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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 15 March 2005

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

Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Foreshore and Seabed Act—Appropriateness
2. Health, Minister—Confidence
3. Influenza—Vaccination Programme
4. Petrol—Taxes and Levies
5. Medical Students—Debt
6. Tertiary Education—New Zealanders Living Abroad
7. Taxation—Incidence
8. Israel—Visa Requirements
9. Economic Growth—Regions
10. Influenza—Vaccination Programme
11. School Leavers—Transition to Work
12. Tertiary Education Commission—Strategic Direction

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Foreshore and Seabed Act—Appropriateness

1. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Attorney-General: Does he believe the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 provides an appropriate process for recognising Maori customary rights and exercising Crown ownership responsibilities in the coastal marine area; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Attorney-General): Yes, it provides recognition for Mâori customary usage rights and for redress where customary title might have existed and can be demonstrated to the High Court. It also maintains all the normal environmental procedures in relation to the coastal resource.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister confirm that as the full legal owner of the seabed, the Crown would stand to make tens of millions of dollars through royalties from the proposal of Black Sand Exploration Ltd to strip-mine over 3,000 square kilometres of the seabed—an area equivalent to the size of Stewart Island?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: An application has not yet been received for mining. An application has been received for an exploration permit. The situation in relation to that is completely unchanged by the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Russell Fairbrother: What provisions does the Act contain to prevent further privatisation of the foreshore and seabed?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Act vests full legal and beneficial ownership in the Crown, explicitly states that the public foreshore and seabed is not to be alienated, and provides that if any future Government wishes to sell any property on the foreshore and seabed it will need a special Act of Parliament to do so.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister seen the claims made by the United Nations committee that was so critical of this legislation in New Zealand, a committee of “experts of high moral standing and acknowledged impartiality” that includes countries like Egypt, Algeria, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, India, Pakistan, China, and South Africa; and would he care to tell the House which of those countries have a race discrimination record worse than that of New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: None that I am aware of. If, of course, the Green Party now sees Algeria as a country with a better human rights record than New Zealand, then presumably it would be keen to see Mr Ahmed Zaoui return to it.

Metiria Turei: Is it not true that the Government has changed the tax regime in favour of foreign mineral exploration companies such as Black Sand Exploration Ltd, and is that not a vindication of Mâori objections to the Foreshore and Seabed Act that Crown ownership under the Act would effectively lead to Crown sale of our precious marine resources?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think that you need to look at the primary question that is set down. Question time is the opportunity for all members of the House to question Ministers, and those questions should be within the bounds of the question set down on the Order Paper. I do not see how a member can ask a Minister to answer questions about the Crown’s mineral regime at a time like this—quite honestly, it is unfair to the rest of the House.

Metiria Turei: The supplementary question referred explicitly to the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which is the subject of the primary question. The primary question is worded generally around issues related to the Foreshore and Seabed Act, to which my supplementary question applies.

Madam SPEAKER: The question is wide. I think the supplementary question is within, particularly, the second part of it, so I ask the Minister to respond.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is a fallacy contained within the member’s question. The Foreshore and Seabed Act does not affect in the least the regime in relation to Crown minerals.

Tariana Turia: How will the new situation of extinguishment be explained in the State report back to the United Nations?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Given that one of the questions asked by a member of the committee was: “What is the Crown?”, probably with some difficulty in some cases, but we will still be quite convinced by the answer we give.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister aware of the comment by a professor of marine geology about Black Sand Exploration’s proposal to strip-mine the sea: “Any animal that gets caught in the dredging process will be destroyed,”, and how does that: “… preserve the public foreshore and seabed in perpetuity as the common heritage of all New Zealanders …”, as set out in the Foreshore and Seabed Act?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I repeat: the Foreshore and Seabed Act does not change the legislation and the regime in relation to the mining of those resources. If an exploration permit is approved by officials, it will still require consent from local authorities for any action to occur.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister confirm that the Government will first decide whether it wants to profit from environmentally destructive mining and then later ask local councils to deal with the adverse effects; and does he not think that New Zealand wants, through the Crown ownership provided for in the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Government to protect the long-term sustainability of our precious marine resources, rather than seek short-term profits?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Having just had a visit from the Norwegian Prime Minister, who has available at his command resources of some hundreds of billions of US dollars from petroleum mining, I am simply amazed that anybody should think that we should never engage in any form of exploitation of mineral resources.

Stephen Franks: Why does the Government seem to be prepared to be criticised by that UN committee over the foreshore and seabed matter, when on an issue such as cosseting prisoners it will not assert sovereignty strongly enough to tell the UN that we will decide whether we pay compensation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government has made its position clear in response to the United Nations committee report, which was quite a moderate report by the standards of that committee. If one compares it with the report the Australians received in the late 1990s one finds we got off relatively lightly, I think it could be said. We will be happy to comply with presenting a report to the United Nations committee at the end of the year, but New Zealand remains a sovereign country that is not governed by a United Nations committee.

Health, Minister—Confidence

2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Health; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Dr Don Brash: Will she give an assurance to the New Zealand public that their health will not be put at risk as a result of the non-availability of sufficient doses of the fully effective flu vaccine; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The company contracted to supply the vaccine has admitted full responsibility for one of the three strains being less potent than it should be. Trials are going on in Australia now to see whether the level of potency will be sufficient, but in the meantime the health authorities are behaving responsibly in looking for a way forward.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister to give an assurance to the New Zealand public that their health would not be put at risk. Do I take it from her answer that she is not willing to give that assurance?

Madam SPEAKER: Is that a supplementary question?

Dr Don Brash: I asked a question and the Prime Minister failed to answer it.

Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed what was relevant in the question.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister’s answer mean that she has confidence in the way in which the Minister of Health and Pharmac have handled the Sanofi Pasteur affair, and does it also mean that she has confidence in Pharmac’s ongoing ability to manage issues relating to access to new and different medicines for New Zealanders?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have complete confidence in the way the New Zealand health authorities have handled the matter. Since the vaccination programme began as a subsidised one in New Zealand in 1997, it has always been the practice to have one sole contractor. This time the contractor has produced a vaccine that does not meet the World Health Organization level of efficacy, although tests are going on in Australia to see whether it will be potent enough.

Peter Brown: Noting the Prime Minister’s answer to the principal question, will she give the House an assurance that the problems facing rest homes in this country at the moment, whereby staff want a 3 percent increase, will be passed on and that the Minister of Health will address the problems facing care nurses, who are very, very underpaid?

Madam SPEAKER: That is broadly within the ambit of the question, but I will ask the right honourable Prime Minister to address it.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The issues with regard to funding of elder care are actually the responsibility of the Associate Minister of Health, the Hon Pete Hodgson. As the member knows, more money was put into the area of elder care in December so that there could be a better settlement reached with rest home workers.

Sue Kedgley: Does she support the Minister of Health’s view that it is perfectly acceptable to fund core health services with fast-food advertising campaigns, such as Ronald McDonald, and is she concerned that corporations like McDonald’s are insinuating themselves into our public health and education systems; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am aware that the Ronald McDonald House Charities has come forward to subsidise something to do with dental care in a part of New Zealand. The trust is known for putting a lot of money into supporting families and children.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister’s answer to my original question mean that she and the Minister are satisfied that the procedures Pharmac applies when seeking tenders of this type are robust; and if it does mean that, can she give the House an assurance that the decisions reached by Pharmac with regard to this particular contract were driven more by the public interest of good health than by saving dollars?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can absolutely assure the member that the consideration was not about saving dollars. It is a question of a small market and of the need to get a reliable source of supply for the vaccine. I can further say that this particular company has 40 percent of the world share of the vaccine market. It is a reputable company, but in this case it has let down all of its Southern Hemisphere clients by failing to have the strain for one kind of flu as potent as it should have been.

Dr Don Brash: When did the Prime Minister and her Minister of Health first learn that the flu vaccine purchased for New Zealand would not be fully effective; and why did Government officials originally give the impression that the vaccine was only delayed, when in fact it was actually ineffective against one of the likely flu strains?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Minister was advised the same day as the New Zealand health authorities were advised by Medsafe and Pharmac of the issues.

Opposition Member: What day?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That happened to be on 28 February—and then, I am sure, the National Party’s statements came considerably after everyone in the parliamentary complex was notified.

Heather Roy: Can the Prime Minister deny that the Minister of Health will oversee a record surge in health spending of over $1 billion in the next financial year—around double the historical yearly increase—and what concerns, if any, does she have about hospital productivity in light of this huge increase?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can certainly confirm that the health area has had huge increases in funding under a Labour Government. One of the issues I am interested in is the level of productivity we get for that.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Prime Minister believe that it is appropriate for the Minister of Health to help launch next week a Ronald McDonald House Charities advertising campaign—a trust that is the offshoot of a company whose products can cause harm to children’s health and teeth; and is it now Government policy for Ministers now to promote the advertising campaigns of corporations like McDonald’s; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Minister of Health is in no way promoting a McDonald’s advertising campaign.

Influenza—Vaccination Programme

3. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What steps is the Ministry of Health taking to ensure the flu vaccine programme is undertaken effectively?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Before I start, I tell the House that my answer is a little longer than my usual short responses. I am advised that a manufacturing problem has been detected in the vaccine produced by Sanofi Pasteur, which is the world’s largest influenza vaccine supplier with 40 percent of the world’s market and 70 percent of the Southern Hemisphere’s market. Concerns centre on the vaccine’s effectiveness, not on its safety. The Ministry of Health is making a series of announcements this afternoon.

Pharmac is seeking to purchase alternative supplies of the flu vaccine, and so far 50,000 doses have been secured by Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which will be in New Zealand within the next 2 weeks. The ministry will use these doses to vaccinate those considered by expert advice to be in the highest-need groups.

The ministry, through its regulatory agency, Medsafe, is also exploring a number of alternative regimes, including giving two doses of the Sanofi Pasteur vaccine in order to improve effectiveness, provided that they meet safety, efficacy, and operational requirements. Medsafe, and an independent expert advisory group, are currently advising the Ministry of Health on these issues, and I expect a decision this week.

Steve Chadwick: Who has been providing the Ministry of Health with advice on the vaccine, and do they support the ministry’s advice on proposed options?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Since becoming aware of the concerns, the ministry and Medsafe have been in consultation with a special independent expert advisory group, and I am advised that its members agree with the options that the ministry is considering.

Dr Paul Hutchison: How does the Minister intend to manage the logistics of immunising tens of thousands of vulnerable people in the South Island if and when an effective flu vaccine arrives, given the warning from senior health professionals that, due to the imminent roll-out of the meningococcal vaccine, there are simply not enough staff to carry out both exercises effectively?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am advised by the Ministry of Health that the fact that the meningococcal B vaccine programme is due to roll out in the South Island may well help us roll out the flu vaccine, because additional nurses have been employed all around New Zealand to undertake this programme. That is the advice I have received. I do not know where the member gets his.

Barbara Stewart: What assurances can the Minister give to the public that every person who should receive the flu vaccine will receive a fully effective vaccine before the flu arrives this winter?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can give the assurance that the Ministry of Health, Pharmac, and Medsafe are doing their best to secure an effective vaccine—purchasing other vaccines but also working on the vaccine that was supplied. That vaccine is effective against two of the three suspected influenza strains we will receive in New Zealand. It has some effectiveness against the third strain, but it is not as potent as it ought to be. We are looking at how we can improve that.

