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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer - 17 Feb. 2005

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

Thursday, 17 February 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Tertiary Students—Allowances and Loans
2. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination
3. Economy—Indicators
Question No. 2 to Minister
4. 111 System—Christchurch Incident
5. Cyclones—Pacific, February 2005-02-17
6. Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Funding
7. Students—Discrimination
8. Waitakere Hospital—Opening
9. 111 System—Police Resources
10. Special Needs Students—Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes
11. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination
12. Traffic Law Enforcement—Non-discrimination Policy

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Tertiary Students—Allowances and Loans

1. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Education: Is he comfortable with the notion that those students who miss out on allowances must get a job or take out a student loan, as he appeared to state in the House last week?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Most families with a parental income of over $56,000 are prepared to give their children some support. If they are not, I am comfortable with those students accessing the very generous student loans scheme, or undertaking some part-time or holiday work. The Government is progressively improving student loan and allowance rules, and the average fees for tertiary students are dropping.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s comfort extend to the fact that students are now lining up to become guinea pigs for clinical drug trials as a way of earning money to fund their studies, and does he concede that students might be going to such lengths to avoid taking out a student loan because the prospect of debt is far more frightening than the side effects of experimental prescription drugs?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The evidence is that the length of repayment times has dropped substantially under this Government. If one looks at the survey that the University Students Association did, one will see that it shows a growing satisfaction. Sixty-two percent of students—up from 15 percent—now say that the Government’s policies are, overall, fair to them.

Helen Duncan: How much would it cost to give all students a universal allowance?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am advised that it would cost around $3.35 billion over 4 years to introduce a universal allowance. I am not convinced that that level of spending would increase participation, improve quality, or in fact help the people most in need. I would rather spend extra money where it can make the biggest difference.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that the average student now works 13 hours per week during term time, and does he agree with this comment made by the Prime Minister: “If one can avoid working part time through the year, it is desirable because you really need time to put into your course.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am aware of the New Zealand University Students Association survey, which mentions a figure of 13 hours a week. I am not aware that that is a fact.

Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister at all concerned about the 6,200 students who are missing out on an allowance this year because they have worked, and, on top of that, about another 450 who are missing out because they happen to be married, because they, collectively, will take out student loans of about $10,000 each, which adds up to $66 million, excluding interest; and does he accept responsibility for this politically correct economic imprisonment programme that he has allowed to take place?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will leave aside the last part of that question. I think it is important to know that no student misses out because they are married. Students miss out because of their families’ financial circumstances.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister believe that the parents of students who are so disqualified will be ever so grateful that the system is now consistent with human rights legislation when discrimination actually remains due to the fact that students under the age of 25 who are married are considered to be dependent on their parents for the purposes of student allowances, but if they are on the dole they are not considered to be dependent?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is discrimination in this area. It is on the basis of a family’s financial circumstances, and I think that is proper.

Sue Kedgley: Was the student loan scheme a part of any confidence and supply negotiation between the Government and United Future after the last election; if so, what was the outcome of that negotiation?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not have that on the top of my head.

Bernie Ogilvy: Will the Minister be recommending to the Minister of Social Development and Employment that those under 25 years of age on benefits should be means tested based on their parents’ income, in light of his statement yesterday that it is fair to consider students under 25 to be financially dependent on their parents; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I look down the front row of the House, I seem to be getting different reactions from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Social Development and Employment. I will not be getting in the middle of that one.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement issued yesterday regarding the scholarship issue that: “On the evening of January 25 I was shown the table that reveals the variability between subjects for the first time.”; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes.

Hon Bill English: Why, then, did the Minister tell the House something quite different yesterday when I asked him: “how much did he know about the scholarship results when he issued that press release?”, and he said: “I knew there were eight who had three outstanding scholarships, when the expectation was that there should have been 50.”, and is that not misleading the House by his own words?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The press release was issued on 26 January, not 25 January. [Interruption]

Hon Brian Donnelly: Does he find it acceptable that the chief executive officer of New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Karen Van Rooyen, appointed under his stewardship, admits that collated scholarship results were sent to the Ministers’ offices on 17 January without a red alert, yet 1 month later, she is still not able to say why this oversight, which has created considerable embarrassment for the Government, in fact, occurred?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there are two errors there. One is the sending without an alert, and the second is the not opening of an email. One is her responsibility, and one is my office’s, and therefore mine.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that yesterday when asked: “how much did he know about the scholarship results” when he issued the press release of 26 January, he said: “I knew there were eight who had three outstanding scholarships, when the expectation was that there should have been 50.”, and then he left the House and made a different statement to the public, saying that he had the scholarship results the night before he issued the press release?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That was made clear to the House yesterday, by both the Prime Minister and myself.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us when he made it clear to the House, and where on the record of this House did he tell us that he saw the scholarship results before he issued his thoroughly misleading press release?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I did not release a thoroughly misleading press release. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a question. Could the member just repeat the question?

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us where, on the official record of this House of Parliament, he told Parliament that he had the full results of the New Zealand Scholarship examination, including the pass rates, the night before he issued a press release, which stated only that the problem was that a few people—

Mr SPEAKER: I asked the member to ask the original question again.

Hon Bill English: I will ask the original question again. Where, on the record of this House, did the Minister tell the House that he had the scholarship pass rates on 25 January, the day before he issued his thoroughly misleading press release on 26 January?

Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the question except the words “thoroughly misleading”, because that, of course, is a matter of opinion inside the question. The Minister may respond without mentioning that point.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it was obvious to every person in the House other than Mr English yesterday.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the previous question the Minister said he had told the House that he had the scholarship pass rates on the evening of 25 January. I then asked him where on the record of the House he had done that. He has not answered that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for the record. If there is a point that is misleading then, of course, the member can take another step in writing to me.

Hon Bill English: No, I am not going to play that game.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not want comments like that shouted at me in the second person. The member will withdraw and apologise.

