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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 9 Feb 2005

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

Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Results
2. Labour Market—Asian Competition
3. Road Safety—Women's Concerns
4. Prisoners—Serial Offenders
Question No. 5 to Minister
5. 111 Emergencies—Staff Availability
6. Light Armoured Vehicles—Cabinet Oversight
7. Families—Health Policies
8. Education—Public Confidence
9. Economy—Capital Markets
Question No. 8 to Minister
10. Traffic Infringement Notices—Fines
11. Australia—Migration to New Zealand
12. New Zealand Post—Market Research by Postal Workers

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Results

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he still believe that he has moved into the compulsory education sector at a time when all the big issues are “off the table”, and does he stand by his statement yesterday regarding NCEA scholarship that “Nothing went wrong”?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): I would have to say that the member opposite would not score very highly for the use of language in context. He may be forgiven for not realising that the reference to the big issues being “off the table” in the New Zealand Herald of December—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has not said anything that is against the Standing Orders. He will start again.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I would have to say that the member opposite would not score very highly for the use of language in context. He may be—

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During question time yesterday you pulled up members of the Opposition on the basis that they were using extraneous matter with regard to the questions being asked, and you told us we were not allowed to do that. I then raised a point of order and said to you that, in fairness, if that is the rule for the Opposition, the same should apply to the Government, and that Ministers should answer the question without reference to other things. We now have a Minister directly attacking Mr English without even starting to try to respond to the question. The Minister should be asked to answer the question directly.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made a valid point. In answering questions, the Minister should not comment on the knowledge of a member. I ask the Minister to come to the answer.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The reference to big issues being so called “off the table” in the New Zealand Herald of 21 December was to the big industrial settlements of the previous year. However, there was a clear clue in the next line that stated that the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and special education were among the issues that we would have to give attention to this year. With regard to Scholarship, clearly the Government believes that the variability in some Scholarship results was beyond what is acceptable. As a result, we have immediately moved to correct any disadvantage to students.

Hon Bill English: Why should students who are entering 2005 Scholarship, our premiere academic award in secondary schools, and their teachers believe that Scholarship results will be any more reliable next year, when he has said that “Nothing went wrong” this year, when he has blamed everyone except the people who ran the exam, and when there has been no accountability for the fact that the results in our premiere secondary school qualification were such a political embarrassment that Cabinet has stepped in to decide who passes and who does not pass?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not believe that the prime purpose of anyone should be, in this case, to seek blame, as the member seems to be focused on doing. If nothing had gone wrong, the Government—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: This is ridiculous. I am allowing the odd interjection. I am not having that sort of yelling, or there will be no interjections during question time. I do not want to do that. The Minister is entitled to answer.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: If nothing had gone wrong, the Government would not have had to act as decisively as it has. I am sorry that my comment was taken out of context. I was referring to levels 1, 2, and 3 of NCEA. My reference was also to the conduct of the scholarship exams themselves, which have delivered outcomes that, while unpalatable and to some extent unacceptable, are none the less being delivered by due process. We have not intervened to manipulate those results; they will stand. The Government has provided recognition at level 3, where the subject had an unacceptably low number of Scholarship passes and consequently enabled additional students in those subjects to become eligible for monetary awards.

Helen Duncan: What comments has the Minister seen regarding the Government’s response to the scholarship results?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have particularly noted the comments on Breakfast television this morning, where Dr John Langley, Dean of Education at Auckland University, said of the scholarship issue: “It had been dealt with fairly.”, and “Young people who realistically expected to receive a scholarship have come away with something.” I also note that when asked whether it was a shambles, as National has claimed, he said: “No, I think that is quite hysterical.”

Hon Brian Donnelly: Does he stand by his claim yesterday that the reason for the bad publicity for NCEA scholarship exams is simply that Bill English has made some damning statements; if so, what is this telling us about the Government’s perception of Mr English’s public influence?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I believe, as I am sure the questioner and the majority of the members of the House do, that NCEA is widely supported by the community, by parents, by students, and by educators. I find it impossible not to observe the constant litany of criticism and destructive comment that has been made by, among others, Mr English. I find that very destructive to the confidence in the system and to the future of young people.

Metiria Turei: Did those big issues that are now off the table include Government plans to support the United Nations decade of education for sustainable development within the school system so that our children are educated as responsible, ecologically conscious citizens; if not, what does the Minister plan to do exactly?

Mr SPEAKER: That has very little to do with the original question—[Interruption] I will not have interjections while I am making my ruling and while the question is being asked. That is the only warning today. I said that that question has very little to do with the original question. The Minister may make a brief comment.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Only inasmuch as the level of priority of such discussions is clearly much less significant in those huge industrial issues, in terms of the operation of our education system.

Bernie Ogilvy: What assurance can he give to families in New Zealand that they can have full confidence in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and NCEA, and that he will personally ensure that the NCEA bungles will stop?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I gave that assurance to the House during question time yesterday.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Minister of Education were advised last year that there would be problems with Scholarship, as contained in minutes of the Secondary Principals Leaders Forum, which met on 25 August 2004 that stated: “Teachers have been reluctant to enter students for scholarship when they do not know how it is going to be examined. This may reflect the lack of confidence in scholarship examination by teachers.”, and since the Government was warned, when will there be accountability for the fact that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority went ahead with the scholarship examination when teachers had said it would not work?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I cannot confirm that statement.

Hon Bill English: Is it the Minister’s view that there should be no accountability whatsoever for the fact that he and his agency made a shambles out of the premier secondary school qualification and that thousands of students have been cheated out of a credible result?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I certainly do not support that member’s premise. Nor do I believe—and neither have I ever said—that there should be no accountability in that matter.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the minutes of the Secondary Principals Leaders Forum, which outlines to the head of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority concerns about the scholarship examination in August last year.

Leave granted.

Labour Market—Asian Competition

2. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: When he said “I don’t want to see New Zealand workers competing against Asian workers through their wages,” did he mean he intends to protect them against unfair competition; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): I meant that the Government’s policy is to grow a high-wage economy where New Zealanders successfully compete by adding more value, not by accepting lower wages. There is protection under anti-dumping and other trade protection rules from unfair practices.

