Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 3 Feb. 2005
Thursday, 3 February
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Protesters—Police Charges
2. Foreign Workers—Criteria
3. Oil Prices—Economic and Fiscal Update Prediction
4. Economy—Government Fiscal Program
5. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Results
6. Wellington Transport Infrastructure—Government Announcements
7. Priority One Emergencies—Performance Standards
8. Crime—Car Conversions
9. Families—Women in the Workforce
10. Wakapuaka Estuary—Trespass
12. Families—Educational Achievement
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Police: Did it occur to him to ask the police what evidence they were still seeking when they informed him they were still investigating the Tame Iti case when Tame Iti was seen on television brandishing a shotgun, which he also discharged to shred a New Zealand flag, and what assurance can he give that all New Zealanders are treated equally under the law?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The district commander for the Bay of Plenty, Superintendent Gary Smith, has said today that no shortcuts will be undertaken in this case. The laws of New Zealand apply to all citizens. Where offences have occurred and there is sufficient evidence to warrant charges, the police will act. The police say that a thorough investigation is under way.
Stephen Franks: Has the Minister ever instructed the New Zealand Police to treat Mâori protesters like every other New Zealander; if not, why not, when plainly their law-breaking can go on for days or months without enforcement.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police enforce the law equally without fear or favour, and that is something New Zealand should be proud of.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that this is another example of Labour’s two standards of citizenship in New Zealand, where the Government allows—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There were interjections from about 10 people on both sides of the House. That is the only warning today. I now want to have the question asked again, in silence.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that this is another example of Labour’s two standards of citizenship in this country, where it allows the Mâori hîkoi to cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge in protest, but non-Mâori protest groups are denied?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: We treat everyone equally in New Zealand. Operational matters are entirely for the police to decide on, and not for any member in Parliament to direct them on.
Ron Mark: Why, in this case, have the police been dithering for 2 weeks, when we all know that Mr Tame Iti, who is oft described as an “extremist, Mâori activist”, has also been convicted, in 1997, on firearms and assault charges, for which he received a 6-month jail sentence and was also seen on national television in September 2000 assaulting John te Kaha and a camera crew with a taiaha; is the reason the police are dithering over charging this man—something that would have happened immediately had it been anyone else—because this Government is exerting its influence over the police officers involved?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.
Heather Roy: Is it a lack of resources, or just pressure from New Zealand’s crime wave, that has stopped the police from asking Tame Iti a few questions since the incident at any time over the last 2 weeks, or getting the film evidence, or getting a warrant for it, as of this morning, and, if the Minister does not know, why has he not asked?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are going through a thorough investigation, and, of course, crime is dropping in New Zealand—and that person cannot deny that. It is at its lowest level for over 20 years.
Hon Tony Ryall: If this Minister never interferes with police activity, why did he issue a press release telling the police to issue a press release on Mr Tame Iti’s firearms incident?
Simon Power: Oh, dear me.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Power, I would like you to stand, withdraw, and apologise for that interjection, or whoever it was.
Simon Power: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I did not instruct the police. If the member learns to read and interpret properly, he will know that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that Mr Tame Iti was shown on national television discharging a gun then baring his bum, for national television again—which would surely be two offences—could I ask the Minister whether the police intend to treat that matter with the same alacrity with which they might treat the question of Jason Ake, a Prime Ministerial employee, whose home, or the pathway in front of his home, suffered a graffiti attack last night, following the allegations in the Independent regarding the Mâori Party activists and targeting of Mâori MPs, in which what they wrote on the footpath, whether that is right or wrong, read: “Labour sucks”?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have no information on the latter case, but I can tell the member that the police are leaving no stone unturned to make sure that if a case proceeds to court they will be successful.
Deborah Coddington: How can he say that the police have enough resources and that the laws apply to all citizens in New Zealand, when today’s Time magazine reveals that 4 months ago US Customs gave the New Zealand Police scores of names of New Zealand suspected paedophiles in an international paedophile ring, but nothing has been done here to arrest anyone; and has he been briefed on this Operation Falcon?
Mr SPEAKER: That is very wide of the original question, which has no reference to that matter. The Minister, if he wishes, can comment, but the question is very wide indeed of the original question.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I cannot comment on that article. I have not seen it. But I can say that the police are leaving no stone unturned in their investigation on Tame Iti.
Deborah Coddington: What is the delay when the Minister says that the police are leaving no stone unturned that prevents the police from arresting Tame Iti and from acting on information supplied 4 months ago by US Customs; and when did he first learn about this Operation Falcon?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can only comment about the Tame Iti one. I can say that the police have all the resources they need, and, of course, crime is going down. It is at a 20-year low—something to be pretty proud of.