Hon Bill English: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly the Minister has devised a tactic to use up supplementary answers. The facts of the matter are quite clear. He answered a question yesterday with a specific answer as if he did not know particular information. Then he went out of the House and issued a public statement saying he did know the information. It is pretty open and shut. Now he is using up supplementary answers by implying that somehow the information he made in the public statement had been given in the House. The House has a record of its proceedings. It is certainly my contention that he never said that in the House. It is not in the Hansard. It is not on the record. If you allow him not to answer the questions, you are forcing me to use up supplementary questions in a way that means he can dodge the issue.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I am quite willing to go and find the Hansard. It is certainly my impression that between the Prime Minister and I yesterday in the House we did make it clear—and it caused some uproar in the House—that I had known the day before, and I had chosen to go ahead.

Hon Bill English: If the Minister, according to his statement yesterday outside the House, did know about the scholarship pass rates, why did he, the next day, issue a press release to the New Zealand public that said that scholarship awards “are to be enhanced to include more students. These brand new and substantial cash awards are part of the Labour-led Government’s commitment to … rewarding education excellence ... The extension of New Zealand Scholarship awards will increase the monetary value ... Provisional results indicate that some students did exceptionally well … but didn’t necessarily sit three subjects.”, and does he not agree that that is a totally deceptive impression of the problems he knew about when he issued that press release?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There was a group, as I said yesterday in the House, of very bright students who had suffered an injustice, for whom the Cabinet had established an entitlement. I thought it was appropriate that they knew straight away, because they were making final university decisions at the time. These decisions have an enormous effect on their future, and I have yet to hear one person—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take a point of order, because it is quite clear where Mr Mallard was about to go with his answer. You have ruled out the sorts of add-on bits that put a bit of political flavour into these things from the Hon Bill English—

Mr SPEAKER: Not entirely.

Gerry Brownlee: You actually stood on your feet and said that it was inappropriate for Mr English—

Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Gerry Brownlee: The point of order is that I hope you will apply equally the rulings of the House to Mr Mallard. I express at this time our concern that Mr Mallard was able to almost put words in your mouth when he indicated before that he was not really prepared to answer a question, on the basis that he did not feel he had responsibility for it.

Mr SPEAKER: Of course, what the member is saying is hypothetical, because he has not said anything yet. I sincerely hope he is not going to. But the Minister is about to finish his answer. He will finish it, but within the Standing Orders.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I said yesterday in the House, I want to make it clear that on the evening of the Cabinet meeting that made the decisions as to the extension, I received a piece of paper. The next day I discovered for the first time that, unlike levels 1, 2, and 3, the scholarship standards had not been subject to inter-subject moderation. I told the House yesterday that I found out the night after the Cabinet meeting.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that the press release he made on 26 January extending the scholarship awards amounted to an accurate representation of the shambles of the scholarship results, and does he believe he answered the question correctly when I asked him yesterday how much he knew about the scholarship results when he issued that press release, and in his answer he did not refer at all to pass rates or variability?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have two points. First, what I said accurately reflected the Cabinet decision made on the 25th. Second, I made it clear to the House yesterday that I had been briefed on the night of the 25th as to those other matters.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister explain how it is that when he was questioned yesterday about the Cabinet paper creating scholarships he read out paragraph 28 from that Cabinet paper, or certainly led the House to believe that that was what he was reading out, when that Cabinet paper, CAB(98)M38/13 has no paragraph 29—paragraphs are labelled alphabetically, as usual—and certainly has no statement with the wording that he read out?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I seek the leave of the House to table a paper, reference CAB(98)M38/13 that has paragraph 29 that the member says does not exist.

Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that it is credible to tell this House that the following series of events occurred without him knowing what was happening: on Friday, 14 January, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority provided provisional scholarship results; on the weekend of 15-16 January he rang the Prime Minister to talk about the overall pass rates—in her words “the overall pass rates”—on Monday the 17th his office was emailed again; on January 18th the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority initiated an officials working-group that then discussed the scholarship results for a week, while a Cabinet paper was prepared; and through that whole time no one was aware of the variability and pass rates in scholarship?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The assurance I give this House is that no Minister was aware.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When will the Minister table that Cabinet paper?

Mr SPEAKER: He has until 6 p.m. That is covered under the rules of the House.

Dail Jones: He had it with him just now. Why does he not table it so we can check it during question time?

Mr SPEAKER: These are the Speakers’ rulings and the Standing Orders. I do not write them; I apply them.

Dail Jones: So he has given us the wrong impression, then?

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry. I apply the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings, and the member should know that.

Economy—Indicators

3. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What positive indicators has he received on the state of the New Zealand economy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Many, and more to come. We have had economic growth above the OECD average for every year since this Government was elected; the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD; the second-highest percentage increase of new listings of any stock exchange in the world in the last year; we have seen increased business investment; and we have seen reduced numbers of people on social welfare benefits.

Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister received any negative reports on the state of the New Zealand economy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mainly from people on the other side of the House. Notably, Dr Brash told Australians that he thinks New Zealand risks becoming just another Pacific Island State unable to survive as a viable society. This does not seem to be the best way to persuade Australians of the benefits of a single economic market.

John Key: Has the Minister held talks with the Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello; if not, when he does talk to him, will he lament the progressive approach Mr Costello has taken to growing the Australian economy by championing tax cuts, or is this Minister just too ashamed to put up his own dismal record in this area?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member puts me in a very difficult position. To have to say very quietly in front of the Australian Treasurer that we have been growing faster than Australia over the last 2 years looks like bad neighbourly relations.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Minister not mention the looming balance of payments crisis in this country; the fact that the forecasts show that, on the track he is taking, by 2009 we will have slid further in terms of per capita incomes; the fact that we are 36th in the world in respect of per capita incomes; and, lastly, his having done more damage to this country since 1999 in terms of growth rates than was ever the case—

Hon Member: Ha!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a fact, actually, sunshine! That member should look at the figures; they are all there for that member to see. The Minister inherited a higher-growing economy, and it has been going down ever since.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If a bad record is a higher rate of growth every year than the OECD average, I am happy to stand on my record.