Rod Donald: Does he think that a Government that requires New Zealand businesses such as Interlock and Fisher and Paykel to pay decent wages, provide safe working conditions, and meet reasonable environmental standards also has a responsibility to protect those businesses from foreign manufacturers who pay their workers less than the cost of living and make them work in sweatshop conditions?

Hon JIM SUTTON: New Zealand has never been more open to international competition. We have never had so many jobs in our economy, and we have never enjoyed higher standards of living. I can assure members that the best is still to come.

Tim Barnett: What action is the Government taking to ensure a positive future for New Zealand workers?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government is committed to ensuring that we have a high-value, high-wage economy. Rather than making cheap underwear, clothing manufacturers are producing high-value fashion wear. The Government takes an active role in our economy to ensure our citizens are working on high-value products for high wages. We also take the needs of important sectors such as manufacturing into consideration when negotiating trade agreements.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that whole industries have disappeared because of the reduced cost of Asian workers—the shipping industry, for one—and if he does recognise that, would he recommend that the Government give consideration to instigating favourable tax regimes for any industry that makes a commitment to employing New Zealanders and is compelled to compete against industries that employ low-paid, overseas workers, and if he will not do that, what will he do?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government is committed to achieving full employment at high wages, and it is well down the path to achieving that. The member apparently advocates that the Government should choose favourites among New Zealand industry by offering them particular tax preferences. I tell the member that we do better by allowing our companies to compete; the most productive and innovative rise to the top in that way.

Sue Kedgley: How will the Prime Minister’s objective of getting more women into the paid workforce be met, when thousands of skilled women in the clothing industry will lose their jobs as a direct result of the Labour Government’s free-trade agenda?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The truth is that the clothing, textile, and footwear industries are booming. I quote the chairman of the Kapiti Horowhenua Apparel and Textile Industry Cluster Group, who said recently that Horowhenua’s textile industry is booming.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does the Minister expect a New Zealand business that pays Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) levies, all sorts of other governmental charges, and, in some measure, for free health and education systems in a high-tax regime to compete with a Chinese company that does no such thing, and that pays 18 people with what it costs a New Zealand business to pay one worker in this country, as was the case with businesses in Tauranga that recently closed and relocated to China; and what are those lions of democracy—the Progressive Party and the Green Party—telling him about that?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered. The Minister can comment on the second part, but, of course, he is not responsible for those parties’ policies.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: I allowed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I get it, but I think you have misunderstood what I said. I asked what those lions of democracy—the Progressive Party and the Green Party—are telling the Minister about that, and he is responsible for that.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer that part.

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am aware that the right honourable member sat in a coalition Government that did nothing to support New Zealand industry and workers, and I assure him—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is not responsible for a former Government, and he is particularly wrong about that as the first thing we did was to lower the minimum wage—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member had better quit while he is behind. But he is right—I now want the Minister to come to the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am glad that that will be my one mistake for 2005, so I tell members to watch out. My real point is that the Minister is not responsible, and he is totally erroneous—we raised the minimum wage.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled in favour of the member. I ask the Minister to answer the question.

Hon JIM SUTTON: The member is making another mistake in suggesting that he can improve New Zealand welfare by slashing accident compensation protection for New Zealand workers, as the coalition Government of which he was a member attempted to do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I made no such comment about slashing ACC. I was making a comparison between New Zealand companies having to pay for ACC and their Chinese equivalents not having to do such a thing. The Minister is right off the mark, and he is outside the Standing Orders because he is off the mark.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I agree with the member. I would now like the Minister just to address the particular issue that was asked by the member in his question. I will not restate the question; if the member wants to restate it, I will allow him to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My question is simply this: how does the Minister expect a New Zealand company, which pays for a largely free health and education system and for ACC in a high-tax regime, to compete with a Chinese company that pays 18 workers with the equivalent of the wage in New Zealand for one employee; what is his answer to that?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I expect New Zealand companies to compete by having highly trained, skilled employees and by making sure that they are innovative, well equipped, and able to compete on the basis of high levels of productivity.

Hon Matt Robson: Does the Minister have any progressive examples of active management to aid sectors facing overseas competition?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Yes, I have somewhere to hand something about that. Just yesterday my colleague Jim Anderton announced further funding of $1.125 million over the next 2 years to the textile, carpet, footwear, and apparel sector, to fund research projects to help it to adapt to competition. That is in addition to the $2.3 million it received in last year’s Budget—money that seems to have been well spent. The textile, carpet, footwear, and apparel sector has gone from being a low-value sunset sector fearing for its future to being one that is growing, positive, and reporting to the media that its difficulties have been largely overcome.

Keith Locke: How can the prospects for the clothing industry and for manufacturing in general be as rosy as the Minister has just painted, when the president of the Council of Trade Unions, Ross Wilson, is adamant that a free-trade agreement with China will put at risk thousands of manufacturing jobs and the future of the whole manufacturing sector; can the Minister explain that difference he has with the president?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I simply do not agree with that prediction by Ross Wilson, but it is not unusual for Governments to be subjected to exaggerated position-taking by interested parties when they are negotiating trade agreements.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: [Interruption] This is not a rescue one—ah, no, it is not. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Let me tell the House that the next member who makes an interjection while a question is being asked will leave the Chamber—and that is a promise. Everyone is entitled to ask his or her question in silence.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Is it correct that it is pretty hard to pick winners but that it sure beats deliberately picking losers, as implied by the Greens’ and New Zealand First’s questions?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Yes, I can confirm that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How has the Minister got the gall, as a member of the labour organisation of this country, to stand up in this Parliament knowing that he and his leader are wantonly going out there and selling out the interests of hard-working New Zealand unionists?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I can only repeat what I advised the member earlier. New Zealand has never had so many jobs and never enjoyed such high standards of living for its workforce.

Rod Donald: What analysis, if any, has the Minister done on how New Zealand’s trade will be affected when global oil prices continue to rise and supplies start to run down; and does he not think that New Zealand’s position at the very end of the supply chain means that he needs to temper his free-trade zealotry with some strategic thinking?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I can assure the member that trade liberalisation minimises the costs to consumer and producers all over the world, and that New Zealand can compete on the basis of its comparative and competitive advantages, despite being a long way from many of our markets.

Rod Donald: Will the Minister personally help the 200 workers who are about to lose their jobs at the Interlock factory to find new jobs in the growing economy, given that he recently said in the Otago Daily Times that a free-trade agreement with China will lead to “more better paying jobs and a better quality of life for New Zealanders”?

