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Questions & Answers For Oral Answer - 1 March 05


Tuesday, 1 March 2005 Questions & Answers For Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Control of Growth

Business—Confidence

Immigration—Policy

Student Loans—Minister’s Description

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Variability

High-country Land—Nationalisation

Crime—Clearance Rate

Animal Welfare Act—Animal Welfare Codes

Dart Valley—Rat Plague

Immigration—Non-genuine Refugees

Question No. 11 to Minister

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Treaty of Waitangi Settlement

Question No. 12 to Minister

Fuel Taxes—Petroleum Excise

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

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Control of Growth

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement regarding Te Wânanga o Aotearoa that, “Maybe the growth has outgrown the capacity to have proper governance,”; if so, is she satisfied that the Government has taken adequate steps to control growth at the wânanga?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, growth appears to have exceeded governance capacity. I am satisfied that the Government has taken a number of steps to deal with the problems.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that in 2003 the Government announced new rules to cap growth in tertiary institutions but that Steve Maharey explicitly allowed the wânanga to breach this cap because of allegedly “exceptional circumstances”; if so, can she also confirm that had the cap been applied in 2004, then the wânanga would have received approximately $80 million less in Government funding?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am well aware that the managing growth policy was announced in 2003. I am well aware that there was an agreement with the wânanga and the Tertiary Education Commission to manage the growth caps at that time. I am also well aware that, as a result, the number of equivalent full-time students paid for at the wânanga fell from over 34,000 to under 30,000 in 2004.

Hon Brian Donnelly: What advice has been tendered to the Government by the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit, the Government’s monitor of tertiary institutions’ financial management, about the growth of the wânanga and its capacity for proper governance; and when was such advice tendered?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member would need to put a question with that level of detail to the Minister. What I can say to him is that, looking back over the contact there has been with the wânanga over a number of years, there have been a number of audits. There have been requirements that clearly were not being met, which the Government has worked to put right. So we have taken a number of steps to deal with these issues.

Rodney Hide: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the National Government granted Crown tertiary status to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa in 1993, thereby setting the seed for its phenomenal growth by establishing the policy of funding the Mâori university by the number of students enrolled, and has she had any indication from the National Party that that is no longer its policy?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I am aware of those matters, and, no, I have not had an indication that it is no longer the National Party’s policy. I am also aware that uncapping the number of equivalent full-time students was particularly helpful to the wânanga. I am aware that in April 1999 the Waitangi Tribunal released its Wânanga Capital Establishment Report, and that the National Government, pursuant to the tribunal’s report, announced interim capital injections for the wânanga. I want to acknowledge that ACT has raised a number of issues that have caused us to make further inquiries—issues that were never raised by the National Party because Mr Wçtere has been a longstanding, active, high profile member.

Gordon Copeland: Is it Government policy, especially when $239 million per annum is involved, that the payment of money to organisations like the wânanga is withheld until assurance concerning policies, procedures, accountability, and governance is satisfied; if so, who is responsible for signing off assurance in that respect?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In respect of the suspensory loan, that did come up to Ministers, and Ministers were not satisfied that the conditions for paying that money had been met—and no money will be paid until conditions are met.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a good response about the—

Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Gordon Copeland: I do not believe that the question I asked has been addressed. I did not really mention anything about a suspensory loan; I just asked about the $239 million. I mentioned that figure specifically. That was the subject of my question, and I do not believe that the Prime Minister addressed that part of it.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would like to elaborate, because in the course of looking at what has happened at the wânanga I have come to know of a number of practices that have been in place for about the last 16 years that I do not consider satisfactory. One of those is the practice of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority delegating the ability to approve sub-degree programmes to the so-called academic boards of tertiary educational institutions like wânanga and polytechnics. I think that has contributed to the growth of courses of low quality. I might say that it was a system the National Party was perfectly happy to preside over.

Mr SPEAKER: I remind people that interjections have to be in the third person. Please do not bring me into the debate.

Tariana Turia: Is there one law for all in this country; if so, why can universities call themselves wânanga and provide courses to Mâori students, and fail many, but wânanga cannot call themselves universities and are being told not to provide courses to non-Mâori students?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: People pass or fail at universities on their merits. My understanding of the broad definition of wânanga would be “house of learning”, and no doubt universities, in an endeavour to ensure they are using two languages, have used the term “wânanga”. But what I cannot accept, given the protected definition of universities in our law and the clear criteria of what is a university, is that the wânanga calls itself one. It is not a university, and that is why the Government has taken that matter to the Registrar of Companies.

