Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 8 March 2005
Tuesday, 8 March
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Concerns
3. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Inquiry
4. Indonesia—Spiritual Leader Abu Bakar Bashir
5. Benefits—Core Benefit Level
7. Tertiary Education Commission—Impact
8. Student Loans—Repayments
9. Dental Clinics—McDonald’s Sponsorship
10. Wages—After Tax
11. Women—Choice and Opportunities
Question No. 12 to Minister
12. Marine Reserves—Proposals
Questions for Oral
Questions to Ministers
Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Concerns
1. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Did she or any of her Ministers convey the reported concerns that she said she had for some time over Te Wânanga o Aotearoa to Dr Rongo Wçtere; if so, what was Dr Wçtere’s response?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): There have been many communications between the Government and the wânanga in recent years, with correspondence mainly being directed to the chair of the wânanga council. There have also been meetings between education Ministers and Mr Wçtere in recent years, focusing in particular on the high growth in the wânanga’s enrolment numbers and the conflict of interest issue. I am advised that Mr Wçtere’s response at the first of the meetings on the roll numbers almost 2 years ago could be described as “forthright”, notwithstanding that the Government did move to impose caps on the numbers enrolled, later in 2003.
Rodney Hide: Could the Prime Minister tell the House where it all went wrong, in that under her administration the funding for the wânanga went from $4 million a year to $239 million a year, then the Government froze the funding and put in a financial controller, presumably to control the wânanga?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Equivalent full-time student numbers were uncapped in 1998, and local courses did not require approval by Government agencies. In my view that has been a mistake, and it is one of the issues that we are focusing on now. When the considerable blowout in numbers became apparent, Ministers began communicating with the wânanga and with other organisations where this was an issue.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My particular concern was “where it all went wrong”. It is of some public interest and of interest to members in this House that funding went from $4 million to $239 million. We have just had a nice dissertation on caps. That was not part of my question. My question was where did it go wrong, whereby the Government pumped the funding up to $239 million and then suddenly froze the funding and put in its own commissioner. I ask you to ask the Prime Minister to address my specific question.
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order. The substance of the member’s question was addressed.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Has the Prime Minister been briefed on the report on the financial review of Te Wânanga o Aotearoa by the Education and Science Committee, tabled in December, and does that report contain a minority report by the ACT member on the committee expressing concerns about financial mismanagement at the wânanga?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have not been briefed on that report but I think I can infer from the member’s question that no such minority report was tabled.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that since 2002 Government agencies have initiated at least 22 audits, investigations, or inquiries into issues at Te Wânanga o Aotearoa, and that despite those failings the Government has never acted to reduce the funding available to the wânanga?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am aware there have been a number of formal communications from the Government to the wânanga raising a range of concerns, and those are being worked through with a varying degree of success, I might say. Certainly, steps were taken to lower the runaway enrolments. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition benefited from his personal briefing by Mr Wçtere at the kapahakacelebrations.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister referred to a number of Government requests and reports. Could we please have those tabled?
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is quite clear under the Standing Orders that if something is quoted from by a Minister it must be tabled, otherwise it does not have to be.
Hon Ken Shirley: What difference, if any, will Brian Roach’s appointment make, and, in particular, will he have the powers to countermand a spending decision made by the Wânanga council, in view of Trevor Mallard’s stated claim that Rongo Wçtere controls the council?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that the Crown manager will have charge of the finances. If the member wants to pursue that further, I suggest he pursue it with the Minister of Education.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister have complete confidence in the way the previous tertiary education Minister, Steve Maharey, handled issues with Te Wânanga o Aotearoa; if so, why did she move him out of that portfolio in December, leaving Trevor Mallard to deal with the mess?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I am satisfied that the Minister took steps to address the runaway enrolments. I might say that I have taken a rather conservative approach to reshuffles, unlike the constant reshuffling that goes on over there, particularly in respect of women members who are not allowed to keep jobs for very long.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister’s accusation that constant reshuffles are going on “over there” and pointing at us is utterly untrue.
Madam SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that the Prime Minister’s answer was not terse, to the point, and accurate. Perhaps she should particularise what her claim is.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am quite happy to put the member’s mind at rest. My reference to musical chairs was not directed at New Zealand First; it was directed at the National Party.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Prime Minister support the decision made by the Minister of Education to decline my request under the Official Information Act for the Graeme McNally report of 9 February 2005 to the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit; if she does support that decline of the public release of that document, then why; and what does her Government have to hide?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not spend my life getting briefings from Ministers about what Official Information Act requests they agree to and do not agree to. The member should take that matter up with the Minister of Education.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister is making misleading and false statements to this House. As you know, we met with Dr Rongo Wçtere yesterday and he was insistent that he did not brief the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Don Brash, that he did not spend the weekend with Dr Don Brash, as has been alleged, that he had never met Dr Don Brash before and he went over and said hello to him for 5 minutes at a kapahaka. I think it is an outrage that the Prime Minister—
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Ha, ha!
Rodney Hide: She might laugh, but these are serious matters. It shows that the Prime Minister is quite prepared to stand up in this House day after day and simply make things up.
Madam SPEAKER: That is a debatable matter, not a point of order.
Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table a letter dated 4 March from Trevor Mallard to myself declining my request under the Official Information Act for the Graeme McNally report of 9 February to the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit.