Steve Chadwick: Why does New Zealand have a single provider for this vaccine, and why was the supplier changed this year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Since the introduction of the vaccination programme in 1997 New Zealand has always had a sole-supplier contract. This is because we are a very small proportion of the total world market. The company selected was selected in a transparent request for proposals process, the same way we have always contracted for the vaccine. It was decided to accept a company that makes 40 percent of the vaccines globally and 70 percent of the vaccines for the Southern Hemisphere. The company has already acknowledged that the efficacy issues are its responsibility. All the Southern Hemisphere countries are facing the same dilemma as that confronting New Zealand.

Petrol—Taxes and Levies

4. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: How much have all forms of taxes and levies gone up on each litre of petrol since the Government was elected in 1999, and does he have any concerns for the impact this is having on businesses and those on fixed incomes?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): They have increased 6.9c a litre to date, excluding GST but including the increase of 2.78c a litre in the accident compensation levy. Beneficiaries and superannuitants are compensated annually for increases in the cost of living. In just over 2 weeks, of course, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders will be better off as a result of the Working for Families package.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister confident that an elderly single person living on a relatively low fixed income of $250 a week is compensated for what amounts to massive rises in the cost of fuel for their vehicle?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, and of course the variability in prices due to international oil price movements is much larger than the variability due to taxation changes. It is worth noting, however, that in the proportion of the price represented by taxation in New Zealand is the fourth lowest out of 29 OECD countries.

John Key: Which of the following necessitates the introduction of yet another tax: the $7.4 billion operating balance excluding revaluations and accounting changes surplus: the $34 billion of additional taxes collected in the last 5 years; or the cancellation of the January bond programme, just demonstrate that the Government is so awash with cash? Which of those three would it be?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I note from that last comment that the member has forgotten he is now a New Zealand person, not an international financier. We try not to borrow money unnecessarily in New Zealand.

Deborah Coddington: Why should any taxes be going up when just last week the Minister reported an operating surplus for 7 months running at $5.3 billion—that is $2 billion more than the previous year—or is this surplus like the proverbial elephant in the Minister’s living room that everybody else can see but that he says is not there?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think my wife can confirm that there is no elephant in our living room.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that the money from the extra petrol tax will greatly benefit the people on fixed incomes and the businesses that Mr Brown is so worried about by improving public transport so that both people and goods can move quickly and more cheaply around our cities?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: All of the increase in the excise duty goes into the land transport system. A good part of that will go into public transport; other parts of that will go on the roading system. Unfortunately, of course, the economy is moving so strongly that we are seeing strong rises in the construction cost index at the present time. On the other points a number of members have raised, I wish, in a sense, that they were in my position at the moment of trying to make the Budget numbers add up for the long term.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister telling this House that low-income people, particularly people on fixed incomes, are as well off now as they were a few years ago when it comes to public transport or running their cars—is that what he is telling this House?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I can say is that the cost of petrol has gone up and down considerably. In real terms the cost of petrol now is significantly lower than it has been on many occasions in the past. [Interruption] Mr Power cannot remember, but if he had been here in the 1970s as an adult he would remember when prices were extremely high indeed—if one could get hold of petrol at that point.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister find any contradiction in statements from a member of this House who on one day calls on the Government to action the Allen report, which states “Broadly speaking, the overall conclusion from the analysis is that: the current level and pattern of investment in New Zealand’s land transport infrastructure is sub-optimal”, and then complains about the Government raising funds to do exactly what the Allen report recommends; if so, perhaps the Minister is left to conclude that the member wants the Government to borrow all the money, spend it on roads, and then not figure out how to pay for it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member is right. Members should remind themselves that last week the Reserve Bank followed the well-trodden path that Dr Brash had been down previously by raising interest rates. The notion of feeding more demand into the economy with tax reductions at this point is about as insane as one could get in terms of economic management.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that in this area of the price of energy the main threat to us comes from the longer term increase in the price of oil, which even the Minister of Energy says could double, and that investing now in rail, bus, and ferry transport is the way to secure our economic future and protect our environment?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think we need a balanced approach. We do need increases in public transport, but we also need to recognise that we have to use road transport, particularly for freight purposes. Most people will not shift their containers on buses or by bicycle in the future.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister stand by the answer given to my question to the Hon Pete Hodgson last Thursday that over $600 million is paid each year for the ongoing health and social costs of road accidents that are not covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation, and a further $400 million from health costs arising from air pollution; if so, would he care to repeat the answer for the benefit of Mr Brown and other members of the House who seem to have not heard that answer last week?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is absolutely clear from the information now available in the public arena that the excise duty on vehicles does not cover the full economic cost of the roading system and associated costs in terms of the environment and health.

Ron Mark: For the benefit of the people in Wânaka who were at the A and P show over the weekend, can the Minister tell the people of Wânaka where the equity is in their paying $1.35c per litre down there in the South Island whilst people in Auckland—the privileged part of the country where the Prime Minister has a greater interest—pay 15c or 20c less per litre, yet most of the money is going up into good old Auckland’s coffers?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not want to offend the Prime Minister, but I would certainly pay 15c per litre more to live in Wânaka, rather than in Auckland.