Dr Muriel Newman: How thorough is this investigation, when the police have not even bothered to pick up the videotape from TVNZ on the Tame Iti issue, other than to make a phone call to be told they need a search warrant?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not get involved in being a know-all of what the police should do or should not do. That member might want to.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What evidence do the police now need, given that they have got everything they could possibly want on that television programme in terms of arresting the man in question, and, having regard to his last statement, why is he wasting the taxpayers’ money as a Minister of Police if he has no purpose for being there?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have to say in answer to the last part of the question that the police are well resourced. They have never been better resourced. When it comes to how the police deal with cases, and solve them, that is left to them. It should not be left to individual members of Parliament who think they know it all.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister explain to the House why, when he has recently announced that he will be introducing an amendment to the Arms Act, when we have a known activist who was convicted in 1997 on firearms charges and on assault charges for which the police know he received a 6-month jail sentence, when we have the same man charged with an assault committed on national television with a taiaha against a camera crew and John te Kaha—
Mr SPEAKER: The question is too long. Would the member pleased bring it to an end?
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, please bring it to an end. I have given the member very wide latitude.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The reason I am having to re-ask this question and use another one of New Zealand First’s supplementary questions is that that was the first question I asked—and the Minister failed to address that very point.
Mr SPEAKER: I have told the member that he can ask the supplementary question. However, the supplementary question is already longer than his original question. I would like the member to come to the point.
Ron Mark: Why did the police not immediately arrest that man for discharging a firearm in a public place, and why are we still waiting 2 weeks’ later?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think that most people in New Zealand would have liked Tame Iti to be arrested. The police, however, have to collect the evidence and be certain of success. That is why we have a record clearance rate by the New Zealand Police—up about 45 percent compared with a 29 percent result when National was in Government. Crime clearances are up, and I am sure it will be in this case.
Hon Ken Shirley: How does the Minister reconcile his belief that, in his words, he believes that Tame Iti inquiry is thorough, leaving no stone unturned; with the fact that a fortnight after the event the police have not obtained the film evidence that the whole of the country has seen and as of this morning have not even applied for a warrant to obtain it—how does he reconcile those two irreconcilable points?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not instruct the police on how they investigate each case. We spend $1 billion a year on employing police to do that job.
Rodney Hide: Can he see how Mr Tame Iti might well reach the conclusion that was reported today, when he said: “The Minister of Police has no rights in Tûhoe country, as simple as that.”, and why has this Minister again today done nothing to disabuse Mr Iti’s view that the law of New Zealand does not apply to him?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Mr Iti’s comments in the New Zealand Herald this morning do not have any truth in them at all. There is only one law in New Zealand, and it applies to everyone. That is what this Government demands of the New Zealand Police.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a video of the incident shown on television last night involving Mr Iti, supplied by the Parliamentary Library, which could be made available to the police.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a statement made by the Hon Minister of Police suggesting that it would be helpful if the police were to release a press statement on the matter of Mr Tame Iti.
Stephen Franks: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a further supplementary question?
Stephen Franks: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: I would have appreciated that before the points of order. But that is perfectly OK.
Stephen Franks: Did he really mean it just now when he said that it should not be up to individual members of Parliament to pursue this matter, when yesterday he tried to excuse police inactivity by telling me I should lodge a complaint and when surely it is his job to ensure the police are upholding the law; and, if I give him this complaint, will he make sure that it gets to the commissioner promptly?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a couple of reports. The first one from the Dominion Post of 8 December 2000, “Iti denies attacking television crew”.
Ron Mark: The second tabling is a report, “Activist in court on kidnap charge”, which details firearms charges and assault charges that were laid against Mr Iti.
Ron Mark: The third tabling is a report dated 9 May 1999, again outlining firearms charges.
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What criteria are used by the New Zealand Immigration Service when deciding on whether to grant permission for foreign workers to be employed by New Zealand companies?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): Generally, it must be demonstrated that no New Zealanders are either available or can be readily trained to undertake the work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How many approvals have been granted to allow foreign fishing crew to be employed in New Zealand in the last 4 years, and how many foreign crew members are currently employed here as a result of those approvals?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do not have those figures in front of me. I will be happy to supply them to the member at the end of this session.
