undue adverse effects—just one objector—then the marine reserve proposal stops in its tracks. I am sure the member would see that as a very fair process.
Larry Baldock: Will the Minister offer an apology to long-time residents and landowners like the Mabeys for the damage done to their reputations by the unethical scheming of Department of Conservation staff, who tried to persuade them to support the marine reserve by telling them that they would be able to continue to fish in the reserve adjacent to their land, and who published that in the draft proposal without the knowledge of the Mabeys, giving the appearance to other residents that the Mabeys had sold out, when that was clearly not the case, since they had refused to accept rights others would not have and still remain opposed to the marine reserve to this day; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: I reject entirely that Department of Conservation staff have acted unethically. Department of Conservation staff have obviously been in discussion with the Mabeys. They have made them an offer, which they have rejected, and they are entitled to do exactly that.
Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table a few documents. The first is the press release in the Rodney Times by Department of Conservation staff.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been sought to table that press release. Is there any objection? There is.
Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table the transcript of the Radio New Zealand interview with the conservator.
Larry Baldock: I also seek leave to table the press release regarding the majority of submitters being in favour of the Department of Conservation proposal.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been sought to table that press release. Is there any objection? There is.
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: What steps, if any, is she prepared to take to ensure our national security is protected?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Clearly, Part 4A of the Immigration Act, inserted in 1999, has not functioned effectively. The Government is now focused on drawing up law that can be effective in protecting New Zealand’s national security, and we will work with other parties that share our concern about the evident flaws in the current law.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Prime Minister give the same high priority she has accorded to other legislation rushed through before Christmas to my member’s bill, which seeks to urgently amend the Immigration Act to close off the legal loophole that allowed the Supreme Court to free convicted Algerian Ahmed Zaoui; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not think that it would be appropriate to support the member’s bill, which is a simple piece of legislation that would see this Parliament passing law to put Mr Zaoui back in jail. I do not think that would be appropriate.
Hon Tony Ryall: What sort of welcome mat for terrorists is her Government rolling out with its totally incompetent handling of the Zaoui case, in which a man with terrorist convictions who had been kicked out of three Western countries could flush his passport down an airplane toilet, claim refugee status, be showered in millions of dollars of legal aid, and can now qualify for a weekly emergency welfare benefit?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It would be a strange person who thought that 2 years in jail was a welcome mat. That particular welcome mat was provided for by legislation passed by the National Government in 1999. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am warning members that I am having no interjections during questions.
Keith Locke: Why is the Prime Minister, in her proposed amendments to the security risk certificate procedure, trying to take away or limit the longstanding right of judges to determine whether someone is unjustly detained and give that person bail, and why does she think that Governments with political agendas should be able to use national security as an excuse to detain people without charge and without full recourse to courts to get bail?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: A balance has to be struck between the requirements of national security and individual liberties, and there will be times when an individual’s liberties are constrained because the interests of national security override that.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Prime Minister support her security officials’ view that Mr Zaoui is a security risk; if so, what does she intend to do about it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have never offered a substantive opinion on the Zaoui case. What I would like is for the law to work effectively. The law operates with the Director of Security, on his own judgment, without direction from me as Minister, issuing a security risk certificate. The procedure passed into law in 1999 says that decision should then be reviewed by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. Two years after this man arrived, because this law created a litigator’s paradise, that review has not been able to begin. That is what is wrong with the law and that is what I aim to fix, and I trust I will have the cooperation of the member’s party, New Zealand First, and National for doing it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Next year.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that the Prime Minister gave a long and quite interesting reply, but it was not actually to the question that she was asked. She was in no way asked for her opinion on the security status of Mr Zaoui—members in this House know that that is not a matter for Ministers. What she was actually asked was a very exact question: “Does she support her officials in reaching the opinion that Mr Zaoui is a security risk?”, and that question she did not actually answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Prime Minister did address the question. She gave a very long answer and made many points in her reply.
Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Prime Minister able to give the House any assurance, in view of the litany of events that she has just outlined, that the Zaoui case can be brought to swift resolution and that he will not now spend his next 2 years on bail awaiting a decision?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because the law has created a litigator’s paradise, I cannot guarantee that he will not spend the next 2 years on bail. The Crown has, of course, appealed the Court of Appeal decision. The Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear it. It is going to hold a hearing on that matter in February, and it will then, no doubt, deliberate on whether it wants to hear it, and if it does want to hear it, then, no doubt, it will take some time to find the time to schedule it. It may or may not uphold the Court of Appeal decision, and we still do not have the beginning of the review. That is why I say that this law clearly cannot work satisfactorily, and this country is entitled to national security law that enables people, about whom serious issues of security risk have been raised, to have those issues speedily judged.
Keith Locke: Why is the Prime Minister trying to toughen up the security risk certificate procedures when judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, like the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, can deal with classified evidence in confidence and deal with national security threats; and is that not a better approach than the security risk certificate procedure, where the final say lies with a Minister of the Crown whose judgment will be distorted by political considerations?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There are so many errors of fact in that question, one does not know where to begin. In the first case the Refugee Status Appeals Authority did not see classified security information. I might also observe, secondly, that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, without hearing any evidence from the Governments of France or Belgium, condemned their legal systems as somehow unworthy and improper in the decisions that they reached. It did not appear to take into account the fact that Mr Zaoui had appealed to the European Court and failed, that he had been denied entry into the United Kingdom, and that he was deported from Switzerland.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Prime Minister is misleading the House there, because the Supreme Court—
Mr SPEAKER: The member is trying to litigate an answer. He cannot do that.
Television New Zealand—Newsreader's Salary
8. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What actions, if any, does he propose to take, given reports in today’s Dominion Post that Television One news anchor, Judy Bailey, has almost doubled her salary to $800,000 a year and that he is angry at the size of the increase?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): The salaries paid to staff of Television New Zealand are a matter for the board and management of the company to determine. The board is accountable to the Minister of Finance and me as shareholding Ministers in the company, and we will be seeking an explanation from the board.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the House take it from the answer given by the Minister, and those given by the Prime Minister previously, that all that the Government intends to do is blow a lot smoke over this particular issue, then do absolutely nothing about this excessive, extraordinarily large salary?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As other answers to questions have stated, the Government remains strongly opposed to salaries of the level reported in today’s Dominion Post being paid within public service organisations. However, company law determines the extent to which Ministers can become involved in those Government bodies that are companies. It requires the business affairs of a company to be managed by, or under the direct supervision of, the board. Thus decisions on salaries paid to staff are matters for the board and management. However, those people are accountable to two shareholdings Ministers, and they will be asked to be accountable.
Mark Peck: How satisfied is he with the performance of Television New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Overall, I am satisfied with Television New Zealand’s performance against its objectives of giving effect to its charter while maintaining a commercial performance. TVNZ’s programme line-up is increasingly more charter oriented, and it has committed itself to a significant increase in local content. At the same time, TVNZ maintained its commercial performance by generating a record level of advertising revenue of $335 million in the year ended June 2004. This Government sees broadcasting as a key element in developing national identity, not as a commercial enterprise to be sold off before lunchtime.
Deborah Coddington: Why is the Government putting any taxpayers’ money into TVNZ when it spends an extra $400,000 to keep Judy Bailey, given that if she went to TV3 or Prime more New Zealanders would get to see her, anyway.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I should correct the last assumption that was in that question; Television New Zealand clearly is still the leading television company in the country in terms of ratings. The reason we provide charter funding is to see more New Zealand programmes.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister taken the time to find out whether the board of Television New Zealand knew that the new salary for Judy Bailey would be around $800,000 a year, and has he asked the board whether it gave its approval for such an extravagant salary?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My understanding is that a remuneration committee negotiates salaries within Television New Zealand. My understanding is that the board has full accountability for those decisions, because it is advised of such decisions. As I said before, the board is accountable to its two shareholding Ministers.