Medical Students—Debt

5. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Education: Is he satisfied the Government is doing enough to reduce medical student debt so that adequate numbers of medical graduates remain in New Zealand to work?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Considerable progress has been made; however, this Minister is very rarely satisfied.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can I ask the Minister, therefore, why the trainee intern grant of $16,800 per year for final-year medical students who work in hospitals has not been increased in over 10 years, when it now equates to an hourly rate of $2.83 for students who are unable either to do other part-time work or to receive a student allowance, yet who still have to pay $10,000 a year in student fees?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This is probably because the very good education spokesperson for the member’s party has never raised it as a priority in a meeting with me.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House what steps the Government has taken to limit the growth in student tuition fees?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Government has overseen freezes in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and a fee maxima policy; between 2000 and 2003 average university tuition fees have stayed about the same, which contrasts with 41 percent growth between 1997 and 2000.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the children of people with New Zealand residence who live outside the country for up to 11 months of the year—the residents, not the children—are entitled to State-funded education, and that it is those sons and daughters, who pack up for home after completing their New Zealand taxpayer - funded medical degrees, who are the main contributors to the brain drain of medical graduates?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is a lot of anecdotal suggestion in that direction. It is something we have looked into, and, unfortunately for the member, the facts are not absolutely consistent with the rumours and the gossip in that area.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s answer to my original supplementary question mean that, now that I have raised the issue with him, he will look at it and consider making the $3.2 million investment necessary to keep our young doctors working in New Zealand, particularly when 82 percent of the students are saying they intend to leave within 2 years of graduation, because of student debt?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Student debt may be a reason for some people to leave, but as far as medical students are concerned it is a relatively minor one. Because doctors are so highly paid, one quarter of all doctors have totally paid off their student debt within 3 years of their graduation.

Hon Peter Dunne: Do the Minister’s answers to both those questions mean that, now that the matter has been raised with him, the Government will be moving to increase the trainee intern grant; if so, when; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have had some excellent representations from the Minister of Health on that issue. Any move that occurs will be announced in the fullness of time, at the appropriate moment, and that Minister will get the credit.

Tertiary Education—New Zealanders Living Abroad

6. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is her reported statement, “a lot of the reasons people left are no longer valid,” her only response to the OECD report showing 24.2 percent of New Zealand - born tertiary-educated people live outside New Zealand, while only 2.5 percent of Australian-born tertiary-educated people live outside Australia; if not, what other response does her Government intend to make?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The words quoted were not a response to the OECD report. They were said in response to a question about the Government’s desire to get expats back home—something Dr Brash described on Radio Rhema yesterday as a great thing to do.

Dr Don Brash: Is she concerned that the gap between the average after-tax wage in Australia and the average after-tax wage in New Zealand has grown from $5,000 a year to nearly $9,000 a year during her term as Prime Minister, and does she not understand that that growing gap is forcing increasing numbers of tertiary-educated New Zealanders to consider leaving the land of their birth?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I want to see New Zealand incomes rise over time. What I know is that freezing wages will not do the job, and that that is Dr Brash’s answer.

Dr Don Brash: Is she going to listen to the 25 percent of tertiary-educated New Zealanders who are voting with their feet and leaving these shores, and respond with positive policies to attract them back, or is she going to continue to say “This is as good as it gets.” and decline to confront one of the greatest challenges facing this country?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am certainly going to listen to a range of people, including those who, notwithstanding that financially they may have been better off elsewhere, give as reasons for coming back home the fact that New Zealand has the comforts and security of home—guns, riots, and “white flight” are not issues—the proximity to most other family members, and the simple presumption that one would be closer to the land of one’s birth. Those were the reasons given by Dr Don Brash for coming home.

Rodney Hide: Does she accept the OECD report that states that 24.2 percent of New Zealand tertiary-educated people live outside New Zealand, compared with only 2.5 percent for those born in Australia, and does that concern her, or does she think it is another example of pointing out comparable statistics and bagging New Zealand?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I thank the member for his question. As he will have looked at the OECD report he will also know that the proportion of tertiary-educated people away from New Zealand is precisely the same as the number of such people who are away from Ireland. What are the two characteristics we have in common with Ireland? We are small countries, and we have other major and affluent markets close to us where our people find very good jobs because they have a lot of skills to offer.

Dr Don Brash: Why does the Prime Minister continue to claim that the reasons people left are no longer valid, when New Zealanders are currently emigrating to Australia at the rate of 550 per week, and what level will that have to reach in order for her to realise that, in fact, something in New Zealand is going terribly wrong?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I know is going terribly right is that we have the lowest unemployment in the Western World—at 3.6 percent—that we have one of the fastest-growing economies in the OECD, that we have falling net debt, and best of all, that the National Party is not in Government.

Dr Don Brash: I seek the leave of the House to table the front page from last Saturday’s Weekend Herald, highlighting the results of the OECD report.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the OECD document. Is there any objection? There is objection. The document will not be tabled.

Dr Don Brash: I seek leave to table official Government statistics showing that in the last 5 years of the Labour Government almost 18,000 people have moved from New Zealand to Australia, net, per year, compared with about half that number when National was in Government.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. The document is not to be tabled.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I seek leave to table the page from Dr Brash’s book where he states that among the reasons he came home was that he had met Mr Muldoon a few times at the New Zealand Embassy, was struck by his brilliant mind—as sharp as a razor—and remembered thinking to himself that that guy was really going to take New Zealand places.

Leave granted.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the OECD report called Counting Immigrants and Expatriates in OECD Countries, which provides the raw data.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is. It will not be tabled.

Taxation—Incidence

7. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie), on behalf of CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri), to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received about the incidence of tax in New Zealand and what do they show?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I have received an OECD report showing the single New Zealand production worker on the average full-time wage is the third-lowest taxed in the OECD. The single-income, two-child family on the same wage is at present the tenth-lowest taxed in the OECD.

Hon Mark Gosche: What impact will the Working for Families package have on those rankings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Inland Revenue Department calculates that Working for Families will, on the basis of current entitlements in other countries, reduce the tax wedge paid by the single-income, two-child family from tenth-lowest in the OECD to fourth-lowest, only behind Ireland, Luxembourg, and Iceland. The great advantage of Working for Families over a straight tax cut is that it reflects the different needs of households in the cost of raising children.