Dr Don Brash: As the Prime Minister presided over a Cabinet that increased funding for Te Wânanga o Aotearoa from $5 million in the last year of the National Government administration to $239 million last year, did she turn her mind to assess whether her Government was getting value for money for New Zealand taxpayers; if so, what conclusion did she reach?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my view that processes set in train for course approval from the time of the Education Act 1989, and the process of uncapping equivalent full-time student numbers in 1998 by the Rt Hon Wyatt Creech, have led to a situation where value has not been got for money—and we will deal with it, just as members opposite never did.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Prime Minister aware that the State Services Commission has developed guidelines to ensure that relatives of managers and executives are employed only via an open and unbiased process, and is it her view that equivalent employment processes should be a prerequisite before $239 million of taxpayers’ funds is handed over to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa or to any equivalent organisation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is indeed my view that tertiary education institutions, as defined by the law, should act in a way consistent with guidelines set out by the State Services Commission. It is one thing for family businesses to employ whomever they like but it is another thing for an institution mandated under the law to practise nepotism—that is reprehensible.

Dr Don Brash: Is she aware of the statement in 2003 made by her colleague Steve Maharey, who was then the Minister responsible for tertiary education, that the Government was “delighted with the growth of Te Wânanga o Aotearoa” and “did not have concerns with the quality of courses they provided”; if so, does this continue to be the Government’s view?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I certainly have concern about the quality of courses, and not only in the wânanga. That is why we are doing something about it.

Business—Confidence

2. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on business confidence?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The latest National Bank business confidence survey showed a net 31 percent of businesses are confident of their own firm’s prospects over the 12 months; employment and investment intentions are running above average, which suggests to the bank’s chief economist that GDP growth will exceed 0.7 to 0.8 percent in the current quarter, and in the last quarter of last year.

Clayton Cosgrove: Has he received any further reports on sentiment in the business sector?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, the most recent Dominion Post survey of business opinion in the Greater Wellington area shows 67 percent of those surveyed were either satisfied or very satisfied with the Government’s economic management. I have also heard the retail sector is anticipating a boom in pyjama purchases from loyal members of the National Party.

Mr SPEAKER: The last sentence was irrelevant to the answer.

Dr Don Brash: Given that the Minister has provided us with a good summary of what the private sector has done to generate economic growth, perhaps he would like to have a stab at what the Government has contributed other than higher taxes, more regulation, more bureaucracy, and lower-quality public services?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will try to take a few of those points. The number of surgical procedures carried out has significantly increased under this Government; the Government, of course, is now under some attack for excessively increasing participation rates in tertiary education; and the Government has massively increased the investment in roading and in public transport. There have been a number of major announcements in relation to electricity generation over the last year, a significant proportion of those—nearly all, in fact—coming from public sector organisations and from the State-owned enterprises; and, of course, we are trying to upgrade the transmission system, but that member’s mates south of Auckland are trying to stop it happening.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If business is so confident about its future, and the country’s future, how come we have a massive balance of payments crisis looming in this country, the highest interest rates in the OECD, energy and fuel prices rocketing out of all proportion, and a massively inflated dollar; and what does the Government think about that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Taking the last point, the primary cause of the high New Zealand dollar is the low US dollar caused by the massive double deficits in the US. The United States Government has been following National Party policy: cut taxes, but do not cut expenditure, and hope that somehow or other it all pays for itself.

Sue Bradford: If business confidence is so good, will the Minister heed the call from the president of the Labour Party to support the unions’ 5 percent wage rise campaign?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Wage negotiations are a matter between employers and their employees, or the trade unions representing those employees. We are not going to interfere in that matter, as I think the National Party did not interfere between 1990 and 1999.

Immigration—Policy

3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is he confident that his immigration policy is sufficiently protecting New Zealand from any adverse effects, including the threat of terrorism; if so, why?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): The Immigration Act was strengthened in 1999 with the aim of protecting New Zealand from adverse effects of immigration, including the threat of terrorism. Part IVA of that Act deals with people who pose a security risk. The Government is currently reviewing various aspects of the Act to ensure that it works more effectively.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he confident that Asha Ali Abdille, the refugee sickness beneficiary whom he ordered an inquiry into last year, and who has a string of criminal convictions, is not a threat to the New Zealand community; if so, why?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I did order an inquiry into that. There were two issues: firstly, the seriousness of the alleged crimes, which is still being investigated, and, secondly, whether she was a fit and proper person to bring in other family members. That whole policy issue is one that I have currently under review.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was it, after an Official Information Act request to his office was lodged, that the reply came back with so many blanks such as that, with hardly a word on the page, that no one is any the wiser, including the blanking out of Asha Ali Abdille’s criminal history, and also the department’s recommendations being blanked out as to what to do with this woman who has been trying to bring 14 members of her family into this country; what on earth is going on?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: That information was released on advice.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister been made aware of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision 75081 made last year on 5 November, which is still suppressed for apparently exceptional reasons and involves an applicant of Jordan/Palestinian background, and are there any security issues associated with that claim?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not aware of decision 75081, and therefore cannot comment further.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a document released under the Official Information Act from the Minister, which shows there is no information on it, at all.