Dianne Yates: What is the Government doing to address the skill and labour shortages the country is now facing?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: A huge amount. The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.8 percent, which is almost the lowest in the OECD, and more New Zealanders than ever before—over 2 million—are now in work. Part of our plan is to have 150,000 people in industry training during 2005, and we are also looking at trying to have 8,000 people in Modern Apprenticeships by 2006. The other day the Prime Minister also announced that further initiatives would be undertaken around improving women’s labour market participation. These are more fabulous initiatives from a very fabulous Labour-led Government.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister confirm that an investigation into the pay and conditions of foreign fishing crews operating in New Zealand waters was initiated after questioning from United Future, and has now been completed; if so, what were the conclusions reached by that investigation?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot confirm the first part of the member’s question. There has certainly been lots of—[Interruption] Well, I am not sure. I think he is saying that a number of members of Parliament have raised that issue over some time. Yes, there has been a report into it. It is currently with me and I will be making announcements in due course.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the Minister’s comment about a fabulous policy, can he explain how a Christchurch fishing firm being granted permission to hire foreign crew within months of it laying off 42 New Zealand workers and asking them to reapply for their jobs at half their previous wage could possibly be in the national interest, while at the same time his colleague the Associate Minister of Immigration claims, and I quote him: “The Government’s focus continues to be on improving wages and conditions for New Zealanders working in the fishing industry.”—which now sees almost 3,000 foreigners in the fishing industry, their having taken New Zealand jobs?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There is not necessarily a conflict between those two. But can I say in answer to the first part of the question that the member is right—the fishing company did lay off people. I think it was about 3 or 4 months later that it applied for approval for foreigners to come here to work. First, the Associate Minister wanted to know whether the labour market tests had been applied; he was not happy that they had been, and he withdrew the application until further investigation had occurred. He then found that various organisations had been consulted, and he approved the application on that basis. But can I say this: this issue is not satisfactory, and it is the intention of the Government to develop a strategy for the fishing industry that looks at not only training within the industry but the issue of immigration in relation to people working in that industry, as well.
Peter Brown: [Interruption] Will the Minister confirm that the Maritime Safety Authority—
Mr SPEAKER: That Minister will stand, withdraw, and apologise. The member had not started to ask his question, technically; however, the Minister knows he cannot do that. Please stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I withdraw and apologise.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that the Maritime Safety Authority has examined the situation in Lyttelton where men are living in containers on the deck of a ship, that the authority has determined that the situation is unacceptable, and that, therefore, those men have now been signed on as crew; if that is true, will the Minister explain what right foreign ships’ crews have to work in a New Zealand dry dock or repair berth?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can confirm that the Maritime Safety Authority has investigated; I did not know that those people had been signed on. The Immigration Service board of investigations interviewed those people yesterday. It appears that they have been granted visitor visas under the policy for crew joining a ship. It is clear those people are now in breach of the conditions of those visas. They have been instructed to stop working, and further investigations are going on around the conditions under which those visas were granted. I should have more to say about that matter tomorrow.
Oil Prices—Economic and Fiscal Update Prediction
3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the statement in the December Economic and Fiscal Update 2004 that: “By the end of the forecast period, the oil price is projected to reach US$35 per barrel”, when today’s price for Brent crude is around US$44 per barrel?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The forecast is just that: estimates of what will happen in the economy based on the best information available at the time. If anybody in the House is certain of what the oil price is going to be in mid-2008, I would suggest that person retire now and make his or her fortune.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can he confirm that Treasury has revised its medium-term oil price upwards from $19.50 a barrel to $35 a barrel in the last 6 months, and how confident is he that Treasury has it right now, given that the futures market—in which Treasury places a great deal of faith—shows oil prices as being above US$40 a barrel for the rest of the decade?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, forecasts are precisely that. What I can say is that the volatility around oil prices and other economic inputs reinforces the wisdom of running a conservative fiscal policy, because of the buffer that creates against external shocks.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has this Government made any assessment at all of how climate change and oil prices will affect “the future of our dreams”, and why are the Treasury and the Government largely silent on the economic risks that those global threats pose?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Neither the Government nor the Treasury is silent on the economic risk posed by climate change, by volatility around oil prices, or by other forms of international volatility. We comment on those issues with great frequency.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that the local price of petrol and diesel is being kept in check at present only by the high exchange rate of the New Zealand dollar, and what plans does he have to reduce our dependence on oil in order to prepare for the time when the dollar falls, fuel prices rise, and wages stay virtually static?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government has a policy around sustainable development, and around an energy policy for the use of sustainable resources where possible. It has encouraged gas exploration, and gas exploration in New Zealand, in New Zealand dollar terms, would have a higher value if the exchange rate of the New Zealand dollar falls. However, I would have thought that the Green Party would welcome high energy prices for non-renewable resources.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister give the House an assurance that he will not impose the additional 5c a litre levy on petrol, which the Customs and Excise (Motor Spirits) Amendment Bill will allow him to impose when it is passed, until oil and petrol prices have stabilised at a relatively low level; if he will not give that assurance, can he tell us what criteria will need to be in place before he does impose the 5c levy?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot. I do note that at the pump, prices are now lower than they were when I said we would change the implementation date.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: With average household transport costs rising 16.4 percent over the last 3 years and families now spending as much on transport each week as they do on food, how does he expect them to cope, let alone save, in a decade of even higher costs unless the Government takes the lead in reducing our dependence on oil?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government has a range of policies, but one policy that is quite important in terms of shifting from non-renewable to renewable resources is actually that of having higher prices for the non-renewable resources. I would have thought that the market mechanisms that send signals around shifting production from one form to another would be welcomed by the Green Party.