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she still hold the same view as she did in the House on 13 May 2003, arising from questions about the increase in reported kidnappings by Asians, when she said “there is not a crime wave.”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because high-profile individual incidents do not constitute a crime wave. For example, Asians accounted for only 2 percent of all apprehensions for violent crime last year when they are estimated to comprise 6.6 percent of the population.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: After a 760 percent increase in kidnappings in Auckland alone in just 3 years, whom are we to believe—the Chinese community leaders and police, who have an understanding of the Asian community and are quoted in today’s New Zealand Herald as saying there is a serious problem with kidnappings and extortion amongst the Asian community in this country; or do we believe the Prime Minister and her Labour cronies, who state that “there is no crime wave”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The latest figures I have for 2004 kidnapping and abduction, recorded apprehensions of Asiatic persons—official statistics—show that 4.8 percent of the kidnappings and abductions in 2004 were carried out by Asiatic persons. If we go back over the past 5 years, we find that the absolute numbers were: five in 2000, three in 2001, 24 in 2002, 72 in 2003, and way back down to nine—the 4.8 percent—last year.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How on earth did the Prime Minister get those figures, when the Ministry of Justice does not even record the visa status of criminals, and in 2003 the police blamed an increase in reported kidnappings in New Zealand on the rise in the number of students from Asian countries, where such crime are common, and, more particularly, there is the acknowledgment by Chinese leaders that this matter is kept under wraps?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not sure what the relevance of the reference to visa status is. The figures I have are recorded apprehensions of Asiatic persons. If we are talking about intimidation and threats, for example, we find that 2.7 percent of the recorded apprehensions last year were of Asiatic persons, which again is well under their proportion of the total population, which is 6.6 percent.
Kenneth Wang227Kenneth Wang: How can the Government claim to be dealing with crime, when four under-17-year-olds can burglarise a Mr Lee of over $30,000, be caught the next day, and then be released, with the only penalty being a family group conference; and when will she reply to Mr Lee’s letter asking for some justice and “equal rights with burglars”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The crime rate has come in at its lowest since 1982. That does not mean there is no crime. Obviously, too many crimes are committed, and one wants to get their number down further. As to the specific letter, the member should take it up directly with my office.
Kenneth Wang: I seek leave to table a copy of the letter from Mr Lee, dated 3 March, to the Prime Minister outlining the burglary by those four young, hardened criminals, outlining the joke—that is, the family group conference—and asking for equal rights with the burglars.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can I ask whether Mr Wang has obtained the permission of the person to table that correspondence?
Kenneth Wang: Yes, I have.
Madam SPEAKER: He has obtained permission. However, that is not really the issue. The issue is whether the document will be tabled.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table answers to written questions last year, which show quite clearly that kidnappings and extortion crimes had risen at that date by some 600 percent among Asiatic people.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Inquiry
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Has the Government initiated an inquiry into NCEA results; if so, when was the decision to undertake that inquiry made?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education: Yes, on 15 February.
Hon Bill English: How does the Minister reconcile the following two public statements: firstly, his confirmation on Radio New Zealand on 16 February that it was “only scholarship under the microscope”—contrary to the answer he just gave—and, secondly, his telling the New Zealand Herald on 4 March that he had not issued a statement about the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) inquiry because “it was already covered by the States Services Commission inquiry”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do that quite easily. As was indicated, the State Services Commission inquiry will determine whether reasons for variability in some standards were not for valid educational reasons—that is, were they the result of deficiencies in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s systems? That was at the beginning of the inquiry. It was always covered.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Would the Associate Minister agree with the statement last week by an experienced maths teacher, who wrote: “It is not the teachers and the pupils who have varied; it is the hurdle height.”; and will he give parents, students, and employers a guarantee that steps now being taken will stabilise these unacceptable variations in the “hurdle height”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: On the matter of unacceptable variations, the answer is yes.
Deborah Coddington: How much importance, if any, did the Minister’s Government place on the repeated warnings about the NCEA scholarship given by the New Zealand Education and Scholarship Trust; and now that its predictions have come true why does he not just give scholarship exams back to the trust to run?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have a copy of the correspondence from John Graham to the Ministry of Education in 2002, and the trust does indicate a fundamental feeling that a standards-based approach is not the right approach. It has always been honest about that, unlike some other people.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm the answer he just gave to the House that the decision to have an official inquiry into NCEA was made on 15 February; if that is true, how does he explain the following exchange on Radio New Zealand—presenter: “So it’s only scholarship under the microscope?”; David Benson-Pope: “That’s right.”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Again, I can confirm that very easily. On 15 February the Associate Minister wrote to the State Services Commissioner, asking him to review the effectiveness of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in carrying out its functions relating to the school qualifications system. The rest of the NCEA might not have been under a microscope, but it was certainly within the scope of that inquiry.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the person who has been appointed as an independent adviser to the inquiry into NCEA is Dr Alan Barker, and is this the same Dr Alan Barker who spent 7 years working in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority between 1992 and 1999 as manager of planning and strategy, and who is acknowledged as one of the two architects of NCEA; and why should parents, students, and teachers have any faith in an inquiry run by the person who designed the system?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I fear there might be two Dr Alan Barkers. The Alan Barker who has been appointed worked for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority from 1990 until 1997, after which the National Party issued the green paper on NCEA. He was not there at that time.
Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister tell Radio New Zealand on 16 February that only scholarship was under the microscope, when he has just told the House he had apparently decided the day before that there would be an inquiry into the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and why should the public or this House believe a word he says about this issue?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: To answer the second question first, I am not a Tory; and to answer the first question, there is a difference between a microscope and a wide-angle lens and the Minister has both.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I look at things both with microscopes and with wide-angle lenses in order to focus on appropriate issues, and I do not mislead people, because I am not a Tory.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was quite direct and it was to ask the Minister why he told Radio New Zealand that only scholarship was under the microscope when he had already decided—apparently the day before—that there would be an inquiry into NCEA. I have asked him why he told Radio New Zealand that only scholarship was under the microscope. That was a direct question and it deserves a direct answer, particularly given the contradictory statement that he has made in answers to this House. That is why the matter is important. The House has to decide on the veracity of what is being said here, alongside what was said to the public on Radio New Zealand.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. The member may not like the answer, but the question was addressed and it was relevant to the question that was asked.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With regard to the Minister’s answer, he does have to answer in line with the Standing Orders. I would ask you—perhaps not now, but later—to just look at the Hansard from today and consider how that last answer lined up with Standing Order 370(2)(c). I think that it was slightly provocative, and I am sure it was not the sort of style that you would want to see from this point on.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his assistance. I will look at the matter.