Leave granted.

Student Loans—Minister’s Description

4. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his description of the student loan scheme as “very generous”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): In the context of fees that are approximately two-thirds of those in Australia, an expansion of allowances so that even more students are eligible, no interest on student loans while studying, and at least half of all repayments going towards the principal of a student loan, yes.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister therefore confirm that since 2000 the amount of student loan interest collected by the Government has quadrupled from $43 million to $161 million, and that it will increase almost tenfold, to $395 million, by 2007; and does that not really mean that the student loan scheme is very generous to the Government, rather than to students?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I want to make it quite clear that the Government loses money on the loan scheme.

Lynne Pillay: What are the benefits of the student loan scheme?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Access to education for students who could not otherwise get there.

Hon Peter Dunne: Could the Minister further confirm that if the student loan scheme interest rate for the coming year was set to cover the rate of inflation and the administration costs of the scheme, including costs arising from deaths and bankruptcies, the rate would actually be 3.7 percent per annum, rather than 7 percent, as it is at present; if so, why is the rate as high as that, when the Government’s tills certainly seems to be ringing with interest payments?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because it is designed to at least approach the cost of the borrowing on the Government’s part.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister then explain to the House how the Government sets the rate at that level to cover the cost of the Government financing the scheme, when the Government has actually borrowed in only 1 year out of the last 10?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member, who is reasonably financially literate, knows that there is a cost of capital involved. The Government has to keep its borrowings higher in order to on-lend to the students.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Variability

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he agree with NZQA Group Manager Secondary Education Kate Colbert’s comments regarding NCEA results that “year-to-year variability in mainstream areas, such as mathematics, is as expected.”, and is he satisfied with reported levels of variability?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): I am not yet in a position to say whether I fully agree with that statement. I would expect some variability in National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results, both between years and between subjects—as, indeed, one would expect under any examination system. However, I am not yet assured that the level of variability that was observed in the 2004 NCEA results was appropriate or acceptable.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of widespread public concern that unacceptable variability punishes students with the consequences of a bad assessment system; if he is aware of that, why is he allowing the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to do a review of variability, when the authority states that all the variability is all right, acceptable, and expected?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware of that public concern, and that is why I have instituted the State Services Commission review, which covers this matter. It is important, though, that the member is not over-fixated on variability. I shall help him and the House with some information. For example, in terms of the final year of School Certificate results, in 2001, subject variability was as follows: accounting, 42.9 percent failed; chemistry, 16 percent failed; biology, 33.3 percent failed; Latin, 5.9 percent failed; and agriculture, 48.6 percent failed. Indeed, in the Cambridge exams, which are often vaunted as not having this issue, in terms of the percentage of students who gained failed grades in November 2003 accounting had 32.4 percent failure; design had 2.2 percent failure; Spanish had no failure; chemistry had 30 percent failure; French had 1.1 percent failure; Chinese had no failure; and business studies had 40.4 percent failure.

Helen Duncan: What action has the Minister taken with regard to variability in NCEA results?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As members will be aware, the State Services Commission is currently reviewing issues related to the 2004 New Zealand Scholarship results and to systems at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Last week I also wrote to the State Services Commissioner, asking that this review, instigated by the Government, be expanded to include an investigation into the apparent variation in NCEA results, both between subjects in a year and between years. I believe that it is entirely appropriate that the Government seek this level of assurance, in the circumstances.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister explain why, for the level 1 geometry standard “can solve right-angled triangle problems’’, in 2002 over 5,000 students were graded excellent, yet in 2003 only 70 students were graded excellent; is this the degree of variability that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority claims is “as expected”?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I cannot provide the member with that level of detail, but it is exactly that issue that the State Services Commissioner will be confirming. It may be, of course, that there was a change of standard, as there was in the case of the one that was asked about in the House last week. I can easily confirm that for the member.

Deborah Coddington: Is the Minister aware that since 1990 Professor Warwick Elley has variously called the NCEA a bureaucratic nightmare, a juggernaut, and a giant step backwards, and has warned about unacceptable variability for over a decade; and has he received any reports that the National Party has changed its policy on the NCEA?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have no responsibility for the National Party’s policy on this matter, but I am aware of the comments that various educational philosophers such as Professor Elley have made. I am also aware of a majority of both educators and educational philosophers—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Please be seated.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: —who have quite contrary positions.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! When I call “Order!”, people sit down. I know what that member is going to say. I could not hear the answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is always a sad thing when we see relationships fall apart, but the controversy coming from over here and over there, every time that the ACT party—