Economy—Government Fiscal Program
4. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the Government’s fiscal programme?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): It was reported that the ratings director at Standards and Poor’s yesterday commented on the good job that the Government was doing on fiscal discipline, the good shape that Government finances are in and, as an offsetting factor against our strong current account deficit at the present time, the maintenance of our credit rating.
Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister seen any other reports bearing on the fiscal position?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have seen a range of contradictory reports. Last month, for example, I was accused of putting pressure on interest rates by running a loose fiscal policy. In the meantime, promises have been made in a National Party budget to deliver across-the-board tax cuts, tax deductions for private health and education, plus a substantial boost in defence spending. The first statement about a loose fiscal policy was made by Mr John Key, National’s finance spokesperson. On the same day, Mr English called for increased spending on education.
John Key: Can the Minister confirm that in his first 3 years in office his cumulative Budget-spend was $6.1 billion, and that in the last 3 years that has doubled to $12.7 billion, with promises to increase that by even more, going forward; so what impact does he think that that level of Government spending will actually have on mortgage rates if it happens at a time when the economy is constrained?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: For the last 2 years, the Opposition has been accusing me of running what it calls—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am answering the question—obscene fiscal surpluses, and now I am accused of spending our way into some form of gloom and doom. Even the National Party should allow a decent pause before it flip-flops on fiscal policy.
John Key: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister quite clearly what impact he thought his level of increased Government spending would have on mortgage rates. Now, he knows the answer is that they will go up. I wonder whether he could confirm that to the House. He completely missed it.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That I will put pressure on to make interest rates go up is a policy of massive tax cuts across the board. What I do know is that the Government is running a level of operating balance to ensure that the Government is not putting pressure on interest rates, and the Government parties are now the only parties in this House that are standing by that policy.
Gordon Copeland: Is it a goal of the Government’s fiscal programme to ensure that the tax system is fundamentally fair, taking into account means and need; if so, will he look again at income splitting to overcome the patent unfairness of the present system, which sees a sole breadwinning family earning $60,000 a year paying up to $2,970 more tax than an equivalent family where each partner earns $30,000 a year—the same income but almost $3,000 more tax?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the first family has children, of course, they will be receiving the family support tax credit, which is increasing substantially on 1 April this year. On 1 April next year they will receive further enhancements in that respect, plus the new in-work credit. On 1 April the following year they will receive further increases in family support, and I thank United Future for its support of those measures. What I can say about income splitting is that it enormously benefits those on higher incomes compared with those on lower incomes. Fairness is never a one-dimensional consideration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer, which was supported by the Minister of Finance yesterday, I seek to table a list of countries not in the OECD whose income per capita is greater than that of New Zealand. The countries include Bermuda, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Brunei, the Cayman Islands, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Greenland, French Polynesia, Qatar, Kuwait, US Virgin Islands, Israel, the Bahamas, Gibraltar, Taiwan—
W Peters, second point of order seeking to table second doc.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a second document, as the Prime Minister finds her statement yesterday a laughing matter. She said we were No. 20. We are not. We are No. 37 in the world. But here is the second document, from the OECD.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to say what it is. I want to define—
Mr SPEAKER: The member is entitled to say briefly what his document contains. He went far beyond that with the first one. I would like him to be brief with his second one.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second one is an OECD document that states New Zealand is in the low to middle income group, alongside former communist countries Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I point out that there is no country called Czechoslovakia these days so that cannot be true, for a start.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Results
5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement that an analysis into NCEA scholarship results will be given priority; if so, how will he conduct the investigation if the New Zealand Qualifications Authority will not release results until April?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Yes, I can confirm that I have asked for a report and that it will be given priority. The release of results by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority is a matter for the authority, but I understand that it is following a schedule in that regard, which has been notified to students and schools well in advance.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen any or all of the official interim results for National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) scholarship; if so, do the results he has seen confirm public rumours that there are very few scholarships in the sciences and substantial numbers of scholarships in other subjects—for instance, nine out of 1,000 biology students achieving scholarship, and 300 out of 900 English students achieving scholarship?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Clearly I have seen some such information, but I have asked for a report and I believe the appropriate time to draw relevant conclusions is when I have received the report and considered it, not before then.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister explain how, if only 8 percent of candidates got scholarships in chemistry, less than 1 percent in biology, but 33 percent in English, as reported, it is possible to fairly work out who is the top performer and award that person $45,000, when such success is dependent so heavily on the subjects he or she has taken?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Decisions about such speculation would be more appropriately made, I am sure the questioner would agree, when full information is available.