Indonesia—Spiritual Leader Abu Bakar Bashir
4. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Has he received any reports on other countries having withdrawn their ambassadors from Indonesia in protest at the inability of prosecutors to secure court convictions on the most serious charges against Abu Bakar Bashir?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I am advised that no country has done so, and that, in fact, the only person even to suggest taking such an action has been Dr Brash. Everyone else has been able to work out that Indonesia’s track record in bringing Bali bombers to justice has in fact been extraordinarily good, and that the inability of prosecutors and the justice system to make serious charges against Bashir stick is separate from the decision-making process of the executive. Everybody in the House understands that. Dr Brash’s failure to do so is, at best, naive and, at worst, an example of desperate opportunism. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether you heard the response in respect of that answer, but, frankly, we on this side of the Chamber could not hear it for a constant cackle and barrage of complaint, when, obviously, no complaint was warranted. I think those members should be required to restrain themselves.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. The answer from the Minister was also too long.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Is there any evidence that the Indonesian Government has failed to take action to hold to account those responsible for the Bali bombing?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No. To the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that Indonesia has cooperated actively on investigations with countries whose citizens were victims of the bombing, and has worked hard to collect evidence, bring charges, and secure convictions of the Bali bombers. With the high number of convictions, to a large extent the Indonesian justice system has been successful in doing so, notwithstanding the disappointment we share with others that the court did not regard evidence on the most serious charges against Bashir as being sufficient to convict.
Hon Peter Dunne: When high-profile trials of this type occur, is it normal for a Government like the New Zealand Government to intervene, in any shape or form, with another sovereign Government to suggest what the outcome of those trials might be?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, it is not normal. We would take the view that if there was a court trial before a New Zealand court, and another Government sought to instruct the executive to interfere in an independent judicial process, that would be totally out of order. However, what we can do is ask questions, as we are doing, as to whether an appeal will be taken.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Minister or his colleagues see the disclaimer from the National Party leader as to the purport of his first demand that the ambassador be withdrawn from Indonesia, and does he give any credence to it?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I did indeed see the disclaimer. It shows that Dr Brash was last night scrambling to explain his statement, stating that he meant that New Zealand should withdraw Mr Elder for consultations unless Indonesia indicated it would appeal against the sentence. The report notes that that is not consistent with Dr Brash’s original statement.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a document in front of me that makes it very clear that, on the morning Dr Brash released the statement, it stated that New Zealand should bring the ambassador home for consultations.
Madam SPEAKER: What is the document?
Gerry Brownlee: It is the press release.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the press release. Is there any objection? There is.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If it is not possible to table the press release in the House, what possible verification could the current Minister have for his whole line of answering to the House?
Madam SPEAKER: It is in the gift of the House as to whether members grant leave. They decided not to.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table a document from the Dominion Post that states that Dr Brash’s original statement made no mention of Indonesia not appealing against the sentence, which contradicts his attempt to explain himself—unsuccessfully.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the press release made by Phil Goff when he was in Opposition in 1994, asking for New Zealand to withdraw its ambassador from Indonesia as a consequence of dissatisfaction with the handling of the Dili massacre by the Indonesian judicial authorities.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek leave, as we cannot read the latter document or learn of its contents, to table the original statement in respect of Dr Brash’s comments, which is all about learning on the job.
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order.
Hon Peter Dunne: In light of the Minister’s earlier answer that it is appropriate for New Zealand to express concern to Indonesia regarding the outcome of the trial in terms of any appeal that is to be lodged, can he now tell the House what specific actions, if any, the New Zealand Government has taken in respect of that?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have asked the Ambassador to Indonesia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to ask the Indonesian Government whether it intends to appeal against the decision. I am, of course, mindful that there is no way that we could instruct such a thing. I am also mindful of the fact that to demand such a thing, and for the Indonesian Government to be seen to be responding to a foreign Government’s demand, would be totally counterproductive to what we are all trying to achieve against terrorism in Indonesia.
Rt Hon Helen Clark: How would the Minister react if another country threatened to withdraw its ambassador to New Zealand because the executive here refused to interfere in a court decision?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Quite frankly, to use the vernacular, we would probably tell it to sod off.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: How many people has the Indonesian judiciary convicted on terrorism charges related to the Bali bombing, and what sorts of sentences have been imposed?
Hon PHIL GOFF: More than 30 people have been prosecuted and jailed in Indonesia on terrorism charges relating to the Bali bombing. Those convicted of the most serious charges, such as Amrozi, have been given the most severe penalty in Indonesia, which is death. In light of this track record, not to mention the separation of the judiciary from the executive, the proposal by Dr Brash to withdraw our ambassador is clearly ludicrous.
Madam SPEAKER: That answer was marginal to the Minister’s responsibility.
Benefits—Core Benefit Level
5. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he agree with economist Dr Susan St John, who was reported in this morning’s New Zealand Herald as saying that the new single benefit would be sensible if the core benefits were high enough but they were not; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The focus of the single core benefit is on helping even more people into work, rather than categorising them as to why they cannot work. It is about providing more people with more opportunity to get a job. No one will be financially worse off as a result of the changes to the single core benefit, just as no one will be financially worse off under the Working for Families package. In fact, under the Working for Families package currently being implemented, all beneficiary families with children will be better off.