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order. I just want to warn members. I, of course, allow interjections during answers, because they are provocative and provocative comments can come. I think that is part of the good way we can have proper debate in this House. But interjections have to be reasonable and reasonably rare, and I think that on both sides of the House, in that particular case, they were not.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was interrupted whilst answering his question and I do not think he had finished.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister had finished.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm, for the benefit of students, teachers, and parents in New Zealand, his decision that the variability problem with NCEA will be investigated by Mr Doug Martin, who has no expertise in education and absolutely none in assessment; and why does he think that that is an adequate response to widespread concern that the results and the assessment of NCEA are unfair to the students who have to wear the consequences of incompetent administration and marking?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have confidence in the State Services Commissioner’s choice of reviewer, and I encourage that member to wait for the report before he makes such ridiculous judgments.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of allegations from teachers that, for instance, the chief facilitator for level 3 graphics was a phys ed teacher; that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has a policy that the liaison person for a subject area has to be a person without expertise in that subject; that the entire marking schedule for level 3 physics was adjusted after its sample marking of 200 scripts showed that the pass rate would be almost zero; that students in level 3 English who answered the Othello question had a 34 percent pass rate, but those who answered the alternative question on Hamlet had a 67 percent pass rate—

Mr SPEAKER: The question is getting to the stage where—

Hon Bill English: I am just asking whether he is aware of the allegations, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: OK, but we have had sufficient number in this particular question.

Hon Bill English: I have just one more.

Mr SPEAKER: All right, one more.

Hon Bill English: And is he aware of this fax: “Here are my daughter’s results. Note paper 19087: ‘Demonstrate knowledge of calf-rearing’. Amy did not sit this exam, nor did she take any agricultural paper. The school does not even offer this course. We need to know if the calf-rearing credits are from another subject or are they someone else’s credits.”?

Mr SPEAKER: The question was too long. I do not care whether it had a number of parts to it; it was too long.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware of some of the matters that the questioner raises, and that is why I have included them in the ambit of the State Services Commission investigation. I would say, though, that in general I am aware of a number of allegations from Mr English that generally turn out to be baseless.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the following evidence relating to Doug Martin, who was given health board appointments, Fire Service review appointments, and an appointment as chief of staff in Jenny Shipley’s office, when the National Party was last in office.

Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the CV of Mr Doug Martin, which will confirm what Winston Peters says, and will show that the reviewer has absolutely no expertise in education, and certainly not in assessment.

I also seek leave to table another document, which is a fax from Amy’s mum, who wants to know who the calf-rearing credits belong to.

Leave granted.

High-country Land—Nationalisation

6. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister for Land Information: Has he received any reports on plans to nationalise South Island high-country land?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Land Information): Yes, a report from the National Party’s Simon Power that this Government plans to nationalise the South Island high country—an unfortunate statement, because it is already publicly owned.

David Parker: How does the Government’s approach differ from that of previous Governments?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government will keep pastoral leases where doing so is consistent with its high-country objectives, whereas the National Governments of the 1990s just wanted to get rid of them. It follows that if leases are to be part of the long-term future, paying the proper long-term rental is a good idea.

Simon Power: Why would the Minister allow discussions to commence about reviewing rentals while the land-tenure review negotiations are under way, and does that not meet a definition of bad-faith bargaining?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I refer the member to the front page of the Christchurch Press of the Saturday before last, which leads with a headline that states: “Farmers expected high-country rent rises”.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Minister not point that out to the questioner before the question was put later on the Order Paper—today at midday—because it would have had the effect of looking like this?

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Donald.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree with the conservation manager of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, Kevin Hackwell, that high-country farmers are paying less rent for their huge farms than most beneficiaries are paying for their State houses and, as a consequence, those farmers are ripping off the taxpayer; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I agree, to the extent that I have advice that high-country leases are probably set at about a third or a quarter of market rates. However, there have been increases on some runs in recent weeks.

Crime—Clearance Rate

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: What types or categories of “clearance” of reported crimes exist, and, of these, which are included in reported clearance rates?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The clearance categories used by the police for recorded offences are prosecution, warning, diversion, referral to youth aid, mental state of an offender, offender in custody, and other, which could include such as where an identified offender has died.

Hon Tony Ryall: Would the Minister please explain why crimes are being recorded as being resolved without the alleged offender being spoken to, arrested, charged, or convicted?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That could include people who have died, or who have left the country and gone overseas when there is DNA evidence that connects them to a crime.