Hon JIM SUTTON: My task in this business is to facilitate opportunities for New Zealand companies to grow, in order to generate higher-paying jobs in more productive workplaces.

Rod Donald: How can Kiwis participate in Labour’s ownership society if they have just lost their job in an elaborately transformed manufacturing business, such as Interlock or Fisher and Paykel, because the Government has failed to protect the business where they work from unfair competition?

Hon JIM SUTTON: In fact the Government, through the law, does protect companies from unfair competition. But it is the nature of economic progress that there is change, and lower-paid, less productive jobs give way to higher-skilled, better paying jobs.

Road Safety—Women's Concerns

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by his confirmation in the House yesterday that women are more concerned about speeding than they are about being attacked in their homes, even after the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges says that his view is “ludicrous”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The document tabled by the member yesterday—table 9.6 of the New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims—clearly states that 61.7 percent of the 3,001 women who participated in the survey were “very worried” or “fairly worried” about being involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver. That was the highest category among the 12 surveyed. I stand by my earlier statement to the House. I also remind the member that since 1999 more than 436 lives have been saved on our roads, and that impacts massively on women, children, and their families.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Minister standing by his ludicrous position when even the Commissioner of Police backed away from this view on radio this morning, leaving the Minister hanging out to dry?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No, I am relying on the survey results that I quoted a few minutes ago. I do not rewrite surveys.

Moana Mackey: What information can he give the House regarding the success of the police in reducing crime and reducing the road toll?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The statistics issued by the Commissioner of Police for the 2003-04 year show that we had the lowest crime rate for 21 years. Land Transport New Zealand states that, since 1990, road deaths have dropped 40 percent, despite a 33 percent increase in the number of vehicles on the roads and a 19 percent increase in the population. The outcome of this Government’s policy is that the lives of 436 men, women, and children have been saved.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister think the family of 83-year-old Mona Morriss, who was sexually violated and murdered in her pensioner’s flat last month, and the 14-year-old girl who was raped in her bedroom in south Auckland, then thrown over a 3-metre fence, in the same month, would agree with his comment that women are more concerned about speeding than they are about being attacked in their own homes; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have to say those are very tragic events. Everyone sees them as tragic events, just as I do.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister consider it appropriate to formulate policing strategies based on an outdated study, which purports to reflect public support of road policing over policing of violent crime, and, if he thinks that that is a valid approach, why has his Government not acted on the bigger public opinion survey called the Norm Withers petition?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Our policy covers a range of issues, but I want to tell the member that last year we had 403 fewer crimes each and every week of the year.

Stephen Franks: Why does the Minister interpret the crime victims survey to defend the police priorities in issuing speeding tickets, over 11 categories of offence surveyed, when the questionnaire did not even ask about speeding, and on traffic offences asked only about drink-driving, and the numbers of women who responded were almost identical in saying they were very worried about that, and about sexual offences committed against them?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am just quoting the facts from the survey.

Tariana Turia: Is rape a general duty call-out; if not, what response does the Minister have for a young woman who was raped in Hamilton 2 weeks ago, who phoned the 111 phone line and was advised that as the address she gave was not far from the police station, she could walk around there and make a statement, rather than have the police come to the house where the perpetrator was still present?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I must say that I, along with everyone else in this House, would find that totally unacceptable and I will make inquiries of the commissioner.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why, in his opinion, as stated in the House yesterday, would women be more concerned about speeding cars than being brutally attacked in a home invasion?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It was that member who tabled the statistics yesterday. He obviously has not read them.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Hansard is quite clear. The Minister gave a commitment to the House yesterday of what his view was, and I am asking him why he said that. The Minister has not answered the question. I want to know why he thinks women would be more concerned about speeding cars than being brutally attacked in a home invasion.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Obviously the member does not remember tabling the statistics, where it clearly states that 61.7 percent of the 3,001 women who participated in the survey were “very worried” or “fairly worried” about being involved in an accident caused by a drunken driver—the highest category amongst the 12 surveyed.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You were good enough to ask the Minister to give an answer to Mr Ryall, yet he has risen and given the same answer that you clearly found unsatisfactory in the first place.

Mr SPEAKER: If he had done that, I would have found it unsatisfactory in the second place. He did not give that answer.

Gerry Brownlee: Might I say that he was asked for his opinion and his explanation of why that survey appears to be as he claims. To simply say: well it is because it is, and the member tabled it, is certainly not, in my opinion, addressing the question.

Mr SPEAKER: It might not be, in the member’s opinion, but it is in mine.

Hon Ken Shirley: Can the Minister explain to the House how he reconciles his statements made in this question: “I do not rewrite surveys.”, and “I am just quoting the facts from the survey.”, with the fact that yesterday in reply to questions he compared speeding with the rape of women and said that women were more concerned about speeding, when in fact the survey he is referring to, the New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims, has no reference to speeding whatsoever. How does the Minister reconcile that?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I want to repeat to the House that the survey actually says that 61.7 percent of the 301 women who participated were “very worried” or “fairly worried”. The member asked about crime happening in the women’s home. That was not included in the survey.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister really consider it reasonable to compare cold-blooded murders with road accidents, as he did yesterday, in purely numerical terms, as a justification for under-resourcing priority one 111 calls; if not, then when does he intend to do something about it, and what does he intend to do?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: They are both very tragic events, but, of course, this Government is doing something about them. Last year we had 43 murders—one of the lowest figures on record for many, many years—and the road toll is the second-lowest it has been for very many years.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister think that the Prime Minister is more concerned about speeding cars than about being attacked?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not know what the Prime Minister thinks, and I do not think she is the sort of person who would want to rewrite a survey.

