Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 16 March 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Banking—Joint Trans-Tasman Council
2. Biotechnology—Research, Science and Technology Portfolio
3. Crown Accounts—Accrual Accounting
4. Aged-care Facilities—Carers
5. Influenza—Vaccination Programme
6. Tertiary Education—Industry Links
7. Tertiary Education Commission—Strategic Direction
9. Primary Health Organisations—Official Information Act Request
10. Border Control—Trade Facilitation and Security
Question No. 1 to Member
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Banking—Joint Trans-Tasman Council
1. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: On whose advice did he decide to establish a Joint Trans-Tasman Council on Banking Supervision, and what is the purpose of the council?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): It was on the advice of the Reserve Bank, Treasury, and the Ministry of Economic Development in a joint report dated 28 January. The council’s terms of reference are to enhance cooperation, review trans-Tasman crisis response preparedness, advise on policy harmonisation, and report on possible legislative changes to ensure the Reserve Bank and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority can support each other in the performance of their current regulatory responsibilities.
Dail Jones: What does the Minister have to say about the comments made by Professor Edward Kane, the James F Cleary Professor in Finance at Boston College, who was a professional fellow at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, who recently described the proposed joint regulator as “incompatible” with New Zealand’s current regulatory system and a “dangerous step”; and given that that view is consistent, in my understanding, with that of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Alan Bollard, Treasury, and the Ministry of Economic Development, as reported in the Dominion Post on 24 February, is not the Minister’s decision a clear example of a dereliction of his duty to protect New Zealand’s national interests?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No.
Clayton Cosgrove: Is the Joint Trans-Tasman Council on Banking Supervision tasked with exploring the establishment of a single trans-Tasman regulator?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That was explicitly excluded from the terms of reference after discussions between myself and Treasurer Costello.
John Key: Does the Minister agree that a regulator with the oversight of an entire banking group’s operation could have a more complete picture, and therefore thorough understanding, of that group’s combined financial strength; if so, does he therefore agree that, over time, that could provide more security, not necessarily less security, to New Zealand depositors?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is something in what the member said, but I would qualify that in a number of ways. Firstly, I think it is important we recognise that there are circumstances in which a regulator in New Zealand would want to have the capacity to act independently of a regulator in Australia, in relation to a systemic issue in New Zealand alone. Secondly, there are issues, of course, around whether the current framework in Australia is best practice in terms of regulation of the banking system—although I think as my colleague the Minister of Justice has already announced, there will have to be some moves in New Zealand that will actually take us towards the Australian system in any case, for other reasons.
Dail Jones: What will be the situation with regard to New Zealand’s economic sovereignty as a result of the establishment of the Joint Trans-Tasman Council on Banking Supervision, and is the Minister certain that we will not be sold down the road to the Australians while we pursue the economic nirvana of this Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister to have a single economic market, given that this type of regulator could surely be a stepping stone to a single currency and a single reserve bank, and a further step towards economic colonisation by Australia and by foreign-owned banks?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I certainly favour the development of a single economic market. It is clear that that would have enormous benefits from New Zealand’s perspective. But the member is jumping any number of hurdles simultaneously and is at serious risk of doing himself some physical damage as a consequence.
Dail Jones: What assurance can the Minister of Finance give the House that he will accept the warning of the Governor of the Reserve Bank that New Zealand does not come under the control of an Australian-dominated system, which would have the effect, in the event of a banking crisis, of Australian creditors being paid out first and New Zealand creditors receiving nothing, bearing in mind that the priority would be Australians first and New Zealanders taking whatever remained—if anything?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is a very helpful question, because although the Government has made no commitment to proceeding to a single regulator of either limited or broad powers, the Australians have put on the table the extension of depositor preference to New Zealanders in the event of a single regulator developing.