Rod Donald: When the Minister said yesterday that he was not happy with the current account deficit rising to the level it is, at what level of deficit and at what level of net foreign debt will he concede that we have a crisis on our hands, given that for the year ended September the current account deficit stood at $8.2 billion, or 5.8 percent of GDP, and the net foreign debt stood at $118.2 billion, or 82 percent of GDP?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That last figure is actually somewhat lower than it was a few years ago. New Zealand’s national debt as a percentage of GDP has been falling, on average, for a number of years now. I now go back to the technical point: in a country with a freely floating exchange rate it no longer makes sense to talk of a balance of payments crisis, because the Government is not attempting to defend a fixed exchange rate.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister explain why, if the economy is so buoyant and everything is so rosy, as he has just outlined to the House, it was necessary to pass legislation to impose a 5.6c petrol tax on motorists, when in fact he already thieves from the average motorist 18.475c a litre?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that last comment.

Peter Brown: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: The substance of the member’s question was asked. The Minister can now reply.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have just had a question about the current account problems that the country faces—in common, I might say, with our near neighbours. To suggest that therefore the Government should divert out of the Crown account and into the land transport account a large sum of money, without increasing revenue, is to suggest that we loosen fiscal policy and thereby place further pressure upon the current account deficit.

Question No. 2 to Minister

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): After a brief discussion with Brian Donnelly, I seek to correct the name of the paper to SOC98M18/1. It had three references and I gave the wrong one. It is a Cabinet committee paper.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is an issue here to do with question No. 2. I asked the Minister of Education about what was on the record of the House that he had said about his knowledge of scholarship rates. I have checked what he actually said. The member’s claim about what he said to the House turns out not to be correct—at least, on the existing record of the House. The response he made in the House yesterday to my question was: “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.” His public statement later in the day is much clearer, and says: “On the evening of January 25 I was shown the table that reveals the variability between subjects for the first time.” In his statement to the House he actually said it was the next day, the 26th, that he discovered that. So, Mr Speaker, I would be interested in your guidance on when we can get a certified record of the proceedings yesterday, to check whether the Minister correctly represented what he said, because it was a critical point in the debate going on.

Mr SPEAKER: It is on the website at 5.30 p.m. on the particular day. [Interruption] I beg your pardon! I have just been advised that it is on the website at 5.30 p.m. I have to accept the advice I was just given. An uncorrected version is on the website at 5.30 p.m. Then members are sent their Hansard, they can change it, and then there is a corrected version. This is debating material; it is the member’s opinion about it, only. I cannot actually rule on that. The member has made his point, and he has been able to make it quite fully, but that is not something that I can specifically rule on.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that this is an exceptionally unusual thing to do, but it might help the House if I shared with it the Prime Minister’s Hansard for question No. 1 yesterday, which makes it—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: This is a point of order. That member raises far too many points of order, and a lot of them are not points of order. This is actually a point of order. Carry on, Mr Mallard. There will be no interjections, or people will leave the Chamber. I have had enough.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The response to the first supplementary question of the day yesterday, from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, makes it absolutely clear that the variability question, the sheet in question, was sent to my office on the 17th, and I looked at it after the Cabinet meeting. That was made clear well before Mr English’s question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland): This is an important issue to do with the nature of question time, because my questions to the Minister were about the veracity of his statements—what he had told the House in answer to my questions—not what the Prime Minister had said in answer to someone else’s questions. That has nothing to do with this particular issue. It is simply not good enough for a member to quote someone else’s Hansard and represent it as things he said in response to my question. Trevor Mallard has represented what the Prime Minister said as his correct answer to my question, when of course his answer was incorrect.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): Firstly, yet again, this is not a point of order; it is a matter for debate. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have warned you, Mr Brownlee. This is your final warning. Firstly, you interjected in the second person, and, secondly, you were talking during a point of order. Your points of order are always heard in silence; so will Dr Cullen’s points of order be.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If a member cannot hear the answer to one question at the start of the day, and translate that into the meaning of another answer later in the day, it seems a bit rich to come back and raise a point of order about it the next day.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot resolve disputes on whether an answer is correct. Is Mr Mallard seeking leave to table that document?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes, I am.

Leave granted.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Pursuant to the explanation, which I appreciate, from the Minister about getting clear the papers, the House gave leave for the Minister to table Cabinet paper No. (98)M38/13, which is obviously not the paper that he has been referring to both yesterday and today. He has then explained. Does he need to seek leave again from the House to table the Cabinet paper?

Mr SPEAKER: He did, and he got it.

111 System—Christchurch Incident

4. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Did he ascertain from the police review into Christchurch 111 calls why a Christchurch dispatcher alleged he or she could not contact three traffic units to send to an abduction and an assault on 4 July because they were logged “out of service” and not listening to their radios?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The police have investigated all the allegations made by the member, and after listening to the tapes and talking to the staff involved, the police found that the claims made by Ron Mark were “factually incorrect”. I prefer to believe the police.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister agree that this press release issued by police headquarters spin doctors yesterday is not worth the paper it is written on, given that the people involved were not even interviewed as part of the Minister’s so-called review of the incident?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is a bit hard to answer that, when I cannot see the paper he is referring to, but he just waves it around.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I saw a bit of paper that he fluttered. I did not see exactly what it was.

Ron Mark: My wording was quite specific—

Mr SPEAKER: No, I want to know what the reference is. I do not want the wording of the question.

Ron Mark: It is the press released issued by police headquarters yesterday, which I actually showed to him and which he just quoted from. He should answer the question.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I want to say the police have listened to the tapes, talked to staff members, and have come to the conclusion that the member is factually incorrect. I still believe the police.