John Key: If the Minister is correct and we are to believe that the incidence of tax in New Zealand is low, can he tell the House why the Government has, all of a sudden, changed the way in which it presents its monthly Crown accounts to ensure that the bulging Government surplus is hidden as far from sight as possible?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It does not take a giant intellect to read all the way through the Crown financial statements, which appear each month. What has happened is that Opposition parties have been caught out by pretending that the operating surplus is cash. If that member had tried to do that when he was in the international financial community he would not be sitting here; he would be behind bars.

Israel—Visa Requirements

8. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Does New Zealand require Israeli citizens to hold a visa to visit New Zealand in a private capacity?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Most Israeli citizens wishing to visit New Zealand for tourist or private purposes enjoy visa-free entry. However, following efforts by Israeli agents to acquire New Zealand passports fraudulently, Israeli officials who wish to visit New Zealand have been required to apply for visas, and a stay has been put on high-level visits pending satisfactory resolution of the passport affair.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the New Zealand Government’s policy since last July to scrutinise and challenge only Israelis visiting New Zealand in any official Government capacity, why was Gabi Ashkenazi’s visa application declined, when it was made very clear that his intention was to visit New Zealand in a private capacity to address a private function of the New Zealand Jewish community in Auckland last Sunday evening?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member had read the statement of 15 July that he quoted from he would have seen that the first bullet point stated that New Zealand is suspending high-level visits from and to Israel. If the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army is not a high-level visit, then perhaps the member would like to explain to the House what it is?

Martin Gallagher: Has the Government received any indication from the Israel Government of its willingness to resolve the outstanding issues relating to fraudulent acquisition of passports?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. An approach has been made by the Israeli Government in response to New Zealand’s requirement for an apology for the illegal action of its agents and an assurance that no such actions will reoccur. We are hopeful of progress being made towards the resolution of these issues so that this unfortunate matter can be put behind us.

Hon Ken Shirley: Did the Minister of Immigration consult with him as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and/or with the Prime Minister before deciding to decline Major General Gabi Ashkenazi’s visa application?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I take responsibility for making that decision. I made that decision in line with the publicly announced policy by the Government on 15 July—a policy that was overwhelmingly supported by New Zealanders while that member’s party acted as a cringing apologist for the illegal and criminal actions of those agents.

Rodney Hide: Rubbish!

Hon PHIL GOFF: It is on record—and Mr Hide is one of the chief culprits for that cringing apologist stance taken by ACT.

Dail Jones: What response has the Minister received from the group that would be hearing from the deputy chief of staff as to the action of the Israeli Government and the Israeli agents’ fraudulent activities in relation to New Zealand passports—for example, has that group ever said to the Government that it was deeply upset by the behaviour of the Israeli Government’s activists?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have not heard directly from the group the member refers to, but I would imagine that any New Zealand citizen would be deeply offended at criminal actions being taken in our country by agents of a Government that has been friendly to New Zealand in the past. That is not on. We have taken a resolute stance, and every party in this House has supported it, except the 1.7 percent ACT party, which is on its way out and is, in any case, irrelevant.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Minister concede that those involved in trying improperly to obtain a New Zealand passport have already been punished by the New Zealand courts, and that the real reason an Israeli citizen was declined a visa was that it was yet another opportunity, given the visit of the socialist Prime Minister of Norway, to demonstrate to Helen Clark’s friends that, under Helen Clark, this Government is just as anti—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is important not to cause diplomatic offence. The Prime Minister of Norway is a Christian Democrat, not a socialist.

Simon Power: On a number of occasions during question time today, senior Government Ministers have taken the opportunity to fling personal abuse at questioners during their answers to those questions. We now see during Mr Prebble’s question that Government members are able to barrack and interject while he asked his question. It will be very difficult for whips and shadow leaders to keep order on this side of the House unless those matters are addressed.

Hon Ken Shirley: There is a longstanding understanding in this House that members do not interject during a question, and that is exactly what the Leader of the House did. He certainly knows better, and I am very surprised that, on that basis, you as Speaker actually accepted that point of order. He should have been stood down straight away. If he had a point of order to make, he should have made it at the conclusion of the question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I am prepared to accept the correction by the Deputy Prime Minister. Some people would say that all Scandinavians are socialists, but I am prepared to withdraw that remark.

Madam SPEAKER: I accept that you should have been allowed to finish. There should not have been an interjection.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I want to speak to this, because it is quite an important point. We have got into the habit in this House of raising points of order rather late, after the event has occurred. If one wants to raise a point of order on a matter that is within a question, the point of order has to be raised at that point, not at the end of the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Members should not interject during a question. However, I take the point that they should, at the first opportunity after that, raise their point of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: Would the Minister concede that those involved in trying to obtain a passport improperly have already been punished by our courts, and is not the real reason that an Israeli citizen has been refused a visa yet another opportunity for this Government to show the Scandinavians that under Helen Clark, New Zealand is now as pro Palestinian and anti Israeli as the Scandinavians, and indeed the same reason that the Minister himself crossed half the world in order to shake terrorist Yasser Arafat by the hand?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are a number of questions, so let me address each one. First of all, they did not improperly acquire it; they criminally, fraudulently, acquired it—and that again is being an apologist for people who commit criminal acts. Secondly, with regard to the fact that they have been punished already I note that the member at the time said—to quote from his letter—that the best option was to carpet the Israeli Government privately and read the riot act to them. That would, of course, have required the State to interfere in the judicial process, to stop the independent judicial process from prosecuting the agents. Thirdly and finally, New Zealand’s stance with regard to the Palestinian question and the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is in line with the mainstream of international opinion, including every country in the 25-member European Union—countries whose human rights records we are proud to stand alongside.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am trying to be helpful to the Minister. He said he was going to answer every point. Why was he shaking Yasser Arafat’s hand?