Biotechnology—Research, Science and Technology Portfolio
2. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: How is the research, science and technology portfolio contributing to the development of New Zealand’s biotechnology industry?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): On Monday a $100 million life sciences fund, the largest ever promoted in New Zealand, was announced—the BioPacificVentures fund. The Government will be contributing between $15 million and $20 million towards the fund through the Venture Investment Fund and AgResearch. It will focus on agricultural, biotech, and food sectors in New Zealand and Australia, with a secondary emphasis on health. The establishment of this fund is a vote of confidence in New Zealand’s burgeoning biotech industry, and is evidence that there are major opportunities for growth in the biotechnology sector. The main New Zealand investment partner is Wrightson, and the main international partner is Nestlé.
Dianne Yates: What else is the Government doing to support the biotechnology sector?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Let me cite five key points. Around $175 million of our research investment in 2003-04 was put into research in biotechnology, and that is the highest proportion invested of any OECD country. More than half the projects funded through our Pre-seed Accelerator Fund so far have been biotech projects. The Research Consortia Fund has funded $10.4 million to biotech-based consortia over the past 2 years, and the Venture Investment Fund has supported investment in Proacta Therapeutics. The Australia - New Zealand Biopartnering Fund is funding nearly $6.8 million for commercialisation of four biotech projects.
Rod Donald: How is it consistent with AgResearch’s statement of intent for it to use its scarce resources to become an investor in a venture capital enterprise?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The quantum of money coming from AgResearch is around $5 million of the current $100 million. It seems to me that that level of investment is cautious, as it should be. It is appropriate for it to put funding into biotechnology.
Crown Accounts—Accrual Accounting
3. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: What advantages, if any, does accrual accounting have over cash accounting in the presentation of the Crown accounts?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): They both have advantages. Accrual accounting provides a full picture of the Crown’s financial position, including non-cash components such as the unfunded liabilities in the Government Superannuation Fund and Accident Compensation Corporation funds, and the retained surpluses from State-owned enterprises. It also has the by-product of making it more difficult to pretend that the benefits from State asset sales are as large as some people like to say they are. That is because the loss of the asset then has to be shown in the accounts. The main disadvantage is that ignorant and dishonest people can assert that the accrual surplus is the same thing as cash available for expenditure or revenue reduction purposes.
Rodney Hide: [Interruption] Paul Swain cannot stop himself, can he?
Hon Paul Swain: Two percent and falling!
Rodney Hide: See? Does the Minister recall former Labour finance Minister David Caygill cooking the books by declaring a forest asset sale as income in order to hide a deficit; and what is the difference between what David Caygill did and what this Minister of Finance is attempting to do in order to hide a surplus?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member cared to think about his own question, he would find that the answer is that David Caygill could be accused of hiding a deficit in that case rather than a surplus.
John Key: If we are to believe that the change in the presentation of the Crown accounts is, as the Minister said recently, an “effort to educate the media on one of the basic questions of third-form accounting: What is cash?”, has he himself considered taking a form 1 accountancy course wherein he would quickly discover that the net value of assets on the balance sheet is the important issue, not entirely whether they are funded out of cash; or is he telling New Zealand companies that are capital intensive and are thinking of investing in this country that they should not bother to do so?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, but if the member cares to consult the latest Crown financial statements he will find that the only change that has been made is to the first line that is entered in terms of the summary fiscal indicators: the operating balance or the net cash flow. That means that Mr Key can no longer go around doing his dodgy international financial markets stuff, pretending that one can use an operating surplus consisting of retained State-owned enterprise surpluses and revaluations to fund tax cuts.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to reflect for a few moments on the answer given by Dr Cullen and to tell us whether the use of that sort of language is acceptable, and, if you consider that it is acceptable, whether it would be appropriate for the Opposition, particularly in supplementary questions, to use such epithets as well.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This is a robust House. I did not take exception to Mr Hide talking about “cooking the books” in relation to actions that I am taking, and I am sure Mr Key is big enough to look after himself.
Gerry Brownlee: I think there is quite a big difference between asking a question about whether someone had cooked the books in the past and suggesting that a member of the House today is “dodgy”.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say there was a vigorous exchange of views about others. The point of order is not valid. I call Rodney Hide. [Interruption] Order! The member will address his question in silence.
