Parliament Questions & Answer Wednesday 2 March
Wednesday, 2 March 2005 Questions For Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Work and Income Referrals
Seed Sterilisation—Government Position
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scope of Inquiry
Wage Claims—Labour Party President's Comments
Pornography—Advice to Police from Department of Internal Affairs
Nuclear Disarmament—New Zealand's International Role
Questions to Members
Disabled Persons Employment Promotion
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Has he received any reports on child poverty?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I have seen a report from the Ministry of Social Development that estimates the impact the Working for Families package will have on child poverty when it is fully implemented. By 2007 we will be putting $1.1 billion a year into the pockets of 61 percent of families with children, through family support, an in-work payment, accommodation supplement, childcare, and out-of-school care. The report estimates that the Working for Families package will reduce child poverty, which is measured at below 50 percent of the median income, by 70 percent. This will take child poverty rates to between 4 and 5 percent, down from 14 percent in 2001. In 3 years’ time we can expect child poverty, measured on an income basis, to be lower than at any time in the previous 20 years.
Moana Mackey: What other reports has the Minister received on child poverty?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen a Unicef report, Child Poverty in Rich Countries 2005. The report compares 24 OECD countries and paints a picture of New Zealand at the end of the 1990s that is shameful. The report, using statistics from 2000, ranks New Zealand as having, at 16.3 percent, the fourth-highest child poverty rate. What is even more shocking is that that child poverty rate actually worsened by 2 percent during the 1990s, in contrast to the UK, the USA, Norway, and Australia—all of whom improved their position slightly. This demonstrates that the policies pursued by the National Government during 9 long dark years were bad for children. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: That remark was quite beyond the pale. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Chris Carter: I apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Now he will leave the Chamber.
Hon Chris Carter withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: I warn members that they cannot expect any generosity on my last day as Speaker.
Judith Collins: What credibility does the Minister give a report that lists the United States of America at the bottom of the child poverty league, that measures poverty as being a household income of less than half the median wage, that makes the official poverty threshold in the US the equivalent of NZ$28,000 a year and the New Zealand official poverty threshold NZ$17,000 a year, and does the report not really show that fewer working families are having children?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Fewer working families may be having children. The Unicef report, for the member’s information, is one of the reports that people around the world regard as credible, it is done by credible researchers using the usual techniques of measuring data, and I know the member is embarrassed—as she should be—about the 1990s. If I had that record, I would be ashamed too.
Bill Gudgeon: Could the Minister identify which areas of the country these families reside in?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Unicef report is aggregate data, in other words it takes country by country, so the information about this country is for children right across New Zealand.
Sue Bradford: How can the Minister dismiss the latest Unicef report as having relevance now, given a report just hours ago from Unicef that in 2005 our child poverty rate is only 1.5 percent better than it was when Labour took office 5 years ago?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have not dismissed the relevance of this report. For example, one of the recommendations in the report is that all nations should aim to get below 10 percent in the poverty stakes.
Opposition Members: Answer the question.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Working for Families package will take the figure below, to 5 percent. I know the National Party members are embarrassed—I would be with their track record. Their policies were a disaster for children.
Moana Mackey: Is Working for Families the only contribution the Government is making towards reducing child poverty?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, for example, for every year that this Government has been in power the minimum wage has been increased, the income-related rents policy has meant New Zealanders now have lower rents and stable housing, and the public health organisations policy means that there are lower costs for health care to families. But the surest cure for child poverty is sustainable employment, and that is why I am very pleased that 264,000 more New Zealanders are in paid work since the Labour-led Government took office—a 3.6 percent unemployment rate is a fantastic achievement.
Sue Kedgley: Why, 5 years after a Labour Government inherited the fourth-worst child poverty rate in the developed world, is its own Ministry of Health saying in this just-released report on childhood diabetes that the cost of a basic, nutritious diet remains unaffordable for many New Zealand families?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The New Zealand National Children’s Nutrition Survey, to which I think the member is referring, found that 80 percent of New Zealand households could always afford to eat properly.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If the member is not referring to it, I will accept that she is not. But just to give the member back what I think is the situation: around 80 percent of New Zealand households could always afford to eat properly; around a third of the poorest families reported that sometimes they ran out of food. That is exactly why we have a Working for Families package, that is exactly why we have lifted the minimum wage, and that is exactly why we have income-related rents. If I had longer, I would go on with a long list of other things that we have done.
Sue Bradford: Why is it current Government policy to persist through things like the Working for Families package, and the bill that increases penalties against some solo parents, to deliberately exclude some of our poorest children, who happen to live in beneficiary families, from the benefits of Working for Families, and other assistance that is targeted to working parents only?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member will be aware that a great deal of the targeting that takes place in Working for Families is for beneficiaries. The lowest amount that a person who has children receives through Working for Families is $17, and the average is around $100. Yes, we do want to see people make the move into work, and by doing so they will increase their income more. That is the best cure for poverty—getting a paid job with a career and a real future.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table the document by the Ministry of Health Influences in Childhood on the Development of Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes in Adulthood.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I seek leave to table Working for Families: The Impact on Child Poverty—a report by Bryan Perry of the Ministry of Social Policy.
Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Work and Income Referrals
2. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does Te Wânanga o Aotearoa’s Mahi Ora course have a large number of referrals from Work and Income, as claimed by former Associate Mâori Affairs Minister John Tamihere, and what is the total number of referrals Work and Income has made to courses run by Te Wânanga o Aotearoa in each of the last 3 years?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I do not have the information about individual courses or providers, as this information is held on individual job seeker agreements and would take more time than has been available to aggregate. The general process is that a case manager agrees with the client whether a proposed course would assist that client into work as part of consideration of his or her job seeker agreement, and that means that he or she moves into a wide range of educational opportunities.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does he agree with John Tamihere’s description of August 2003: “There is a massive traffic cop directing traffic to the wânanga.”, and was he alerted by Ministry of Education officials of their quality concerns back in 2001?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Going back through the question from the end of it, 2001 was about the time, if my memory serves me well, that the settlement for wânanga was made, so that was the beginning of the process. Right from the beginning there was a discussion about issues of quality. In answer to the question about the quote from John Tamihere, I am not aware of what John Tamihere thinks about the Work and Income process, but I repeat that Work and Income goes through a process of a job seeker agreement, and allows a person to enrol in a course if it is appropriate for that person getting a job opportunity.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise the House how employment and educational outcomes for Mâori have changed in the last 5 years?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The annual average unemployment rate for Mâori over the year to December 2004 was 8.9 percent—the lowest since the household labour force survey began—and compares with 16.6 in 1999, and the all-time peak of 26 percent in 1992. The proportion of the Mâori population aged 25 to 64 with a tertiary qualification has increased from 35 to 44 percent in 2003, around the same level as non-Mâori. Six percent of Mâori now have a degree—up from 3 percent in 1998. The average income for Mâori with a degree is now similar to non-Mâori.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the Minister of Education, who says that the wânanga is in serious financial trouble, or does he agree with the Tertiary Education Commission, which told a select committee this morning that it has no concerns about the financial viability of the wânanga, and that it will continue to advance it tens of millions of dollars to pay for its courses?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am afraid I cannot take that member’s quote from the Tertiary Education Commission this morning, because I have usually had to basically check on every statement he has made. I will have to check on what he said about the Tertiary Education Commission, but I share the view of the Minister of Education that it is certainly time for us to be, once again, looking at the financial circumstances of the wânanga.
Hon Brian Donnelly: How do programmes such as Mahi Ora, Kiwi Ora aimed at new immigrants, and Greenlight—all packaged distance programmes—assist “the application of knowledge regarding âhuatanga Mâori, Mâori tradition, according to tikanga Mâori, Mâori custom”, application of which is a defining characteristic of wânanga under the Education Act 1989?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member is right. Wânanga are supposed to be organisations that teach within tikanga Mâori; their programmes are supposed to reflect that; tikanga is part of the programme, is something that is taken for granted on the basis that they are supposed to advance those values. If those programmes do not reflect that, of course, that is one of the reasons why they are being examined.
Hon Ken Shirley: As the Minister responsible for a department that does a large number of referrals to the wânanga courses, how does he reconcile the Tertiary Education Commission’s comments to the select committee this morning that it was unaware of any funding or financial concerns confronting the wânanga, with the Minister of Education’s comments that it had about 3 weeks to go?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On the first matter, I say to Mr Shirley that his repeated refrain of large numbers of referrals is something we will need to check. They are in job-seeker agreements that will take time to aggregate, so he should not repeat something he has no evidence for. On the second matter, as I said—
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Twice we have witnessed this Minister challenging the word of members of Parliament asking questions. The rule of this House is that the word of members is to be accepted. The Minister is suggesting that, somehow, what the Hon Bill English and the Hon Ken Shirley is saying from the select committee this morning is incorrect. He is also suggesting that newspaper reports of what John Tamihere said in August 2003 is incorrect. In that way the Minister is dodging answering the questions. The rule is that a member’s word is to be accepted. Certainly, a Minister cannot dodge a question by questioning the word of a member.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister, however, is quite entitled to refute the word of the member and to refute the argument. That is what question time is all about, and that is what he did.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He is not refuting the word. If he were refuting the word he would be producing evidence that they were wrong. All he is doing is questioning the word of a member. That is my point. I would be quite happy for Steve Maharey to address the question in the House by saying: “Here are the facts. That assertion is wrong.” That would be refuting the word of a member. But he has not. He is just saying “I don’t know. The member could be wrong.”, and considering that an answer. That is not refuting the word. That is questioning the word of a member.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is nothing in the Standing Orders or Speakers’ Rulings that states that the word of a member, claiming what somebody else said, or what the facts are, has to be accepted. Otherwise, I could say anything about Mr Hide, and while much of it might be true, he would have to accept my word on that matter.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say that members do not have to accept arguments put by other members. They do not have to put rebutting evidence forward. If a member says something personal to a member, then, of course, his word must be accepted. I listened very carefully to what was said to Mr English. That is why I told the Minister to come to the question. But as far as statements are concerned, they can most certainly be refuted. That is the whole point of question time.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the situation is more serious in that the Minister was challenging my claim that many thousands of students are referred from Work and Income New Zealand to the wânanga’s courses, when the primary question, which he received early this morning, actually asked him how many students had been referred in each of the last 3 years. He made no attempt whatsoever to answer the primary question and then relied on that to try to knock out one of the supplementary questions.
Mr SPEAKER: If members put statements into their questions, Ministers are entitled to address those statements and challenge them. That is a rule that members run by, including statements in addition to the question. I just say—[Interruption] No, I do not need any comment. I am ruling on the point of order now. I do not need any further assistance.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister advised his department that refers beneficiaries to the wânanga that the Government cannot get financial control of the wânanga unless it needs to borrow, and according to the Tertiary Education Commission this morning, the wânanga has very substantial assets, and therefore may not need to borrow at all?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My only interaction with the Ministry of Social Development and Employment around these issues, of course, is to ensure, when job seeker agreements are put together and when people are referred to courses, that those courses are ones that lead to a job.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The question that the member asked is, of course, appropriately one that he would refer to the Minister of Education. My interest is in whether courses lead to a job.
Rodney Hide: Could the Minister explain how it was that he was alerted by Ministry of Education officials back in September 2001 over concerns about the quality of the programmes at the wananga, yet—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You indicated earlier that this line of questioning is outside the responsibility of this Minister. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: My goodness I am very generous to Mr Brownlee, but generosity only goes so far. I will now have Mr Mallard’s point of order heard in silence.
