Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 9 March 2005
Wednesday, 9 March
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Solid Energy—Reports
2. Wages—Working for Families Package
3. Tertiary Education—Tuition Fees
4. Education Vote—Cabinet Approval
5. Urban Planning and Design—Quality
6. Residency—Employees of Relocating Businesses
Question No. 7 to Minister
7. Petrol—Price Rise Impact
8. Animal Welfare—Shipment of Cows to China
9. Communications Centres, Police—Report of Review
10. Aged Care—Funding
11. Home Detention—Risk to Community
12. Crime—Asian Perceptions
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What reports has he received on the recent performance of Solid Energy?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): I have seen a report stating that Solid Energy has increased the value of shareholders’ funds by $125 million since 1999, and was awarded New Zealand’s Supreme Exporter of the Year award at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Export Awards in July 2004. I have also seen a report that the National Party wants to privatise that well-performing taxpayer-owned company.
Clayton Cosgrove: Could he further advise what reports he has received on the future outlook of Solid Energy?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government will not sell Solid Energy, unlike the National Party, which has decided to take New Zealand back to the 1990s and flog off State assets that have been built up over the years with taxpayers’ money.
John Key: Does he agree with the mixed-ownership model currently operating in Air New Zealand, where the Government owns 80-odd percent and the other 20 percent is floating on the stock market, or should I infer from his answer today that he is announcing that he is renationalising Air New Zealand?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is important to remember that the Government had to buy back that airline after it was privatised—an example of privatisation, and that included New Zealand Rail. That is why this Government will not privatise State-owned assets.
Rod Donald: Has the Minister seen the report on Solid Energy’s environmental performance in the Christchurch Press where chief executive Don Elder told the Environment Court he recognised that some of the company’s past mining practices had been unacceptable and the company still had considerable work to do, and does he accept that Solid Energy has been making profits at the expense of the environment?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have not seen that particular report from the Christchurch Press. I have seen reports, however, where Solid Energy has acknowledged that it made mistakes and stated that it is making major steps in order to be able to rectify those mistakes. I commend Solid Energy for doing that.
Nanaia Mahuta: Is the Minister aware of the strong feeling of the people of Huntly against the privatisation of Solid Energy, a taxpayer-owned company they have worked long and hard for?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I am aware of the very strong feelings of the people of Huntly against the privatisation of Solid Energy and the fact that the National Party is now advocating the sale of that taxpayer-funded company.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the E9 from the 1990 election, demonstrating that when the Labour Party was busily selling everything that moved Mr Swain was happy to line up as a candidate.
Wages—Working for Families Package
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: When she stated in relation to the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union call for an across-the-board 5 percent pay rise, “Of course 300,000 families are getting very substantial targeted tax relief starting on April 1, so one would hope that would be taken into account in any negotiations,” had she been advised of what the impact of a 5 percent pay increase would be on the take-home pay of a worker on $50,000 with two children receiving the Working for Families package and an accommodation supplement; if so, what was that advice?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No.
Dr Don Brash: Is it correct that a 5 percent pay rise for a journalist earning $50,000 a year, supporting two children, and receiving the accommodation supplement, could leave as little as $5 extra in the hand each week; if so, is it not true that the primary beneficiary of a 5 percent across-the-board pay rise would be her Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This may well be true in a single-income household with two children in an expensive area where there is qualification for the maximum accommodation allowance, but that is not a reason to deny all other workers on $50,000 a wage increase.
Sue Bradford: Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that in fact Working for Families is a major form of corporate welfare because the taxpayer will be subsidising up to 61 percent of families with children by 2007, due to the low wages paid by employers, and given the extent of the support for business why is the Labour Government not backing the union push for a 5 percent across-the-board wage increase?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member said, it is true that 60-odd percent of families will benefit from the Working for Families package. It is the Government’s belief that over time we want to see more workers benefiting from higher wages from higher productivity and skills—not have the National Party policy of making people pay for their own wage increases through tax cuts.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister have any calculation available as to what sort of tax cut would be required to match the fiscal impact of the Working for Families package on individual families?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Last time I looked at such costings and looked at the family on $55,000—one earner, four children, living in Waihî—it was clear that for that family to get the same benefit from the Working for Families $1.1 billion package, which was around $149 extra a week, one would have to have a flat tax rate of 20c—costing $5.5 billion, which is presumably what the National Party would want to do—and cut public services.
Dr Don Brash: Now the Prime Minister has confirmed that for most families the bulk of future pay rises will simply fund the Government and not the families concerned, what advice does she offer workers who are considering taking industrial action to secure a pay rise, most of which they will not receive?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is a fundamental flaw in the logic in that question—that is, Working for Families benefits 300,000 families with dependent children, who happen to be on low and modest incomes. This is a targeted tax relief to low and modest income families. The Leader of the Opposition is arguing that no other workers should get an increase, because some workers are getting Working for Families benefit.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister’s answer to my earlier question mean that there will be cases where there are families who will receive more under the Working for Families package than they actually pay in tax at the moment?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not have those figures at my fingertips. It is possible. Of course, if I were the Leader of the Opposition I would be worrying more about whether I was going to get an income at all, given today’s front page, where Mr McCully has told him he is unlikely to have a job.