Georgina Beyer: What advice has he had about the outcome of the police investigation?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The review found that those claims were factually incorrect. Both of the original incidents were attended in a timely and professional manner.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did he just tell the House that he had not seen the press statement, when clearly he had, and why did he not answer the question as to why such a police press statement would have been put out, with the police having failed to investigate the matter in person with the people who would know what had gone on?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Some of the people who are on that accusations list made by Mr Mark have not been identified, because he crossed their names out.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I distinctly recall asking the Minister as to why he claimed not to have seen a press statement that he was quoting from.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If you check the Hansard later you will find that the Minister did not actually say that, at all. He was simply asking for further information about which piece of paper it was that the member was waving around.

Mr SPEAKER: That is precisely the indication that I had. I saw the member wave a piece of paper around, and the member agrees with me. I think Mr Hawkins did not know what that particular piece of paper was. The member then identified it, and that is the substance of the issue of concern. The Minister certainly addressed that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest of respect to you and to Dr Cullen, Mr Mark clearly set out that he was talking about a press statement that was put out yesterday, and that appeared in this morning’s Dominion Post. It was as clear as daylight. We all know what he was talking about, and so does he. To say now that it lacked description because Mr Ron Mark was waving it around, when he verbally mentioned what it was, is just utter nonsense.

Mr SPEAKER: No, it is not. I listened to the whole exchange. I noticed quite a number of members of Parliament on both sides of the House who agreed with what I had actually said. As far as I am concerned, the piece of paper could have been any one of a number of press releases. It was not identified further than being a press release.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is what my colleague said: “Does the Minister agree that this press release issued by police headquarters spin doctors yesterday …”. Now, what does Dr Cullen take from that? That sort of obfuscation and doubletalk will not do in Parliament any more. My colleague was as clear as daylight. Those were his words, and he waved the press statement. The Minister knew when he answered the question what was being asked of him.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think that the member should remind himself what the point of order he raised was. He claimed that the Minister said he had not seen the statement.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: He did.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Well, that is not what the Minister said, and, for the member’s information, more than one police press statement was issued yesterday.

Hon Tony Ryall: What explanation does the Minister have for the contradiction between his answer in the House today that the police have not been able to interview the parties involved because Mr Ron Mark had blanked out the details, and his statement in the House on the afternoon of 8 February, when he said he had been advised that despite Mr Mark having blanked out the identifying information, the police quickly identified the sources being referred to?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The allegations made by Mr Ron Mark have been investigated as far as the police can go. They have determined that the information he gave was incorrect.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has not answered my question. I am seeking an explanation as to how he can say to the House that the police have not interviewed all those involved because Mr Mark blanked out their names, when he had said on 8 February that the police had told him they were able to quickly identify the sources being referred to. It will be a very simple explanation, if there is one.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Again, the story is changing. What the member asked in his original question—quite rightly—was how the Minister reconciled the fact that on 8 February he said he was advised by the police that certain things had happened with his statement today. If the member cares to think about it, the likely explanation is that the police advice originally was incorrect.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be very apparent to you and to everybody else who is halfway to being reasonable that that excuse was open for the Minister to make. That was hardly a reply to a point of order by Dr Cullen. If that was correct and if it were true, then the Minister could have said that, but he did not. He avoided answering the question at all.

Hon Tony Ryall: The Minister did not answer my question. It might have been that Dr Cullen came to his rescue again, but the Minister did not answer my question, and you should seek an answer from him.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The point I was making was that the member is being somewhat tricky in changing the story, in terms of what the Minister’s answer was. In his point of order he claimed the Minister had said that the police had identified it. As the member correctly said in his question, the Minister said that he had been advised by the police that they had identified the people. There is a very important difference between those two.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I listened carefully to the exchange and I thought the Minister did address the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It will be apparent to all of us who have ever been Ministers that the Minister’s advice came from the police, on not one occasion but both occasions—in respect of his answer today and of that of 8 February as well. Now, surely he should be required to answer the question as to how he or his ministry reconciled those two statements, which are diametrically opposed to each other.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought that the Minister did address the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If he did, could you please tell the House and the whole country what his answer is, in relation to the reconciliation of two diametrically opposite statements? On the one hand, he said that the police got to the informants, though their names may have been blacked out; on the other hand, today he said they could not approach those witnesses because their names had been blacked out by Ron Mark when the statement was released. What is the correct statement, or the correct state of affairs, here?

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that that was not exactly as stated; there were other comments made, too. But as far as I was concerned, the Minister addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Minister just tell the House that the police were not able to go beyond the press statement and documents released by Ron Mark because certain items had been blacked out, thereby not giving the police a chance to find out what personnel they should investigate; and how does he reconcile that with the statement of 8 February that despite Ron Mark blacking the names out, the police got to those people—how does he reconcile those two statements?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: What was identified very clearly was what the event was, which was not clear when the member originally had the information before the House.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister then explain why it is that on 4 July 2004, at the time that the incident occurred—when the staff involved in the incident and senior traffic officers were discussing it, both in writing and verbally—the assurances and explanations that the communications staff received at that time by email bore no resemblance to the miraculous revelations that we are now getting out of police headquarters; is this simply a whitewash, a cover-up, or a scam?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer one of those questions.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I still prefer to believe the police rather than that member.

Ron Mark: How, if the Minister is so adamant that traffic cars attend emergencies, does he explain the content of an internal police memo I have from a different region, which tells traffic police not to attend general-duties jobs because they are down on traffic-duty hours and manpower, and that if they are asked to attend they must seek their traffic supervisor’s permission first?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Commissioner of Police has told all his staff that when on duty they must be prepared to attend priority one calls, and that has been repeated in recent days to them.