Hon Trevor Mallard: The quality of tertiary education courses is not the responsibility of the Minister for Social Development and Employment, and never has been.
Mr SPEAKER: “Could he confirm he had been advised …” was OK as far as he had gone, but I do say that as far as actual administration of the department is concerned, that is not the responsibility of Mr Maharey. Perhaps the member could ask the question again.
Rodney Hide: I am not sure whether you are ruling what I said in or out.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled so far that provided the member is saying “Can he confirm …”.
Rodney Hide: He already had in his earlier question. He said he had advice.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot see the point in the supplementary question if he has already said he could confirm it. However, the member can—
Rodney Hide: If I was allowed to say it, I hope that on your last day you would see—
Mr SPEAKER: We will see how the member goes.
Rodney Hide: How could it be that the Minister was alerted by Ministry of Education officials back in September 2001—[Interruption] There he goes interrupting me. If Trevor Mallard wants to have another go he can stand up and take a point of order, or you going to allow him to chip?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not, and I tell Mr Mallard to keep quiet. I want to hear the supplementary question and I will see how it goes.
Rodney Hide: How could it be that the Minister, as he said in his answer, was alerted by officials back in September 2001 over the quality of the courses at the wananga, yet—and that was when the wananga was getting $34 million a year—John Tamihere could say in August 2003 that Work and Income was “a massive traffic cop directing traffic to the wananga”; how could it be that he allowed Work and Income to do that?
Mr SPEAKER: The last part of the question is in order. If the Minister was alerted as Minister of Social Development and Employment, that is fine; if not, then the question is out of order, but the last part of the question is in order.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Can I repeat for the member that the way the case manager operates in Work and Income is to send a person to a course where he or she can enrol if that fits with the aims of the job seeker agreement resulting in a job. That is how it works. On the first issue, I was not alerted as the Minister of Social Development and Employment to these issues, but can I say, in terms of the timeline, that 2001 was when the deed of settlement took place and I am aware that within that deed of settlement were performance measures around quality.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the true state of affairs is that in 1999 the National Party declined to take the advice of New Zealand First, and first funded this operation the way it is being funded now, and that for the last 5½ years he and his colleagues have been guilty for what has developed—in short, Tweedledum has done no better than Tweedledee?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am glad, at least, that we are Tweedledee and not the previous term! In terms of correcting the member, I point out that, yes, the previous National Government was responsible for the original arrangements around wânanga and the tribunal settlement. Since then, of course, as I mentioned before, in 2001 a deed of settlement was struck and since then there has been an ongoing battle with this organisation to make sure it lives up to quality measures.
Dr Muriel Newman: Why did he say, as reported in the Sunday Star-Times in August 2003, that he did not believe that the wânanga’s funding formulas need to be rejigged in a big way, that a good correspondence course can be just as expensive as face-to-face learning because of the cost of producing good course material, and that he is comfortable with the level of funding the wânanga is receiving?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As someone who has taught extramurally for many years—about 12 years in fact—I can confirm that the cost of teaching at a distance can be as much if not more than the cost of teaching face to face within the context of an institution. That is why I believe that those kinds of courses can—not necessarily, but they can—attract the same level of funding as internal courses.
Hon Ken Shirley: As the Minister responsible for a department referring students to the wânanga, did he know that the wânanga staff members Jay Bocock, Dennis Gray, and Peter Ward, who were working in and running the information technology section, formed a private company and that all supply of information technology software and hardware was channelled through their company without any contract being let; and if he did know that, is he concerned about it?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not aware of the specifics of that, but I am sure that the member has made that information available to the office of the Auditor-General, and I am sure that that is part of the investigation—because he did so.
Hon Ken Shirley: As the Minister responsible for a department that refers a large number of students to the wânanga, did he know of the situation with the security services for the wânanga whereby, again, a staff member with responsibility for security formed a private company and supplied all security equipment and services through that company without any contract being let for tender?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not aware of the particulars of that particular case, but I am sure that Mr Shirley has referred that matter to the office of the Auditor-General, and I am sure, therefore, that that matter is being investigated as we speak.
Rodney Hide: Was the Minister alerted to the problems back in 2001, and in light of his saying that they had had an ongoing battle with the wânanga ever since over quality and funding, why did he tell the Sunday Star-Times that he was “comfortable with the level of funding that the wânanga is receiving in 2003.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Probably because that was the advice I was receiving from officials.
Rodney Hide: Is the Minister telling the House that in 2003 officials were advising him that the level of funding of the wânanga was OK and that quality at the wânanga for that spending was OK?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I mentioned before, these questions are probably better put to the Minister of Education, but this sequence of events—2001, deed of settlement performance measures; 2002, appointment of a development adviser; 2003, special quality audit; 2004, request by the Auditor-General to go into investigate conflicts of interest—sounds like an issue to me.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the NewsRoom report of the select committee procedures this morning where the Tertiary Education Commission said it does not believe that the organisation is in sufficient trouble to question whether it—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you on your last day, Mr Speaker, to be particularly generous to Opposition members with their questioning of this Minister, and to think about this issue. The Minister said he was comfortable with the level of funding back in 2003, and I used a question up in asking him why he said that. He said that that was what officials had said. We heard earlier from him saying that he had been alerted to problems back in 2001 over the quality of the courses, and so I had to use up another question to ask whether he was saying then that officials were telling him in 2003 that he could be comfortable with the funding. What we then got was a long list of some sequence of events, because he said we had to get the sequence right. He never once addressed the question of whether he was standing by his answer that that was what officials had advised him. I ask you to ensure that he has to address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is just relitigating. As far as I am concerned, I heard the member have his questions. He has done so, and no generosity needs to be exercised on that behalf.
Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table documents. The first documents relate to the arrangements and company records of Te Wânanga o Aotearoa staff who run a private company that provides software and hardware.
Hon Ken Shirley: I also seek leave to table documents relating to the security arrangements at the wânanga, and again to staff members forming private companies and supplying all equipment, without competition or tender, to the wânanga.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I put the leave, a member has asked the date of the documents.
Hon Ken Shirley: Yes, I have documents from today and from over recent weeks.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: He hasn’t got a date.
Mr SPEAKER: There has to be objection. The member could have expressed objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I object.
Mr SPEAKER: Right.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am entirely happy to see the disclosure of those documents, if the member will but tell us the dates on them—because they cannot have today’s date. If he is talking about a security document, it will not have today’s date, but that is what he said. So I say again that we will grant him leave, but he had better tell us the dates of those documents.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can ask for leave. We have already had the first leave granted. In relation to the second request for leave, I say that if the member wants to seek leave and give a date, then we will put it to the House again.
Hon Ken Shirley: Certainly. I seek leave to table documents of correspondence from recent weeks, including company records sourced today, relating to the matter I raised earlier in my second request for leave.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the Minister of Social Development, in working with his agency as far as referrals are concerned, take into account the fact that this afternoon Te Wânanga o Aotearoa has agreed to a Crown manager?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I certainly will.
Seed Sterilisation—Government Position
3. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Did the New Zealand Government support or oppose the reported Canadian Government initiative to allow the commercial use of genetic seed sterilisation technology (so-called “terminator” technology) at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Bangkok from 7 to 11 February 2005?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): The member has misunderstood what happened at the Bangkok meeting. A report of the ad hoc technical experts group was submitted to the subsidiary body on scientific, technical, and technological advice, which is one of the key advisory bodies to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The report of the experts group contained a recommendation for countries to not approve this technology for field testing and commercial use, but the experts involved did not agree on that recommendation, and the co-chairs of the group prepared the report without review by the group’s actual members. Given the lack of consensus around the report and its recommendations, and given the subsidiary nature of the body considering the report, Canada moved and New Zealand supported, along with a number of other countries from all over the world, a resolution that the issue not be considered at the Bangkok meeting but be deferred to a full conference of parties to be held in May 2006.
Ian Ewen-Street: I ask the Minister whether it is not true that under the Convention on Biological Diversity, there has been a de facto international moratorium on the use of “terminator technology” since 2000; why, then, did the New Zealand Government instruct its officials to block the consensus on maintaining that moratorium?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: There are two points. First, there was no moratorium. There was a recommendation of advice to Governments in 2000, in the end-of-conference statement, that until there was enough scientific data, countries should be encouraged not to approve this technology. That is not a moratorium, and it is not a ban. Second, there was no way that New Zealand gave any advice on the matter the member stated.
David Parker: What reports has the Minister seen about the New Zealand position at the Bangkok meeting?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I saw a press release from Jeanette Fitzsimons of the Green Party, which contains a raft of factual inaccuracies and wild assertions. I think that highlights the importance of political parties doing their own research, rather than simply believing the lines they are fed from well-known anti-GM activists who operate around the edges of international conferences.
Larry Baldock: Is it true that the Canadian initiative at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Bangkok was really intended to allow additional scientific research to be conducted regarding genetic seed sterilisation technology; if so, does the Minister see any advantage in gathering scientific data before reaching conclusions on the merits of scientific procedures, or is it better to make policy decisions solely of the basis of knee-jerk reactions, as appears to be advocated by the Greens?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I totally agree with the member’s advice that we should collect scientific data. In fact, that is what was stated by the Convention on Biological Diversity in its recommendation in 2000.
Ian Ewen-Street: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate it is normal practice that documents are tabled at the end of a question, but I seek your indulgence to table a document that indicates there is a de facto moratorium on this issue, even though the Minister denied it in her answer to my last question.
Ian Ewen-Street: Can the Minister say, in the specific case of “terminator” seed technology, whether she supports its commercialisation, given that the original patent application for “terminator technology” clearly reveals that it is intended, first and foremost, to prevent growers from saving their own seed and using it again, therefore making them dependent on seed companies?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Any risks about farmers being able to use their seed again would form part of the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s decision and consideration, if there were any application to use such technology in New Zealand. But farmers and home gardeners are used to dealing with sterile technologies. They routinely use hybrid seeds because of their increased yield, vigour, and quality, yet seeds from those hybrid plants will not breed true in subsequent generations.
Ian Ewen-Street: In deciding to support the Canadian initiative at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting, how much consultation did the Government do with farmers and home gardeners to establish the level of public support for “terminator technology”; if no consultation was done, why is the Government supporting this technology?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I repeat again, New Zealand did not support any Canadian proposition to ban or discontinue the use of those seeds. Instead, we supported the resolution to move the decision to May 2006.
Ian Ewen-Street: Why is the Government taking such internationally extreme pro - genetic engineering positions, instead of leading our country down the economically and environmentally better road of smart breeding, especially given the huge consumer resistance to genetic engineering?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The Government has set up a policy under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act that neither supports nor bans genetic modification technology in a broad ban. It takes everything case by case. There was no international support for a remit that did not exist, except in the minds of certain non-governmental organisations, on which you seem to rely so much.
