Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 16 Feb. 2005
Wednesday, 16 February 2005
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
Certificate of Educational Achievement—Problem
2. Student Allowances—Parental Income
3. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination
4. Kyoto Protocol—Australia’s Non-ratification
5. Economy—Government Initiatives
6. 111 System—Police Resources
7. Labour Market—Youth
8. Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Funding
9. Security—Money-laundering and Financing of Terrorism
10. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Levels 1 to 3, 2004
11. Police—Auckland Staffing
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Problem Notification
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: What are the details, if any, she first received, including the date and from whom, regarding the problems with NCEA, and what directions did she give at that time?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I have not had advice about NCEA, but in respect of scholarship I was first alerted by the Minister of Education to concerns about the overall pass rates for scholarship on the weekend of 15 and 16 January. I was first alerted to the likelihood of the variability of results across subjects, on the evening of 25 January by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with further information arriving the following evening.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Prime Minister have such a huge amount of time between 15 and 16 January and the later date she gave, when, in fact, by the 17th, via an email to the Minister’s office, the issue of the subject results with the huge variability was before the Minister of Education?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority did indeed send an email to the Minister’s and Associate Minister’s offices on 17 January. I am absolutely satisfied, from the investigation I have made, that the Minister of Education and the Associate Minister did not have their attention drawn to that email until late on 25 January.
Deborah Coddington: Would the Prime Minister care to reconsider her answers, when any rational person would have seen problems with NCEA 7 years ago, when it was first put up by the National Party and opposed by the ACT party?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think it is important not to confuse NCEA with scholarship. We are dealing with quite different issues here.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm her statement to the House just now that the Minister of Education advised her about pass rates in scholarship on the weekend of 15 and 16 January; and how does she square that with the statement she has just made that on 17 January an email to the Minister’s office from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority contained no alert that there were problems?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I was alerted to by the Minister was that the overall number of passes in scholarship was fewer than had been expected. What I advised the House just now was that on 17 January the New Zealand Qualifications Authority emailed staff in the Minister’s office. The Minister did not have that drawn to his attention until late on the 25th.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Did anyone—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: That is the one warning I am giving today. The member had already started his question.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Did anyone inform the Prime Minister—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take some exception to your lecturing of this side of the House in that fashion. There was no interjection on the speaker. There may have been some conversation between two bench colleagues, but that is not unreasonable. The fact is that the Prime Minister’s answers so far are laughable, and were laughed at.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member is now trifling with me and the Chair. I tell him that he will not do that again today. I heard the interjection, as did a lot of other members. The member himself knows who made it. I am not going to identify him, but he knows who it was.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I, too, heard the comment, but I take exception to the fact that there was a suggestion it was an interjection. It was a comment made by a member, not an interjection. I take exception to the fact that you are suggesting it was. It was not an interjection on the Prime Minister, who had just resumed her seat.
Mr SPEAKER: It was an interjection, after the member had started his question.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Did anyone inform the Prime Minister during the period in question that it was not necessary to have students’ scripts returned in order to moderate the scholarship marks statistically; and is it not true that such a recommendation was rejected because it would have meant taking scholarships off some students who had already been awarded them?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have not dealt with the issue in that detail. My first thought when I was given the figures, as to the range of passes subject by subject, was whether the papers should be called back in, re-marked, and moderated. I was told that that could not be done, because they had already gone out to the students.
Hon Bill English: Why is the Government blaming the New Zealand Qualifications Authority for not alerting the Minister to problems with scholarship on 17 January, when she has just told the House that the Minister of Education advised her on the weekend of 15 and 16 January—the day before the Qualifications Authority is meant to have let the Minister down?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There are two points at issue. The first is the overall low rate in scholarship, which the Minister alerted me to, as I have said, on 15 and 16 January, because he wished to bring a paper to Cabinet about that. The other issue is the variability of results across subjects, which both he and I—[Interruption] No, I am sorry but members have obviously studied it very little if they think it is the same thing—became aware of on 25 January.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would the Prime Minister’s Minister of Education—having been given the provisional picture from the provisional results on 14 January and having alerted her on 15 or 16 January, as she said—take all the way to 25 January to understand just how serious the issue was?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Minister was advised that there were fewer scholarships awarded overall than were expected. That is why he asked to bring a paper to Cabinet.
Student Allowances—Parental Income
2. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Minister of Education: Is he satisfied that it is fair to base eligibility for student allowances for students under 25 on their parents’ income, even if the students are married or have been supporting themselves for two years; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes. The changes to student allowances apply the parental income test in a manner consistent for all students who do not have dependent children.
Bernie Ogilvy: How can the Government claim that it has removed one form of discrimination, on the basis of employment status, by treating students who have supported themselves financially as if they are now dependent on their parents, when the biggest form of discrimination, on the basis of employment status, still remains—students under 25 are deemed to be financially dependent on their parents, but young people on the dole are not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are a number of issues that sit in there. To do an equalisation, I am advised, would cost about $3.5 billion over 4 years, and that is not this Government’s priority.