Sue Bradford: Has the Minister given consideration to increasing core benefit levels as part of the Government’s Working for Families and/or single benefit welfare reform; if so, when can beneficiaries expect to see a real increase to bring them up to pre-1991 equivalent levels?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government is not considering increases to the rates, apart from the 1 April consumer price index adjustment, which will be around 2.7 percent. I should note, however, that one of the key policies of this Government has been to ensure that people get their full entitlement. As the member will know, that has meant, for example, a dramatic rise in the number of people who have access to benefits, which has meant substantially more money for beneficiary households.
Georgina Beyer: How much will beneficiary families gain under the Working for Families package?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Working for Families will deliver an average increase of $100 a week to families with children by the time it is fully implemented. Family support rates and thresholds will be regularly adjusted for inflation. The lowest net gain a beneficiary family will receive by the time Working for Families has been fully rolled out is $17.86 a week for a couple with one child, and at least $92.86 a week for a couple with four children. Key changes from 1 April include increases to family support of $25 a week for the first child and $15 a week for an additional child, and changes to the accommodation supplement that will lift the average increase, for 100,000 people, to around $19 a week.
Judith Collins: How long will it be before we know the true cost of the Minister’s proposed single benefit system, given that nothing has been decided, apart from the fact that he wants a single benefit, which was first announced in 2000; and how can anyone have confidence in the idea when no detail has been decided and nothing has been costed?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I said at the time of the release of the single benefit, there is a time line for the release of aspects of the policy. The first part of the policy will be done within baselines, as was announced at the time, within the Department of Work and Income. The questioner can trust what I say, because I am not a Tory.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Twice today we have heard Ministers, the moment they are challenged or are caught being less than honest, give us the line that they are not Tories. Are you going to accept those responses in terms of the Standing Order that requires Ministers only to answer questions and not to deal in irrelevancies, let alone make those sorts of derogatory remarks?
Hon Mark BurtonHon Mark Burton16: In at least one of those cases the member was asked why he should be trusted, and the remark was offered as a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he should be trusted.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. The term “Tory” is not unparliamentary, but it was not strictly relevant to the answer, either.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like you to rule on whether that is acceptable, and I draw your attention to Standing Order 370(2)(c), which states: “discreditable references to the House or any member of Parliament or any offensive or unparliamentary expression.” What you have here is Ministers standing up, question after question, and saying that an entire party cannot be trusted. If we are going to have that, then what is the point of question time? It is the Ministers who are being asked, it is what they are responsible for, and they should be confined to that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker, perhaps I can assist, my having been here in this Parliament for some time. I think the idea that you would banish the word “Tory” in here is a shameful one. There was a great tradition at one time, of course, of a party of principles and beliefs that was prepared to make sacrifices for the nation. Otherwise, if you ban—
Hon Maurice WilliamsonHon Maurice Williamson115: But he left!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Actually, I did leave; the member is right. Otherwise, we will have to substitute things like “redneck”, “opportunist”, or “reactionary”.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Peters. I think the point Mr Hide was making, if I may say so, Mr Hide, was that the term was more irrelevant rather than insulting, in terms of the context of the answer.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was not the phrase “Tory” that I was objecting to; of course it is allowed. What I was objecting to is the idea that an entire party—well, I do not even want to repeat it, but it is the idea that Labour can be trusted and another party cannot, simply because of their party affiliation.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Would you please sit down.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The inference from the Minister’s answer is that all Tories are untrustworthy. It is not as though it is our party that has had to leave the benches because of dishonest Ministers.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It is a debatable matter.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer you quite specifically to Standing Order 370(2). It states: “The reply to any question must be concise and confined to the subject-matter”, and must not contain “inferences, imputations, … or ironical expressions,”. There is no objection on this side of the House to our being referred to as Tories; what there is objection to is the implication that members on this side of the House are less than honest. If you are going to allow it, not just from one Minister twice but also from another speaker, I think the standards in this House will significantly decline. We simply ask, on this side of the House, that you enforce Standing Order 370(2)(b).
Hon Trevor Mallard: This point has now been
raised in one guise or another, I think, on four separate
Points of Order
, none of which were actually Points of Order
Madam SPEAKER: That is right. I will ask the
Minister Steve Maharey, however, to clarify what his
response was in terms of the objection from the National
Party members who have raised the Points of Order
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I was simply trying to clarify my position in relation to the question I was asked about the true cost, when it would be announced, and whether I could be trusted on this matter. I was simply clarifying that I could be.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is very odd procedure for a Speaker to go to a Minister and seek a ruling. The issue that I am objecting to, and I think all of us in this House should just take a moment to reflect on this, is that if a Minister is able to stand up and say: “Look, I can be trusted because I am not a member of the Green Party.”—or not a member of New Zealand First, or not a member of the Labour Party—then that is a drop down in parliamentary standards. We could not say that about an individual MP. I think the idea, Madam Speaker, that you go across to the Minister and ask him to clarify what he was saying, and consider that to be a ruling, is very, very unwise.