Hon Bill English: Given that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has already released all individual results to individuals, and that this week it is releasing all school results to schools, what is the reason why it cannot release the national interim results to the public, so that we can deal with the kind of speculation that is so damaging to this exam and that undermines the credibility of the $3 million of awards the Government intends to make, based on shonky exam results?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am sure that as much information as the questioner requires will be available in due course. I do not subscribe to the accusations he makes about either shonky exam results or the NCEA. I think that most New Zealanders, and certainly most of the students involved in those examinations, would want any consideration of the results to be done on the basis of full and timely information.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was quite specific. It asked what the reason is why the New Zealand Qualifications Authority will not release the national interim results. The Minister did not address that matter, at all.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister could address that matter.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I understand that schools will be receiving the interim results within a few days.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was: why does the New Zealand Qualifications Authority not release the national interim scholarship results? In fact, in the question I referred to the fact that the schools are getting the results. He has still not addressed the question. Why will the New Zealand Qualifications Authority not release the national interim scholarship results? He knows what I mean, and he can easily answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: That specific point can be answered by the Minister.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It is my understanding that the national profile is included with the schools’ results.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister not understand that those who put their hearts into these scholarship exams, in a belief that they represented New Zealand’s premier academic qualification, are day by day watching the credibility of their achievement go down the drain because he is playing a stupid game of spin with an incompetent public agency instead of telling us the truth, which he has on this desk and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has known since December?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Of course I am concerned about the integrity of the results.
Hon Bill English: Well, release the results.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It might help if Mr English listened. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is entitled to deliver an answer.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That is why I have asked the ministry to provide me with a report, which is not yet in my office.
Wellington Transport Infrastructure—Government Announcements
6. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Transport: What recent announcements has the Government made about transport infrastructure in the Wellington region?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): Last week this Government announced a $225 million package to help improve the region’s passenger transport and tackle congestion on its roads.
Darren Hughes: What responses, if any, has the Minister received to the Wellington transport package?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The chair of the Wellington Regional Council describes the package as “a turning point for the region’s transport system that will save us from Auckland-style congestion.” The mayors are equally delighted, saying that it is fantastic news for the region.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Why, after 5 years of this Government, are we still waiting for yet another report on an alternative route to Centennial Highway, where there has recently been shocking loss of life, and when will the private sector finally be given the green light to commence the long-overdue construction of Transmission Gully?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The reason we have a report coming later this year is that the last two reports suggested that the costs of fixing Transmission Gully were either $300 million or $1,000 million. We thought that a little more certainty than that would be a good idea.
Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister assure the people of Wellington that the Government remains committed to upgrading and expanding passenger rail services in the Wellington region and does not support putting on hold the desperately needed refurbishment of the 50-year-old carriages on the Johnsonville line, as the Wellington mayor is urging?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I can confirm that as the result of negotiations between the Wellington Regional Council and the Government, precisely that activity is listed as priority No. 1.
Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister indicate to the House what the Government’s intentions are with regard to the outcome of the western corridor study, specifically in terms of alternative access to and egress from Wellington via State Highway 1?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I acknowledge the member’s strong and longstanding commitment to trying to resolve this issue. The report, jointly funded by Transit and the Wellington Regional Council, is due to come out in its final form in November; but the Government is of the view that interim information with sufficient particularity about Transmission Gully, Centennial Highway, double tracking and electrification of the railway to Waikanae, etc. should be available around April. We think the smart thing to do is probably to put that information into the arena as soon as we have it, to bring the debate on so that we can get discussion around this region about what solution might be the best.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What other reports has the Minister seen on the need to invest in transport infrastructure?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Needless to say, I have seen many, but one is of particular interest. It came from the leader of the National Party, who went to Auckland in May last year and said we needed to spend billions and billions on transport, but then came back to Wellington and voted against the money being allocated.
Hon Paul Swain: What role did local members of Parliament play in securing the Wellington transport package?
Hon PETE HODGSON: They played a vital role. That package cost me a lot of evenings. I wish to pay special tribute to Labour members of Parliament in the Wellington region. They are the only electorate members in the Wellington region, with the exception of the leader of United Future. I also thank United Future and the Green Party for their involvement. We now have a package in which many people have played a part, and I congratulate them all.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Which part of that peroration about lazy Labour Party members and the United Party was to do with the answer to the question? It was a total waste of time—total verbiage. Listening to congratulations to a doormat party is a waste of my time.