Lynne Pillay: How many students have benefited from the changes to student allowance eligibility?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am advised that an estimated 36,000 students will benefit from the changes to student allowances announced in the 2004 Budget. Over half of all full-time students can now receive an allowance.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not correct that the requirements of the human rights legislation, which were the excuse for these changes in policy, could have just as readily been met by simply establishing a universal allowance; if so, why did the Government not take that course of action—or has the Minister already answered that question?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think I have answered that particular question when responding to Mr Ogilvy. To have a universal allowance at about the level of the unemployment benefit would cost $3.5 billion over 4 years, and that is not the highest priority for this Government at this time.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, had been lecturing at Auckland University for 2 years before her 25th birthday, and is he saying that he believes she was a child dependent on her parents during that time?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I know the Prime Minister’s parents are wonderful and generous people, but I should say that at that stage she probably was not heavily reliant on them.
Bernie Ogilvy: How can the Government justify treating married students as if they are financially dependent on their parents, when Cabinet papers prepared by the Minister’s own officials point out: “There is a cultural and legal assumption that on marriage, a person’s primary emotional and financial dependence transfers from one’s parents to one’s spouse.”; and that this is reflected in other laws that remove guardianship rights and responsibilities upon marriage?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have not seen that bit of advice but I can inform the member that my experience is that children tend to be dependent on their parents before, during, and after their marriage.
Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister confirm that although the cost of broadening student allowance thresholds is $157 million over 3 years, by forcing married students, and those who have supported themselves, to have their allowance based on their parents’ income, the Government is actually saving $82 million over those 3 years, which means that the net increase in spending on allowances is more like $75 million—less than the amount the Government is cutting from the scheme; and is that not akin to tertiary highway robbery?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I cannot confirm the figures, and no.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Did he make the decision that the New Zealand Scholarship Award would be implemented in 2004 in the form it finally took; if so, what form did that decision take?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The decision that that scholarship would be standards based and that there would be no intersubject scaling was a Cabinet decision. It was made by that member and his colleagues in 1998. As the member is aware, I deferred the implementation by 1 year soon after coming into Government.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he announced a change in policy when he issued a press release on 26 January 26 2005, and that that press release included a statement: “As this is the first time the new Scholarship system has been run, there is particular interest in the pattern of results and achievement of students.”; how much did he know about the scholarship results when he issued that press release?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I knew that there were eight who had three outstanding scholarships, when the expectation we had taken to Cabinet and had published was that there should have been 50. I thought it was unfair that, as a result of the scholarship exam being harder than we thought it was going to be, four people got outstanding passes and other kids who had done really well missed out on the money that had been allocated. I therefore moved, with Cabinet permission, to a Cabinet decision in order to get that money allocated to kids. If Opposition members think that kids who did really well at really hard exams should not get the money, they should stand up and say so now.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister explain why the Associate Minister told the House yesterday that the level 4 National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualification was created as a standards-based assessment system by the October 1998 Cabinet paper when the paper does not do anything like that at all, and what were the contents of the subsequent Cabinet papers on scholarship that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority chief executive officer referred to today at the select committee?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The subsequent papers went to the question of reward and, I think, probably timing, rather than to the substance of the qualification. The decision in 1998 stated, as part of the paper, in paragraph 29: “There will be no intersubject scaling of the external assessment. This has been a source of dissatisfaction because of the distortions that have occurred between raw and final marks.” I have been advised that as recently as 2003 we had science subjects where no one passed before scaling.
Deborah Coddington: How does he feel about his decision to implement scholarship, in light of Nobel Prize - winner Alan MacDiarmid’s comment last weekend that: “NCEA scholarship is a disaster for New Zealand science.”, adding: “It’s done a great disservice to the country because New Zealand needs, for its national security in the future, to encourage science education, and this is going to put kids off”; or does the Minister know better than a Nobel laureate?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Professor MacDiarmid and I have had some pretty intense discussions, not on this subject but on the subject of Waiwhetu School. He is an expert in an area of science. He admits, I am sure, that he is not an educational expert.
Hon Bill English: Is it not true that when the Minister issued his press release on 26 January he knew about all the problems with scholarship results because he was emailed the results on 14 January, he advised the Prime Minister about problems on 15 or 16 January, he was emailed again on 17 January, and on 18 January his most senior officials started meetings on the issue, yet he issued a press release on 26 January that made no reference to the variability in results, which the Cabinet later decided was so bad it had to step in; and why did he cover that up?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: At no stage did I cover it up. I want to make it clear that on the evening of the Cabinet meeting that made the decisions as to the extension, I was briefed and I received a piece of paper. The next day I discovered for the first time that unlike NCEA levels 1, 2, and 3, the scholarship standards had not been subject to intersubject moderation. That was something I discovered then. That, of course, was a result of that member’s decision.