Ron Mark: Did the Minister not see the reported comment of the police national statistics manager, Mr Gavin Knight, who confirmed that a crime could be deemed “resolved” without speaking to, arresting, charging, or convicting the alleged offender; if so, does that explain why a family man in south Auckland who confronted a burglar in his home on 10 February 2004, and who gave the police DNA material, has never heard back from the police about that burglary investigation, but has since been burgled again on 3 February this year, and has that crime also since been “resolved” in the same way?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is interesting that Greg O’Connor in the same article said: “There is no evidence that people are fiddling the data, and I don’t believe there is any dishonesty …”. I have faith in the New Zealand Police, unlike those in other parties.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Those were very interesting observations by the Minister of Police, but they bore no resemblance to the question. I was starting to get interested as to whether that crime had been solved.

Mr SPEAKER: That is an interesting point of order but I think the Minister did address the actual question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since you have decided that the Minister did address the question, I ask in what possible way he did that. The Minister just got up and told us about an interesting article he had read in a newspaper or some staff magazine.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister got up and added to the comments about that article, and then added further comments that were made in that article.

Judy Turner: Can the Minister suggest any reasons, other than the ones he has tendered so far during question time, for the measurable differences between clearance rates, and charge and conviction rates?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Clearance rates are used by the police when they believe an offence can be cleared because of prosecution, warning, diversion, referral to youth aid, mental state of the offender, offender in custody, or other. Those are the areas the police use.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister have any concerns that different police districts use different definitions of a crime clearance?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Commissioner of Police has assured me that checks are built into crime recording practices at operational and national levels, using proven methods.

Hon Tony Ryall: How do the police, in calculating resolution rates, deal with a case like this: a school bus driver was apparently charged early last year with child pornography offences, which he admitted in court last Wednesday, but neither the police nor the school nor the parents were told of those charges by the Department of Internal Affairs?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is a matter for the police, not for the Minister.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to table an article containing this comment from Greg O’Connor of theNew Zealand Police Association: “Officers are working in a statistically driven climate where the process for solving offences is less stringent than in the past.”

Leave granted.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to table an email from Mr Malcolm Ross and his partner, Aura Finch, outlining their dissatisfaction with the police’s reaction to solving their burglary problems.

Leave granted.

Animal Welfare Act—Animal Welfare Codes

8. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Associate Minister of Agriculture: Why has the Government put in place layer hen and pig codes of animal welfare which allow practices that do not fully meet the obligations of the Animal Welfare Act 1999?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Agriculture: The codes were put in place because they are the best animal welfare solutions that the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee felt it could recommend at the time. The Act allows the setting of minimum standards that do not meet all the requirements of the Act, particularly the requirement that the animals be able to exhibit their natural forms of behaviour.

Sue Kedgley: Can he confirm that that can happen only when there are exceptional circumstances, and how can he claim that there are exceptional circumstances that could justify keeping sows in sow crates until at least 2015, as the new pig code does, when more than two-thirds of the industry has already abandoned sow crates without any apparent loss of income?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I can confirm that I have visited farms of all types, and that the farms that use sow crates do—at least in the examples I saw—meet high standards of animal welfare.

Sue Kedgley: Why did the Minister of Agriculture ignore the advice of the Regulations Review Committee, which advised him that in its view exceptional circumstances had not been established to justify an exception to the code, and that the proposed pig code, therefore, was not in accord with the Animal Welfare Act?

Hon JIM SUTTON: As required by law, I take advice from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. It is a committee of experts. The parliamentary committee the member referred to may or may not know anything about animal welfare.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Government accept that it is cruel to keep millions of animals in cages where they cannot turn round or express normal patterns of behaviour, as required by the Animal Welfare Act—yes or no?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I can advise the member that natural forms of behaviour amongst animals are frequently far from conducive to the welfare of their fellow animals. They can be disgusting and vicious. I can further confirm that I have visited egg-producing businesses and seen that it is perfectly possible to have high standards of animal welfare in a caged-bird system.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question related to the Government. I accept that the member might have visited some farms and had a bit of a look around them, but I asked whether this Government accepts that it is cruel to keep millions of animals in cages—yes or no? I wonder whether he could answer that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot just expect a yes or no answer. The Minister can address that part of the question if he wishes.

Hon JIM SUTTON: It is certainly not a given that caged-bird systems are cruel. If members know of cases where animal welfare is being abused or not kept up to scratch, it is their duty to report that to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry or the SPCA so that action can be taken.

Ian Ewen-Street: Does the Associate Minister agree with comments made in 2001 to the Pork Industry Board by his colleague the Hon Jim Sutton when he said: “I cannot believe that phasing out sow crates by 2006 is an impossible target for you to achieve,”, and: “If 80 percent of producers can do it, why can’t the remainder?”; if he does agree with Mr Sutton, why has the Government accepted a welfare code that will consign many thousands of sows to crates until at least 2015?

Hon JIM SUTTON: On behalf of my colleague the Associate Minister, I can say that as far as I know he does agree with Mr Sutton. He would be well aware that since then both he and I have had a good deal of expert advice from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and we accept that the codes that have been put in place are the highest standard that is practicable and enforceable at this time.