Television New Zealand—Salaries and Funding
9. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported comments that she was revolted by Paul Holmes’ $760,000 salary and that money paid to top Television New Zealand presenters makes her own pay look like “petty cash”, and how much taxpayers’ money has the Government put into Television New Zealand in the last 12 months?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I stand by what I said, which was that there was public revulsion at that salary level. And yes, any examination of such figures would show that my salary is, indeed, petty cash by comparison, as indeed is the member’s. I can also advise the member that in 2004-05 a total of $30 million is to be paid directly to TVNZ, consisting of chartered funding, and for transmission to remote communities. As well, $3.075 million is from New Zealand On Air.
Rodney Hide: Will that $30 million come under review in the coming year, if in fact it is determined that Television New Zealand is, to quote the Prime Minister, “funding a culture of extravagance”, and in light of the fact that the money is being used in part to stomp on TV3 and Prime as private sector competition?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not think that the last assertion would be true. There is a reason for having public television, charter television, and that is to have at least one television company in this country that is dedicated to reflecting the charter objectives on screen. But clearly, the board of Television New Zealand is accountable to the Government for how it expends public moneys, and the Minister of Broadcasting has outlined that he expects it to be held accountable.
Gerry Brownlee: What does she expect the Minister of Broadcasting to do with the board of Television New Zealand if it went to him and simply said that it believed that that was the right thing for it to do?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, I would not want to prejudge what the board will say to the shareholding Ministers. However, I believe that the shareholding Ministers are certainly due an explanation if the report in the Dominion is true.
Deborah Coddington: Is she objecting to the amount that Judy Bailey gets paid, and, if so, why pick on her, and what about Mike Williams, a Government appointee to some eight Crown entities or State-owned enterprises, who, I am told, earns $542,000, while working full-time for the Labour Party, and does she think there is public revulsion over this?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This Government appoints people from across the political spectrum to boards, and I can say that we have been rather more open-minded than our predecessors in that respect. We would also expect that anyone appointed to a State-owned enterprises board would really not be pulling in large sums of money for 4 minutes on air a day.
10. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Attorney-General: Does she agree with the comments of the Solicitor-General, who, when it was put to him in the Supreme Court last week that there was no suggestion violence might occur in New Zealand as a result of any activities Mr Zaoui might be involved in, replied: “I think that’s fair, Your Honour.”; if not, why not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General): Yes, as I understand it in the context of whether Mr Zaoui should be released on bail, there was no evidence that he is personally a violent person.
Keith Locke: Will the Attorney-General then encourage the immigration Minister to apply section 114N of the Immigration Act, which allows him to cancel the application of the security risk certificate applying to Mr Zaoui, particularly in the light of the admission by the Solicitor-General that Mr Zaoui presents no real threat?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, it would be inappropriate for me to interfere with the proper exercise of the Minister of Immigration’s powers and responsibilities.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Did the Solicitor-General refer the Supreme Court to any evidence relating to the possibility of violence resulting from Mr Zaoui’s presence in New Zealand?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, the Solicitor-General referred the court to the Director of Security’s summary of allegations and reasoning in making the security risk certificate about Mr Zaoui. The director concluded that the activities of which he, Mr Zaoui, was convicted in Belgium and France were clandestine, deceptive, or threatened the safety of persons. The Swiss Government believed that his activity in Switzerland “had led to acts of violence, and even attacks, in Switzerland”, and that “Activities of this kind in New Zealand by Mr Zaoui, or by others attracted to New Zealand by his presence here, could threaten the safety of New Zealanders.”
Hon Tony Ryall: On the matter of the national security certificate, is it Government policy that someone deemed to be a risk to national security should be entitled to receive a welfare benefit in New Zealand?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: It is not a matter of policy. It would be a matter of law and of whether there was eligibility, according to the law, in that instance.