Mr SPEAKER: Fortunately I do not think I have ever relied on a non-governmental organisation.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scope of Inquiry
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Why has he widened the State Services Commission inquiry into scholarship exams to include NCEA levels 2 and 3, when he told the House on 15 February that “the results for NCEA are within expected parameters.”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education: The Associate Minister needs some assurance that those results lie within acceptable parameters. When the review was set up it was wide enough to include matters other than scholarship. That is why he has asked the Martin review to look at that matter—so as to give him and the wider public that assurance.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister now confirm that despite his rubbishing suggestions of problems with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), and labelling them publicly as nonsensical, he has now started an inquiry into the results of NCEA 2004; he has asked a person with no expertise in teaching, assessment, or exams to carry out that inquiry; and there has been no public release of the terms of reference so that students, parents, and teachers can know what the inquiry is meant to achieve?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: One thing we can say about Mr Martin is that he is competent. As competent people do when they do not have expert knowledge—which he did not have when he was put on the Fire Service inquiry by the former National Government—he has engaged expertise in order to assist him. He has engaged Dr Alan Barker, an international consultant resident in Hong Kong, to assist him. Dr Barker is an expert in education—in particular, I am advised, assessment—and he has recently been engaged in a review of the examination system in public universities in Hong Kong. We are competent. Opposition members should not assume that we do things the way they do.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Does the Minister find it acceptable that, over 1 month on from potentially embarrassing information on scholarship results not being given a red alert, the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority is still unable to explain why such an oversight occurred within her department; if he does not think it is acceptable, what has he done about the matter?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: David Benson-Pope has worked with the State Services Commissioner to set up an inquiry.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he now regards at least some NCEA results from 2004 as inappropriate or unacceptable; and when will he tell the students, the parents, and the teachers just which NCEA results he believes may not be valid, and what he will do about it?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Associate Minister’s view is that these things are worth looking at, and that is why he has referred them to the inquiry. He has also noted that, for example, in 1997 School Certificate human biology had a 58.4 percent failure rate but the next year it had a 37.5 percent failure rate—quite a variation. In 2000 School Certificate had a 13.9 percent failure rate, and in 2001 the failure rate was 35.9 percent. There has been variation, and it will continue. The inquiry will give us advice as to whether this situation is different from the past.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen a statement from the Hawke’s Bay science and technology teachers’ association that states that, in the case of Havelock North High School, students who placed first and third in the secondary schools national architectural design competition failed level 3 graphics; is he surprised that the Western Bay of Plenty Science Teachers Association has stated: “Dedicated and experienced teachers in this group have expressed a strong sense of disillusionment and frustration, to the point that some have expressed that they may give this all away.”; and how does his sneaking out an announcement about an inquiry into NCEA build any confidence that he has any goodwill towards the students and teachers of New Zealand?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. Two may be addressed.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that David Benson-Pope has not seen that, but he has seen a suggestion that NCEA is ultimately the best tool for improving the high school system, and that the Cambridge exam is a dead-end—and that advice comes from Allan Peachey.
5. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he satisfied with the current legal status of cannabis; if so, why?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): The Labour-Progressive Government is satisfied with the current illegal status of cannabis. It is illegal because of the empirical evidence that cannabis use is particularly harmful to young people, those with mental health disorders, and their families and their communities.
Judy Turner: Has the Minister seen new research released yesterday from the Christchurch school of medicine confirming a clear link between cannabis use and an increased risk of psychosis; if so, is this not even more compelling evidence that the current legal status of cannabis should not change?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have seen that, and I believe that all members of Parliament should take the opportunity to read it. It is instructive not only for those who use cannabis on a heavy-dose basis but even for those who are casual users.
Hon Matt Robson: What advice has the Minister received in relation to the legal status of cannabis?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am chairing public meetings around New Zealand on the misuse of methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. The strong feedback that I am getting from those communities, from parents, and from people who work with young New Zealanders is that cannabis should remain illegal. Many note that the biggest substance abuse problem in New Zealand by a country mile—the one that leads to most of our problems of violence and abuse—comes from a legal drug, alcohol. The second-biggest problem is caused by cannabis, and communities tell me that if we decriminalised it, then cannabis would cease to be our second-biggest drug problem and might, instead, escalate to compete with alcohol.
Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree with his colleague Damien O’Connor, who said on Monday: “Take marijuana; it’s illegal, so there are no outlets, there’s no advertising, there’s no legal purchase age, and there’s no taxation. Do these controls stop people smoking cannabis? No. Do they reduce the harm? No. Do they eliminate the wider problems of cannabis in our society? No.”; if so, does he agree that prohibition is an ineffective way to tackle the health problems of cannabis use?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I do know is that legal smoking of tobacco kills 4,700 New Zealanders a year. If tobacco were illegal, I have no guarantee that it would kill any fewer; it might do still more damage. So I do not believe that legalising marijuana is a good move, and a direction for New Zealand to take, and therefore I do not agree with my colleague from the West Coast.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I seek leave to table my complete speech so that all the members of the Green Party can read the whole speech.
Judy Turner: Has the Minister seen research from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and the Australian National Drug Research Institute that shows that prohibition of cannabis does limit the amount consumed by heavy users, and does he agree that that justifies retaining its current legal status in New Zealand?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have seen that evidence and much other evidence that lead me to believe that the present prohibition on cannabis in this country is the correct prohibition for us to have.
Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister seen studies or reports that link cannabis use with psychotic symptoms or mental health disorders?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes. I think that was the report referred to in the original question. As I say, I think it would be instructive for members of Parliament to read that report. Other empirical work is also being done in New Zealand, however. Late last year the National Drug Policy’s discretionary fund allocated funding to a number of projects. Three projects deal with research into the health effects of cannabis. These studies aim to gather information on the effects of cannabis on users’ lungs, how it compares with use of tobacco, and the impact on New Zealand households of expenditure on cannabis.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister accept that his proposed drug classification system, which will establish a new class, class D, will open the door wide for any future Labour-Green Government to decriminalise cannabis without the need for legislation; if not, why not?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: No, I do not. The classification I am seeking is for legal substances. Cannabis is an illegal substance.
Mark Peck: Has the Minister seen the book written by Trevor Grice and Tom Scott, The Great Brain Robbery; if so, would he recommend that members of Parliament have a look at this document before they advocate any further liberalisation in the area of substance abuse?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes and yes.