Stephen Franks: Following Mr Alexander’s question, why should people not want the police to focus more on deliberate predators—those who set out to burgle, rob, rape, and hurt people—than on those who do things we all do from time to time, by mistake or otherwise, intending no harm; and, if the Minister cannot tell the difference, why does he not ask some murder or rape victims? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There is a member on the Government benches—I did not see who—who is very lucky still to be in the Chamber.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think that shows a particular attitude to the roads and to road safety. We have been fighting over very many years to get drunks off the road, to make sure people fasten their seat belts, and to make sure they do not speed. If we do that successfully, the toll comes down. It is working.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister telling Women’s Refuge, the group that deals with some of the most vulnerable women in New Zealand at the time when they are most vulnerable, that he thinks they are wrong to say they are more concerned about being brutally attacked in their homes than about speeding cars?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No, I am not saying that.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Has the Minister considered—or, indeed, sought—the opinions of families such as the Bouma family or the Bentley family as to whether his view that a speeding car is more dangerous than a violent criminal is, in fact, correct?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The member must realise that I was just quoting a survey, but I want to say that being hit by a car doing 130 kilometres an hour has equally tragic results.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What remedy do Opposition members have when it has already been pointed out that the Minister has misinterpreted and misquoted a survey, and he gets up and says in his defence that he is just quoting the survey that the whole House knows he is misinterpreting and misquoting?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a couple of documents. The first is a copy of the questionnaire of the victims survey of 2001—the part that shows there is no mention of the word “speeding”.

Leave granted.

Hon Tony Ryall: The second document is the transcript of an interview with the Commissioner of Police on Morning Report today, when he would not endorse the Minister’s view.

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

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister of Police remember answering “Yes” yesterday in this House to the Hon Tony Ryall’s question about the women of New Zealand being more worried about a speeding car than they are about being attacked in their homes, and will he apologise for the clear implication following from that that somehow a home invasion and a rape are on a par with speeding?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: In referring to the survey, obviously Mr Ryall did not get it quite right, because there was no mention of crime happening in women’s homes.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How could that answer possibly address my question? I quoted the member’s Hansard. He was the one who said that yes, that was exactly what he was saying. I asked whether he remembered saying it. It is clear from his answer that he does not. Then I asked whether he would apologise for the clear implication that somehow a home invasion and being raped are equivalent to a speeding car. Again, he did not address that. Time and time again—

Mr SPEAKER: Well—

Rodney Hide: I have not finished, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has. He has been going on for far too long. The Minister did address the question. It might not have satisfied the member or other members of Parliament, but he did address the question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I contest your ruling. We have asked a dozen questions and we have had the same pathetic answer from the Minister of Police. If you want to finish your last week as Speaker by giving some credence to question time in this House, you will demand that the Minister of Police front up and answer the questions that members are asking, and that the public of New Zealand want answered. All we are doing is holding the Minister of Police to account for the answer he gave in this House yesterday.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Mr Speaker, all the member is doing is making a political point, which is perfectly legitimate in this House but it does not mean that he can demand that you do anything. That is totally inappropriate. Nor can he demand that the Minister give a particular answer. Nor can he ask a question where he says there is an implication, which does not necessarily follow from what the Minister said. The Minister does not have to accept the member’s word in that respect.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes. The Minister did give an explanation. He said he was referring to the survey. That is his answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As is the case with a number of Ministers—but this one would be the worst—if one follows Hansard, day in and day out, for along time now this Minister has failed to perform in the answering of questions in a parliamentary sense in any way that complies with the Standing Orders. The last question was as clear as daylight. All he had to do was confirm whether the answer was “Yes” or “No”. He entirely lost the plot, even about his own Hansard. If the Prime Minister will not take action against such a Minister, then it is a requirement of the Speaker of the House, and the House itself, to bring him under some sort of control. That is what is failing to happen in New Zealand politics, in particular as far as the Prime Minister goes. Now it is up to the Speaker to ensure the Minister does his duty and answers the question. I cannot conceive of any Western democracy where the Minister could behave as incompetently as that and get by question time and still survive.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If members went across the Tasman, they would never get away with 12 supplementary questions within the Australian House of Representatives. They are allowed one at the most. That is the nature of their Standing Orders—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for interjecting on a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has been warned. That is his only time today.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Mr Speaker, your duty is to ensure that the Standing Orders are observed and that the Minister addresses the question. You indicated that you were satisfied that that was the case. It is not up to members to then demand in some kind of bullying fashion that you change your ruling. The question that was asked by Mr Hide stated that there was some implication in what the Minister said and that he should have to apologise for it. If the Minister does not accept that there was that implication, there is no reason for him to address that part of the question.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I am ruling on the point of order, which of course I am entitled to do after having heard one person. I heard two. The Speaker does not rule on how Ministers perform. That has never been part of a Speaker’s jurisdiction and, I hope, never will be. The particular matter raised by the Rt Hon Winston Peters is what the general debate is for, when membes can have their 5 minutes, say they are not satisfied, and go from there. But it has never been part of the Speaker’s role to rule on how Ministers perform.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you then confirming for the House that the way in which Mr Hawkins has answered his questions today is completely consistent with Speaker’s ruling 145/3?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, which relates to what I think was an off-the-cuff ruling, that my colleague had raised a matter that was not a point of order. I believe that what he was asking about was what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to mislead the House, and the attempt concerned a question that related to an answer given yesterday that purported to refer to a survey. The Minister has been asked twice today to recognise, to clarify, or to clear up that that statement yesterday did not relate to anything in the survey. He refused to give the answer, and, as a parting shot, said that yesterday he had given the answer by quoting from the survey. It was a deliberate and direct misrepresentation, both of his statement yesterday and of the survey.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot allege a deliberate attempt to mislead. He knows full well that there is a way to do that, which is to write to me about it. If he wants to do so, I will read his letter.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is true. There are remedies available to members. We can write to you, and we can go through a particular process, if you see fit. So it would seem that we would probably be better to get some clearer clarification from you about what Speaker’s ruling 145/3 means. Mr Franks and others have alleged quite openly that the Minister is attempting to mislead the House. What then would you consider to be an answer to a question that meets the test of trifling with the House?

Mr SPEAKER: Just precisely what that ruling said, and I do not believe that it did.

Prisoners—Serial Offenders

4. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: Does the Annual Update of Forecasts of the Prison Population confirm that new sentencing laws and better policing have been effective against serial offenders?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes, notwithstanding a fall in current crime rates to the lowest levels in 21 years. The latest prison forecasts indicate that because of improved crime resolution rates by police, and tougher sentences by courts, the prison population will increase by 1,000, or 15 percent, over the next 5 years. The forecasts show that recidivist offenders are now more likely to be convicted, taken off the streets, and kept off the streets.