Dart Valley—Rat Plague

9. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Conservation: What actions are being taken to protect native wildlife in the Dart Valley threatened by a rat plague?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Funding of $120,000 from the Operation Ark initiative I established in 2003 has been made available to the Department of Conservation in Otago so that it can immediately put in place intensive rat control measures. Without that response the endangered yellowhead, which lives in that valley, will be in grave danger if rat numbers continue to rise and reach plague proportions.

H V Ross Robertson: What is the purpose of Operation Ark and how is it to be funded?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Operation Ark is a rapid response initiative designed to protect key populations of critically threatened native wildlife in South Island forests; occasional explosive increases in rat and stoat numbers can have a devastating impact on species. It is funded out of the additional $186 million made available for the biodiversity conservation fund in 2000 by this Government.

Immigration—Non-genuine Refugees

10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What steps is he taking, if any, to ensure that our immigration laws are not exploited, and what is his policy on removing non-genuine refugees?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): In 2003 the Government boosted the Immigration Service’s ability to manage immigration risk by $20 million over 4 years. All non-genuine refugees who are in New Zealand unlawfully are subject to removal. In 2003-04, 667 non-genuine refugees were either removed or departed voluntarily from New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Going by answers gleaned from the Minister’s office to two questions lodged on 1 February, can he explain why he has allowed 700 refugees to arrive here who travelled on false passports, who claim to have travelled on false passports, or who have destroyed, lost, or otherwise misplaced their travel documentation; and how are any of them different from Ahmed Zaoui, a suspected terrorist who has already cost the New Zealand taxpayer well over $1.1 million?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, the number of people who are arriving in New Zealand claiming refugee status has significantly declined since the late 1990s. That is a fact. Secondly, they are different from Ahmed Zaoui because he is the only person in New Zealand who has been subject to a security risk certificate.

Moana Mackey: What is the Government doing to protect New Zealand from illegal immigration?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government has made considerable progress in improving New Zealand’s border security, including introducing Advance Passenger Processing, whereby checks are made before people board a plane.

Shane Ardern: Does it work?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, it does, actually; the numbers have declined significantly.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Rubbish.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I will show the member the figures if he wants. The Government has also increased funding for fraud detection, prosecution, and intelligent analysis; and it has introduced tough provisions for those who are involved in people-smuggling.

Keith Locke: How can it benefit New Zealand to deport Iranian asylum seeker Thomas Yadegary, who is currently in Mount Eden Prison, who has lived here for 12 years and contributed as a top chef and as a model citizen; why not keep him here rather than deport him to Iran, where he could be persecuted for converting from Islam to Christianity?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot comment specifically on that particular case. But I can say that a person who has been in New Zealand and appealed for, for example, refugee status, has been declined, has gone through all the channels, and is in New Zealand unlawfully should go home—end of story.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Government allowing recent refugees to sponsor in up to a dozen of their family members each, when many of the people who are sponsoring their family members simply cannot afford to support them in this country?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: For a start, they are allowed to sponsor because that is part of the policy. But, as I said before, I am looking at this matter—[Interruption] Well, that is the reason why they can do it. I am looking at this matter, because in many cases those people are unable to support their family members, and the issue does need to be addressed.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect to the Minister’s first answer, if only 300 of the 700 people who have arrived here on false passports in the last 3 years have been approved for residency, can he confirm that the other 400 have left New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I cannot, but I will look into it.

Question No. 11 to Minister

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your consideration of this matter. When I submitted my question this morning, all the advice had been that the document it concerns was indeed secret, and had been so for 4 years, but, upon my submitting my question, miraculously this document became available. I therefore seek the leave of the House to amend my question accordingly.

Mr SPEAKER: To what extent does the member want to amend it?

Hon Ken Shirley: I want to omit the second part of the question, which is no longer relevant.

Mr SPEAKER: I will rule from the Chair that that is satisfactory. Please read the question as amended.

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Treaty of Waitangi Settlement

11. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Education: What specifically was compensated by the $40 million he agreed in November 2001 to give as a Treaty of Waitangi settlement to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The settlement follows a Waitangi Tribunal decision and the comments by the then Minister, Max Bradford, that the “present facilities are inadequate to allow the wânanga to teach in an appropriate environment”. It compensates the wânanga for the Crown’s failure to protect and support the wânanga through the equivalent full-time students funding system, and for failing to provide the claimant with capital grants on the same basis as other tertiary institutions. If the member had asked me for a copy, I would have given one to him.