Hon Bill English: How can the Minister possibly expect the House or the public to believe that over a period of 2 weeks between 14 January and 26 January he had no knowledge of pass rates in scholarship, when the analysis is as simple as one table with four columns on one page; and how can he expect us to believe that Cabinet made a decision to extend scholarship without paying attention to that analysis of the scholarship results, which can be done in 5 minutes?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because it is the truth.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What did the Minister take from the NCEA results from 2002 and 2003, which showed that 5,000 maths students were graded “excellent” in level 2 in 2002 but that that dropped drastically to 70—down from 5,000—in level 3 in 2003, when the cohort had not changed; and why did he and his colleagues ignore that varying and disturbing statistic?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Off the top of my head, I do not have the results for 2002 and 2003 and the analysis of those that was done at the time. If the member puts a question on that in writing, I am quite willing to answer it.
Hon Bill English: If the Minister only knew about the number of students who had passed scholarship, then why did he know enough detail to be able to make this statement in his press release of 26 January: “Provisional results indicate that some students did exceptionally well in Scholarship, but didn’t necessarily sit three subjects.”, when finding that out would have required detailed knowledge of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s analysis, because it is nowhere available in the public arena?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Very, very simply, it is because eight people had passed three subjects with “outstanding” when we expected 50 to do so.
Hon Bill English: But you don’t know which ones.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I do not. I now know which schools they were from; I still do not know the subjects those eight people passed.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I seek leave to table a paper by Warwick Elley, Facts and Fallacies about Standards-based Assessment, which includes the statistics the Rt Hon Winston Peters just talked about.
Kyoto Protocol—Australia’s Non-ratification
4. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Will she be raising Australia’s ongoing refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol with Australian Prime Minister John Howard during his forthcoming visit to New Zealand; if so, what exact message will she be conveying?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No. The positions of our respective Governments on this issue are well known.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Prime Minister aware that Australia’s Kyoto Protocol target is the slackest in the OECD and allows a 7 percent increase in net emissions; if so, how does she expect to strengthen Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations in the future, if Australia will not accept even those international obligations?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: To the best of my knowledge, the Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement does not cover the Kyoto Protocol targets. What the Australian Government does in that respect is entirely up to it.
Larry Baldock: Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that both Australia and the US are making significant progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, despite not having signed up to the Kyoto Protocol; if so, does she accept that it is just as effective to have an internal carbon-trading regime, rather than being tied to a bureaucratic and uncertain international one like the Kyoto Protocol that does not yet involve the developing world?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not responsible for the policies of those Governments, but I would say that New Zealand, as a very strong supporter of multilateralism across the board, likes to be moving with the broad mainstream of international opinion.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Prime Minister be pointing out to Prime Minister John Howard that some New Zealand businesses expect to gain a competitive advantage from the Kyoto Protocol, as reported in today’s Dominion Post, or will she allow that advantage to be undercut by Australian businesses that are not playing the game?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would think that businesses in the United States and in Australia will be looking very carefully at how they might be disadvantaged by not being part of the international trading system that comes out of the Kyoto Protocol.
Larry Baldock: Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement made by the Hon Pete Hodgson yesterday in the House: “Cars and cows are where our greenhouse gases largely come from …”; if so, what plans does her Government have to phase out inefficient, polluting vehicles—ironically, many of which have “GE Free” or “Save the Planet” stickers on them—and replace them with new, technologically advanced, more environmentally friendly vehicles that offer greater hope of reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions than all the Greens’ policies combined?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: One is tempted to quip that it might be easier to phase out inefficient, polluting cars than inefficient, polluting cows. However, having resisted that temptation, I will say that of course the Government in its overall policy is addressing the issue of emissions from cars, but the reality is, with regard to electricity generation, that only 8-9 percent of our greenhouse gases come from there.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Prime Minister remind Mr Howard that commitments from China, India, and other developing countries are dependent on the OECD taking action first, and that the refusal of Australia and the US to ratify might give developing countries an excuse to remain outside the Kyoto Protocol for even longer?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Again, I am not responsible for what excuses others might use for not coming into an international trading system. What I am satisfied of is that New Zealand has done the right thing in agreeing to be part of this very important multilateral initiative.
5. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Economic Development: Has he received any recent reports on Government initiatives which will contribute to lifting economic growth?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): Surprisingly, yes. Just yesterday I co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Food and Beverage Sector Taskforce, which covers the most significant sector in our economy. It contributed over $14,000 million of export earnings last year. The task force will develop strategies to increase the value of our food and beverage sector, identify obstacles to growth, and ultimately take action to boost growth in the sector. As with other sector initiatives, we are working in partnership with that key sector of the New Zealand economy.