Madam SPEAKER: I was asking the Minister whether, in fact, he was reflecting upon the other members. That is a perfectly acceptable process—for the Minister to clarify—and he has done so.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Your final comment to the House is absolutely correct: it would have been perfectly in order, and, in fact, the right response, to ask Mr Maharey whether he was making a reflection on other members when he made that statement. But I think you will find that you did not actually put that question to him; you just asked him to clarify, which gave him another opportunity, as they say, to take a free shot. But I think it would be helpful if you were now to ask Mr Maharey to give us all an assurance that when he gave that answer, he was not making a reflection upon any honourable member in this House. If he was—as I thought he was, and, obviously, so did many others—then he should withdraw and apologise for it.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened carefully to the Minister’s answer. He, in fact, was clarifying his own position, not casting aspersions on others.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was not the clarification we were objecting to; it was the Minister’s original answer, which cast aspersions on members of this Parliament. That is what we are objecting to—not his clarification. The point that my colleague the Hon Richard Prebble raised is that this could easily be cleared up by your asking him whether he was casting an aspersion—we certainly heard it; members here all heard it—and, if he was, to withdraw and apologise.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If members have taken offence, I simply withdraw and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to take time on this point, but I just want to rise to support my friends in the ACT party.
Madam SPEAKER: Please come to the point of order, Mr Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee: I think the mere fact that the Minister has now stood to withdraw and apologise indicates, surely—if he is an honourable member—that he did have some intention other than what you have managed to extract from him to this point. So I ask again, as I did earlier today, that you come back to the House after some consideration of today’s questions and give us as Opposition members some clear steer of what we can expect when a Minister gives an answer, and give Government members a clear steer of what you expect from them when they give an answer, relative to all of the parts of Standing Order 370.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Brownlee. The matter has been dealt with by the withdrawal.
Sue Bradford: Given the Minister’s reply to my question some time ago that all families with children will be at least $7.86 a week better off after 1 April, can he give that same assurance to a one-parent, one-child family currently receiving a special benefit of $90 a week, following their first special benefit renewal after 1 April this year?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That family will be moving on to a higher rate of support through the family support system, so, yes, there will be no losers in this system.
Sue Bradford: Will the Minister reconsider this Government’s policy of retaining the child tax credit, given that his colleague Michael Cullen called its predecessor, family support under National, a “simplistic tangle of bigotry and ignorance and barely disguised attack on beneficiaries”; if he is not reconsidering the retention of a child tax credit, why not, given that sole parent beneficiary families are still disproportionately living in poverty, despite the Working for Families package?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The main reason that we are moving from the child component being delivered through the current system to putting it into family support is to ensure that people can take it with them into the workplace. That is one of the major advantages of doing that. We have two payments now. There will be one payment in the future, and that payment will be portable because it goes to people through the Inland Revenue Department.
6. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What initiatives in the area of cancer control has she announced recently?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yesterday I had great pleasure in launching the cancer control task force action plan 2005-10, and of announcing the Government’s response for the first year of implementation. The action plan is based on the Cancer Control Strategy I launched in 2003 and covers the continuum of cancer services from prevention through to treatment, palliative care, support, rehabilitation, and research. The Government will spend an extra $40 million in 2005-06.
Steve Chadwick: How were decisions made on what should be included in the first and second phases of the action plan?
Hon ANNETTE KING: After I launched the Cancer Control Strategy in August 2003, the Ministry of Health appointed a cancer control task force to develop the action plan. The task force has included some of New Zealand’s most committed professionals working alongside the Cancer Society of New Zealand and the New Zealand Cancer Control Trust. It was chaired by oncologist Chris Atkinson, and the Government’s funding announcements yesterday were based on what experts advised us to do. I am delighted by the warm responses we have received from groups such as Hospice New Zealand and from the medical director of the Cancer Society, Dr Peter Dady, who says that he is very heartened by the approach being taken.
Madam SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she accept that the $5.3 million allotted to cancer treatment services will not ensure “optimal treatment” for those on radiation waiting lists, or for cancer chemotherapy patients such as Raylene Hewitt, whose recent 13-week wait was described as callous and inhumane?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government certainly puts in a lot more than the $5 million that the member mentioned; that is a small amount in terms of cancer drugs. But I am pleased to tell the member that cancer waiting times for radiation therapy have improved significantly this year, to the extent that we do not send patients to Australia. And I am pleased to tell the member that chemotherapy has come back under control, unlike the years we have had to tolerate when it went out of control through the lack of a trained workforce brought about by the previous National Government.
Barbara Stewart: Is the extra $4 million now available to boost access to cancer drugs and allow Pharmac to buy new drugs a response to the public dismay that was expressed over Pharmac’s proposal to assume control of drug spending for cancer treatments—a move that was described as “potential dynamite” by the chair of the clinical oncology group?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No.
Heather Roy: Why is only a paltry $5.3 million of the $40 million package actually for the delivery of cancer treatment services, and how much will this election-year announcement reduce the growing number of patients who die on her waiting lists—now up to 22 each week?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member has been shown to be incorrect in her deaths on waiting list numbers, and is a laughing stock up and down New Zealand for the way she interpreted those numbers. I tell the members of this House that over $139 million is spent on treatment services. This money is for drugs that are added to that. Also, this policy looks at the whole continuum of cancer—from prevention right through to palliative care—and $40 million in the first year has been applauded by the many sectors throughout New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How are we to interpret her emotions when she knows that in the last measurable year 1,200 people on waiting lists in this country died, and how are we to feel after seeing her and the Prime Minister dishing out apples in what is a public relations exercise put on by TVNZ?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I suggest that the member asks TVNZ whether it was part of some exercise in publicity. I was delighted that TVNZ turned up to the launch, but maybe that is because it recognises that cancer is a serious issue and not to be trifled with, as that member just has.
Steve Chadwick: Why was it necessary for the Government to develop a cancer control strategy in the first place?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The World Health Organization recommends that countries have cancer control strategies; it recommended that in the 1990s. Unfortunately no such strategy was developed, despite repeated warnings to the previous National Government. This Government has taken hold of this issue. We have replaced linear accelerators. We have trained more radiation therapists, and we are prepared to work with the sector to invest in an approach that is being applauded. Unfortunately, the members opposite do not like that.