Mr SPEAKER: The member might be interested to know that that is not a point of order; it is a point of comment. He has made his point.
Priority One Emergencies—Performance Standards
7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: What is a priority one emergency, and in how many police districts are the police meeting their performance standard of responding to 90 percent of priority one emergency calls in an urban policing area within the target 10 minutes of being reported?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The term “priority one” indicates that, based on information available at the time of the call, there is a reasonable belief that an actual threat to life or property exists. Police have advised that recent provisional figures show that six out of 12 districts met or bettered the target of responding within 10 minutes. That member knows that the average response times are disproportionately sensitive to delay in reporting arrival times.
Hon Tony Ryall: What evidence does the Minister have to back up his claim of 13 January this year that New Zealanders are dialling 111 for a priority one call-out and actually asking the operator to send a police officer in 2 days’ time?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police attend to priority one calls with some degree of urgency, but sometimes things are wrongly coded and not accurate.
Hon Tony Ryall: Was the Minister seriously saying in his press release that there are circumstances where people who are calling 111 while their homes are being burgled or their wives held at knifepoint—qualifying as an emergency—are whispering down the phone that the police should not come for 2 days?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: People who make 111 calls should expect to get service. That is why the Commissioner of Police has a review being undertaken at the moment. The independent communications centre review panel will probably report in March.
Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister explain why latest statistics show that the average times for police to respond to priority one emergencies in rural areas have increased by almost 40 percent in the last 12 months?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The independent communications centre review panel is today hearing submissions from Federated Farmers on this matter. Obviously, we want to improve the service as much as possible and we are getting better results and better resolution of crime. That member knows that, because when his party was in power it did not even have a target—not even one. We put the target in and we are trying to get it better all the time. We want standards; they did not.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a copy of the latest financial review of the police, which shows that even Government members have been forced to criticise the review for not including the appalling response times in rural New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
8. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: What actions are being taken by the Government to reduce car theft, and why?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Key features of the recently announced Vehicle Crime Reduction Programme include the fitting of most newly imported vehicles with immobilisers and whole-of-vehicle marking. These are best-practice procedures for cutting car crime internationally, and where introduced they have cut significantly both opportunistic and professional car theft. The reason for the measures is that ultimately the solution to crime is not waiting for it to happen and then responding, but putting in place effective preventive measures. That stops people from becoming victims, and saves literally hundreds of millions of dollars in insured and uninsured car theft losses, police time, court time, and corrections time.
Martin Gallagher: What evidence is there that the measures proposed by the Government will effectively and really reduce crime rates in this particular area, and will be really cost effective?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is hard and spectacular evidence. Since BMWs and Holdens in Australia had to be marked, thefts of those vehicles have dropped by 60 and 73 percent respectively. In New Zealand, that measure was introduced for Subarus in March 2003. I am told by Subaru that not one vehicle has been stolen since that time. In Western Australia and Britain, where it has been introduced, car thefts have dropped overall by between a quarter and a third. It is very effective, and is the way to bring down crime spectacularly.
Dr Richard Worth: When did the Minister first learn that a similar scheme in South Africa had utterly failed—that when immobilisers came into widespread use there in the 1990s the number of car thefts was in the order of 70,000 per year, and it has increased to around 140,000 today—and is it not the case that we are pursuing a policy that is akin to having mandatory curfews for women in order to reduce rape?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is curious that Mr Worth is apparently opposed to this policy, because his colleague Mr Ryall said it was a very good first step. However, in answer to his question—
Hon Tony Ryall: When?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have a copy here. I will table it for the member if he denies it. Would the member like me to table it? The fact is that the programme to be introduced in New Zealand has been based on that used in comparable countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, where standards have been set for the type of immobiliser. Therefore, we can expect the same sorts of results that have been seen in those countries, not the atypical example that he quoted.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister not realise that the biggest problem ordinary New Zealanders face with car thefts today is recidivist youth offenders under the age of 17 who steal cars to joyride then trash them with impunity because they know they cannot be prosecuted or sent to jail; if so, why does he not simply adopt my Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill, which would allow youth offenders who consistently steal cars to be prosecuted by the police?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Quite simply, because the member’s bill will not work. This measure will. The member is right, in this respect: 80 percent of car thefts are by joyriders—by opportunistic kids, and others, who take the car, use it, and dump it, and sometimes crash it and kill people in the meantime. The fact is if one has an immobiliser, the easy way of hot-wiring a car is no longer possible, and one kills that crime stone dead.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the interests of reducing car theft, I—
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member just ask, if he wants to table—
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table my Young Offenders (Serious Crimes) Bill, and have it placed at the top of the Order Paper, to be debated at the first available opportunity.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a document from the New Zealand Herald—I think it is—where Tony Ryall states that the plan was a very good first step, which is in contradiction to, apparently, what Mr Worth has said. Obviously, they do not talk to each other.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection?