Martin Gallagher: What are the main drivers of the increasing prison population?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are five set out in the forecasts. Firstly, better-resourced police are resolving a much higher percentage of crimes, resulting in more convictions and therefore more sentences; secondly, the Sentencing Act has increased prison sentences for the worst and highest-risk offenders; thirdly, more offenders are getting preventive detention; fourthly, automatic release at two-thirds of the sentence, allowed under the last Government, has been abolished, and the Parole Board is now more likely to decline applications; and, lastly, the Bail Act is tougher, and more high-risk defendants are now being remanded in custody, after this Government’s new Bail Act was introduced.

Question No. 5 to Minister

RON MARK (NZ First): Thank you—

Government Members: Oh no!

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Over on this side of the House, you gave the House one final warning for interrupting in question time. We heard three Ministers call out after you had called Mr Ron Mark, and we are waiting for you to action your “no more warnings” ruling.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that I had not heard Mr Mark say a word. Had he done so, members would have been leaving the Chamber.

111 Emergencies—Staff Availability

5. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he satisfied with police response times, and does he stand by his statement that all staff who are on patrol are available to attend general duties call-outs?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am able to advise the member that I am satisfied with the assurances I have received from the Commissioner of Police on these matters. If the member has any information to the contrary, I am happy to give an undertaking to refer the information to the commissioner.

Ron Mark: Why, on 4 July 2004, when an emergency call was lodged regarding an abduction of a child, were three general duties police units that were already engaged and attending priority two tasks pulled from those jobs then redirected to attend that call, when there were three traffic units on duty in the vicinity?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have been advised that two of the vehicles were on the other side of the city, and that one was at Papanui. So the police made the best call they could at that time.

Russell Fairbrother: Has the Minister had a thorough investigation conducted by the Commissioner of Police into the allegations raised by Ron Mark yesterday?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yesterday I was asked whether highway patrol units were sitting on the side of the road, logged out of service, and not listening to their radios at the same time as the abduction was taking place. I can tell the member and the House that after a thorough investigation the Commissioner of Police released a media statement yesterday clearly setting out the events as they really happened. I have been advised that the member’s information was wrong when he claimed that highway patrols were sitting at the side of the road, as the police investigation shows that highway patrol units were not even rostered on duty at the time the incident took place. They were not scheduled to start work until 1 p.m—nearly an hour after the emergency calls were received.

Hon Tony Ryall: Who is right: the Commissioner of Police, who told the Law and Order Committee that the issue of response capacity to 111 calls will not be covered by the 111 review; or the Minister of Police, who issued a press release stating that it will be?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The member must realise that since the review was started many things have been added to it. I think the member will find that I am right. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister said in his answer that something had been added to the review. That appeared to me to directly address the question.

Ron Mark: How many police were deployed on traffic duties in the northern communications area on 10 October at 9 p.m., when Iraena Asher made her first 111 call, and why was one of those units not dispatched to her aid the first time the police were called that night—that being one of three telephone conversations the police had in relation to her that night?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have already said they made a terrible mistake, and the review is going ahead looking at that issue.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There you have a very good example of this Minister in action in Parliament when it comes to question time. He was asked this question yesterday as to the number of police, and he said: “The member needs to put down a specific question on that and I will give him a specific answer.” Well, he was asked the same question again 24 hours later, and he still did not answer the question as to the number of police. He mentioned a review. This is pathetic, and no Western democracy should have to put up with it, particularly when we have already had a series of points of orders today about his performance. Here he is, having had 24 hours’ notice and having been asked the same question, and there is no answer. When will you make him to do his job?

Mr SPEAKER: Well, if that were the original question, that would have been the case. No question on notice has been put down on that issue.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you saying now that that is his defence, despite his not seeking it as his defence—although it was his defence yesterday? When asked the question yesterday, he said the member would have to put a specific question down on notice. He did not seek that defence today; he just got up and said a review is under way. In short, we do not know how many police were involved in the northern region incident, which is what my colleague asked yesterday and today. That is the point made by the Opposition in this House—that we are not getting, in any way, a responsible reaction from this Minister on a matter that is part of his portfolio and his responsibilities.

Mr SPEAKER: Asking a supplementary question yesterday then a supplementary question today is not putting down a question on notice.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You can seek to put that up as some sort of defence for this Minister’s incompetence, but it will not do, because he was asked this question, and I want you to address it in respect of my point of order. He was asked how many policemen were involved at that point in time on that night—at 9 p.m., I think it was. That was the question he was asked by Ron Mark today, and he still has not answered it. He has said there has been a review, or there is a review going on, but why cannot he just give us the answer, or, better still, say: “As an incompetent Minister I’d never know and I won’t know.”?

Mr SPEAKER: No, because the Minister decided to answer the question in the way that he did. He did address the question. That was not the original question asked.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on this matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Ron Mark asked, in respect of his last supplementary question, as to how many policemen were involved in the northern region incident, yes or no. That is what he asked—how many were involved. He does not have to put it down in writing—

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry: yes or no as to how many were involved?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did he ask that question or not—that is what I am asking the House and you, Mr Speaker. Did he put that question to the Minister, yes or no? And he did. So why have we not got an answer, or some sort of indication as to when we might get an answer. But for him to respond by saying that there is a review under way, without any attempt to answer the question, is what this Minister is getting away with day in, day out. I say that if he was not getting this kind of assistance from the Chair, he would have been gone a long time ago.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. I do not give anyone assistance from the Chair. I think I am pretty fair in that regard. And I give a lot of protection to the member. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that remark.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, it had better not be contesting that point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, this Minister has today been the subject of a series of points of order. He survived that—I do not know how. Then he comes to the critical point that relates to a person whom we have never heard of since that person made three phone calls one night. The least this Minister could do is apprise himself of the facts, particularly when he has had 24 hours’ notice. Even if he fails to do that, he should at least tell the House that he will find the information, or do something to answer the member’s question. But he has done no such thing. The Hansard will show that he refers to a review. We know that that review has been going on for months. How is that answer helpful to Parliament in question time?

Mr SPEAKER: All I can do is to repeat what I said before. I make this point again. I have taken advice on this matter, and the question that is down on notice is not that particular question.

Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that the Government’s policy of ring fencing police traffic patrols is the reason that the first available police car was not sent to either the abduction case, which happened in Christchurch in July 2004, or the Iraena Asher case, which happened 3 months later, in October 2004—a young lady whom this nation has never heard of since?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just in regard to the answers that Mr Hawkins has given to successive questions today, can you confirm that Speaker’s ruling 145/1 would apply, and probably with disastrous consequences for the Minister?

Mr SPEAKER: No, because for the last question, for example, the Minister gave an absolute answer by saying “No”, then sat down.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Speaker’s ruling does not actually require you to do anything. It states that you do not arbitrate but, rather, the public does. I am just interested to know whether you personally thought that the public opinion on Mr Hawkins’ performance would be disastrous.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is hypothetical.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking this question to get your considered opinion, because it may prevent the situation that members on the Opposition benches have where we tend to lose very valuable supplementary—

Mr SPEAKER: Is the member making a point of order?

Ron Mark: The point of order is this. I want to be sure that I understand your ruling correctly. If a member asks a Minister a question in this House about a very high-profile public case that has resulted in a national inquiry for which he has brought in overseas experts, the question is recorded in Hansard, if the Minister’s answer is to ask him tomorrow in writing and he would answer it, and if the member then asks the question the next day and still does not get an answer from that Minister, are you ruling that that practice is acceptable in 2005 in a democratic country?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member is beginning to trifle with the Chair. You have ruled on this matter now I think some seven times by my count. If the member cannot, by this stage of his parliamentary career, learn the difference between a question given on notice and a question asked as a supplementary question, it is time he gave up asking both.

Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker does not judge a Minister’s performance; other members do. Neither the Speaker nor a member can tell a Minister how to answer a question. It is up to the Minister as long as he or she is relevant.

Light Armoured Vehicles—Cabinet Oversight

6. JOHN CARTER (National—Northland) to the Minister of Defence: Does he stand by his statement that the “current Cabinet is much more involved in the process” with reference to Cabinet oversight of major defence acquisitions; if so, why does the Auditor-General’s report state that he saw no evidence that Cabinet was advised of a change in the operational use of the light armoured vehicles?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): Yes, that is what the defence long-term development plan process provides for. As for the member’s second question, Cabinet originally required that the Army “should have the ability to deploy and sustain a motorised light infantry battalion group”, expecting the capacity to sustain a between 600 and 900-person commitment for a year, and/or a 900 to 1,200-sized battalion for 6 months. That has not changed. I would note that the Auditor-General also states: “We have no reason to doubt that the Army’s distribution plan is appropriate.”

John Carter: Will the Minister acknowledge that the original operation plan for the light armoured vehicles, as outlined in August 2000, is different from the current intended operational use, and can he explain why he thought that that major operational change, with all the implications outlined in the report, did not need to go to Cabinet?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I have just indicated to the member, the key issue here is whether the policy and the Government’s requirement changed, and the answer is no, they did not. The operational implementation of that policy is properly a matter for professional defence personnel. That is what is happening.

Jill Pettis: Could the Minister outline to the House any other recommendations the Auditor-General may have made?

Hon MARK BURTON: The Auditor-General made some nine recommendations in total, relating to a range of areas, including personnel, life cycle costing, the capability management framework, independent review, and logistics support. It is pleasing to note that the report’s recommendations have either been implemented through the process under the capability management framework, or specific actions are under way regarding the introduction into service of the light armoured vehicles.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is not the real problem here contained in the statement in the original question that the “current Cabinet is much more involved in the process”, when in fact a better way to proceed would be for the New Zealand Defence Force to be able to make its capital purchases based on its assessment of its needs within approved budget parameters by the Government, rather than Cabinet making those decisions?

Hon MARK BURTON: I think the balance we have now struck is the best of both those worlds. It is through the defence long-term development plan, which involves the proper involvement of the three defence services in a collaborative way, but with appropriate Cabinet oversight at each of the milestones of each project.

Ron Mark: Is it is not a fact that this Government received advice from New Zealand First in August 2000, and subsequent advice in about August 2003, that the Government should not make that purchase, that the Government also received advice from the then Chief of Defence Force, Carey Adamson, and the current Secretary of Defence not to purchase 105, but 50, vehicles, and that if the Government—it is in the Cabinet paper—sought to buy the full 105 light armoured vehicles, it should buy them in two tranches of 50; is not the real problem the fact that the Minister chose to ignore all that quality advice, and to listen to Major General Dodson in his office—to make a quite separate decision altogether?

Hon MARK BURTON: That is a very multifaceted question. But in summary, I had a range of advice. The advice that is frequently referred to from the Secretary of Defence is incorrect. But in the end on the range of options that were put up, the Treasury advice was that if 105 light armoured vehicles were to be purchased—[Interruption] yes, as one of the options—then they were better to be purchased in one tranche. That was by far the most fiscally responsible way of proceeding.

John Carter: Is one of the points of difference between the Minister and the Auditor-General, as acknowledged this morning on National Radio, the fact that the Auditor-General believes that it “is important that Cabinet is informed of changes in regard to major capital purchase that are made subsequent to Cabinet giving approval in principle for that purchase.”; if so, does that mean that he did not think he needed to tell Cabinet about the changes in operational use of the 105 light armoured vehicles that cost $677 million?

Hon MARK BURTON: The member is certainly not understanding the situation clearly. There is no difference between the Auditor-General and me in terms of the belief that should there be a major change to a capital acquisition, of course that goes to Cabinet, as it does through the long-term development plan. However, if as I indicated to the member in the principal answer, the operational requirement is to be met and Cabinet’s policy requirement is to be met, it is properly the business of the defence professionals to manage those resources to appropriately meet the Government’s policy requirements.

John Carter: Does the Minister acknowledge that he cannot blame that report on anyone else but himself, and that as a consequence we have a shambles that he should accept responsibility for—that he should just resign?

Hon MARK BURTON: I did not author the report, so I cannot take responsibility for the content of it. I say to the member that, as I said in my official response to it, I think that, all in all, most of the report is helpful. A number of very useful recommendations were made. In one respect the Auditor-General’s staff and I simply disagree. I note that the country’s most senior military and defence advisers also disagree with that part of the Auditor-General’s staff’s report.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister remember the former Chief of Defence Force, Carey Adamson, advising him in 2000 that only 50 LAVIII’s should be bought, not 105; and can he confirm that if he had followed the Chief of Defence Force’s advice the unspent money would have been sufficient to buy and bring into service two brand new C130J Hercules aircraft, thereby avoiding the embarrassment of the breakdowns and, more particularly, being able to get lifesaving humanitarian aid to the tsunami victims much more quickly?