Heather Roy: I seek leave of the House to table the Minister’s own figures from the Ministry of Health, the Health Information Service figures, showing that 1,166 patients on waiting lists have died in the past year.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Yes, there is an objection.
Tertiary Education Commission—Impact
7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he believe the Government has fulfilled the commitment made by Hon Steve Maharey in 2001 that, “The Tertiary Education Commission will positively impact on you by providing a more strategic and systematic approach to the way that tertiary education is funded and regulated.”; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Progress has been made. The Tertiary Education Commission has successfully implemented a significant improvement in the way that tertiary education research is funded. It has implemented caps on community education, aviation, and other high-growth areas. It has begun allocating private training establishment funding on a strategic basis. Last week it commenced reviews on the strategic relevance of four areas of provision. We are not there yet, but, as Rachel Hunter said: “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that between 2000 and 2003, the latest years for which official figures are available, the growth in certificate and diploma courses was 10 times the growth in trade and skills training?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Off the top of my head, no.
H V Ross Robertson: Has he seen reports proposing other options, instead of a more strategic and systematic approach to the way in which tertiary education is funded and regulated?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I have seen an approach that states: “Fund every student who comes through the institution’s doors. What can be unfair about that?”. I have seen another approach that states: “Trust institutions to run themselves. Students do not need some dictatorial Minister in charge of tertiary education, telling them what they should, or should not study.”; and “Mâori should be able to set up their own schools and universities.” Those comments were made by Wyatt Creech, Nick Smith, and Rodney Hide. That is a “bums on seats” approach; not the approach I am happy with.
Hon Ken Shirley: How does the Minister reconcile the flowery dream of Steve Maharey’s 2001 commitment, with his own announcement on 21 February this year asking the Tertiary Education Commission to negotiate changes to the wânanga charter to strengthen governance, and is that not an admission that Mr Maharey’s 2001 commitment was not fulfilled?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We are not there yet.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that one of the results of the Government’s commitment to strategic tertiary education is that between 2000 and 2003 the Government spent $2.5 billion on certificate and diploma courses, that only 30 percent of the students who started those courses ever finished them, and that that means that $1.7 billion was spent on courses that students did not finish?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No.
8. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What recent reports, if any, has he received on average student loan repayment times?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have recently received a report that shows that 40 percent of borrowers had completely repaid their loans within 6 years of leaving study, and a further 10 percent had repaid three-quarters of their debt. The report shows that the average student loan repayment time is down to 9.3 years compared with 14.8 years when Steve Maharey took charge of the area. Labour has delivered on our pledge to make the loan scheme fairer.
Lynne Pillay: Is there any correlation between the levels of a graduate student loan debt and future income; if so, what?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. Students with bigger student loans at the time of graduation generally earn higher incomes and pay their loans back more quickly—absolutely, as well as relatively. For example, students studying health leave with more debt, but they have the highest post-study incomes and repay their loan debts faster.
Craig McNair: What will the Minister do about the major problem facing students today that has the average student debt increasing from $13,743 in 2001 to $18,726 in 2004, giving young New Zealanders a bleak outlook under this Labour Government?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not sure that the member’s figures are right. I am happy to offer him a briefing on them.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister assure the House that the reduction in average student debt repayment times that he has just told us about cannot be attributed at least partly to lower starting levels of debt because of an increase in sub-degree courses; if he cannot give us that assurance, is this not just being cute with the figures?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I can give the member a number of assurances. The starting debts are lower than they would have been, because there is no interest when people are studying, more students are eligible for allowances, and average fees have dropped significantly.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was specifically around the increase in sub-degree courses and the resulting lower starting debt as a result of that, and I would be obliged if the Minister would actually answer that question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am prepared to supplement my answer by indicating to the member that it is people who have degrees, and are therefore more likely to have higher incomes, who pay their debts off faster than people who have equivalent debts from sub-degree courses.
Bernie Ogilvy: What impact will the decision to abolish the independent circumstances allowance have on average student loan repayment times?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Marginal.
Craig McNair: I seek leave to table page 27 of the 2004 student income and expenditure survey prepared for the New Zealand University Students Association, outlining the statistics referred to in my question to the Minister.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I seek leave to table an authoritative document—that is, the document prepared on the basis of the facts collected by the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Education, rather than one that asked a few students what their debt was.
Madam SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It seems to me that the Minister has just committed some type of breach, because in his answer to Craig McNair he said he did not have the information, but now he is saying he does have the information and he wants to table it. All I can say is why did the Minister not answer the question he was asked by Craig McNair when he had the information all the time and that he now wants to lodge before the House, to which we have not objected. It is very contradictory.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am quite prepared to have the document sent to the House so I can table it. I do not have it with me now, but in the interests of having quality information, rather than things made up by students, in front of the House, I am prepared to table the accurate information.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My colleague asked a question and he was dismissed by the Minister on the basis that he did not have those figures and he was happy to give him a briefing. But he did have figures, and he just sought to table. The least he could have done was to deal with the figures that he had so that question time could be meaningful rather than a total waste of time where my colleague was concerned.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister offered to table the information; the House did not give leave.
Dental Clinics—McDonald’s Sponsorship
9. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does she agree that district health boards which accept sponsorship for mobile dental clinics from Ronald McDonald House charities and allow the McDonald’s clown to be painted across the dental vans are effectively endorsing McDonald’s marketing and advertising plans?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No, no more than district health boards accepting Ronald McDonald House charities funding for houses for children who are receiving cancer treatment, endorses McDonald’s marketing and advertising plan—these houses have cared for 2,500 families in New Zealand in three cities over the past 16 years—and no more than the trust donation of half the building costs for the children’s liver transplant unit at Starship Children’s Hospital endorses McDonald’s marketing and advertising plan. I have not heard the member complain about either of these activities.