Hon Matt Robson: What specific outcomes does the Government expect from the work of the Food and Beverage Sector Taskforce?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The task force will establish a strategic plan for the development of the food and beverage sector, and will work towards the implementation of policies that will improve sector growth. It will coordinate links and networks between the Government and business to further that goal. Specifically, among a wide range of objectives, it will develop industry knowledge and capacity, broaden product range, expand market penetration and market share, and increase skills and capabilities in the sector.
Russell Fairbrother: Why has the food and beverage sector been chosen for additional economic development work?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: We have targeted the food and beverage sector because almost two-thirds of our export earnings are from primary production. Building on that area of competitive advantage is an obvious place to start in order to boost the living standards of all New Zealanders.
111 System—Police Resources
6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: Has he taken any action to increase police resources dealing with 111 calls, since his press release endorsing the commissioner’s review of the system in October; if so, what?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I have advised the Commissioner of Police and this House that if the independent review of communication centres discloses a need for additional resources to be allocated to the centres, then those resources will be provided. I also support the commissioner’s directive that all staff be fully aware that with priority one calls the nearest staff member should respond.
Hon Tony Ryall: How does the Minister explain these two contradictory statements made by him yesterday: “If the commissioner needs more resources, we will make sure that he gets them.” and “The police always ask for more than they are going to get.”?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Easily. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is an answer to the question. [Interruption] Order! The member knows that he cannot interject. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Roger Sowry: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Obviously, the rule is different this week from last week. Last week, on an interjection, you ruled that the member had not started speaking, so it was OK to have an interjection. This week the member had not started speaking, but the rule is different. All I seek is clarification. Can we just have the same rule for a couple of weeks in a row?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, well, I made a mistake.
Hon Tony Ryall: As the Minister can explain these contradictory statements so easily, would he do so now?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is obvious that when we do budget rounds, the police come with a big shopping basket. However, the police have the resources they need, and the commissioner can shift resources around if he needs to. [Interruption]
Ron Mark: Why has the Minister publicly stated, and reinforced just now, that it is up to the commissioner how extra resources for police are used, when in a 2002 report from the commissioner to the Minister, on Auckland policing issues, the commissioner stated: “… staff funded from Government initiatives have been ring-fenced for specific areas. … the task-specific nature of these allocations has been eroding the flexibility historically available to me and to District Commanders to distribute resources across emerging problem areas in a timely or responsive manner.”; explain that?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Obviously, the commissioner was always looking for more resources. But I can tell the House that since we became the Government we have provided over 1,000 extra staff. In Auckland, we have provided 370 extra staff in that time. Of course, some of those things are ring-fenced; with others there is flexibility.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Consistently in this House we have trouble getting, first, answers to written questions to this Minister on time—
Mr SPEAKER: Please come to the point of order about this matter.
Ron Mark: The point of order is that I specifically asked about the ring-fencing of police resources, and the commissioner’s own statement to the Minister that that was impeding the police’s ability to utilise them. The Minister did not address the area of Government ring-fencing, at all.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister started out by not doing that, but in the last part of his answer he most certainly did.
Stephen Franks: Why did the Minister fail in the last Budget to get the extra $8 million, at most, needed for the extra 111 operators, to fix that service for all New Zealanders, when Mr Maharey managed to get from his Cabinet colleagues $239 million to pour all over Te Wânanga o Aotearoa, which is 29 times what the police needed, and what does he now feel about Labour’s priorities?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The commissioner was asking for 22 additional staff there. He got 18, but, of course, he does have the power to shift more there if he needs to.
Hon Tony Ryall: If, as the Minister has told the House today, the police have all the resources they need, how does he explain the circumstances of Iraena Asher, the Bentley family, the young woman in the Waikato, and the lack of public confidence in the 111 system?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have had nearly 1,000 extra staff since we became the Government. National was going to take 540 away. But this matter is subject to the review, and I want to wait for the outcome of that review, and that is what is happening.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now come to the question actually asked. Please re-ask it.
Hon Tony Ryall: If, as the Minister has told the country today, the police have all the resources they need, how does he explain the never-ending series of calamities with the 111 system, and the public’s lack of confidence in it?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police—as does every other department—go through budget rounds. They are annual. They will ask for more money, I am sure. But I am prepared to wait for the outcome of the review, which is exactly what should happen.
Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister did address that question.
7. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What reports has he received on young people and the labour market?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Youth Affairs): Data from the household labour force survey released last Friday shows that the annual average unemployment rate for 15 to 24-year-olds in 2004 had fallen to 9.4 percent, which is the lowest rate since 1988, and 10 percentage points below the all-time high reached in 1992.
The number of young New Zealanders in employment has grown by 44,000 since this Labour-Progressive Government was elected. The number of young people on the unemployment benefit dropped by an astonishing 62 percent between 1999 and 2004.
Georgina Beyer: What have been the Government’s key initiatives for getting the youth unemployment rate down?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has invested in a range of programmes to create greater opportunities for young New Zealanders. These include: creating more than 7,000 Modern Apprenticeships; the Gateway programme, which addresses the needs of senior secondary school students; expanding careers advice; the huge expansion in industry training; and Work and Income placing special emphasis on placing young people into jobs. The results are quite astounding, and that is why we will carry on investing in that very important area of policy.