Keith Locke: Does the Attorney-General disagree with the Prime Minister’s comments just made that there is substantive material that was not properly considered by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority in relation to Mr Zaoui, in light of the facts that the Supreme Court judges challenged the Crown to produce evidence that had not been dealt with by the authority, and that it was not provided even in affidavits or in the court hearing last Thursday?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: It is a statement of fact that the security material was not considered by the refugee appeal authority or the Supreme Court. In fact, the frustration of this process has been to get that matter considered by the proper parties.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to Mr Jones. I had noted down that I had called him, but I had not. I should have called him before that.
Dail Jones: What instructions does the Solicitor-General have from the Attorney-General to make the statement that has been referred to by Mr Locke with regard to Mr Zaoui—a statement that now severely prejudices the inspector-general’s final certificate in this matter, because it presumes that Mr Zaoui is not a danger to New Zealand, and a statement that, if it were true, would prevent the inspector-general from issuing any form of certificate against Mr Zaoui, resulting in his remaining stay in New Zealand?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The important point is that those comments were made in the context of an application to see whether Mr Zaoui should be released on bail. They were not done in the context of the substantive issue, and I think that if the comments are seen in that context, they do not necessarily carry the implications made by that member.
Rod Donald: In the light of the Prime Minister’s concern about Mr Zaoui’s “future hanging up in the air after 2 years”, why did the Crown oppose bail for Mr Zaoui last Thursday, following the Supreme Court’s decision on 25 November that it had the power to grant bail to Mr Zaoui, and why did the Crown propose his detention at the Mângere Refugee Resettlement Centre, when it had previously said that was not an option?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: It was the Crown’s contention that Mr Zaoui was a risk to security, because that was consistent with the certificate that had been issued to date. Therefore, it was consistent that the Crown should argue that there be some form of detention. The Supreme Court, as it is perfectly entitled to, did not agree with that and exercised its inherent jurisdiction to grant bail. The previous hearing was not for the Crown to take unto itself the law; it was in fact for it to abide by the law, as articulated by the court. That is what the Crown has done.
Dail Jones: What consideration is the Attorney-General giving to briefing someone other than the Solicitor-General to handle the final aspect of this case, bearing in mind that the Crown and the Solicitor-General have been beaten at every point by a very junior lawyer—an obviously very able one—and that the time may have come to brief someone in private practice who may be somewhat hungrier than the Solicitor-General?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: In fact, the Crown has won at every level except the Supreme Court in most of these matters, and it has been seeking a clarification of the law. I do not believe that any better representation could have given, given the state of the law as it is at the moment.
Keith Locke: Will the Attorney-General agree that her previous statement is a bit wrong, in that it was the High Court that decided that the SIS should provide a summary of allegations to Mr Zaoui, contrary to the Crown’s contention, that it was the High Court that forced the previous inspector-general off the case, even though the Crown was defending that inspector-general, and that the Crown has lost all five substantive proceedings; and will it be re-looking at the whole case to see where it went wrong—perhaps in not considering human rights as much as it should have done?
Mr SPEAKER: I was generous to the member. His question was long and not properly planned. The Minister may comment on two of the questions asked.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I apologise. I thought the question was in the context of bail, and certainly we had won the previous two cases before the matter got to the Supreme Court on that issue. In terms of whether human rights is a matter that should have been considered, that is precisely what we sought guidance from the court on. We were certainly always in a position to be able to release the information the member referred to. Finally, on the state of the law, it is apparent, as the Prime Minister has indicated, that the law does need a review, and it will be having it.
Spring Hill Prison, Waikato—Consultation Fees
11. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he still stand by his comment “I consider the $1.3 million figure to be excessive” with regard to consultation costs for Spring Hill prison, and does he consider there to be any further excessive spending on this project?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): Yes and no.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister think that taxpayers will be pleased or outraged, when they discover that his figure of June 2004 that earthworks and services for Spring Hill would cost approximately $28 million, but that by November he estimated the cost was $38.8 million—a massive $10.8 million increase in 5 months?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, these figures are estimates, as the member will well know—[Interruption] Calm down, Hopoate.