Dr Don Brash: Why will her Government not be offering tax cuts to all workers, and thus allow all New Zealand workers a pay rise?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I regard it as ludicrous to suggest that workers should be getting their pay increases out of tax cuts. Why should workers not be getting a fair distribution from the gains for growing firms and the economy—and no amount of silly yelping from the Leader of the Opposition and his cronies can change that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does she seek to belittle and demean Parliament by constantly referring to the National Party’s policy—a policy that has no hope in Hades of being put in place, given that party’s current leadership and internal disruptions?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only say that the member’s question conveys a point of view utterly subscribed to by Mr McCully, who said National did not have a hope of winning.
Rodney Hide: Why does she think it ludicrous that working people keep more of the money that they earn each week?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because unlike ACT I know that it is the Government’s responsibility to fund good health, education, and pensions for people.
Rodney Hide: How can working people have any confidence in this Prime Minister, who professes to care for them, when she has not bothered to figure out what the impact on their net wage is of her Working for Families package, combined with the union call for 5 percent, and she is quite happy to tell this House that she has had no advice on what the net effect of that would be?
Madam SPEAKER: Well, I am not sure that was a question, but does the right honourable Prime Minister wish to comment?
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not helpful when an Opposition member gets up and asks a question—and that certainly was a question—and the Speaker then interlopes and says: “Well, I am not sure that that was a question.” Either it is a question or it is not, and if it is a question, then I suggest Madam Speaker that you stay out of it and let the Prime Minister answer it.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Hide. I was trying to be helpful to you by asking the Prime Minister whether she would wish to comment.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was a question. It is not for you to decide that the Prime Minister might wish to comment. It is for you to ensure that the Prime Minister addresses my question. I would very much appreciate it if you would do that.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Hide. I will take that on board and apply it the next time you ask a question.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Unlike some parties opposite, I do not assume that every worker earning $50,000 has a single-earner household, two kids, and gets the maximum accommodation supplement. That is the shaky construction the question is built on.
Hon Richard Prebble: Has the Prime Minister bothered to get advice from Treasury, which the department has tabled with the Finance and Expenditure Committee, that the Government could keep the present low tax rebate and reduce the income tax and the company tax rate to just 21c in the dollar, at an overall cost of just $5 billion, which Treasury says would be just as progressive as the present tax system and would result in an additional 1 percent growth; if so, would that not be a better course of action?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What is very progressive about the tax changes taking effect from 1 April is that 300,000 families with dependent children will get significant income boosts.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question actually asked whether this would be a better course of action. Instead, we were just told that having 300,000 people get some money from the families package was a good thing. That does not answer the question at all.
Madam SPEAKER: The answer addressed the question. It does not necessarily have to satisfy the member.
Tertiary Education—Tuition Fees
3. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What advice has he received regarding tuition fees charged by New Zealand universities compared with those charged in other countries?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have received advice that New Zealand university tuition fees are significantly lower than those in Australia and those being introduced in the United Kingdom. A law degree in New Zealand costs just over half what a comparable degree in Australia costs, with fees for commerce and science degrees ranging from just over half to around two-thirds of those in Australia.
Lynne Pillay: What steps has the Government taken to limit the growth in student tuition fees?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: When Labour became the Government we moved quickly to freeze fees in 2001, 2002, and 2003. From 2004 a fee maxima policy has been in place to ensure that fees cannot be ramped up like they used to be. Between 1997 and 2000, average university tuition fees grew by over 41 percent. By contrast, under Labour, between 2000 and 2004 average university fees stayed about the same and dropped in real terms.
Education Vote—Cabinet Approval
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Was he the Minister in charge of Vote Education during the period 2000 to 2003 in which spending on bottom end, sub-degree courses doubled; if so, did he obtain Cabinet approval for funding these courses?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes, I was the Minister in charge of Vote Education during that period. No, I did not obtain Cabinet approval, because I was not a Minister at the time the decision to have this policy was taken. However, because I have seen the outrageous waste resulting from Bill English’s decision, I and my colleague Steve Maharey have capped private training establishment funding, put in place caps for managing growth in tertiary education institutes, and reduced classification 5.1 community education funding—and members have not seen anything yet.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister’s answer raises quite an interesting question, because when I look at the way the question is drafted I see that it asks whether the Minister was in charge of the vote, and it does not appear to me that it is really appropriate for the Minister to get up and say: “Well, at the time the decision was taken I wasn’t in charge of the vote.” Indeed, if the Minister is able to get away with saying that, all that this Government needs to do in order to be completely unaccountable for the last 5 years is to have a shuffle of portfolios. It would seem to me that as the Minister took over the role of Minister of Education 5 years ago, he really does have an obligation for what the ministry has been doing in the last 5 years, especially when the question is actually drafted as “the Minister in charge of Vote Education” and names the year. He cannot get up and say: “Well, I wasn’t the Minister in those years, but I can give you some other interesting bits of abuse that you might like to hear.”