Hon Tony Ryall: What explanation is there for the contradiction between the Minister’s statement in the House just now—that the police advised him that despite the information being blacked out it was in fact the events they were able to determine—and his statement of 8 February that the police had advised him that despite the blacking out of identifying information they would be quickly able to identify the sources of that information, which he denied can be interviewed?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: They were quickly able to identify who was in the operation room that night to answer the phone calls that came in. The first of those calls was responded to within 4 minutes, and the second within 2 minutes. They listened to the tapes and came to that conclusion very, very quickly.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Dr Cullen may like to intervene with regard to this point of order, as well.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will please come to the point of order.

Hon Tony Ryall: My question asked for the explanation of the contradiction in the House caused when the Minister said he was advised by the police that they could identify the events—that is what he said not 4 minutes ago—whereas in the House on 8 February he said that the police could identify the sources. That is the reason why Mr Mark is querying the Minister’s original answer today.

Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the Minister’s reply, and he certainly addressed that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hate to raise this, but my colleague came to the House today because his reputation was on the line. A ministerial statement had gone out, stating that he was wrong. He knows that the key sources were not interviewed by the police prior to the release of that fallacious press statement. He came here with one purpose: to ask the Minister why the sources had not been interviewed. We have had countless points of order and supplementary questions on this matter, and the Minister has clearly not told the House the truth at all. There is a wide variance between what the Minister said on 8 February and what he has said today. His defence today was that the police could not interview the sources, because Mr Mark had blacked out the names of the sources on the emails that he had released to the press. That is what he said by way of his first line of defence. We now know categorically, from the Minister’s own statement, that that is not the truth. We are now at the end of the substantive question, and we are no further down the track with respect to getting an honest answer from the Minister. Again, I ask that the Minister be asked to address the question of why the police did not interview the sources—which he said today was true—and why, if that was the case, the police put out a press statement when they had failed to interview the sources in the first place.

Mr SPEAKER: From what I heard, the Minister said that he did not agree with Mr Mark. Certainly, if he had been casting any aspersion on Mr Mark’s character, I would be the first to say that he had to withdraw it—I would certainly say that. But Mr Mark has a point of view, and the Minister has a different point of view. That is what Parliament is all about.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What Mr Hawkins said to Mr Mark was that he preferred to believe the police rather than the member. Are you now saying that that statement was within the bounds of appropriate language in the House—that effectively telling a member that one does not believe him is acceptable, while calling him a liar is unacceptable?

Mr SPEAKER: Of course calling a member a liar is unacceptable, but when the Minister said he did not accept what Mr Mark had said, I took it that he was not casting aspersions on Mr Mark’s personal character. I hope that was the case, and I will ask for the Minister’s assurance that it was.

Hon George Hawkins: No.

Mr SPEAKER: That is right; that is exactly what I took from what was said.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just a little unclear about where we have got to. The Minister stood up and said “No.”, but it was unclear what he was saying “No.” to. I would like to remind you that yesterday you required Mr English to withdraw and apologise for saying to Mr Mallard that he did not believe him.

Mr SPEAKER: If I required Mr English to do that just for saying that he did not believe Mr Mallard, I certainly may have been in error. All I am saying now is that, as far as I am concerned, when a member says that another member is wrong, he is entitled to do so—of course he is; he does not accept what the other member has said. If I thought that a member was saying that the other member had deliberately misled the House or anything like that, it would be an entirely different matter, and it has always been ruled on as such.

Cyclones—Pacific, February 2005-02-17

5. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What reports has he received on the extent of damage caused by cyclones Nancy and Olaf in the Pacific, and what, if anything, has New Zealand been asked to do to assist?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I am receiving regular reports. Fortunately, these show that the damage to Samoa and the Cook Islands appears to be less substantial than was originally feared. We do, however, have a very significant concern about the well-being of the crews of, it now seems, four fishing boats in Samoan waters. One of these vessels has sunk, and the other three were reported as being in distress after having encountered 190-kilometre-an-hour winds and 15-metre seas. A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion is currently in the region, leading a search and rescue mission. At the time I came into the House, that mission had not yet detected any of the vessels.

Martin Gallagher: Has New Zealand conveyed specific offers of assistance to both the Cook Islands and Samoa?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. In addition to the search and rescue mission, New Zealand has aircraft on stand-by and can, in conjunction with our disaster relief partners, France and Australia, also provide technical support and relief supplies. As of midday, I had received a message back from the Cook Islands to the effect that it did not need any immediate assistance. Later today I expect to receive a full assessment on Samoa and on whether we will be required to provide any assistance there.

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Funding

6. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Education: Did he or the then Associate Minister raise concerns in relation to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa regarding financial accountability and whether the taxpayer was getting value for money with Cabinet in writing; if so, on what date?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): We raised accountability issues generally about the wânanga in October 2001 in relation to the settlement. It was, of course, the wânanga that was the main driver of the managing growth policy in April 2003.

Hon Ken Shirley: What is the Minister’s view of the wânanga’s Greenlight programme in literacy and numeracy, which was developed by Cubans and sold to the wânanga by Marcia Krawll, the American fiancé of the wânanga’s chief executive, Dr Rongo Wçtere, for an extraordinary seven-figure sum?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that the Greenlight project has not been properly academically assessed in the New Zealand context, and I am therefore not prepared to give an opinion as to its value.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House what undertakings by Te Wânanga o Aotearoa have resulted from the range of measures undertaken by Ministers and Government agencies that he outlined to the House yesterday?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am aware of the blood pressure of the Leader of the House, and therefore I will not go through a long list. But I will say that there was an action plan. It set out some improvements, and at least some of them happened.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister agree that after the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s bungling of the 2004 National Certificate of Educational Achievement and Scholarship, its competence to have concluded the July 2004 audit of Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—which said that all was well with the institution—must now be questionable; and will he establish a fully independent audit team so that taxpayers can be assured that they are not simply the funders of a rip-off?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are a number of points in that question. But if we go back, this issue really shows that one has to be very careful about letting Tories manage anything.