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Economic Growth—Regions

9. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: I do not mind interjections during this question. Has he received any recent reports on how the regions are responding to the challenge—

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When a member is called, it is quite simple: he or she stands up, addresses the Minister, and reads the question. The member does not go into a palaver like Matt Robson has.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Would the member please ask address question.

Hon MATT ROBSON: To the Minister: has he—

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What was it about my point of order that meant it was not a point of order?

Madam SPEAKER: In the point the member made, as I understood it, he was trying to say that the member should not have made any comment at all on the question before he had actually asked it. Is that correct?

Rodney Hide: That is correct.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not regard that as a point of order. The member then went on to address the question immediately.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The point here is that the member is not addressing the question—he is asking it. The Standing Orders are extremely explicit about how questions are to be asked. Mr Robson has a very liberal view of how the world should be. It would be unfortunate if his view of how questions could be asked—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I ask members to be quiet during points of order.

Gerry Brownlee: It would be unfortunate if Mr Robson’s view of how questions should be asked were to become the normal way of operating. Mr Hide was quite right to point out that Mr Robson was acting very much outside the Standing Orders.

Madam SPEAKER: I take the point from the member. In future, members should not make any comment; they should address the question.

Rodney Hide: Could I have it recorded in the record that I did raise a point of order and that you ruled in my favour?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the member may, if it makes him happy. I am happy to concede that.

Hon MATT ROBSON: Has he received any recent reports on how the regions are responding to the challenge to lift their economic growth, and what do these reports indicate?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Yes. Next week I am hosting a 3-day regional conference, running from 21 to 23 March, in the Hawke’s Bay. The conference theme is Our Future—Our Potential—Our Choices. It will be the third regional conference that this Government has held. The focus will be on discussing what further action can be taken by the Government working in partnership with business and communities to enhance regional economic growth.

Hon Matt Robson: What is the purpose and what are the themes of the conference?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The conference will be a chance for New Zealand’s regions to celebrate 23 consecutive quarters of year-on-year positive economic growth since this coalition Government was elected in 1999. It will be looking forward to the next steps that need to be taken to increase the momentum of regional development in New Zealand. Over 500 representatives from regional New Zealand will be attending.

Hon Damien O'Connor: Is the Minister confident that people living in provincial towns will be kept informed about the outcome of the conference and how it might affect them?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: New Zealanders living in provincial rural areas will, as usual, be able to read about the outcome of the conference via the New Zealand Press Association network, which allows for timely and affordable regional news from one part of New Zealand to be available to all other provincial newspapers. The New Zealand Press Association’s news-sharing service provides provincial newspapers—including the member’s own New Zealand - owned independent paper, the Westport News—with an invaluable service, which is why we are all watching with interest to see that our country’s regional and national interests continue to be taken into account by Fairfax and APN, the major shareholders in the New Zealand Press Association.

Peter Brown: Has the Minister seen any reports about the concerns people have in various regions about high fuel prices and high electricity prices?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, of course I have, but I have seen the reports of optimism and confidence from regions that have now been performing for 23 consecutive quarters in positive growth mode, achieving the lowest unemployment records in 20 to 30 years, and of the extraordinary growth in all the regions of New Zealand, which is there for all to see if the member would like to visit every single regional town in New Zealand.

Influenza—Vaccination Programme

10. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister of Health: What assurances can she give the House and the New Zealand public that every person who should receive the flu vaccine will receive a fully effective vaccine this winter before the flu hits?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am advised that the—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated or conduct the conversation outside while the question is being asked. Thank you.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It has been a convention in the House that whips and leaders are able to go back and talk to members. It may well be that under your Speakership you are changing that convention. But I want an assurance that, if that is happening, when we see Government whips—and members, as I have already seen in this question time—going to speak to one another, the new convention will apply; or is there one rule for the Labour Government and another rule for the ACT party?

Madam SPEAKER: It has been accepted that when a question is being asked, it will be heard in silence. Interjections certainly are permitted during answers, but while the question is being asked, it will be heard in silence. That is what I was seeking.

Hon Richard Prebble: I am quite concerned about that statement, because people listening to this question time on the air will think that the ACT leader had made an interjection, which he had not. He had just come back in order to speak to me. You have singled him out and given the impression to the whole country that we are behaving in a disorderly manner, when, in fact, he is following a convention of this House. At the same time, during this question time, you have allowed Government members to interject. You took no action until the point was raised by an Opposition member, and I do say to you that one of the requirements for being Speaker is to be fair.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The ACT party, or at least Mr Hide, continues to defy you by continuing to stand in the aisle while the point of order is being taken. That is actually completely a challenge to your authority. I suggest to you that there is quite a difference between members moving around and speaking to each other, and members standing in one of the aisles. That is not appropriate behaviour during question time when questions are being asked. The whips on both sides of this House do not stand in the aisles—and particularly not in that aisle—while questions are being asked.