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am sorry if I was not clear. I do want to clarify for the House that I was Minister in charge of Vote Education when Parliament approved the funding in all of those years. The approval for the policy change that allowed that funding to happen was done when Bill English was in Cabinet.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say that the answer did address the question. Whether it was appropriate, however, is a matter for political debate.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister, who has been regarded as one of the key Ministers in the Government, now saying that he was not present at any of the Budget round meetings, Cabinet committee meetings, or Cabinet meetings where the Government agreed to fund $1.75 billion for tertiary courses between the years 2000 and 2003 that students did not complete; if he was not present or responsible for that huge waste of public money, who was?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think I was certainly present for a lot of Budget meetings and a lot of Budget bilaterals, as that member was during the period of the last National Government when $5.5 billion was wasted on uncompleted courses. Using that member’s calculation methods—shared with us—$5.5 billion was wasted in that time.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will sub-degree courses that are taught face to face be differentiated price-wise from the packaged distance programmes delivered by the likes of Te Wânanga o Aotearoa on a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:60 or greater?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Government has not taken that decision yet, but I am pretty sure that it will.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Has the Minister seen any reports on the impact the crackdown on classification of 5.1 community education funding is having?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. I have seen a report that the Southern Institute of Technology is trying to claim around $2.5 million over and above its capped entitlement, for delivering 5.1 courses. Those are the courses that Bill English complained about substantially, and now I see him quoted in the paper as saying that the institute should get its money.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister aware of the comment by the Southern Institute of Technology Chief Executive, Penny Simmonds, that it has no choice but to run low-cost sub-degree courses that make a profit, in order to cross-subsidise the underfunded trade courses that run at a loss; if so, does he take any responsibility for this perverse outcome and the trade skills shortages that the country faces at present?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Southern Institute of Technology has chosen to go to Christchurch, to charge nil for its trades courses in Christchurch, to undermine the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology trades courses there, to take nothing from the students, and then to complain when it makes a loss. I have no sympathy for it.
Hon Bill English: How does the Minister feel about his decisions to spend millions of dollars on radio singalong courses and computer courses that do not exist, when he gets letters from parents of children with special needs, like this one about John, aged 8, who cannot read, write, or speak but who has had all his special-education support cut; or like this one from a mother who now has to cut back her working week by 15 hours because her severely disabled 18-year-old daughter, who goes to school three afternoons a week, has had all her teaching-aide hours cut?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This Government has significantly increased the funding to special education, and we will continue to increase it significantly. There are questions around priorities of spending on education, and I might say that the decisions that that member took, when he was Minister of Finance, around the prioritising of education funding, as part of the 1998 and 1999 Budgets, are something that we are taking some time to reverse—too long in some cases. But I say that rip-offs that were set up under his rules are being closed down.
Hon Bill English: How does the Minister feel, then, about letters from this decile 8 school, which last year had to raise $35,000 to make its budget balance, and which has been told by the Ministry of Education that the increase in its operations grant from his pre-Christmas package, to offset that $35,000, is $298?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Under this Government, that school has had a significant increase in its operations grant funding—much, much more than it had under the previous Government, except for the period when the Hon Brian Donnelly had some control of the purse.
Urban Planning and Design—Quality
5. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister with responsibility for Urban Affairs: What steps has the Government taken to improve the quality of urban planning and urban design?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister with responsibility for Urban Affairs): There have been four steps. First, this Prime Minister and Government established the urban affairs portfolio. Second, I convened an advisory group on the best way forward, resulting in the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol. Third, the Ministry for the Environment took the protocol to central and local government and the private sector, gaining 80 signatures. Fourth, yesterday we launched the protocol to an enthusiastic audience, receiving royal backing in the process.
Dave Hereora: What response has there been to the development of the Urban Design Protocol?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: There has been a very positive response, as demonstrated by the 80 signatories, from all sectors involved with urban planning. As Prince Charles noted yesterday, putting urbanism and the environment together, along with adopting the protocol, places New Zealand at the forefront of global best practice.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Is the Minister aware that urban planners and urban designers are driving up the cost of sections and, therefore, homes to an almost unaffordable level right through New Zealand by limiting the amount of land available for subdivision under the Resource Management Act; and what does she propose to do to ensure a supply of sections and land is available to New Zealanders right throughout this country?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The point I would like to make to my colleague across the Chamber is that the ministry is not actually responsible for land availability. He should take into consideration that if we continue to build and extend quarter acre sections, then we will have the cost of waste water, stormwater, phones, and electricity lines.
Dave Hereora: What difference does the Minister expect the Urban Design Protocol to make?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The 80 signatories to the protocol have committed themselves to take specific actions aimed at quality urban design. Those outcomes will be evaluated and reported on by the Ministry for the Environment every 2 years. In other words, the signatories have agreed to be accountable to New Zealanders for creating better urban environments. Over time, that will improve the quality of life for 87 percent minus one of New Zealanders who live in urban areas.