Sue Kedgley: Does she agree with the Obesity Action Coalition that diet is a very important contributor to dental health, or ill health, and that much of the food and drink sold at McDonald’s is high in sugar and rots kids’ teeth, and, given that, is not accepting McDonald’s sponsorship of dental clinics a little bit like accepting Benson and Hedges sponsorship for lung cancer treatment; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No. This is sponsorship from the trust. And, yes, I agree with the Obesity Action Coalition that diet is an important issue. But diets are like having everything in moderation. If one were to eat McDonald’s hamburgers every day, then we would all be worried. However, I would be worried about anyone eating corned beef and peas every day.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think that was a direct attack on the Leader of the Opposition, and probably it should be withdrawn.
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that of greater concern than what is painted on mobile dental clinics, is the fact that large numbers of New Zealand children are currently not receiving the recommended number of dental check-ups and that large numbers are not able to access dentists with district health board contracts for more specialised treatment; if she does agree, what does she plan to do about it?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree entirely with the member. The member probably knows that one of the reasons we are unable to provide the contract is that in the 1990s all dental therapy training schools were closed.
Government MembersGovernment Members: What!
Hon ANNETTE KING: All of them were closed. How can dental treatment be provided if none of the workforce is trained? In 2001 and 2002 this Government reopened dental therapy training. We are now getting some graduates. [Interruption] Listen to members opposite braying about it—they are responsible.
Sue Kedgley: Is dental care a core health service; if so, why is dental care so underfunded and why are district health boards so cash-strapped that they are having to turn to fast-food companies, like McDonald’s, to fund a core health service?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, it is a core health service, and into which we are putting considerable money, energy, and commitment. This is a decision by the Northland District Health Board, which has formed a partnership with the trust—one it believes is beneficial for people of the far north, most of whom are rural people. According to the child nutrition study, very few rural children eat a lot of McDonald’s hamburgers.
Sue Kedgley: If she takes the view that there is nothing wrong with allowing a fast-food company to fund a core health service, where would she draw the line. For instance, if McDonald’s were to offer a sponsorship of $1 billion for the Ministry of Health and for various other core health services, would she consider rebranding the Ministry of Health with the McDonald’s logo, or perhaps with Ronald McDonald the clown; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: As usual, the member confuses issues. It is the trust that is funding this. I am sure the member has seen other companies and trusts fund all sorts of things in New Zealand, from Sky City, to hotel charities, food producers, and big business. Usually we support them in terms of their having joint projects with us. The member, I am afraid, is inclined to criticise any good initiative.
Sue Kedgley: Was the Minister suggesting that Ronald McDonald’s Trust is not an offshoot of McDonald’s? Could she please clarify that.
Madam SPEAKER: Is the member asking another supplementary question?
Sue Kedgley: No. I have one, but that is not it. That was a point of information.
Madam SPEAKER: There is no point of information. It was not a point of order; it was another question. It is the member’s choice. Does she want to ask a supplementary question?
Sue Kedgley: I would like to ask a supplementary question that is different. If the Minister really is committed to dental health, as she claims, why is she not requiring district health boards like the Northland District Health Board, where there is such problems with dental cavities, to take incredibly simple steps that would vastly improve dental hygiene, such as requiring it to remove high-sugar drinks from schools in the Northland District Health Board area and introduce water-only policies?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to tell the member that the Ministry of Health and schools are working together in terms of reducing the content of high-sugar drinks. But there is one other simple measure that could help the people of Northland—that is, to fluoridate the water supply. Unfortunately, that member opposes it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, having regard to the last series of questions and questions typical of that, does the Minister get so vehement in her answers, when she knows full well that the Greens have promised to support Labour after the next election and that their words are not worth the air they pass on?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I feel very strongly in my answers, because the member who asks these questions is so often wrong.
10. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Is he concerned about the level of real after-tax wages currently paid to the average New Zealand worker; if so, what does he propose to do about it?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Finance): Treasury advice is that the unadjusted labour cost index provides the broadest measure of changes to individuals’ remuneration over time. This showed wage growth of 4.8 percent between December 2003 and December 2004. Inflation growth over the same period was 2.7 percent. That reflects a strong economy and a labour market at capacity. Also evident of that strength is that we now have the lowest unemployment rate of countries with comparable data.
John Key: Will the Minister explain how New Zealand workers who earn $50,000, who have two children, and who receive a 5 percent pay rise while in receipt of the Government’s Working for Families package will see their gross pay rise by $2,500 per year but their take-home pay rise by $5.20 per week; and does he think that is what the unions had in mind when they started asking for “5 in 05”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am sure that that is not what they wanted.
John Key: Will the Minister explain why, under his policies, many hard-working families with kids will lose up to 90c of every extra dollar they get in future pay rises; and how on earth does he call that “Working for Families”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: One of the issues, whenever one makes a tax credit system, is the marginal amount that families get. I agree with the member that having effective marginal tax rates at that level is not highly desirable, but the alternative would be to stop giving families at that level any money at all—the way the Tories say they would. We will not have that, because we know that families on $50,000 with two kids do need more money.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that places like Britain, the USA, Australia, and Singapore, to name a few, are regarded as countries with high wages and low taxes, whereas in comparison New Zealand is regarded as a low wage - high tax country; if he is, would he tell us how the Government intends to bring thousands of New Zealanders from all over the place back to their country of birth?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not an expert on the rates of all the countries the member has mentioned, but I do know that effective tax rates in the United Kingdom and in Singapore—when one takes into account superannuation and medical levies, and everything that sits on top of those—are a lot more than those in New Zealand. I say to the member that families in New Zealand have on average received over $1,000 extra of health spending per year as a result of the very good work of Annette King.