Hon MARK BURTON: I cannot confirm all of that, no.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table two documents. One shows that under this Minister there was a blowout of over half a billion dollars on that purchase, and the second one demonstrates that for every trained LAVIII crew member, there are two LAVIIIs.

Leave granted.

Hon MARK BURTON: I seek leave to table a document that shows that for each of the LAVIIIs, there are almost three trained crew members.

Leave granted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table evidence that although three trained crew members are required for each LAVIII there are only 45 who are trained, and that there are over 100 vehicles, so that makes more than two vehicles for each trained member.

Leave granted.

Families—Health Policies

7. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Health: Is she satisfied that current Government policies are adequate for ensuring the health and well-being of New Zealand’s children and their families; if so, why?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes, the Government’s health policies are all focused on improving the health and well-being of New Zealand children and their families. Some of those are: the current meningococcal vaccine strategy; the primary health care strategy, aimed at improving access for families to primary health care services; and the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action programme, aimed at improving nutrition and physical activity. That is to name but a few.

Judy Turner: Has the Minister received any reports indicating that our school dental service is in a state of crisis, with severe shortages of dental therapists and outdated facilities that do not meet health and safety standards, and can she confirm whether reports that 1,149 Bay of Plenty children missed their school dental check-ups last year due to a lack of available resources are accurate; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I cannot comment on the accuracy of the figures, but I believe the member. The Minister of Health is not satisfied with the current provision of school dental services. She is working with Ministry of Health officials to enhance those services for children. The Government is also committed to improving water supplies for communities around this country, and has a subsidy to help them fluoridate their water.

Steve Chadwick: What is this Government doing to protect New Zealand children against the outbreak of meningitis that is infecting them?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the member not know?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: For Mr Smith’s benefit, I tell him that the Government is spending a total of $200 million to immunise a million New Zealand infants, toddlers, schoolchildren, and youth under the age of 20 against the meningococcal B disease. The programme is now under way in all district health boards north of Taupô, and so far almost half a million doses of vaccine have been administered to more than 185,000 children in those areas. The programme will have started throughout the entire country by the beginning of July.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware that in the last 20 months 763 children have been admitted to Waikato Hospital with bronchiolitis—a viral disease often associated with poverty and overcrowding; and does she consider that those Third World child health statistics are acceptable in a developed country?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, we do not consider they are acceptable in this country. That is why this Government has taken a holistic approach, ensuring that we have proper housing policies in place—something the previous Government thought unnecessary—and that is why we have increased funding to district health boards, to help treat these problems. We are taking a holistic approach to children’s health care in this country, and we are trying to mop up after a disastrous National Government.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister concerned that much of the food targeted at children is so high in fat, sugar, and salt that it contributes to childhood obesity and ill health, as well as to poor dental health, and will she therefore support moves to prohibit the advertising of unhealthy food to children; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We do appreciate the growing problems around obesity. That is why we have put in place the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action programme. That is why an accord has been reached with food producers to, over time, reduce the levels of sugar and fat in the foods consumed on a regular basis by children in this country.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether the Minister would support moves to prohibit the advertising of unhealthy food to children. I wonder whether the Associate Minister could address that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The question of advertising was mentioned. The Minister might care to comment briefly.

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: At this point in time we see no need to ban such advertising, but we will work with those food producers to ensure that children do eat the healthiest food possible.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware that 40 percent of children who participated in a 2-year trial at Wanganui’s Castlecliff School needed glasses, despite the fact that they had passed the Government-funded vision screening test, and that a further 23 percent needed rechecking in a year, and, if she is, will she take personal responsibility for the undetected eyesight problems of thousands of schoolchildren around the country, given her refusal to act to ensure that the programme is properly evaluated and reviewed; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I know that the Minister is very skilful but I am not sure of her skills in ophthalmology, so I doubt whether she could personally take responsibility. However, funding of primary health organisations0 and primary health care initiatives will enable us to test such children early on and to put in place the remedies necessary to help them.

Judy Turner: Has the Minister received any reports as to what effects, if any, the recent policy suggestion to adopt out children of domestic purposes benefit recipients could have on the health and well-being of the affected children and their families?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We have seen reports like that. But, unlike the leader of the National Party, Dr Brash, this Government has no policy to force the adopting out of children of domestic purposes benefit recipients, and I believe we are strongly supported in that view by Katherine Rich.

Education—Public Confidence

8. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Does he believe that the New Zealand education system has the confidence of the public; if not, will he be making changes to either personnel or policy to ensure public confidence is restored?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Generally, yes.

Hon Brian Donnelly: How can the public have any confidence in a scholarship examination system in which scholarship results cannot be prepared due to a lack of commonality of standards across subjects; and why has the Government not moved to introduce scaling to those examinations to allow meaningful comparisons to be made?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there are a number of questions in there, and a number of important points. I, too, was surprised when I learned that there was not cross-subject comparability—as there had been for levels 1, 2, and 3. I think the member is aware that on a standard-based approach there cannot be scaling. But I think the other particularly interesting point that flows from this is that these standards have been set and accepted by teachers as being at the same level as university stage I papers, and what we obviously have is a wide range.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What steps are being taken to improve the quality of information about our education system that is available to the public?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is an enormous amount, including the development of asTTle and its promotion to parents, and the much more public availability of Education Review Office reports. Both are for schools and for a number of topics including choosing schools and early childhood centres. There will be a campaign, but not until after the election, led by the new education ambassador.

Hon Bill English: When will that Minister take responsibility for the reckless decision to proceed with the scholarship examination when he was told time and time again that it would not work; and when will he stop hiding behind his bumbling associate, who has been left to clean up the mess?

Mr SPEAKER: That comment about another Minister will be withdrawn. The first part of the question was perfectly in order, but a reflection like that on a member would be immediately the subject of a point of order from people on this side of the House. That word will be withdrawn.

Hon Bill English: I withdraw.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that the decision to go ahead with that scholarship examination was taken in 1998.