Residency—Employees of Relocating Businesses
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What are the requirements for a person to qualify for residency under the employees of relocating businesses category, and is he satisfied that this policy is working in the interests of New Zealanders?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): The main requirements for the employees of relocating businesses category are that the applicant must be a key employee of a business that is relocating to New Zealand, and that the relocation of the business must be supported by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. The policy intent of this is to work in the interests of New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What investigations did the New Zealand Immigration Service undertake when it allowed the residency approval of a Mr Jim Peron, the director and establisher of the Institute for Liberal Values, who set up an Auckland porn shop under the guise of a bookshop; and did the investigations reveal Mr Peron’s links with the North American Man/Boy Love Association, known as “NAMBLA”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not aware of the full extent of the investigations that the Immigration Service would have made. Clearly, investigations would have had to be made as part of any approval process under the immigration system. I would happy to make further investigations on the member’s behalf and get back to him when the information is available.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister agree that allowing people to enter New Zealand under a business category that enables them to use New Zealand as a platform to promote their extreme political propaganda and contaminate minds with explicit pornography is of no benefit to New Zealand whatsoever and, further, puts our children in grave danger of sexual predators; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: If a person wanted to come to New Zealand and was guilty of the things the member said, that would not be acceptable to New Zealand or to New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was the Minister aware that this same individual had his work visa cancelled in South Africa, supposedly a Third World country, because of the dubious nature of his business activities; and why would New Zealand, supposedly a First World country, allow this man to run a bookshop and pornography outlet in Auckland, notwithstanding that this paedophile’s sponsorship form was endorsed by a member of this Parliament?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not aware of all those facts as the member has portrayed them. I am keen to make further investigation, but obviously it would be of concern if a member of Parliament knew all that information about someone and continued to promote that person’s gaining access to New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table several documents: firstly, an email linking a member of this Parliament who was actively working on Mr Peron’s application to enter the country; secondly, a website for the Institute of Liberal Values, of which a member of Parliament is a member; thirdly, Mr Peron’s declined application to the Residence Appeal Authority, including the parts where he lied about the true nature of his business activities; and, fourthly, an email linking Mr Peron with the North American Man/Boy Love Association.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Just so there is no doubt, I think the member is referring to me. I want to make it plain to this House that—
Madam SPEAKER: Mr Hide, are you requesting leave to make a personal explanation?
Rodney Hide: I am seeking your guidance.
Madam SPEAKER: I suggest you seek leave to make a personal explanation.
Rodney Hide: I am raising a point of order to seek your guidance first.
Madam SPEAKER: I need to know whether that is what you are doing before I can rule on the point of order; otherwise, you are out of order.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order is a request for your advice on what to do when a homophobic member of Parliament attacks someone simply because that person happens to be a friend of an MP. This man runs a legitimate bookshop—and this has been investigated by journalists—and the allegations against him have been found to be without foundation. Jim Peron has turned up at the National Party conference and sold books and he has turned up at the ACT party conference and sold books. He is an upright New Zealander, and I consider it to be an outrage that people are trying to score cheap political points by attacking someone simply because he is gay.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That in no way was that a point of order. Worst still, Mr Hide made an allegation about me that should have been stopped at the time he made it. However, it gives me the opportunity to say that the ACT party, which claims to have a paedophile list, has left one of its main friends off it.
Madam SPEAKER: Having listened to the points of order, I say that that was not a point of order.
Question No. 7 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Please consider what we are about to speak to you about. It relates to the transfer of this question. We accept that the Government can transfer questions. However, it makes it difficult for the Opposition that when this question was first asked it was handled by the Minister of Customs as a customs issue. It was subsequently transferred to Dr Cullen because it was a finance question. Today, following the Government’s expression at the time that it should be dealt with by the Minister of Finance, we lodged the question to him. We appreciate that he is not here and we know that the Associate Minister of Finance is here, yet we find that the issue has been shuffled by the Government to a third ministry. I accept that any Minister can answer a question, but it is the question of whether or not the Opposition can pin an issue down to a ministry that we ask you to consider. We note that the Acting Minister of Finance is in the House. The question refers to the financial implications of the tax. That is surely the responsibility of the Minister of Finance, and not of the Minister of Transport.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Associate Minister of Finance): It has long been a tradition in this House that the Government indicates which of its Ministers on a particular day is taking responsibility for a particular issue. This one is quite clear; the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport have been working on it together. The Acting Minister of Finance has not been involved, and we thought it better that there were informed answers, especially to supplementary questions, from a Minister who has had much more involvement in the issue than the Acting Minister of Finance.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I just want to clarify this, Madam Speaker. You will hear the question read in a minute, and it is in front of you at the moment. There is nothing in it that is specific to the transport portfolio. There is a decision by the Government that the tax will be applied to roading, but the question asks about the effect that the tax will have on the economy, about whether or not the increased petrol prices are a good idea, and about the calculation made by the Automobile Association in relation to the tax. To all intents and purposes, it is a question that one would expect the Minister of Finance to be answering. My point of order requested that you consider giving some indication to the Government that although any Minister may answer a question, a ministry may at least be pinned down to be responsible for something. After all, if the Minister of Finance and the Treasury are not responsible for tax and the Ministry of Transport is, where does that leave us with regard to any question that relates to the Government’s responsibilities?
Madam SPEAKER: As both members who have spoken to this point of order have indicated, it is not for the Speaker to determine who should answer a question.