Craig McNair: What will the Minister do about the OECD report of January 2005, which indicates that New Zealanders are now categorised as low, middle-income earners, along with two former Communist countries; and a report that average student debt has increased from $11,664 in 1999 to $14,242 in 2004, giving working and young New Zealanders a bleak outlook under this Labour Government?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Of course, with unemployment at a record 3.6 percent we are certainly looking to issues like skills training, productivity, exporting, adding value to commodities, the list goes on and on, to provide higher wages to New Zealanders, to join that higher group in the OECD.
On the issue of student debt, the member might like to know, for example, that the Swedish Prime Minister, who has just been through this country, would be telling him that young Swedish people do pay for their education. They pay for it after they have finished their degree. They pay for it through a very high level of tax.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that in the year to October 2004, 2,342 young people received the independent youth benefit and that 1,804 of them—or a full 77 percent—graduated on to other benefits; and what specific steps does he intend to take to stop the independent youth benefit from becoming the “dole with training wheels”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I was just flicking through my notes, because I am sure the member will be delighted to know that under this Government the number of people who were on the independent youth benefit, but have moved off it to do other things such as education and jobs, has dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, I cannot quite find that number but, when the member asks me afterwards, I will pass it on to him. He will be very pleased with the news.
Marc Alexander: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was quite specific with regard to 77 percent of those on the independent youth benefit having graduated to other benefits. How the Minister can suggest there was a self-congratulatory fall in the numbers, is beyond the imagination of anybody.
Mr SPEAKER: That may well be so, but the Minister addressed the question.
Georgina Beyer: What is the Government doing to assist young people during that crucial period in the transition from school to work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government is doing a great deal. It has introduced, in particular, the Youth Transitions Service, which focuses on those young people who are at risk of falling through the cracks, once they leave school. The first five youth transitions services, which have been developed in consultation with their communities, have started in Whangarei, Waitakere, Rotorua, New Plymouth, and Porirua. Last month I announced the next five locations where the Youth Transitions Service will be established—namely, Manukau, Hamilton, Gisborne, Upper Hutt, and the far north.
The service will be available in 14 regions by 2007, covering 1 in 2 people in that target group. The pace at which the service is becoming a reality, is evidence of this Government’s serious commitment to young people.
Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Funding
8. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Education: How much Government funding was provided to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa in the 1998-99 financial year, and on what date did he or the then Associate Minister first have doubts that the taxpayer was getting value for money?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The then Associate Minister of Education and I consistently had concerns about a range of issues in relation to this institution, including excessive growth, uneven levels of quality assurance, and management and governance capability. Funding to tertiary education institutions such as the wânanga, under rules adopted in 1998, is based on how many equivalent full-time students are enrolled. In 2003 this Government introduced a managing growth cap on all institutions. In 1999 Te Wânanga o Aotearoa enrolled 861 equivalent full-time students, compared with 34,282 in 2003. Funding in 1998-99 was $3.9 million.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was down on notice, and it specifically asked the Minister on what date he had doubts. Now the Minister has had a few hours, and it is quite important. He never answered the question, on what date he first had doubts about the taxpayer funding. I ask you, when one puts a question on notice, members of the Opposition have given up expecting answers to supplementary questions, but we thought we would at least get an answer to a primary question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister certainly answered the first part of the question. As far as the question “on what date”, could I have an answer?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say that my doubts pre-date my responsibilities as Minister of Education.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. “on what date” does not mean “It was some time before I took over the job.” It specifically asks “on what date”. The Minister has had several hours—
Hon Member: Five years!
Rodney Hide: Yes, 5 years, but several hours to get an answer to this question. I think it is trifling with the House—[Interruption] Mr Cunliffe might care to interject—
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Cunliffe will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] Did Mr Cunliffe interject?
Hon David Cunliffe: No, I had an involuntary yawn and it was purely physiological.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Cunliffe will leave the Chamber.
Hon David Cunliffe withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest to you that when members ask questions as vague as in terms of what might have happened at some distant point in the past, they can scarcely expect a precise answer. One could equally ask the member on what date did he come across this conversion that tax deductions were the answer to all problems. I doubt he could name a specific date; it is probably embedded in his genes somewhere.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister addressed the question perfectly satisfactorily.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may well have thought the Minister addressed the question perfectly satisfactorily, but I wonder whether you might like to think about what he actually said. He indicated to the House that he was concerned when the wânanga was picking up $4 million, yet did not do anything as the figure climbed to $239 million.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That was a comment, and the member knows it.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have removed Mr Cunliffe from the Chamber, and I understand the reason for that. However, it raises a point about interjections during points of order. An earlier interjection was made by a member in the ACT party that Mr Hide acknowledged in the comment he made. That should also result in a member leaving the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: I will make those decisions.