Mr SPEAKER: Would the Minister please give an answer that will not lead to points of order.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are clear management issues at the wânanga, and we will get on top of them.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister clearly does not want to answer the question he was asked. He gave a clever answer for a start, which you picked him up on. His second answer completely ignored the question, which went to the issue of whether he believes that the competence of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to properly audit this institution can be believed and accepted by the public. It is a pretty straightforward question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The final answer on this institution will not lie with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister have any concerns about the value for money that taxpayers get from Government spending on Te Wânanga o Aotearoa in light of the fact that it receives $239 million to cater for 30,000 students and the Hutt Valley District Health Board has a budget of $258 million—only $19 million more—to cater for the health needs of a population of 135,000, and where does he think the money is better spent?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Members do not need the second leg of the double for me to indicate my concern with value for money there.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the Minister’s response that the programme has not yet been assessed, can he tell the House why the Government has already paid out $4.5 million to the Greenlight programme based on 1,521 students who are deemed to have completed this Greenlight course, when in fact many students being credited with New Zealand Qualifications Authority unit standards for the course have advised the Tertiary Education Commission that they did not complete the units, or that they had not been assessed for the units, and furthermore, that two of the four modules are not even written yet?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that payments have not been made for the modules that have not been written. Obviously, it is a modular course. It is done bit by bit, and we do not pay out in advance for that.

Bernie Ogilvy: Do the Minister’s concerns with the wânanga extend beyond its financial accountability to the quality of the education that it offers; if so, what other specific concerns can he express to the House?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say that I do have some concerns about the quality and qualifications of some of the people teaching at the wânanga. I should say that some of the people do have some very good qualifications. It is interesting that a lot of young people, and older people, have gone through the institution and got jobs. Having said that, as I indicated on the radio, the organisation will not get special treatment as far as accountability and ethics are concerned because it is a wânanga.

Hon Ken Shirley: Will the Minister explain the Government’s liability for the $15.5 million taxpayer payment to the wânanga that is based on the 5,455 students who are now enrolled in the Greenlight programme, when the wânanga has engaged in a vigorous enrolment campaign to get bums on seats to rort the taxpayer with tertiary graduates, wânanga staff, and even tutors enrolled in their own course?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is actually not that unusual for university staff to be enrolled in university courses. I would hope that the people enrolled in literacy courses, though, are not tutors. It might well be that there are cleaning staff or administrative staff for whom literacy courses are appropriate. We have seen in this House on occasion, including from the member who just interjected, real literacy problems.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand and withdraw that comment.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw.

Hon Richard Prebble: Could the Minister indicate to the House at what point his concerns will actually turn into action, given the fact that on his watch over half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money has now been given to the wânanga; and will he not consider the position of the real losers from this scam, who are, as I understand it, the more than 40,000 Mâori and Pacific Island students who enrolled at this institution, believing falsely that it was a university, and who have received almost valueless courses but now owe over a hundred million dollars in student loans? Is he not concerned about those students?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am very concerned about anyone who enrolled at this organisation thinking it was a university. There is no doubt that the advertising of the wânanga in that matter is misleading. I should point out, of course, to the House that currently fewer than half of the students there, according to my advice, are in fact Mâori.

Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table three documents. The first one is an email from the Crown’s representative on the wânanga council to the chairman of that council.

Leave granted.

Hon Ken Shirley: The second is a letter dated 2 February 2005 from the Tertiary Education Commission to Dr Rongo Wçtere.

Leave granted.

Hon Ken Shirley: The third is a correspondence confirming that previously qualified students, wânanga staff, and tutors are indeed enrolled in the course that the Government is funding.

Leave granted.

Students—Discrimination

7. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree that the student support system discriminates against women, Mâori, and people under 25; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The student support system does not discriminate against women or Mâori; it does discriminate against people under 25 based on their parents’ income.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that 82 percent of Mâori tertiary students are paying fees, and taking out loans to gain a senior high school equivalent or certificate qualification, which is free at secondary school, while the number of Mâori attending university has been static since 1998, and how is that equitable participation?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think, following the last question, the member will realise that of that very large group of Mâori students doing level 1, 2, and 3 qualifications, many—in fact, the majority of them—are at the wânanga and are not charged fees.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with a report in the Dominion Post that women can expect to take twice as long as men to pay off their student loans—that is thousands of dollars in extra interest, and adds around 20 percent to the overall cost of a degree; if so, how is paying more for education on the basis of gender not discriminatory?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Two points: first, the current figures that we have are that there is a difference of about 2 years, between 9 and 11 years; but secondly, I want to make it clear that I disagree with the ACT policy, which involves criticism because it is free use of cheap money.

Moana Mackey: When was the age of independence set at 25 years?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Following the promise to abolish student tuition fees, “no ifs, no buts, no maybes”, 1991, by Lockwood Smith.

Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the Minister’s answer to my primary question, where he accepted that there is discrimination on the basis of age, how does he justify that, what is the rational justification, and can he point to any other legislation in which a 24-year-old is considered to be his or her parents’ financial responsibility?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I can certainly show him the custom and practice.

Nandor Tanczos: Has the Minister received any advice about a generation of students that enjoyed the benefits of post-war prosperity, had a practically free tertiary education, then when in power, cut taxes, implemented privatisation, user-pays, and the student loan scheme, to pay for them, and now wants its retirement paid for as well; how does he describe that as anything other than intergenerational theft?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Under this Government we have had some intergenerational equity with fees on average coming down, loan conditions being improved, and allowances being extended to a much wider group.

Waitakere Hospital—Opening

8. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Health: What reports has she received about the reaction of Waitakere people to the opening of the new secondary hospital in Waitakere last Saturday?