Petrol—Price Rise Impact
7. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with calculations made by the Automobile Association that the introduction of the petrol tax and higher oil prices will see the price of petrol rise to over $1.30 per litre; if so, what impact does he think this will have on the economy?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): My informed answer is that I do not know. If I were able to predict movements in oil prices or exchange rates, then I would be as rich as the Opposition member.
John Key: If an operating balance of $7.4 billion, a cash surplus of $1.4 billion, and the very strong likelihood that New Zealand will have net debt of zero by 2008 are not conditions that this Government thinks are conducive enough to allow it to build more roads without adding any additional taxes, then will the Minister be kind enough to tell us what the surplus would have to be before he would not have to put on more taxes?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The tradition in New Zealand is that we build roads largely from motorists’ moneys, not from taxpayers’ moneys, because it is motorists, not taxpayers, who use them.
Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has the Minister seen on transport funding?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have, of course, seen many reports. All the ones that I will quote from are from the National Party, and they all conflict. First of all, leader Don Brash included the money from the increase in his promise to Aucklanders, then John Key told him not to spend anything as it was: “not time to be ramping up Government spending”, then National voted against the money that Dr Brash had already promised to Aucklanders, and then Maurice Williamson told him to spend the money, and to use it from a surplus that he knows does not exist.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely you can see the disorder we get to when the Government makes these changes without considering what the consequence of such change will be. The Minister just gave an answer by referring to comments made by the Opposition. We are quite happy for him to go around publicising our policy positions any time he likes, but question time is for him to answer for Government policy. What we have had him say today is: “I don’t know”, “I am not sure”, and “I can’t say”. If the Government is able to transfer questions of this sort of importance to any old Minister, who can use those responses as answers, then the point of question time does seriously come into question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I just want to submit that it was not one, at all.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister should confine himself to his own portfolio responsibility; I refer members to Speakers’ rulings 51/4 and 51/5.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If it is a New Zealand tradition to build roads not from taxpayers’ money, as he said, but from motorists’ money, then why have he and his colleagues engaged in the outright deception of disguising the fact that a lot of the money collected for that purpose, which comes from motorists and road users, is not in any way going into road maintenance, road safety, or road construction?
Hon PETE HODGSON: All the money from the petrol increase, which formed the basis of the question—every last cent of it from the petrol increase that formed the basis of the question—is going into roading. However, if the member wishes to ask about the money that goes into the consolidated account, he may want to reflect on last week’s answer from the Minister of Finance about the role of capital charging, and how that alone would not be covered by the diversion. Or, he may like to take cognisance of the fact that the non - accident compensation health costs and the benefit costs of roading well exceed the diversion into the consolidated account—well exceed it.
Mike Ward: Does the Minister not think that if more money is invested in public transport, cycling, and pedestrian initiatives, in fact motorists may save money and avoid some of the petrol taxes, and that if enough of them take up those smarter choices we may negate the need for future roading projects?
Hon PETE HODGSON: To an extent, yes.
John Key: Does he agree with his fellow Minister Rick Barker when he said: “Some have suggested that the country should borrow the money for improving the roading infrastructure, obviously thinking these loans don’t have to be paid back and that somehow loan money is free—in other words voodoo economics.”, and if he does agree with Mr Barker, is he telling the House today that he is ruling out all Government borrowing to fund any future new roads in this country?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I rather suspect my colleague was referring to the points of view held by some members in this House, including some members in New Zealand First. In that respect the answer to the second part of the question is no.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How long will it take for him to familiarise himself with his job and acknowledge that Dr Cullen has been prepared to acknowledge to the Finance and Expenditure Committee that there is no capital charge on roading, and therefore his answer to this House today is a cod load of drivel?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The answer on capital charge was not given by me; it was given to this House last week by Dr Cullen. My answer concerned non - accident compensation health and benefit costs from roading, and I will give the member the unfortunate facts again. The diversion into the consolidated account does not pay for those costs.
John Key: Did he notice that last year Transfund did not spend all the funds that were in its account, and neither did it do so for the year earlier; and can he confirm to the House whether this year there will be any surplus funds left in those accounts over and above the petrol tax he is collecting?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The activity from this Government in addressing the infrastructural deficit left by the previous Government is such that not only are there substantial year-by-year increases in capital investment but the underspend of last year and the year before is rapidly disappearing.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My colleague John Key’s question was very specific. It was in regard to the surpluses that have been held by Transfund New Zealand. I listened to the Minister’s answer. There was no comment at all in his answer with respect to the issue of the surpluses held by Transfund New Zealand. I think, as Speaker, you should require the Minister to address John Key’s question.
Hon Mark Burton: If the member had paid attention to the end of the answer as well as to the beginning, he would know that he was completely wrong in what he has just asserted.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened closely to the question, and the Minister did address it at the end of his answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table Dr Cullen’s answer in this House where he did not claim that there was capital charging but said “if there was”—a totally different answer from what the Minister gave the House today.