Hon Richard Prebble: Now we have the Deputy Prime Minister absolutely making something up. I have been a whip in this House, and actually a whip for his party, and I must assure you that whips move around the House, as do leaders, and they often stand in the aisle in order to speak to one of their own MPs. Mr Hide was not trying to interfere with the conduct of the House; he was speaking to one of his own members. If you are to now adopt Dr Cullen’s rulings, then every time I see a Government whip standing in the aisles in front of the Ayes lobby, which one sees every day, we will be raising points of order. I suggest that you have made a mistake and that you owe Mr Hide an apology.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I would just point out to you that Mr Hide continues to stand in the aisle while the point of order is being taken. He is not supposed to do that while a point of order is being taken. He should return to his seat. He cannot possibly be conversing with another member of the House while you are dealing with a point of order in front of the House. So even if we take Mr Prebble’s point seriously, Mr Hide is now clearly out of order and is being insolent to the Chair.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, the point I was concerned about was that the Minister was about to address the question and that people were speaking during that time. I am aware that there is latitude in this House for people to walk around and to be able to converse with members. However, in my judgment, the member did not appear to be doing that at that time, and that was the only point I was attempting to make. So I suggest we now resume the business of the House.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am advised that medical practitioners experienced in this matter will say that no flu vaccine is 100 percent effective against influenza, for two main reasons. Firstly, whilst the World Health Organization chooses which strains will be included in the vaccine each year, no vaccine can guarantee the strains that will affect any one county in any one year. For example, last year’s vaccine did not include the Wellington strain; it was a new mutation. Secondly, at least 15 percent of people who receive the vaccine do not develop a full immunity response to influenza.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why did the Minister reportedly say on 14 March that she was told “in the last few days” of the problems with the flu vaccine effectiveness, when the Prime Minister told the House this afternoon that Mrs King knew about those problems on 28 February?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Prime Minister is absolutely correct. On 28 February I was advised that there was a problem with the vaccine. On 7 March I was told what the problem was. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: The member will be heard in silence.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What did the Minister mean by her comments in the Dominion Post on Saturday, 12 March, when she reportedly said that she had been aware of the problems for only a matter of days and that it was not her role to act on them, and why will she not take responsibility for this major public health crisis that affects over 700,000 people?

Hon ANNETTE KING: On 28 February Wayne McNee from Pharmac phoned me and said: “We have a problem with the vaccine.” I did not know what the problem was. [Interruption]

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is quite inappropriate for that kind of barracking noise and hooligan laughter to occur in question time. I think that it is quite clear that if Ministers are going to have to give answers against that background of noise, they simply will not bother giving them. It would be much better for them to simply sit down, because there is no reason why a Minister should have to shout over the top of that kind of hooligan barracking from a bunch of ill-behaved Opposition members.

Gerry Brownlee: We will not take that sort of lecture from the Deputy Prime Minister. That Minister is answering a question in a way that is just not plausible. If Ministers stand up and make complete plonkers of themselves by the answers they are giving, the only expectation that they can have is that the House will have a pretty robust view of that particular performance. For the Deputy Prime Minister to say that Ministers will not answer questions in the future, simply confirms what most of the country has known for the last 5 years.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister said that she was informed on 28 February—I note that that is some 12 days before her reported statement in the Dominion Post; a matter of days—of a problem—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: The point of order will be heard in silence, and will then be ruled on.

Opposition Member: It’s not a point of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It most certainly is—with the vaccine, but not what the nature of the problem was. At that point, there was an eruption of hooliganish laughter from members opposite. It is very hard to understand what they find difficult to understand about that, particularly when they failed to react to an email that went to all members of Parliament some days later and had to wait for the media to tell them the news about it.

Madam SPEAKER: Of course interjections are permitted when answers are given, but caterwauling does not enhance the answers given to those questions. I would ask members, please, to keep the level down. Of course interjections are permitted, but if members cannot be heard it defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: On 28 February, a Dr Wayne McNee phoned me and told me that there was a problem with the vaccine, and that there would be a delay in delivery. At that stage, I was not aware—and I do not think that Pharmac was aware—of the nature of the problem. It was not until I received a briefing from Pharmac on 7 March that it identified the nature of the problem. The problem was that a vaccine with three strains of influenza in it had two of the right potency and one not of the level of potency we had contracted for. That meant that it was 7 March when I was advised of that, and that is a matter of days before the Dominion Post posed the questions to me.

Dr Paul Hutchison: If the Minister was made aware of the problems with the flu vaccine only in the last few days as she claims, why was Solvay Pharmaceuticals Australia contacted and asked to supply some of its vaccine 2 weeks ago; and why did she not ask what was wrong?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As I said in my answer, Pharmac advised me of a problem of supply. Pharmac immediately moved, a day after being told there was a problem of supply, to seek supply—which is right and proper, and the right thing to do. It advised me on 7 March about the nature of that problem; I support the action the company took.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What does the Minister intend to do about the fact that Pharmac was explicitly advised and warned by tendering vaccine suppliers to have a split tender, so that New Zealanders would be put at less risk than from a sole-supply agreement; and what does she intend to do about Pharmac’s reply—which was: “It’s not our way; the winner takes all.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Pharmac followed the request for proposals process that has been in place for 7 years, starting under Bill English—

Hon Bill English: So it’s our fault!

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not a matter of blame; it is a matter of process. The same process for a sole tenderer has been carried out for 7 years. Pharmac carried out exactly the same process that had been carried out previously. However, it has said today that it is prepared to look at a sole-tender process in the future. Having done this process for 7 years it is prepared to look at it. I also have to say that Pharmac disputes that any tenderers told them to go for a split tender.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I ask the Minister, in the light of that last question, whether it is a statistical fact that if two vaccines have an equal probability of failure it does not matter whether there is a split tender, because the total probability of failure will remain the same?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can confirm that.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is from the New Zealand Herald where Minister King says: “We want a flu vaccine, but we certainly wouldn’t have a flu vaccine that didn’t work.”

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection. There is; the document will not be tabled.

Dr Paul Hutchison: The second document cites the March New Zealand Medical Journal article where Dr Michael Baker and others suggest that a flu pandemic could see up to 3,700 New Zealanders die, and where the Director-General of Health, Dr Karen Poutasi, said that the figures are sobering but are no surprise to the ministry, which has long been concerned about influenza pandemics.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection. Yes, there is. The document will not be tabled.