Families—Women in the Workforce
9. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “if we could get our rate of women’s participation in the paid workforce up to the level of the top Scandinavian economies our standard of living would lift”; if so, does she view families’ standards of living in purely economic terms?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The answer is yes to the first part of the question and no to the second. This Government is committed to women having real choices about their lives, and that is why it is so important to be removing barriers for those who do want to be in the paid workforce.
Judy Turner: What does the Prime Minister say to those men and women who have viewed her push to get both parents into paid employment as implying that staying at home to raise children is not considered to be work, simply because their contribution does not register on clinical OECD indicators, when they would argue that they do an invaluable job in nurturing our future citizens?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No one should take such an inference from anything that I have said. I believe that women should make choices, the choice that is best for them and their families, and we will support them in that choice.
Sue Kedgley: Are we to take it from the Prime Minister’s speech on Tuesday that she views full-time parents at home, who do not get paid and therefore do not contribute to our gross national product, as something of a drag on society and the economy?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Most certainly not. Women are entitled to make choices like anybody else, and I am surprised that a Green member of Parliament would imply that doing something about taking away the barriers for those who want to be in the workforce is a bad thing.
Judy Turner: Does the Prime Minister agree that most New Zealanders think that a family has a good standard of living if it is not forced to have both parents working out of sheer economic necessity; if so, should not improving family incomes overall, rather than workforce participation, be top priority, in recognition that the economy exists to sustain families, and not the reverse?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Giving families real choices is exactly what the Working for Families package is about. Three hundred thousand low and modest income families will be substantially better off, starting from 1 October last year with better early childhood care and education and subsidies, and moving through to 1 April this year with substantial injections of income into their pockets.
Judy Turner: Does the Prime Minister agree that one of the effects of the Working for Families package is to create disincentives for a significant proportion of families to send both parents out to work, due to the high effect of marginal tax rates they will face at certain income levels; if so, why is she now trying to encourage secondary employment?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think the member just argued against herself. What I said in the House yesterday was that, arguably, Working for Families is a disincentive to people becoming second earners, because it is very good for the single-income family.
10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Police: Why were Nelson police, over the Christmas holiday period, reportedly prepared to order people from the Wakapuaka Estuary at the request of iwi and issue trespass notices against people who used the estuary, when the Prime Minister last year said that the Government’s foreshore and seabed policy guarantees access to the foreshore and seabed for all New Zealanders?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The police have advised me that they followed standard practice in giving advice to the owners of the estuary on the correct legal form of any trespass notices that may be issued. I am further advised that at this point in time the police have not had to become involved in any issues over issuing trespass notices.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did Nelson’s area commander threaten to issue a trespass notice against any member of the public who went on to that large estuary north of Nelson, when iwi do not have title; and is this not another example of the police having two different standards of citizenship?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The answer to the second part of the question is no. As far as the ownership of that land is concerned, I believe that it is before the High Court, and there will be a chambers hearing later this month.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain why, when Land Information New Zealand has said that iwi do not have title to this land, and when the title from Landonline shows that iwi do not have title to the land, the police stated on the front page of my newspaper that any person who went there would risk receiving a trespass notice from them?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the ownership of the land is being contested. The police also have regard to the occupiers of the land, as many people do have rights under the trespass laws.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister give an assurance to this House that the threat by the commander of police in Nelson to prosecute people for trespass if they go on to this area of foreshore has been withdrawn; if not, why not?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not interfere with the operational matters of the New Zealand Police, and that member knows that very well. He makes a good story for his local paper, but, of course, there is no direct quotation in that paper to say that Mr McGurk actually said that. There was a meeting between the iwi, the local council, and the police, to try to solve a situation that could have brought about a breach of the peace.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: In light of the statement from the Minister of Police, I seek leave to table the statement made by district acting area commander Brian McGurk, who said that police would issue trespass notices on behalf of iwi against people who used the estuary, as stated in an article under the headline: “Police offer to issue trespass notices.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the report by Land Information New Zealand, the title from Landonline, and the original titles from the 1800s that clearly show that iwi do not have title to this area.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is.
11. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: When will the level of Government overseas aid reach the level of 0.5 percent of gross national income achieved by the 1972-75 Labour Government in 1975?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): No specific date has been set in respect of the figure of 0.5 percent. However, I can tell the member that incorporating the tsunami package, aid levels this year will, for the first time ever, exceed $300 million. That represents about 0.27 percent of gross national income, and that is the highest level that New Zealand has achieved since the mid-1980s. In increasing aid, our focus has been on the quality of that assistance, in particular the effectiveness and the efficiency of its delivery, and ensuring that it goes to the people who most need it. As we increase our aid, we need to ensure that those safety factors are in place.