Animal Welfare—Shipment of Cows to China
8. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Associate Minister of Agriculture: What action is he taking in response to the stockman’s report of a recent shipment of cows to China in which it was stated that the cows were “sleeping in shit up to a foot deep”, and were fed hay that included dead animals, various bits of wire, and thistles, and in which the stockman wrote “I hate to see them in this state.”?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Agriculture): Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials have read the stockman’s report and have taken action. They have gone back to the exporter seeking more details of the shipment, and are awaiting written reports from both the shipping company and the exporter. They will be investigating whether all requirements of the animal welfare export certificate were met.
Sue Kedgley: Can he confirm that on the same voyage the ventilation system broke down on occasion, resulting in a very rapid build-up of heat and ammonia on the decks housing the cows, that many animals became lame from standing on the hard floor covered in sharp anti-slip grip, and that some animals did not have adequate access to feed and water; and can he further confirm that these conditions do not comply with the requirements under the Animal Welfare Act to provide for the health and well-being of animals?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware of those particular claims, but they will be investigated. We will have a written report. There are requirements that have to be met, both under the animal welfare export certificate and under the maritime transport code. It would seem that those conditions might not have been met, but we will await that report and the outcome of it.
Sue Kedgley: Can he confirm that this was not a one-off incident, that on another recent shipment of cows to China some animals were so overheated that they died and many others were severely stressed, and that on another shipment, in 2003, 110 animals died as a result of injuries sustained on board the ship; and why does the Government support a trade that clearly breaches the Animal Welfare Act?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: New Zealand produces some very good genetic material in livestock. That is why people seek to import those animals from our country into their own country. There are very high standards of welfare on most of those shipments, but there will always be the odd occasion when deaths will occur. Reports on most shipments indicate that fatalities are very low in number. I finish by saying that as a Government we are focused on adding value to our economy, and we encourage as much processing of animals on shore as possible. We do try to minimise the amount of bull shipping that does occur.
Janet Mackey: What measures are currently in place to ensure adequate welfare standards for cattle and sheep being exported by sea?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: A Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - approved veterinarian inspects all shipments prior to departure. The shipments must comply with welfare standards that have been developed by the ministry. The standards cover a range of requirements such as minimum space, preconditioning, and feed and water requirements. A voyage report is sent to the ministry following each shipment.
Ian Ewen-Street: Why are we exporting 20,000 live breeding stock this month alone to countries such as Mexico and China, when it is clear that the animals will simply be used to improve the quality of their herds, so that those countries will then be more competitive relative to us in international markets; why does the Government allow a trade that is simultaneously cruel to animals and detrimental to New Zealand farmers?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We do not accept that the trade is cruel to animals. Very high standards have to be met, and for the most part they are. As I said before, we produce the highest-quality genetic material in the word. There will always be countries that seek to import that livestock. It is up to us as a country to ensure that we stay ahead of those countries and produce better-quality livestock.
Sue Kedgley: How can the Associate Minister claim that the Government is trying to keep this trade to a minimum, when the export of live animals from New Zealand has increased by 300 percent over the past 2 years, when 20,000 live cows and sheep have been exported this month just for breeding purposes, and especially when breeding could be done by the export of semen alone?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We allow the export of embryo and semen, as well. To go back to the point that I am trying to make to members, because we have high-quality livestock other countries will seek to import it. There was a very large trade in livestock in the 1990s. That trade has reduced, and the animals that are exported from this country are for breeding purposes, not for slaughter, and this Government supports that.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table a report by a stockman of conditions on a shipment in December of last year.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that report. Any objection? There is objection.
Communications Centres, Police—Report of Review
9. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Police: When does he expect to receive a copy of any report by the commissioner’s external panel reviewing police communications centres, and when will it be made public?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that the Commissioner of Police is expecting to get the report by the end of this month. After consideration of the report, the findings will be made available to the public by the commissioner.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister made available to the panel the unsuccessful Budget bid by the police in 2004 for additional communications centre staff that the Government is suppressing under the Official Information Act; if not, why not?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Commissioner of Police is putting forward all the information that he wants looked at so that his report can be thorough.
Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was quite clear: has the Minister made available the unsuccessful 2004 Budget bid? He did not address that question.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister wish to address the question?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The commissioner has all the information available, and it is his review and he is making any information that he has available to the public. It is not my report.
Hon Tony Ryall: What is the guilty secret contained in the documents that the Government wants to hide this information?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: None.
Stephen Franks: Will the Minister give a categorical assurance to New Zealanders who want to trust the police that, irrespective of the report, 111 operators have been told they must not deliberately or carelessly mislead callers; if not, why should they trust the Minister or the police?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I am waiting for the commissioner’s release after the review has been completed. I am not getting into those areas, because it is the commissioner’s review, not mine.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that some of the problems experienced by the police communications centres are due to the fact that they have had to recruit inexperienced staff who have been referred from Work and Income; if he cannot confirm it, as he stated in response to my written question, why does he not have access to that kind of information?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I tell the House again that it is the commissioner’s review; it is not my review, and the commissioner has all the information that he needs available to him.