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was something in the question that was not there. Perhaps she could read the question again? There was no reference to the Waitakere people in the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is correct. The member will read the question again.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has she received about the opening of the new secondary hospital in Waitakere last Saturday?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): People from the community told me they were very pleased indeed. Our decision in 2001 means that, for the first time, this important and rapidly growing community has its own secondary hospital, fulfilling a dream that the community has nurtured for 40 years. Many people toured the hospital after the opening ceremony and took part in a day of community celebration, and it was a similar reaction to that of people in Waikato, Thames, Wairarapa, Tauranga, Invercargill, and other centres where this Government has initiated new or refurbished hospitals. I was very pleased to see National MP John Key at the opening, and I know that he thoroughly enjoyed himself. It must have been a relief from the misery he faces in his caucus every week.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had the fortune, or the misfortune, of being able to see the length of that ministerial answer, because the Minister held the paper to the side. Now she made a number of statements. First of all she said that she knew John Key enjoyed himself. Now how could she know that? It is totally irrelevant, and a total waste of time. Then she assumed something else about National’s caucus, which probably is true, but she should not be allowed to say it.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is laughing at his own point of order.

Lynne Pillay: Since this Government came into office, what has happened to the phenomenon of local communities joining hands around their threatened hospital buildings?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There is no longer any need for local communities to join hands. This Government is committed to rebuilding the hospital infrastructure of New Zealand from large communities to ones as small as Murchison. The Government has shown that commitment by its large investment in public hospital infrastructure, the biggest investment we have seen in over a generation. Throughout the 1990s, I have to tell members, it was very common to see people joining hands around their beleaguered hospitals to try to save them from closure.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the headlines in the Nelson Mail of the community in Nelson holding hands to try to save their hospital.

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

Lynne Pillay: How does this Government’s investment in infrastructure compare with, say, the 1990s?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Over the last 5 years this Government has committed more than $1 billion to rebuilding and refurbishing public hospitals from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. This compares with the abysmal record of the National Government in the previous 8 years where it spent just over a hundred miserable dollars on hospital infrastructure. In 5 years this Government has allocated 10 times as much as National spent in 8 years, and our record, which I will show the House, speaks for itself. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can show a document like that. Members on that side of the House have done so, too. I allowed it to be shown, and then it cannot be shown again.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table this extremely good graph, which shows the investment that this Government has put into hospital infrastructure.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I can certainly speak for the National Party in saying to the Minister that if she can assure us that she coloured it in herself, we will let her table it.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I no longer need to colour in my colouring book, which suggests that the member keeps doing his.

Mr SPEAKER: Neither comment was a point of order, as the members both know.

111 System—Police Resources

9. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: What specific additional resources has he secured for the 111 system since his press release endorsing the commissioner’s review of the system in October?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The Commissioner of Police has made no specific request for additional resources. He is able to deploy existing resources as he sees fit.

Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Minister take responsibility for any calamity that might occur because of his inaction before the review team reports?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Operational matters are the responsibility of the Commissioner of Police.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is the Minister’s attitude, when he is unable to answer simple questions such as: “How do you reconcile today’s statement in the House with that on 8 February?”; what is his attitude, when he cannot even do the normal, fundamental, basic jobs that a Minister of Police is required to do; and why does he not take the advice he gave to the Nelson police when he first became Minister, when he said: “If you don’t like your job, get another one.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The very simple facts are that the police did an investigation, and they found that Mr Mark’s allegations were not right, and I accept that.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the police have all the resources they need, as the Minister claimed yesterday, why did it take three phone calls and 90 minutes before police responded to a young woman’s distressed 111 call in Wanganui—a young woman who was told, on the first call, that the police would be there quickly; half an hour later, on the second call, was told: “We’ll be right there.”, and, half an hour later again, was still waiting for an officer to attend?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is why we are having a review.

Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that the reasons this Government—by the Minister’s own admission now—has given no extra funding to deal with the emergency 111 system, and why we are continuing to see even more disastrous reports of the failures of the system, such as the one in the Dominion Post this morning, are that this Government has ring-fenced funding for staff around traffic, that this Government has a policy that allows traffic police to ignore and not respond to dispatchers’ repeated calls, and that this Government simply places a higher priority on ticketing ordinary, normally law-abiding New Zealand citizens and raising revenue from our roads?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It will occur to you that this Minister has been constantly promising the questioner a review that is taking place to sort out the problem. He has said day in, day out that that is why they were having a review. None of that circumvents the right of parliamentarians to know now what the facts are, and to get political accountability from the Government. He has misused Parliament in that respect, and he should be punished by members of Parliament being able to ask a further question. A Minister, any Minister, could answer every parliamentary question by saying: “We’re having a review. Therefore I cannot tell you.”, and that is the tactic that that Minister has employed. If you allow him to get away with that, then any old bum can be a Minister of Police.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the last comment of that point of order was unnecessary, and I ask the member to withdraw it. It was a reflection on a member, and I do not think we should have reflections on members.

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

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have not finished yet. I am ruling. Would the member please be seated. The last question that was asked by the member was not specific. I heard the answer. It gave a direct answer to the question. I thought the answer was “No.”, and one cannot get any more direct than that. As far as I am concerned, the Minister has addressed the question adequately.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point is that I asked the Minister for the umpteenth time as to why he is unable to reconcile two diametrically opposite statements. He said: “That is why we are having a review.” None of that is relevant to the review. The review, I assume, is to do with whether there is a satisfactory response in terms of the resourcing of 111 calls. But our question is about something else. He had a question from Mr Ryall regarding the latest item, in the Dominion Post this morning, about the response to a 111 call taking 91 minutes. We have got no further down the track from a Minister who, on most occasions, has sought to detour from the fundamental question by talking about a review he is shortly to hold.

Mr SPEAKER: Members have the right to ask questions. There is no guarantee, from anything I have seen in Standing Orders, that they will be satisfied with the answers. That is the whole point about parliamentary debate in a democracy.

Special Needs Students—Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes

Mr SPEAKER: Has the member had the authority of the member to ask the question?

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s word will be absolutely accepted. The member did ring me this morning.

10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT), on behalf of TARIANA TURIA (Leader—Maori Party) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does the current Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme funding meet the needs of special-needs students?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Apparently, yes.