Hon Ken Shirley: In light of the fact that the cap imposed by this Government saw the funding expand from $8 million to $239 million, can the Minister tell us what is his response to the fact that Te Wânanga o Aotearoa runs a corporate fleet of over 350 staff cars, including LTD limos?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not aware that Te Wânanga o Aotearoa runs a fleet of limos. I am aware, however, of a supportive statement stating that Mâori should be able to set up their own universities and that we should move past the colonial view that the Government knows what is best for Mâori. That separatist statement came from Rodney Hide.
Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I have some clarification from Mr Mallard about a statement of self-determination being separatist?
Mr SPEAKER: No, because that is not a point of order.
H V Ross Robertson: What measures have been put in place over the last 5 years in response to ministerial concerns about Te Wânanga o Aotearoa?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have quite a long list. In 2001 there was a settlement around expectations on retention, completion, and staircasing. The wânanga was also subject to—[Interruption] Well, Mr Brownlee and staircases and pensioners are probably an interesting point.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister, of course, can be advised by his whips as to how long he would like question time to go on for. He is ensuring that it proceeds very much more lengthily than it would. Would he please answer the question?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In 2001 there was an unscheduled audit from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and the Government put in restrictions on the offering of inducements. In 2002 Mr McNally was appointed to advise, following concerns over the rapid growth in enrolments. In 2003 the wânanga was subject to a special audit, and the Government introduced the managing-growth policy across all institutions. In 2004 the Auditor-General was asked to look into the issue of potential conflicts of interest. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority undertook a further audit, and there was a funding review of levels 1 and 2 courses. Earlier this year I wrote to the chair—
Mr SPEAKER: That answer is far too long.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I was asked what we have done. There were allegations that I had done nothing; now people are saying that I have done too much.
Gerry Brownlee: Should hard-working taxpayers be concerned that the Ministry of Education’s Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit has said that it has no particular concerns about the contract arrangements between Te Wânanga o Aotearoa and a number of contractors with family links to wânanga administrators; if so, can the Minister confirm that it is the same Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit that had no problems with the COOL IT arrangements at Christchurch Polytechnic that ripped off millions of taxpayer dollars?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have concerns about that. My former Associate Minister, Steve Maharey, indicated that he had concerns about it. That is why the Auditor-General is looking into it. I think the Auditor-General is the appropriate person to look into conflicts of interest in tertiary institutions.
Mike Ward: Is the Minister aware of the ground-breaking work being done by te wânanga on second-chance education and adult literacy programmes, and what value does he put on those?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I know that some very interesting work is being done by Te Wânanga o Aotearoa. I know that it has put into tertiary education people who previously had not been able to get there. Whether those low-level courses in literacy are appropriate for a tertiary institution, I have some doubts.
Hon Ken Shirley: What is the Minister’s response when I advise him that the enormous fleet of corporate wânanga cars are groomed around the country by a single car-grooming company that is apparently on a contract that never goes out to tender?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Given the concerns that have been indicated to me about governance and management issues at the wânanga, I am not very surprised.
Hon Ken Shirley: What is the Minister’s response to the situation whereby the large corporate fleet of wânanga cars is exclusively groomed by a company called Gazza’s Groomers, which is owned and operated by Gary Wood, who just happens to be the partner of the wânanga’s deputy chief executive, Min Marshall?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that we have another thing to add to our list of things that the Auditor-General is looking at.
Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister confirm advice that I have received today from a senior education administrator that if one were to take all the staff cars owned by every university, polytech, secondary school, and primary school in New Zealand, the figure would not reach 350; if that is so, is that not yet another example that under the Minister’s administration there are two laws—one for the wânanga and one for the rest of the education sector?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I had thought that the ACT party was the party that supported innovators and that paid people more according to their skills. These people have been very innovative, but probably not in a way I approve of.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is, I suppose, complimentary to be told by the Minister that I am in an innovative party. But we are actually asking questions about his portfolio, and I would like to know from his knowledge of the education sector whether it is right that the whole of the education sector, put together, would not have 350 staff cars.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not think that the member is right. Group Special Education as part of the ministry has a fleet of cars, because they go around seeing children all over the place. But in relation to the tertiary part, I think he is probably right.
Rodney Hide: What responsibility does the Minister take for overseeing the taxpayer input into the wânanga—going from $3.9 million a year up to $239 million a year—which has seen millions of dollars siphoned off into shelf companies to line the pockets of Dr Rongo Wçtere and his family members, and those of his seconds in command and their family members, or is he content just to say he did not know?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there; two can be answered.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that what the member does know is that I am exceptionally concerned about it. Because of my concerns and those of Mr Maharey, the Auditor-General is investigating it. The promise I make is that if there have been inappropriate payments made to Rongo Wçtere—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Isn’t this the man who got upset about Tuku’s underwear?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, that member’s underwear is always too tight. That is why he squeaks all the time. If money has gone out inappropriately, then every endeavour will be made to have it returned.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to sound like a broken record over this, but my specific question was—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When is he senior to me?
Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a question. He had a point of order that, I presume, was about his question.
Rodney Hide: The member does not understand. He should get used to getting second—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will please come to the point of order.
Rodney Hide: My question asked what responsibility the Minister took, but he answered that he was concerned. We also know from an earlier question that he has had concerns for 5 years, so does his being concerned mean an acceptance of no responsibility? The question was: what responsibility does he accept? It was not: is he concerned?—because he has been concerned for 5 years, over the very time all this happened.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister addressed the question.
Security—Money-laundering and Financing of Terrorism
9. TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that New Zealand laws sufficiently protect this country against money-laundering and financing of terrorism?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Not entirely. New Zealand has in place laws that deal with money-laundering and financing of terrorism. Indeed, it is not clear that New Zealand is being targeted by international groups involved in these activities. However, because of our largely deregulated financial system, there are potential loopholes in our laws, which require closing if we are to meet strict international requirements and to deal with local groups that may be seeking to launder money. The Government has therefore announced today a number of proposals that will tighten the laws in this regard.
Tim Barnett: What action is the Minister taking to tighten these anti-terrorism laws?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The action taken is with regard to both money-laundering and the potential financing of terrorism. We are drawing up legislative and other measures that will put in place a monitoring framework to ensure that all financial institutions comply with standards to counter money-laundering and terrorist financing. These will include a registration regime for people providing money-transfer or currency-change services; statutory requirements for internal anti - money-laundering systems and procedures; and requirements to verify and retain information concerning the identity of originators of wire transfers of finance.
Tim Barnett: When does the Minister expect these measures to be in place?
Hon PHIL GOFF: In regard to money-laundering, there is an inter-agency working-group that is being chaired by the Ministry of Justice, and it will shortly undertake consultation with the financial sector on anti - money-laundering compliance monitoring frameworks and a registration regime. It will report back to the Government by the end of April. In regard to terrorism, members will be aware that the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, which broadens and tightens the laws against terrorist financing, was introduced in the House last week and is currently before a select committee.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Levels 1 to 3, 2004
10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Has the Ministry of Education reported to him on anomalies or problems in the 2004 NCEA examinations for levels 1 to 3?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): No.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen a report that a retired professor of chemistry and former chief examiner for the bursary exam could not complete the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 3 chemistry exam in the 3 hours allotted, and reports of comments made by the chair of the Canterbury Science Teachers Association that: “Level 3 students will be very disadvantaged, because they will get much lower marks than they really deserve.”, estimating that 2,000 to 3,000 students would be affected?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have not seen either of those reports.
Helen Duncan: What information has the Minister received from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority about the NCEA results?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I asked for information from the qualifications authority, and the key information about the 2004 university entrance pass rates is that they show that in 2004, 47.2 percent of year 13 students gained university entrance, compared with 51.9 percent in 2003 and 51 percent in 2002.
Bernie Ogilvy: Can he confirm that students who do not attempt certain external standards are marked as “Not achieved”; if so, might this account for the increasing number of failures in certain subjects, in light of anecdotal evidence that students are increasingly attempting only those standards that they need in order to pass the required number of credits?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I can. I think the factor the questioner identifies is a major one in the apparently large failure rate that is showing up. This matter will be clarified, as the full analysis of the final results is carried out.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm his earlier response that he has not seen any of these reports, and that that means he is sitting in his office and asking the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to give him reports about the bits of the NCEA that did work, so he can put those in press releases, but is ignoring the raft of stories that are coming out of the woodwork, right across the country, from students, teachers, examiners, markers, and parents?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I did not say that I had not seen any of those reports. I referred specifically to the two reports that Mr English raised. I can assure him that I do give my attention extensively to the material that comes to me. I study it and ask for specific comment, where appropriate.
Helen Duncan: Can the Minister advise the House what reports he has seen about NCEA?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I can. For example, I received a report from a meeting of the secondary school representatives on the Schools Consultative Committee, which met on Monday, 14 February. I quote from that report:
“Generally the sector has confidence in the NCEA. It was recognised there were still rough edges but this was inevitable, with such a major change. Again, from their perspective what was important was that there was confidence, in that as problems and issues arose, the sector and the agencies concerned worked together to address them in a credible and transparent way.” That attitude is exactly the attitude the Government is taking.
Hon Bill English: Why is the Minister interested only in good-news reports about the NCEA, and will he be interested in a paper that will be published in a New Zealand chemistry magazine, in which the author—the same professor who could not finish the exam in 3 hours—will say that he wonders whether the NCEA pattern of writing achievement standards in small sections, is not producing an over-complex system containing too much meaningless gobbledygook, and that the length of the 2003 chemistry exam was inexcusable and a disaster for students; if so, what will the Minister do about that, or will he just ignore it?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can assure the questioner and the House that I am interested in all reports, positive and negative, about the NCEA, and I am happy to investigate any particular instances that raise concerns with the member.