Hon Tony Ryall: If there is no guilty secret will the Minister now release the 2004 Budget bid currently being suppressed by his Government?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This Minister is trifling with the House and, indeed, I believe he is trifling with the Chair. He has been asked on a number of occasions about his responsibility. The Budget bid is a Budget bid that he takes control of as Minister of Police, and he deals with the Minister of Finance and Treasury as a consequence of that. He is therefore responsible for it, and he should not be allowed to get away with that sort of evasive, obfuscatory answer that does not relate to his responsibilities in the way that he should be asked to be accountable for them. He is responsible for the bid, and he takes charge of it. He should be prepared to disclose it to this House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I think the Minister was very clear. He advised that a copy of the bid is held by the commissioner, and if the commissioner thinks that it is relevant for that material to be made available to the inquiry, then the commissioner will take that decision. He can take that decision. He is a very capable commissioner, and the slur on his integrity in the House today is very offensive.
Madam SPEAKER: My ruling on the point of order is that the Minister addressed the question.
Stephen Franks: I ask again, why should any New Zealander who wants to trust the police trust them, when the Minister of Police cannot give a straightforward answer to the question asking whether 111 operators, irrespective of any report, will be told not to deliberately or carelessly mislead callers?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Obviously the people in the centres give the best answers they can to callers. They are well trained, and the review will look at that issue completely.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister stand by his statement to the House that the police have the resources they need; if so, how does he rationalise that with his earlier statement that if the commissioner needs more resources, the Government will make sure he gets them.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The New Zealand Police are well funded. If the review shows there is any need for additional funds, that will be a part of the review recommendations and will be favourably looked at by this Government.
10. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Health: Have aged residential care facilities received their 3 percent increase, as announced in December last year?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Associate Minister of Health): I am told that most district health boards have advised providers that they will receive their increase, backdated to 1 July 2004, shortly.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister consider an 8-month delay, and bovver-boy tactics of district health boards, before aged residential care facilities receive the 3 percent increase, to be acceptable, given the crippled state of the sector; if so, why?
Hon PETE HODGSON: My understanding is that the increase was announced in December, which is somewhat less than 8 months ago.
Steve Chadwick: What steps has the Government taken to assist in the provision of home support care to older people?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Home support expenditure has almost doubled in the last 6 years from around $93 million to around $170 million.
Dr Lynda Scott: What comfort does the promise of a 3 percent increase offer those such as Roskill Masonic Village, the Methodist Mission, the Salvation Army, Presbyterian Support New Zealand, and a litany of other providers, who have essentially already been forced out of the sector by what they consider is a 20 percent funding shortfall due to 5 years of serious neglect by a Labour Government unwilling to listen or act?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not think the facts match with the invective. The truth of the matter is that a number of providers sell out as going concerns. In some parts of the country there is oversupply, so it makes sense for that to be reduced. We have increased expenditure to this sector a lot in our time in office, and we are contemplating increasing it even more.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that there must be pay parity between the caregivers in the aged-care sector, who currently receive $10.80 an hour before tax, and health-care assistants who work in hospitals, who now receive $16.50 an hour, due to the nurses’ pay settlement; if not, how can keeping those workers on poverty wages be justified?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The amount of money that is paid by an employer for, say, a home-care provider is for the employer to determine. However, if someone is paid $10.80 per hour, as the member quotes, it is worth noting that the amount of money that leaves Wellington per hour per homeworker is a good deal more than that.
Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree with the chief executive of Presbyterian Support Otago, Gillian Bremner, who said the aged-care residential sector needs $200 million; if so, is the $18 million increase not missing a zero somewhere?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am in close contact with Gillian Bremner, and she refers to the entire aged-care sector, not to residential care alone.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table an answer to a written question, which states that 37 homes have shut down in the last 2½ years.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is.
Marc Alexander: How can a 3 percent increase help deliver pay parity for nurses working in aged residential care facilities, and where is the Government’s commitment to equal pay for equal work for nurses working in aged residential care facilities, or is this just another example of the Government’s priority?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I just happen to know that some providers have already increased nurses’ wages in the residential care sector and that others anticipate a claim. Obviously, contracts fall due for negotiation in that sector at different times.
Marc Alexander: I seek leave to table a report citing Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner, who said that the $18 million boost still feels like crumbs.
Home Detention—Risk to Community
11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: What assurance can he give that criminals placed on home detention are not a serious risk to the community?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Decisions to place offenders on home detention are made by the New Zealand Parole Board, which is an independent statutory body. I can give the member an assurance that in making the board in making its decisions is required by the Parole Act to consider as its prime consideration the safety of the community.
Ron Mark: How can the Minister have faith in a system that allows a high-risk sex offender, such as John Albert Thomas Clarke, a man who in 1997 was charged with the assault with intent to rape, threatening to kill, and beating his female victim with his fists and a tennis racquet, who was then bailed against the express wishes of the police, and who, while on bail, kidnapped, raped, violently assaulted and threatened to kill a 15-year-old school girl, to be placed on back-end home detention?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In the short time since the question was set down I have had a chance to look at some of the matters the member has raised. Firstly, the offender did not serve his home detention at the house the member referred to, and he completed his home detention without incident. I am aware that following the home detention he was released on conditions, then, without permission, went to stay with a woman he had recently met and her children—against the conditions that had been laid down for him. As soon as the Community Probation Service found that out, it took enforcement action and this offender is now in custody awaiting a final recall hearing before the Parole Board.