Rodney Hide: What comfort can the Minister give Miss Joanne Newlands, whose severely developmentally delayed 9-year-old son Nathaniel used to receive 16 teacher-aide hours a week, but this year has been twice turned down for any Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme funding?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: In the 2004-05 year just under $438 million has been appropriated for special education. That is a significant increase over the almost $111 million of 1999. Notwithstanding that, and despite such a significant commitment to special education, I acknowledge that often particular cases of application need to be revisited. I am aware of the case concerned, and I am also aware that one of the Christchurch members of Parliament is advocating on behalf of Nathaniel. I will undertake to investigate that case.

Paul Adams: What financial support will he give to those young people with disabilities, their families, and school communities that have all benefited immensely from the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme for the first 4 years of schooling, who have applied for continuation of the funding, but have been denied that, because the school does not have enough funds, either through the special education grant or the operational grant, and how will he help those families now?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The amount of funding budgeted for those purposes was clearly finite and that is the reason for allocation systems such as those that exist.

Rodney Hide: How can any New Zealander believe that this Government cares when Miss Joanne Newlands, having failed to get any help from her Labour MP over 4 weeks, borrowed the money to fly herself and her son Nathaniel to Wellington hoping to see Minister Marian Hobbs for just a few minutes, but was denied that opportunity?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I cannot answer for my colleague, or any colleague’s, diary, but I have already undertaken to have the case investigated.

Lianne Dalziel: Can the Minister confirm that he has been approached by a Christchurch member of Parliament who has met with Joanne Newlands and has raised the case with him on her behalf.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I can confirm that I have been approached by Ms Dalziel.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the letter that Miss Joanne Newlands wrote.

Leave granted.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination

11. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement to the House on 3 February 2005 regarding scholarship results that: “I do not subscribe to the accusations he makes about … shonky exam results … I think that most New Zealanders, and certainly most of the students involved in those examinations, would want any consideration of the results to be done on the basis of full and timely information.”; if so, what information did he have about scholarship results when he made that statement?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Yes. With regard to information about low scholarship results in certain subjects, I indicated that to the member at that time, when I said: “Clearly I have seen some such information, but I have asked for a report and I believe the appropriate time to draw relevant conclusions is when I have received the report and considered it, not before then.” In addition, I issued a press release on 1 February—the first sitting day of the House this year—that I had received data in addition to public comment, and that I had requested the full report I have just referred to.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister make a series of press releases and public statements stating that he needed a report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority about this matter, when the Minister of Education had received such a report a week before, and was he covering up—or had Trevor just not shared it with him because he was too junior?

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that he cannot refer to another member of the House in that way. He should have said “the Hon Trevor Mallard”.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The report that I referred to was a report that gave the genesis to the Cabinet paper that led to the decision to grant the distinction awards, not the information about the raw data.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Minister confirm that it was his office that showed to me the contentious table report rather than vice versa, and that it was his office that helped my office to find out what was around?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That is my understanding of what transpired.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister now confirm that the Minister of Education’s office was so lazy, so complacent, and so uninterested that the Minister of Education needed the junior Minister’s office to tell him what was going on with regard to the scholarship exam, and can he confirm that he must have brought those matters to the attention of the Minister of Education as early as 25 January—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I ask Mr English to please restate the question. I heard an interjection while he was asking his question. I do not know where the interjection came from. The member can repeat the question.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Minister of Education and his office did not find out about the scholarship results but his office advised them; if he did advise them on 25 January, why is it that 2 weeks later, on 8 February, he was still making public statements as if he did not have a full report from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority; is that not a cover-up?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can certainly confirm a collegial and an efficient working relationship between the two offices. There has been no cover-up involved in these matters. While we are talking about the accuracy of information, I am pleased to respond to the issue that was raised yesterday in terms of the scientist who was unable to pass the chemistry unit standard. I inform the House that 55 percent of the candidates in that standard were able to pass it.

Mr SPEAKER: That has nothing to do with the question that was asked. The Minister had answered the question in the first part of his answer.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell the thousands of young New Zealanders who sat the New Zealand Scholarship and the National Certificate of Educational Achievement why it is that after 3 weeks of bad publicity no Minister and no bureaucrat has apologised to them or taken any accountability for this debacle, even though the Prime Minister said that someone would pay?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am sure the member will understand that the processes that are in train will yield those responsibilities and accountabilities. Like him, I find it unfortunate that such events have transpired. My focus is, quite properly, absolutely on looking forward to make sure that there is no repetition of such events.

Traffic Law Enforcement—Non-discrimination Policy

12. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Police: Are there any policy statements requiring the police to enforce traffic law without discrimination on the basis of race, culture, or religion; if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes.

Stephen Franks: What use for police identification purposes are driver’s licence photos with faces shrouded by burkas, when Land Transport New Zealand has admitted in writing that Muslem women have been allowed to refuse to remove their burkas for their licence photos?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The information that I have is that such photos can be taken by arrangement where a female staff member is involved and the face is able to be seen.

Gerrard Eckhoff: What has the Minister done to reduce the risk of Mongrel Mob members certifying their feelings for their balaclavas so they can wear them for their licence photos as well as while they are on the job?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Clause 12 of the Land Transport (Drivers Licensing) Rule 1999 requires that when licence applicants are being photographed for a licence they must not wear sunglasses, a hat, any head coverings, or anything else that may obscure the applicant’s face or prevent the photographic image from being a good likeness.

Stephen Franks: Does the Minister deny the advice in writing from Mr Peter Kippenberger, now of Land Transport New Zealand, that: “The number of photo driver licences issued to applicants wearing burkas is very low.”, and do I take it from his earlier answer that he says that is not happening?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is my understanding that Land Transport New Zealand, previously the Land Transport Safety Authority, does not collect that information.

Kenneth Wang: Have I understood the Minister correctly, that if I cover my face for a driver’s licence photograph it is OK, provided I sign a declaration that I have a religious objection to being photographed; if so, has the Minister ever heard the expression: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

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

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