Hon Bill English: What reassurance can he give an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 students who may have been disadvantaged by a shonky examination paper; what message can he give them today to reassure them that they have been not been cheated out of results they should have got, as a result of their hard work and the hard work of their teachers?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: If the member is prepared to provide me with any substance of such allegations, I will have them investigated.
11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Can he confirm that a Budget bid was made on 14 November 2002 by the police commissioner for an extra 100 fulltime-equivalent staff in Auckland for the specific purpose of improving response times, particularly emergency response times; if so, what was his response to that request?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): A bid was made for 100 extra staff to be deployed over 3 years. Initial bids are almost always scaled during the Budget process. The commissioner did get an extra 50 staff over 2 years. The commissioner has been given over 1,000 additional staff and $200 million extra in his budgets by this Government since 1999.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister reconsidered his original position, given that the Government was warned by the commissioner more than 2 years ago that the response rate to emergency calls in Auckland was substandard, and if he has not, how can he continue to pass the blame on to individual police and the commissioner, when it was clearly him and this Government that failed to act and that failed the Bentley and Asher families?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Chief executives always put up Budget bids, knowing that they will not get all that they ask for. However, I have to say that the response rates in the Auckland area generally have improved.
Dave Hereora: How many of the more than 1,000 extra police staff provided by this Government since 1999 have been deployed in Auckland?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Of the 1,000-plus additional police staff appointed since the Labour-led Government was elected in 1999, 370 have been deployed to Auckland. That is why the crime rate is the lowest it has been for the last 21 years, and that is why the road toll is the second-lowest since the 1960s. And more good news is on the way.
Hon Tony Ryall: If, as the Minister told the country today, the police have all the staff they need, does that mean they have enough staff to provide a 111 service that can minimise the risk to the public?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are well provided for, but they can always do with more, and that is why we have Budget rounds.
Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that the reason he refused to give the police the numbers they asked for in terms of their emergency response was that this Government’s focus is on traffic policing, which is evidenced by the fact that 76 percent of all newly funded sworn staff since 2002 were “ring-fenced for road policing”, as stated in a report from the commissioner to the Minister dated 21 November 2002?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No. I seek leave to table two documents. The first one sets straight the record of the Southern Communications Centre response to 111 calls made in the House last week.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The other document concerns the policy not to pull detectives off serious investigations. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Is that a press release?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is a press release from the office of the commissioner.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a report from the Commissioner of Police to the Minister of Police on issues relating to policing in the Auckland area, dated 21 November 2002.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
12. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for ACC: Has she received any advice as to the number of people who have qualified for lump-sum compensation for asbestos-related illnesses under the agreement between James Hardie Industries and former union employees that she tabled on 10 February 2004; if so, how many people have qualified?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): No.
Sue Bradford: Why, then, did she emphasise the 1974 agreement between former union employees and James Hardie Industries in her answer to questions from Sue Kedgley on 10 February last week, as if this agreement was a panacea, when in fact it actually has not helped a single victim as far as we can identify?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Because the primary question from our colleague Sue Kedgley actually related to the comparable document that is an agreement between James Hardie Industries and employees in Australia.
Hon Mark Gosche: Could the Minister tell the House again what assistance the Government gives to people with work-related asbestos-related illnesses?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Claimants may receive a weekly independence allowance, which can be capitalised. They may also be entitled to earnings-related compensation; home help; childcare; treatment costs; specialist medical treatment; personal care; non-emergency transport; medical products; aids and appliances; housing modifications; and pharmaceutical medications. Their estates may be entitled to funeral grants, and any dependants may be entitled to survivor grants.
Sue Kedgley: If James Hardie Industries accepted liability for New Zealand employees who worked in its south Auckland asbestos factory on 1 April 1974, why, then, is the Minister not putting on the company the sort of pressure that the Australian Government applied to it in Australia to get it to accept liability for sufferers of asbestos-related illnesses who worked in its factories there after 1 April 1974?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I have had no formal approach from either former or current employees of James Hardie Industries about my entering into that sort of negotiation with the company. I would consider it if such an approach were made.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree with Dr Pam Smartt, who was reported in this morning’s New Zealand Herald as saying that the Accident Compensation Corporation needs to adopt “a more lenient and positive approach” to those who are entitled to claim in respect of asbestos-related diseases; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The Accident Compensation Corporation is required to administer the legislation.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that it is unfair and inequitable that a person who is diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness after 1 April 2002 is entitled to lump-sum compensation, but someone diagnosed a few months earlier is not; and why is a Labour Government with a tradition of treating workers fairly not ensuring that all people afflicted with these terrible diseases are entitled to the same compensation?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The determination of deemed date of injury is a matter that is currently before the courts, and I do not wish to comment on it.