Georgina Beyer: What reports has he received on rates of reoffending by offenders who have served a sentence of home detention?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: From 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003, offenders who completed home detention had a reimprisonment rate of around 10 percent, 12 months after completing the order, compared with a reimprisonment rate for offenders released from minimum security prisons of around 25 percent. However, I am looking into a couple of issues: firstly, whether judges should be making the decision about who receives front-end home detention; and, secondly, the criteria for back-end home detention, which is linked to the current Global Positional System technology pile-up.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why is it Government policy that serious violent offenders should be entitled to early release on home detention prior to parole?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is part of the legislative framework that has been set by this Government. As I have already indicated to the member, it is one of the issues under consideration.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister explain why Clarke, after serving only 7 years of what was essentially a 38-year jail sentence, was placed on home detention in the care of a 76-year-old social worker who had no knowledge whatsoever of his previous convictions, who ran a social services facility with female staff that catered to vulnerable women, without full and complete disclosure of Clark’s past history?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In relation to the last bit, I am certain that a number of the facts the member has outlined are possibly in dispute. On the first point, those decisions were made by the Parole Board, which is an independent statutory body that looks at a wide range of things—primarily the safety of the community.
Ron Mark: How can the Minister—indeed, the public—have any confidence whatsoever in the processes of the Parole Board, or the Department of Corrections, when it declares a remorseless, repeat sexual offender such as John Albert Thomas Clarke suitable for home detention, then allows his release on parole, only for him to offend again within weeks; and, when his third victim asked police what she could do to keep her family safe, the advice given to her was: “Change your name, take your children, pack your house, and leave town.”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The decision on who gets home detention is made by the Parole Board. Its primary concern is taking into account the safety of the community. It is its decision to make.
12. KENNETH WANG (ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does he agree with the reported comments of Auckland’s Chinese community that New Zealand’s stance on crime is too soft, and those of the secretary of the United Chinese Association that the perception of New Zealand being a safe place is changing; if so, what is he going to do about this?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I do understand the concerns that all of us have when serious crime is committed in the community. However, I can agree that the perception of New Zealand is changing, because the latest crime statistics show that New Zealand is a safer place. Last year, crime dropped 8.2 percent. Crime is at its lowest rate since 1982.
Kenneth Wang: What will he do about the fact that 38 percent of Asians surveyed by the Manukau City Council—before the latest kidnapping—felt unsafe in their homes, which is a much higher percentage than for other New Zealanders?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have made a number of moves to make sure that Asian communities feel safer. There are now 60 sworn staff across the country who speak Asian languages—15 of them in Auckland. The Language Line has been set up to assist people, and we have six Asian police at the Police College at the moment. That is a very positive move as we build those numbers up.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister confident that the police and the Immigration Service work closely enough to identify those arrivals who may pose a risk to New Zealand residents?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Those who pose a risk are always carefully looked at by the police, and they have an Asian crime unit working in Auckland at the moment. As far as immigration goes, the member should ask that of the Minister of Immigration.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister still believe that New Zealand women are more worried about traffic offending than violent crime, in light of Monday’s kidnapping of Kelly Zhao, and the fact that since he has been the Minister violent crime has risen by 14 percent nationwide and by up to 41.9 percent in some police districts; if so, why?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The amount of violent crime has dropped for the first time. It went up 76 percent when National was in power, which is far higher than the 14 percent that the member is quoting. I can say that in 2002 23 Asians were identified as kidnapping offenders; in 2003 there were 72; and last year there were just nine.
Dr Muriel Newman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was whether he still believes that New Zealand women are more worried about traffic offending than about violent crime, and I think the Minister did not address that question, at all.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister wish to address the question.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The member asked lots of questions within that, and I answered some of those questions.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister address one of the questions that were put to him by the member.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I imagine that people who are kidnapped consider being kidnapped is far more serious than road events, but I imagine that parents who lose kids on the road consider that to be very important.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table some documents. The first document is notes in a statement dated 28 February 2005, taken in my office in Christchurch, from a person whom I will call victim C, regarding Mr John Clarke and his activities.
Ron Mark: The second document is a statement made to the police on 18 February by a lady whom I will describe as victim C.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. [Interruption]
Ron Mark: I assure the Minister that the victim is entirely happy with this.
Madam SPEAKER: The objection has been registered. The matter has been dealt with.
Ron Mark: I seek leave again to table a document that the victim is perfectly happy to have tabled in this House. It is a statement that she gave to the police dated 18 February this year.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table transcripts taken from text messages on victim C’s cellphone that were sent to her by Mr John Clarke. Again, it is a police job sheet, and the first date on it is 18 February 2005.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table, with the permission of the victim—as in all previous cases—a police anti-harassment notice issued to Mr John Albert Thomas Clarke, which I understand was delivered to him at 13.00 hours at Paparua prison on 8 March.
Madam SPEAKER: Is this for the same document as before, but with mention of the permission?
Ron Mark: No, this is a new document—an anti-harassment notice.