John Key: Can the Minister confirm to the House that he is telling us this afternoon that if working families with kids receive a future pay rise of 5 percent worth $2,500, they will get to keep $250 of it; and how can that be helping those working families?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I cannot confirm that.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Minister stand by the answer the Minister of Finance gave in the House on 7 December to oral question No. 7, when he told the House that the average household income after tax increased in the 4 years since the 1999-2000 year, and that in those 4 years the increase in the average family’s income was exactly the same as the increase in the consumer price index—in other words, the average family is no better off after tax—and if the Minister does stand by that statement, why does he not at least adjust the threshold levels for income tax?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: One of the effects on the average wage income of New Zealanders is that as more and more people who previously did not have jobs go into work, they are generally in lower-income jobs and the average can actually drop.
John Key: Does the Minister agree with Andrew Little of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, who said at the weekend that cutting personal tax rates would not increase real after-tax wages; if the Minister does not agree with him, why has he spent the last 5 years in raising personal tax rates and not in cutting them?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: From my memory, there has been one small change to personal tax rates in the last 5 years, and that was right at the top. The reason this Government is collecting so much more in taxes is that many more people are working, and also that the enormous loopholes opened up by the previous Government for its mates in order for them to avoid tax, especially company tax, have been closed.
Women—Choice and Opportunities
11. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Women's Affairs: What has the Government done to improve choice and opportunities for women?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Women's Affairs): There is a long list of Labour-Progressive Government - introduced initiatives that create more choice and opportunities for women at home and in paid work. They include paid parental leave, which increases to 14 weeks this year; increased childcare subsidies; a significant boost to income support through the Working for Families package; and a programme to produce pay and employment equity in the public sector.
Moana Mackey: Does the Minister have any comparable measures to assess the progress this Government is making in implementing policies to support women?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Unfortunately, only one of the policy initiatives I referred to earlier even existed in the 1990s, so we have made enormous progress since then. In fact, in 1990 the incoming National Government as its first act repealed pay and employment equity legislation.
Judith Collins: Does the Minister agree with a Ministry of Women’s Affairs paper suggesting that New Zealand’s immigration policy should be more open to polygamous marriages; and why should any New Zealand working mum support the existence of a ministry so devoid of common sense?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No.
Tariana Turia110Tariana Turia: Is it correct that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is working with the State Services Commission to improve choice and opportunities for women by developing pôwhiri guidelines to redefine tikanga and the role of women?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Not to the best of my knowledge.
Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a document entitled Work and Family Balance: A Policy Perspective dated 25 March 2002 that was produced by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 12 to Minister
LARRY BALDOCK (United Future): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Noting that the Minister to whom my question is directed is absent from the House today and that this is the second time recently on which this has occurred, and in the hope of avoiding any impression amongst the public that he is avoiding answering my questions, I seek leave to postpone this question until the Minister is present.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is.
12. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Conservation: How many new marine reserves, if any, are currently being proposed or considered by the Department of Conservation, and what are their proposed locations?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts), on behalf of the Minister of Conservation: There are currently three formal marine reserve applications under consideration by the department: one near New Plymouth, one on the eastern side of Great Barrier Island, and one in Akaroa Harbour. In addition, eight marine reserves are proposed in the Fiordland Marine Management Bill, and other specific marine reserve proposals are being investigated at Mimiwhangata, at Nugget Point in Otago, and in the subantarctic ocean.
Larry Baldock: What progress, if any, has been made on the promised inquiry into the Department of Conservation’s consultation processes with regard to the proposed Aotea (Great Barrier) Marine Reserve?
Hon RICK BARKER: As I understand it, there is good progress being made on that. As far as the possible outcomes go, I am not prepared to make any comment, because it is still under due process.
Jim Peters217Jim Peters: Has the Minister seen the press statement made last month by my colleague Edwin Perry for the setting up of independent and objective hearing groups to adjudicate upon the department’s proposals on applications for present and new marine reserve applications; if so, is the New Zealand First proposal being properly considered?
Hon RICK BARKER: No, I have not seen that statement.
David Parker: How many marine reserves has the Government created in the last 3 years?
Hon RICK BARKER: The Government has created four marine reserves over the last number of years, covering half a million hectares. My colleague the Hon Chris Carter has announced the fourth reserve today at the Glenduan marine reserve at Nelson, which has received the concurrence of the Hon David Benson-Pope, the Minister of Fisheries. This reserve covers 948 hectares and protects an adjoining area, the famous Nelson boulder bank. I expect it to be increasingly popular with divers, snorkellers, and others wishing to study marine life.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree that the Department of Conservation should be removed from being the initiator in the application process for new marine reserves and be replaced with something along the lines of the Fiordland Marine Guardians model in light of the ongoing negative reaction from large sectors of the community to the department’s proposals for new marine reserves?
Hon RICK BARKER: I do not specifically agree with the removal of the Department of Conservation and Government agencies in decision making about marine reserves, but I am aware that the select committee has been looking at the decision-making process, and the Minister is open to any good suggestion on this matter. I invite the member to speak to the Minister and his department.
Larry Baldock: Will the Minister give an assurance, in light of the fact that the Marine Reserves Bill is now unlikely to pass before the election and of the ongoing work on the oceans policy and the marine protected areas policy, that the Department of Conservation should pause for a cup of tea and stop overzealously proposing more and more new marine reserves and upsetting communities all over New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: No, I will not give that assurance and I do not agree with the member that the department is overzealous. There is a proper process to go through, there is due process, and those applications that are in the system are entitled to go through that due process and be heard.
Jim PetersJim Peters217: I seek leave to table the press statement, “Marine Reserves Bill should not stand alone”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.