Economy—Capital Markets

9. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any reports about the strength of New Zealand capital markets?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes. According to the World Federation of Exchanges, the New Zealand Stock Exchange recorded the second-highest percentage increase in new listings last year. That, of course, is in addition to the substantial growth in the New Zealand Stock Exchange index during that year.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What does the high level of new listings indicate about the New Zealand economy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It reflects the very welcome strengthening and deepening of capital markets in New Zealand over the last few years. Major contributors to that include the strength of the economy, the build-up of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, and the strong leadership of the New Zealand Stock Exchange itself.

John Key: Did the Minister read the report Economic Indicators 2005 before he put out his press statement praising it last week; if he did, why is he supporting a report that on page 51 said: “The development of the New Zealand stock market appears to have lagged somewhat.”—a statement that seems at odds with what he has just told the House?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the report—if I can also wave it back at the member—is somewhat out of date in that particular—

John Key: You put it out last week.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He has the same elastic problem as Mr Smith.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot refer to me like that. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

John Key: I withdraw.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do think members of the Opposition should stop using Soviet-era underwear. It appears to be affecting them.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not in order, either. I ask the Minister to withdraw that.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw that underwear and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw and apologise. The weakness in New Zealand’s capital markets has been a feature since—

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is my understanding that when a member is asked to withdraw and apologise, no accompanying comment is to be made.

Mr SPEAKER: That is why I asked him to do it again, and he did.

Simon Power: I did not hear it.

Mr SPEAKER: I did, and the member will be seated.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The weakness in New Zealand’s capital markets since the crash of 1987 has been a great feature of this economy. The recent growth has been very recent, and is due, as I said, in large part to the emergence of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, to the strength of the economy, but also—and it is not a matter of Government responsibility—to the strength of the leadership of the New Zealand Stock Exchange itself over recent times.

Question No. 8 to Minister

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It relates to question No. 8 and a comment you made. You pulled up Mr Bill English because he had made an inappropriate reference to a Minister, and I accept that, but what I cannot accept is what you said in the context of it. You said that such a statement would be immediately followed by a point of order from “this side of the House.” It seems to me that there are two things about that. One is that you cannot judge whether a member will raise a point of order, at all, and the second is you certainly cannot refer to yourself as “this side of the House”. You do not sit on any side of the House; you sit firmly in the middle.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes. I apologise.

Traffic Infringement Notices—Fines

10. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Police: How many traffic offence and infringement notices were issued in 2004 compared with 2000, and what was the total value of the fines imposed?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that in 2000 the police issued 559,935 traffic offence notices, incurring fines of $31.9 million. In 2004 the number issued was 1,072,539, incurring $59.9 million worth of fines.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question specifically asked the value of the notices issued.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought I heard the monetary sums mentioned in each instance.

Hon Ken Shirley: I thought he gave the numbers but not the value.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I heard—

Hon Ken Shirley: I had trouble hearing. Could I ask that he repeat it, please.

Mr SPEAKER: The member had trouble hearing? I heard it. However, since it is members’ day, I will ask the Minister to repeat the answer.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am advised that in 2000 the police issued 559,935 traffic offence notices, incurring fines of $31.9 million. In 2004 there were 1,072,539 notices issued, incurring $59.9 million in fines.

Hon Ken Shirley: Why has the Minister steadfastly refused to reveal the value of revenue represented by these traffic infringement notices in response to successive questions in this House, yet today, magically, he has the numbers?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Today I have provided the answers on exactly what it is. The member might be so helpful as to advise which previous questions he is referring to.

Hon Mark Gosche: What information has he received in relation to results achieved as a result of the police enforcement action and other road safety measures?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am advised that the road toll in 2002 was the lowest in 40 years, and that last year’s was the second lowest. Drivers’ speeds have reduced by 4 kilometres per hour on the open road; and every kilometre reduced saves lives. Hospitalisations have reduced by 18 percent since 1999, and all this has been achieved in the face of an increased population and of increased vehicles on our roads. This is good news.

Hon Ken Shirley: Given the level of revenue the Government is gouging from New Zealand motorists, does the Minister consider that the level of activity applied to traffic enforcement is appropriate, relevant to serious crime, particularly bashings, rapes, and murders?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I believe there is sufficient money to save lives on our roads. I just point out to the member that on 3 January this year the New Zealand Herald stated that most people support the use of police cameras—concealed or otherwise—to nab speeding drivers. A Herald-DigiPoll surveyed 1,000 people aged 18 or over, and found that 72.7 percent thought it was fair to use cameras to crack down on speed. In other words, most people want our roads safer.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister believe that New Zealand women want the police and this Government to put more and more resources into traffic enforcement or more and more resources into dealing with serious, violent crime?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: They want both.

Australia—Migration to New Zealand

11. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Immigration: What recent reports has he received about migration from Australia to New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): I have received a report stating that in the 12 months to September, 9,000 New Zealanders returned home from Australia and 5,400 Australians made the move to New Zealand. The message to Kiwis living overseas is that now is a good time to come home.

Dianne Yates: What are some of the likely reasons for this trend?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: New Zealand is booming. We have one of the highest growth rates in the OECD, unemployment is at its lowest in two decades and there are lots of job opportunities as a result. As the Prime Minister indicated in her speech to the nation, many New Zealanders currently offshore have skills this country needs. The Government is doing further work on encouraging even more Kiwis to return home, and I will be saying more about this in a month or so.

New Zealand Post—Market Research by Postal Workers

12. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Does he support New Zealand Post’s decision to use posties to gather information on residents and then sell it to businesses; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): No. I am advised by New Zealand Post that the project the member is referring to was a 5-day trial, and given the public feedback it does not intend to continue with the project.

Gerry Brownlee: Did he have any discussions with the board of New Zealand Post or receive any information from it on its trial scheme to spy on residents, using its posties to gather information to offer for sale to other businesses; if so, did he agree that the trial should go ahead?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No.

Gerry Brownlee: Can he confirm that this has not been within the Government’s requirement of State-owned enterprises to have “no surprises” in their operations, and does he think this sort of activity from a State-owned enterprise will enhance the reputation of the Labour Government of already being far too intrusive into the lives of ordinary New Zealanders?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As the member knows, New Zealand Post board management makes operational decisions like this on a daily basis. The reality is that it had a trial, it got public feedback, and it has canned the project. I hope the member supports that.

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

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