Hon Ken Shirley: Why is it that my office has, in fact, been trying to get this report from the Minister and was denied it, and the press were trying to get it from his office and were denied it right up until yesterday, and yet once my question was lodged the report miraculously became available; and can the Minister explain to the House what he was so ashamed of in this document that he kept it secret for 4 years and would not let it be exposed to public scrutiny?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that it was made widely available at the time it was signed. It is a document that was promoted by the ACT party. The ACT spokesperson said that the wânanga had never had capital funding from the Government—only a very small amount—and had really had to subsist. That is what the ACT party said at the time.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Who made the decision to uncap the funding, and what rationale was given at the time?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The decision to uncap the funding was made under the National Government. With reference to the wânanga, Wyatt Creech said: “This new policy allows it to fund every student that comes through its doors. What can be unfair about that?”.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the wânanga’s claim for a capital injection was rejected by the National - New Zealand First coalition, and will he also confirm that the request was rejected on the basis that since the wânanga’s inception it had received capital funding by way of equivalent full-time student funding and that any further capital injection would be double-dipping?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: My understanding is that that was correct at the time. The coalition then broke up and the National Party policy changed. That is probably why Don Brash and Rongo Wçtere spent so much time together last weekend.

Hon Ken Shirley: Why did the Minister and his colleague Dr Cullen sign a detailed agreement in 2001 that specified education outcomes, completion dates, and quality measures when that clearly meant nothing, as the Minister continued to throw massive amounts of money at this organisation in spite of having his own appointee on the wânanga council?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that for a large period of time there were four appointees out of 18 to 20 on the council. It is fair to say that all generous interpretations are that the wânanga had met the numbers required by the document.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the deed of settlement dated 16 November 2001, signed by Michael John Cullen and Trevor Colin Mallard.

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

Leave granted.

Hon Ken Shirley: What is the Minister’s response to the deal between Lytton High School in Gisborne and the wânanga in which the wânanga paid $3,500 to sponsor five pupils and a teacher to participate in a hip-hop festival in Christchurch last September, and in return each pupil was required to enrol 10 people in the wânanga’s Mahi Ora programme—an exercise that delivered approximately $90,000 in equivalent full-time student funding to the wânanga?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is one of the problems with an uncapped arrangement for that sort of institution.

Larry Baldock: I seek leave of the House to table a copy of the National - New Zealand First coalition agreement, which promised to provide stable Government for a 3-year term from 1999 to 2002.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. Incidentally, leave should be sought at the end of each question.

Hon Ken Shirley: What is the Minister’s response to the fact that the wânanga gave a $12 million contract to an air-conditioning refrigeration company called Power Chill that is owned by a son of the chief executive of the wânanga, who was also a salaried executive of the wânanga, when the contract did not go out for tender?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is another one of the long list of matters that is going to the Auditor-General’s inquiry. It is, I think, typical of a lack of proper procedures, lack of proper governance, and lack of proper management at the wânanga, and it is the reason that I have intervened.

Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister speak as if the wânanga has had uncapped funding, when in 2003 the Government imposed a growth cap on all tertiary institutions and then made an exception for the wânanga, with the result that last year the wânanga received over $50 million more than if he had kept his own cap in place?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: My understanding is that the figures that the member has given are inaccurate. I understand the agreement the wânanga negotiated with the Tertiary Education Commission resulted in lower total equivalent full-time student funding over a 3-year period, rather than higher. The member is wrong again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect to the practices being outlined by Mr Shirley—without one document to back him up at this point in time—has he seen the comments from Tariana Turia about the non-tendering of contracts being part and parcel of the Mâori whânau and kinship concept, or has he taken that to mean that that is her understanding of Mâori family planning?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have heard expressions that it may not be appropriate to use in this House. It is absolutely inappropriate for there to be a double standard in this area. Just because someone is Mâori does not mean that he or she should give contracts to mates. It might be a Tory practice, but it does not happen on the Government side of the House. I call on Don Brash to condemn his very good friend Rongo Wçtere, with whom he spent much of the last weekend. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Now the member will just leave the Chamber.

Hon Chris Carter withdrew from the Chamber.

Rodney Hide: Did the Minister know that the wânanga sponsored the students from Lytton High School in return for each of them gathering up 10 students to take more taxpayer money, and did he know of the contract to Power Chill—to Rongo Wçtere’s son—and if he did not know that, what on earth were his four appointees to the wânanga council doing?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I did not know. The member should remember that in the terms of appointments to councils there is not a direct reporting relationship.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table a detailed report from an education review of the Government’s decision to cap all tertiary institutions, and to make an exception for the wânanga.

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

Rt Hon Helen Clark: I seek leave to table evidence that Rongo Wçtere was a front-runner for the job of National Party Mâori vice-president.

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

Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table documents and correspondence relating to the sponsorship of Lytton High School by the wânanga, and also documents relating to the company Power Chill.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection?

Leave granted.

Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister confirm that when the previous National Government declined to accept the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation that funding the wânanga was a treaty claim, the then Opposition did publicly agree with that; if that was so, given the fact that he has told the House that before he became Minister he had concerns about the wânanga, could he run by us again why the Labour Government signed a deal to give it $40 million?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Payments were, of course, made by the National Party for capital.

Hon Bill English: Why did you sign, then?

Mr SPEAKER: I did not sign anything. Please give an answer.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The National Party did make capital payments post the Waitangi Tribunal decision. The settlement was something that was supported by the ACT education spokesperson at the time, and I am not aware, or I cannot recall, positions taken pre the Waitangi Tribunal decision.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer the question. He was the one who had concerns back then when he signed that document. He was asked very clearly by Mr Prebble, given that he had those concerns, why he signed it. It is very interesting that Donna Awatere Huata supported the signing of it, but we were interested in why the Minister signed it. Not once did he address his behaviour as Minister in answering that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister must comment on that part.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I refer the member to my answer to the original question.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not satisfactory. I want the Minister to address the question, as I said. If he wants to answer by referring to another answer he gave he is entitled to, and I want him to do so. The question was properly asked.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I refer the member to the original answer to the first question, which was that I agreed with Mr Bradford that the facilities were inadequate, and that compensation—this was the Government’s view and my view—was appropriate in terms of the Waitangi Tribunal’s decision.

Question No. 12 to Minister

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The subject of this question is a recent bill that went through the House—the Customs and Excise (Motor Spirits) Amendment Bill—putting 5c on to the excise. That bill was shepherded through the House by the Minister of Customs. He has been the Minister handling all the media announcements on this matter, including on National Radio this morning when he announced that it was a new tax. He is in the House today and, as we directed this question to him, it seems incomprehensible why, with all of that participation, he is not the Minister who will now answer this question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has been a Minister of the Crown; he knows that it is up to the Government.

Fuel Taxes—Petroleum Excise

12. Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga) to the Minister of Finance: Why does he consider it necessary to place an additional 5c per litre taxation on petrol when the Government is running a surplus of over $6 billion, and over $570 million currently collected from petrol excise is not spent on roads?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): In response to the member’s question on fiscal matters, even after the increase in excise duty, the amount will not cover the full economic cost of the road system. The Government inherited years of under-investment on roads throughout the 1990s, presided over by lazy and ineffective Ministers of Transport. All the increase in the excise duty will go on land transport. In addition, over $1.1 billion extra will go into land transport in Auckland and Wellington over and above the excise duty.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Can the Minister confirm that he is the same Dr Michael Cullen who, along with Helen Clark and the now Minister of Transport, Pete Hodgson, voted in this House in 1995 for all petrol tax to go to the roads and not to the consolidated account; and if it was appropriate then, when the Government accounts were only just in balance, why is it not appropriate now, when there is a $6 billion surplus?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is quite unfair to his former colleague, the Rt Hon Sir William Birch. The Government was running a fairly strong operating surplus in 1995.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was in no way at all an answer to that question. Could you ask the Minister to address the question my colleague asked?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member’s question made an assertion at the end about the surplus being only in balance at the time. The member is wrong. I am challenging the actual assumption that underlay the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can do that in answering the question, because it was contained in the question itself.

Rod Donald: How much of the extra petrol tax will be invested in public transport, rail, and traffic demand management in recognition of the contribution they make to reducing congestion, energy consumption, and pollution?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have those exact details in front of me. The member is certainly correct in asserting that not all the money is going in terms of road construction; money is also money going into public transport, etc.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree that it is important to tell motorists what the $570 million from their petrol excise duty, which is not spent on roading, is actually spent on, rather than responding to such legitimate inquiries with the standard and inadequate response of what hospitals or schools will be closed if the Government does not keep robbing the motorists as previous Governments have done; if so, when will the road pricing study results be released to members of the public so they can determine for themselves whether the diversion into the Crown bank account is justified?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to release today the most important numbers in that respect. At a recent public hearing of the Finance and Expenditure Committee I was asked to produce data in terms of a capital charging regime on roads. I have now produced that data. At an 8 percent capital charge, which is less than the Government normally applies on capital charge, the roading system would generate a capital charge requirement of $1.047 billion, which is two-thirds higher than the amount retained in the Crown bank account. In other words, the excise duty does not even cover the capital charge element, let alone any other economic costs arising out of land transport.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Given that the Minister of Customs is in the House and did do the Morning Report interviews explaining this tax, I seek leave to ask this supplementary question of the Minister of Customs instead of the Minister of Finance.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought—any member can seek leave. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Is this Dr Michael Cullen the same person who, along with Helen Clark and Pete Hodgson, voted in 1995 in this House for all petrol tax to go to the road fund?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. I am 10 years older, and that much wiser.

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


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