Mr SPEAKER: Interjections can get out of hand, but on that occasion the Minister knows that what he said was out of order. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Now please answer the question, and no more.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The member will also know that, given the current performance of the Government and the fabulous economy that we are now experiencing, there is pressure in the economy everywhere. Construction is booming, and costs are rising as a result in diesel and labour. Therefore, there are some changes in estimated costs. But the member will also know that this goes back to the Budget process. All the figures are available. I welcome him to come to my office. I will provide the officials and give him a full briefing on the whole matter so he can get up to speed on the whole issue.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister agree that buying land for a prison near Meremere for $2.3 million, then discovering that it was necessary to spend about $38.8 million on earthmoving due to the original site being suitable, when there were 46 sites to choose from, is a gross waste of taxpayers’ money; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, because an exhaustive process went on in looking for the right site. I am not an engineer, but the member should know that any construction such as this requires earthworks. Part of the reason, actually, is to make sure that any visible pollution, which that member opposed right from the start, is able to be minimised. So this is good value for money.
Dr Paul Hutchison: How does he think the elderly, distraught with news that The Salvation Army is exiting their nursing homes due to Government policy, will feel when they discover the cost per bed at Spring Hill prison will be $384,000 compared with the cost per nursing home bed, which is on average $90,000—a quarter the cost of a prison bed?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I think those people will appreciate that this Government is tough on crime and has had to build more prisons and more prison beds after 9 years of total limp-wristed inactivity from the National Government.
12. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Labour: What reports has he received on the state of the New Zealand labour market?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): I have seen several reports showing that the New Zealand labour market is in exceptionally good shape: over 2 million New Zealanders are in work; unemployment is at 3.8 percent, the lowest level in two decades; paid parental leave is in place; the minimum wage has risen five times in 5 years; New Zealand employers plan to take on more staff than employers in other Asia-Pacific countries, according to an international survey out today; and employers and unions are working with the Government to boost New Zealand workplace productivity—fabulous news from a fabulous Government.
Hon Mark Gosche: What further reports has he received regarding New Zealand’s labour policies?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen reports from someone opposing the Employment Relations Act, 4 weeks’ annual leave, and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. I have recently seen reports showing that that person now supports those measures. I am sure that Father Christmas will be bringing a new pair of flip-flops to Don Brash, given that his old ones have worn out.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that the most recent statistics show that the number of people working, as a percentage of those who are available for and are seeking work, has increased a mere 0.6 percent since 1996, whilst the number of people on a sickness benefit has increased by 35.4 percent since the year 2000; if he is aware of that, would he agree that the picture is not quite as rosy as he makes out?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I would not. I think the member is quite aware of two really important pieces of information: firstly, that there are now more than 2 million New Zealanders in work, which is a very important thing; and, secondly, that the unemployment rate is now 3.8 percent. I am advised that, as a result, there are now 16 percent fewer beneficiaries overall than there have been since about the year 2000. I think New Zealand will be congratulating this Government on the fabulous work it has done in the labour-market area.
Peter Brown: I seek leave to table the statistics I referred to that I obtained from the Parliamentary Library, for the Minister’s enlightenment.
Questions to Members
Immigration—English Language Tests
1. KENNETH WANG (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: Has the committee met to consider the petition of Kenneth Wang and 7,296 others requesting a review of the new English language immigration test, which was presented on 17 December 2002; if not, why not?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee): Although the committee has had a couple of informal discussions about the petition, it has not yet formally met to consider it, simply because of pressure of other business.
Kenneth Wang: Given that over 7,000 people have signed this petition, and it has been with the committee for 2 years, does he consider it to be a low priority; if not, will he commit to considering it in the next 3 months?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The committee adopted the procedure of dealing with the petitions before it in the chronological order in which they had been received. As some of the petitions before us dated back to 1999, we accorded those greater priority. Whether the committee wishes to give this petition priority within the next 3 months is a matter for the committee to decide.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would the committee give this petition greater priority just because 7,296 people had signed it, when by the Government’s own admission there are now 300,000 people in New Zealand who cannot speak English?
Hon PETER DUNNE: As I said in response to the earlier question, we give our priority according to the chronological date on which the petitions were received, not the number of people who signed them.