Judy Turner: Has the Minister seen the latest magazine from NORML—an ideological cousin of the Green Party—which celebrates the fact that the new class D could “open the way for cannabis to be reclassified downwards”; if so, will he give a guarantee that this will not happen on his watch?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: No, I cannot say that I have studied that document.
Hon Paul Swain: Why not?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Well, I have other things to do. I do not agree with it in any case.
6. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Why was the plan to introduce a single benefit in 2002, which was announced by him in 2000, not carried out?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): In 2001 when the Government set out its agenda for change in the Pathways to Opportunities document, we identified the reforms that would lead to a simpler system, focused on moving people into work. The single core benefit system was identified as something that would be implemented in our second term of Government. We recently announced a decision to implement the simplified system. The roll-out of the new service model will begin in May this year, with legislation introduced, hopefully, by the end of the year.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made no attempt to answer the question as to why it was not introduced in 2002, as he had promised in 2000.
Mr SPEAKER: The member said that he was not going to. I heard him deny that.
Judith Collins: Will any beneficiaries receive the single benefit as part of the pilot of the Government’s new scheme in May; if not, why has he yet again trumpeted his single benefit proposal when nothing is planned to change for at least another 2 years?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: People cannot receive a single core benefit, of course, until it is legal; therefore we have to pass legislation through the House. The reason that we announce things well ahead is so the officials can now go ahead with drafting the legislation and implementing the policy.
Russell Fairbrother: What steps has the Government already taken to help more New Zealanders into work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Since 2001, the Government has been working on an ambitious programme to reform the system. Significant milestones are: the abolition of the work-for-the-dole scheme and the focus on real jobs, employment plans for those on the domestic purposes benefit, intensive case management for the long-term unemployed, hugely successful partnerships with industry, the Working for Families package announced last year, and the new service for sickness and invalid beneficiaries. We have seen the results of that with 100,000 fewer people being on benefits, with 264,000 more New Zealanders being in work, and with New Zealand having the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD. It is tiring but worthwhile work.
Sue Bradford: When can members of Parliament and the public expect to see sufficient detail about the new single benefit to understand how it will work; and can the Minister assure invalids beneficiaries that their core benefit will not be reduced under the new system?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We have already made it clear that beneficiaries know there will be no financial losers in the changes, at all. The programme for change was set out when we released the policy. During this year we will be starting on the new service model legislation to be introduced later this year, all going very well. I am happy to give the details of that to the member in a private seminar, some time around this building, if, as usual, she wants to be given one.
Judith Collins: Can the Minister make clear to the House how a single benefit with multiple add-ons will be any less complicated to administer than a defined number of benefits; if so, why does he think that every major newspaper in this country has described his scheme variously as: “a lemon”, “Maharey’s mystery”, or “heartless disaster-in-waiting”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: By my count we won on the editorials, I have to say. But of course all the experts who write editorials are often applying for social policy jobs, and they may well get one. This is how it simplifies matters—if I could just explain this to the member, because I know she needs to understand. There are currently seven major benefits and three smaller ones. For those seven benefits, there are five sets of eligibility criteria. There are seven sets of rules as to how one gets add-ons within those benefits. There are four sets of eligibility criteria for whether one is a job seeker or not. There are something like 30 additional benefits a person can get from those seven benefits, five sets of eligibility criteria, and so on. The single core benefit will provide one benefit with one set of criteria, and will be very simple to operate.
Judy Turner: Can the Minister confirm that if the move towards a single benefit is successful in reducing the amount of time spent on administering benefits, then the role of Work and Income case managers will have to change dramatically; if so, will he consider allowing non-governmental organisations to assume that role by paying them for placing people into sustainable employment who otherwise would find it difficult to get a job?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, one of the aims of the changes is to reduce the around 70 percent of time spent by front-line case managers on administering the system, so that they can spend that sort of time on assisting a person to go and get a job. At the moment, no, we have not considered taking those case management obligations out into the community. It is something we have done in partnership with some organisations around the community, but right now my view is that it is a statutory right to access income support, and it therefore should be administered by the State.
Judith Collins: Why has the Minister disregarded the view expressed by the Dominion Post on 24 February 2005 that “There is little about human behaviour that the Government can influence without employing a financial carrot and stick approach.”, or does he expect that just reducing the number of types of benefits will, by itself, get beneficiaries into work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is an extraordinary question. Since 2000 this Government has been implementing a whole range of highly successful policies that have helped to reduce unemployment to 3.6 percent—100,000 beneficiaries off the benefit in 5 years. The National Party says it will do that in 10 years. If I was a voter I would stick with the party that has made that success.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister really did not address the question, at all. We just got a tirade about something.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister could very briefly get to the point of the first question asked by the member.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The answer is that we do not expect the single benefit, on its own, to gain those results. We have already gained extraordinary results from the range of policies I have just outlined. What we hope to gain from simplifying the benefit system is that we will do even better.
Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table a report from the Dominion of 18 July 2000, in which the Minister is quoted as saying that he hoped to have the universal benefit finalised by 2002, and that it would be the final stage of the Government’s welfare reforms.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What dedicated personnel and resources has he employed for the specific purpose of confronting the illegal “P” drug problem in the Western Bay of Plenty?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I have been advised by police that they have 5 staff in the Western Bay of Plenty targeting methamphetamine. In 2003 Western Bay of Plenty police caught 21 methamphetamine criminals, and last year they caught 79. I congratulate the police on their good work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister making that audacious claim when he has no specialist police drug team at all in the Bay of Plenty, from Tûrangi to Rotorua, to Tauranga and across to the eastern seaboard, and how many young lives have to be ruined in this area before he provides the specific resources that the police particularly need to attend to this burgeoning epidemic?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can tell the member that while the police do not have a specific drug team, they have a team targeting drugs and organised crime, and they are having huge success.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not the truth here that if one does not have a drug squad one does not find as many drugs, and that means the crime stats look better, and does not that explain why drug offences are up in every part of the Bay of Plenty, except the Western Bay of Plenty?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are catching more and more people using drugs throughout the country, and I have to say that the police do a very good job. I congratulate them on their good work—I do not bad-mouth them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does he expect anybody to believe him, when in a meeting with the Tauranga Police, and in a briefing paper, there was no mention of a dedicated team at all for the purpose he just mentioned, there is no specialist drug team in the whole region at all, it is one of the busiest ports in the country that is now known to be a centre of import of P, and when will he get serious about this problem rather than bluffing his way through his portfolio?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I tell the member for Tauranga that there is a targeting squad focused on organised criminal activity as a part of targeting the drug deals. That is what is happening, and it is having huge success.