Keith Locke: When will the Minister be building on that achievement he has just mentioned and announce a timetable to reach the 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) towards overseas aid by 2015, as the Government promised to do a couple of years ago at the UN millennium summit, and as it is asked to do in a petition announced today by the New Zealand Council for International Development?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The figure of 0.7 percent remains the internationally accepted target. Most countries have not come anywhere near achieving that yet. New Zealand will endeavour to increase its aid; it does so as part of its budgetary package, but, of course, we have to put this key desire and objective against other desires and objectives such as improving our own situation in health, education, and other such fields.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question specifically asked when the Government would be announcing a timetable. The Minister did not actually address that point.
Mr SPEAKER: That is correct. The Minister will briefly touch on that point only.
Hon PHIL GOFF: In fact, I answered that in reply to the first question when I said that no specific timetable had been set.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What feedback has New Zealand received on the reorganisation of its development assistance body, and the quality of the aid it is delivering?
Hon PHIL GOFF: NZAID is currently—
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: It is very bad in Tonga.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not know what the member is talking about, and I do not think he does. NZAID is currently the subject of review by the OECD body responsible for development assistance. That body is yet to report. But the informal advice that I have is that its findings are very strongly positive about NZAID and the very high quality of the work that it does. Naturally I would expect the report will also encourage New Zealand, having got its structure right and having got the quality of its delivery where it should be, to consider further raising its level of assistance. I hope we can.
Mr SPEAKER: There were some interjections in the second person that were not very savoury. They should not be made.
Keith Locke: Why is the Government allowing, given the respect the Minister has just shown for the OECD, New Zealand to languish in the bottom third of the OECD in regard to its aid commitment, particularly when Rae Julian wrote in this morning’s Dominion Post: “Next week, the same number of people will die from poverty as died in the tsunami.”?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The OECD body is, of course, the body of the 22 most wealthy countries in the world and, regrettably, after a decade in the 1990s of economic mismanagement, we are at the bottom of that table. Yes, we are getting our growth right, and we are strengthening our economy. I hope that those things will enable us to do a lot more in the aid area, because what we do in the aid area now is really effective and worthwhile.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister feel that because of the wave of public support for the Government increasing its aid for those affected by the tsunami, if it did establish a timetable to rapidly get 2.07 percent of GNI into aid that would have public support?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think that if most New Zealanders, having shown their generosity over the tsunami, recognised the plight of people in the developing world and of those as close to us at home as the Pacific, saw what we were actually achieving through development assistance, they would be very supportive of this Government and its efforts to increase that level.
12. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education: What evidence has the Government received about the role of families in the educational achievement of their children?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Research clearly shows that parents who are involved in their children’s learning and who encourage their children to be the best they can be make a real and positive difference to how children learn. Information is a key mechanism to support family and community involvement, and for this reason the Government is launching an information programme to give parents more information—and resources—to support their involvement in their children’s learning and to help them understand the education system so they can have confidence to talk to teachers and ask the right questions.
Helen Duncan: Is the Minister able to provide the House with any further information about this information campaign?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: A key element of this programme is the involvement of a high-profile New Zealander as an education ambassador. I am therefore delighted to announce to the House that Tana Umaga has been appointed as an education ambassador to front this new long-term information programme. His task will be to help reach parents with the key information they will need to help their children learn, and to encourage and help parents to get more involved in their children’s education. Who better to promote such a message than a successful Kiwi role model like Tana, not only a parent himself but also an inspiration to many people young and old.
Hon Bill English: Why is the Government willing to take hundreds of millions of dollars of fees from parents for State-funded education, by means of school donations, and only give them a rugby star instead of what they really want, which is some choice about where to send their children to school, because at least that would show that the Government was taking parents seriously instead of this kind of jumped-up exercise in spin.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The very existence of this programme is the best evidence that I can think of to show the commitment this Government has to the education of young people and the encouragement of cooperation between parents and their school.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Government finally attempting to do something to enhance the educational role of parents but at the same time, at the behest of the Prime Minister and her colleagues, planning to drive all the parents out of the home and into the workforce whereby they will less time to help their children with education, because of the Prime Minister’s rather peculiar view of women?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I thank that member for his support of the initiative, and clearly the latter comment is not true.
Judy Turner: If parents are to play a bigger role in the educational achievement of their children, yet at the same time we are talking about kids in care from dawn to dusk, when exactly will parents find the time to do this?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I think it is appropriate to recognise that the stress is on parents and they will make appropriate decisions about the level of involvement for them, according to their individual circumstances.