School Leavers—Transition to Work

11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What progress has been made on services to ensure that school leavers move successfully from school into work or further education?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Youth Affairs): Last Thursday I attended the official launch of the Youth Horizons Trust as a lead provider to coordinate services to school leavers in the member’s own Waitakere electorate, under the Government’s $27 million Youth Transitions Service programme. Four other Youth Transitions Service regional lead providers have been selected so far. They are in Whangarei, Rotorua, New Plymouth, and Porirua.

Lynne Pillay: Can the Minister identify other initiatives that assist school leavers to move successfully from school into work or further education?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes. The Government has committed over $200 million over the next 4 years towards our goal to have all 15 to 19-year-olds involved in education, training, work, or other options, by 2007. Other initiatives include the Modern Apprenticeships programme, which will cover 8,500 young people by the middle of the year; the Gateway programme, enabling students from secondary schools of up to decile 6 to begin structured workplace learning; expansion of careers advice, including the Designing Careers pilot; Work and Income regionalised programmes; and the post-placement service for youth trainees.

Craig McNair: How can the Minister call it progress when a January 2005 OECD report shows that New Zealanders are now categorised as low-middle income earners, along with two former Eastern bloc countries, and when reports are showing student debt levels at record highs?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Speaking to the last part of the question, I say that the member would have heard the Minister of Education report that students are paying back their debts more quickly, according to recent reports; that the overwhelming majority are happy with the system they are working under; and that a great deal has been done to lower their debt. I also say to the member that when we became the Government, in 1999, about 87.5 percent of young people were in education, training, or work. Ninety-three percent are now in that situation, and the rest are coming into the youth transitions process I just announced.

Tertiary Education Commission—Strategic Direction

12. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with the statement made by the Hon Steve Maharey in 2003 that, “The Tertiary Education Commission will bring clear strategic direction to the system as a whole … It is very important to ensure that our research efforts and our student enrolments are concentrated in areas of high performance and high strategic relevance.”; if so, does he think the Tertiary Education Commission is doing a good job?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Of course, and it is getting there.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain why he decided to allocate funding from the Strategic Priorities Fund to a course in homeopathy for pets, and why that is more important than funding more apprenticeships?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Firstly, I did not make the former decision and nor did any Minister. It is a bit rich to have members of the previous National Government, which abolished apprenticeships, saying that we should spend more when this Government has spent more on apprenticeships every single year—7,500 Modern Apprenticeships—than that Government and the Opposition says it will scrap them and put those kids on the dole.

Hon Brian Donnelly: What particular actions has the Tertiary Education Commission taken up to this point in time to focus enrolments to meet the tertiary strategy, and is it not true that all we have seen thus far is a continuation of National’s “bums on seats” policy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would like to thank the member for asking that question and indicate that the member on the Government side of the House who was going to ask a supplementary question does not need to do so, because it has been asked. The Performance-based Research Fund has helped to ensure that the universities now focus on research excellence, not just on “bums on seats”, as was the approach of the previous National Government. Funding for industry training has doubled. We have Modern Apprenticeships—opposed by and to be scrapped by the National Party if it ever gets into Government—and the number of people who are participating in degree programmes is continuing to increase.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that another of his strategic priorities that has received funding from the Strategic Priorities Fund is a course called the art of health, which includes “understanding … the effect of colour on the human soul.”, and “Metamorphosis and Transition”, which “will be—

Jill Pettis: Metamorphosis!

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. There is to be no comment. Would the member please apologise.

Jill Pettis: I apologise.

Hon Bill English: I will start again. Can the Minister confirm that another of his strategic priorities funded with public money from the Strategic Priorities Fund is a course called the art of health, which includes an “understanding of the effect of colour on the human soul.”, and “Metamorphosis and Transition”, which “will be explored … through transition in colour and movement, as well as through Myth, Fairy Tale or poetry.”, and that a further strategic priority is a course called “Dynamic line drawing” as “a means of exploring the 4 elements … as a basis of all form”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not able to confirm all of that, but I can say that there is some relationship between colours and how people feel. Blue is the National colour. Some people do believe in fairy tales: Bill English, who wants to be leader. And line drawing is a good indication of how the National polling is going down.

Hon Ken Shirley: How can the Minister express confidence in the integrity of enrolments and their strategic relevance in light of the Whakatâne-based wânanga enrolling many kaumâtua, including an 82-year-old, in a taxpayer-funded course in elementary te reo, when all those people were fluent in te reo and were in fact even more fluent than the tutor, even to the point where they were so fluent that they did not need to attend the course?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It does not seem to be a good case of needs-based education.

Hon Bill English: How does the Minister explain his decisions to fund courses on homeopathy for pets and on fixing people by means of poetry to groups like the parents of autistic children, who have waited 5 years for some Government movement on a better service for children with autism and have got precisely nothing?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am quite prepared to brief them on the progress that has been made in that area, and in special education generally. The member is quite wrong. If one is worried about pets and other dumb animals, one just needs to look to the Opposition.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Standing Orders make it quite clear that some things are not to be included in answers, including gratuitous insults. I ask that the member withdraw and apologise for his final remark in that answer.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the list of courses approved under the Minister for funding from the Strategic Priorities Fund, including homeopathy for pets, the art of health course, a course on nail technology, and other courses.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. It will not be tabled.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table material describing the content of the course called the art of health, funded from the Strategic Priorities Fund.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. It will not be tabled.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table details of the content of the Diploma of Homeopathy (Animal Health), funded from the Strategic Priorities Fund.

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

Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table a schedule of enrolled persons who were funded for an elementary te reo course in Whakatâne, many of whom were identified as fluent speakers in te reo.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. The document will not be tabled.

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

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