Wage Claims—Labour Party President's Comments
8. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Labour: Has he been briefed by Andrew Little, Secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, on the union’s push for 5 percent across-the-board wage rises; if so, does he agree with the statement by Mr Mike Williams, President of the New Zealand Labour Party, that the 5 percent claim against all companies was “pretty modest” given the economy?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): No. However, last Friday afternoon Mr Little rang my office to say that the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union would be launching a campaign to increase the wage rates for its membership.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Who then should the unions believe, the Prime Minister when she says that a 5 percent across-the-board wage claim is unrealistic, and should be tempered by the Working for Families package, or the Labour Party President, Mike Williams, when he says that 5 percent across the board is perfectly reasonable?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Prime Minister has made it clear that the policy of the Government is that the wage rates that are struck are the responsibility of employers, unions, or employees. The President of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, has been made aware of Government policy.
Lianne Dalziel: What role, in the context of this question, does workplace productivity play in ensuring that economic growth is sustainable?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Heaps! Improving workplace productivity helps ensure that wage growth does not put undue pressure on inflation targets. The release of the workplace productivity working group’s report late last year identified a number of key factors that help drive productivity in all workplaces. Examples include investing in people in skills, encouraging innovation, and use of technology. The Government, in partnership with business, industry, and unions, is now working on turning these drivers into practical action that all employers and employees can use to improve productivity at the workplace level.
Peter Brown: Is it not true that the Government is totally opposed to the 5 percent general wage rise for a number of reasons, principally because it would be more embarrassed when handling organisations that depend on it, such as rest homes that have not yet been reimbursed for inflation costs, the Holidays Act, and superannuitants who are being short-changed weekly by this Government, and is that not the real reason the Government is opposed to this wage rise?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No. The point is that the Government does not set wage rates. That is between employers, employees, and unions.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How does the Minister reconcile the Prime Minister’s claim that the Working for Families package will help workers, when on 1 April every worker and citizen in New Zealand will be hit by a 5c per litre increase in petrol tax that will decrease workers’ take-home pay?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because what she said is true.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I sought leave previously to table my speech. I seek leave to table another article “Smoking Cannabis Virtually Doubles the Risk of Developing Mental Illnesses such as Schizophrenia”, again for the Green Party to read.
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What has happened to the 400 non-genuine refugees I referred to in question for oral answer No. 10 yesterday who were not approved for residency, and what explanation has he got for any of them still being in New Zealand?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): I have not been able to obtain the exact information the member has asked for in the time available, but I will provide that information as soon as it becomes available. However, based on previous data, officials estimate that around 32 percent will have left New Zealand; around 53 percent would have appealed, or withdrawn their applications and applied under another category; and around 15 percent may be unlawfully in New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister fully expect that in a First World democracy, in a country that claims to be the world’s oldest democracy, we should put up with a shilly-shallying, vague, obtuse answer like that, saying: “We’ve got percentage estimates.”? How many of the 400 whom he itemised in a question on 1 February, and who were told they were not successful refugee applicants, have gone?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: If the member is frustrated, it does not match the level of my own frustration. What I can say to the member is that the information will be made available to him as soon as possible. It is likely to be tomorrow afternoon.
Hon Matt Robson: Is the Minister aware that in the two-step process to determine whether somebody is a genuine refugee, many applicants are found, on the first step, to have a genuine fear of persecution, but are found, on the objective step as to whether there is a situation of persecution in their country, not to have proved their case; and that, in that situation, the many applicants who are found to be genuine in their belief that they would be persecuted are not classed as non-genuine refugees?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, that is well summarised.
Hon Tony Ryall: How is it that since Labour came to office recent refugees to this country have sponsored an extra 1,588 family members into the country, with no obligation to support those people once they are here?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The first and obvious point to say is that since Labour has been in office the number of refugee claims has gone down. It is true that refugees coming in can then sponsor family members. By and large those family members come out of the quota, which is around 750. However, the ability for people to sponsor, and the criteria and conditions for that, are part of the review we are doing of the Act. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I heard it once, but I will not hear it again. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Tony Ryall: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister also provide tomorrow information on how much the 400 non-genuine refugees he referred to in his 1 February answer, who arrived here in the last 3 years on false or missing documentation, have already cost the taxpayer, including the cost of their emergency benefits, Housing New Zealand Corporation homes, and legal aid; and does he not recall what happened to his predecessor when she proved to be incompetent in handling the job?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The information the member has asked for today will be provided. If it is information that requires other Ministers’ input, then, obviously, the member should go to those Ministers. For example, we do not collect information on welfare benefits. That is the responsibility of the Minister for Social Development and Employment.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Out of interest—I know that it is your last day, and you will probably find this question fascinating, as well—how will I get an answer from the social welfare department if nobody knows where the person who is here illegally is, or who he is?
Mr SPEAKER: As usual, the member has raised a very interesting debating point, and has added to the contribution, but that is not in order.
10. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Police: What measures have been adopted by the police to reduce the incidence of crime?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that police have adopted a wide range of measures targeted at reducing the incidence of crime. They have focused on reducing violence, burglary, vehicle crime, and organised crime. The statistics released today show police are doing a very good job, with crime dropping by more than 8 percent.
Georgina Beyer: What indicators are available to show that the police are having an impact on crime?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Commissioner of Police has released the 2004 police crime statistics that show total number of recorded crimes is down 8.2 percent since the previous year—that is a drop of 36,000 crimes. That means nearly 700 less crimes are recorded each week—nearly 100 less each day—which results in fewer victims. I congratulate the police.
Hon Tony Ryall: If this is having an impact, why can people not get a response when they dial 111?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Nearly 500,000 111 calls each year are answered very satisfactorily.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that one of the best ways to prevent crime is to increase the police presence on our streets; if so, will he commit to increasing the number of sworn police from one officer for every 525 people to one for every 450, similar to the ratio in Australia; if not, why not?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Since becoming the Government we have added over 1,000 extra staff. When we look at Australian states we see that they all have their own bureaucracies built in their own administrations, and we are not comparing apples with apples.
Ron Mark: If a burglary occurs and a set of keys to a vehicle are stolen from inside the house, and the offender then goes to the garage, steals the car, finds a wallet in the car, steals the cash, uses the ATM card at 10 different ATM machines, withdrawing money from the victim’s account on each occasion—a crime that happens on a daily basis in New Zealand—why is it that rather than reporting 13 different offences the police policies running at the moment that produce these wonderful statistics record only one or two offences; is that all part of the good news electioneering statistics?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The way the crime statistics are gathered has not changed for years.
Pornography—Advice to Police from Department of Internal Affairs
11. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does the Department of Internal Affairs inform the New Zealand Police of pending prosecutions of any individual facing child pornography offences; if so, do they do so in every case?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes, they do so in every case with the exception of a small number of cases involving minor offending by children or young people. The police take an active part in the execution of search warrants and are informed as part of this process.
Hon Tony Ryall: How can vulnerable kids in schools be protected if the police are not made aware of these deviants, particularly if they admit the offence a year before their name is published in a newspaper and the public finds out?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Department of Internal Affairs works with the police on these matters, but I will ask the Secretary for Internal Affairs to see whether the department can get around all those problems that pop up from time to time. I want them working much closer, and they are having a great deal of success.
Hon Tony Ryall: Which of the Minister’s departments will take responsibility for fixing the situation that his office is aware of, where a school bus driver admitted offences a year before his name was published in the newspaper and the police apparently were not informed of that admission or of the charges?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: At the time of the warrant being executed that person was unemployed, and, of course, things may have happened since then. That is why I am getting the Secretary for Internal Affairs to talk with his staff and the police.
Nuclear Disarmament—New Zealand's International Role
12. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control: What role is New Zealand playing internationally to advance the Government’s policy for nuclear disarmament?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control): Members may not realise that it was 20 years ago today, New Zealand time, when former Prime Minister David Lange won the 1985 Oxford Union debate. New Zealanders watched with pride as David articulated our nation’s attitude to nuclear weapons, arguing: “Rejecting nuclear weapons is to assert what is human over the evil nature of the weapon; it is to restore to humanity the power of the decision; it is to allow a moral force to reign supreme.” Since then, New Zealand has played a leading role to advance the notion of a world without nuclear weapons.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What has been achieved in recent progress towards nuclear disarmament?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: For the first time, last year in the United Nations General Assembly the new agenda resolution on nuclear disarmament was supported not only by the majority of non-aligned member States, but also, for the first time, by five NATO States, as well as by Japan and Korea. New Zealand’s work alongside our friends on the new agenda contributed to this notable change of position. In the last 6 months New Zealand has contributed strongly to the preparation for a successful review conference in May of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
Mr SPEAKER: Final supplementary question, and I might say the 26,281st that I have heard.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wanted to ask the last formal one, sir. If David Lange has done such a marvellous job, and if he is probably the last orator of the left the Labour Party ever had, why has the Labour Party treated him so miserably and abysmally in terms of appointments in other things, or did he just plain fall out with the sisterhood?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The future of David Lange is really nothing to do with New Zealand’s disarmament, but we honour him today with the memory of that magnificent debate.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Bill—Report-back Date
1. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Chairperson of the Social Sevices Committee: Was the committee granted a 3-month extension of the report-back date for the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion (Repeal and Related Matters) Bill, following calls for wider consultation with families and workers associated with sheltered workshops?
GEORGINA BEYER (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): I am pleased to inform the deputy chair of the Social Services Committee that the House by leave agreed on 18 November 2004 that the time by which the committee must finally report the bill be extended from 25 November 2004 to 31 March 2005. The reasons for the committee requesting the Leader of the House to seek that leave remain strictly confidential to the committee.
Dr Muriel Newman: Since this bill will lead to the closure of most of New Zealand’s sheltered workshops, I wonder whether the chairperson could explain to the House why the 3,700 disabled workers who attend those workshops, and their parents, have not been consulted over this bill?
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not part of the chairperson’s responsibility.
Sandra Goudie: Was a newspaper advertisement the only form of consultation with the families of people who attend sheltered workshops; if not, what other process was used for consultation with individuals and their families?
GEORGINA BEYER: Newspapers were one method of communicating with the public.
Mr SPEAKER: There will be no further supplementary questions.
Sandra Goudie: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member did not answer the question fully. She answered only the first part, in saying that the newspaper advertisement was one process that was used. She did not stipulate what other process was used for consultation, which was the question I asked. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: She addressed the question. I will allow a final supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the chairperson please tell us why the deputy chair would not know the answer to the primary question, or is there something more secret than we are aware of in respect of this Government?
Mr SPEAKER: The chairperson does not have responsibility for that particular issue. That is the responsibility of the committee.