Rodney Hide: It will be hard to give my question in silence. Can I ask my question, Madam Speaker?
Madam SPEAKER: I have invited the member three times to ask his question. Would he please ask the question?
Rodney Hide: Does the Minister agree with the Bank of New Zealand’s chief economist, Tony Alexander, who referred to the Minister of Finance’s focus on the cash balance as “pulling the wool over our eyes” and “the biggest smoke and mirrors exercise” since 1990, or is Tony Alexander also one of those people whom the Minister of Finance needs to educate?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Alexander is a well-known self-publicist in the economic area. In terms of the reference to smoke and mirrors, I recall that that was Dr Brash’s description of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which he now supports.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to consider how that answer could possibly have addressed my question. My question asked whether the Minister agreed that Mr Alexander was one of the people who needed to be educated. Michael Cullen’s response was that Mr Alexander is a well-known publicist, and then he went on to talk about Don Brash’s criticism of the “Cullen fund”. That in no way addressed the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to elaborate further. The original question asked whether I agreed that I am pulling the wool over people’s eyes. The answer is no. The people pulling wool over people’s eyes are those who pretend an accrual surplus is cash that is available for spending or revenue reduction—people such as that member.
4. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that the pay, conditions, and development of carers in aged-care facilities are sufficient to ensure a sustainable and viable workforce; if so, why?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Associate Minister of Health): No, which is why the Government recently made an extraordinary funding injection into the sector.
Judy Turner: Why has the Government fobbed off the Health Committee’s recommendation that the Government fully fund foundation skills training for caregivers and roll out the model quickly, given that in its own response it admitted that current subsidised training schemes simply cannot address the need for the industry’s 45,000 workers to be trained?
Hon PETE HODGSON: We are not fobbing off anybody. We are not short of advice on what to do in this sector, whether it comes from the select committee report, the Quality and Safety Project report, the report of the so-called working party, and so on. This is an ongoing matter that the Government will address from time to time.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why has the Minister not met with District Health Boards New Zealand to discuss the aged-care crisis, which has seen the sector say that it is 20 percent underfunded, caused 37 rest homes and hospitals to shut, and not-for-profit organisations, such as the Mt Roskill retirement village, the Methodist Mission, the Salvation Army, and Presbyterian Support, to exit the sector, and seen home-care workers paid so poorly due to 6 years of serious neglect by a Labour Government?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Again, the member’s invective does not match the facts. For example, on the issue of home care, which is the most rapidly growing funded area in this general arena, funding in the last 6 years has almost doubled.
Darren Hughes: Can the Associate Minister outline further improvements that have been made for the care of older people since 1999-2000?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes. Total funding for providers in the older peoples’ sector increased by 14.5 percent in the first 4 years of this Government. Last year, it increased a further 3 percent, and there is a further Budget in May.
Barbara Stewart: What does the Minister believe are the main issues facing the sustainability of the aged-care sector, and what plans does he have to ensure that the current shortage of staff is addressed immediately, given that the ageing of our population is set to make this problem worse in the very near future?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I would list the main issues as being quality and safety, low pay, the ability for the Government to roll out different, and in some cases quite innovative, models, and the desire for us as a nation to move progressively to a point where we meet the needs of the clients in front of us, rather than presenting them simply with an array of options that the State has developed.
Sue Bradford: Why, if home-care funding has almost doubled over the last 6 years, is the Government still allowing home-care workers, in some cases, to have to cover their own vehicle costs and to cover travel time in their own time, which reduces their already low wages to almost nothing in some cases?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is true that home-care workers are, in my view, quite poorly paid. They receive, in some cases, $10 an hour or even less. What might interest the member is to learn that when we contract for home care, we pay—this is for under-65-year-old people—not $10 an hour, but $17.20.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister accept that without Government intervention to ensure that funding for caregivers’ wages is ring-fenced, and that significant numbers become qualified—as recommended by the committee—staff turnover rates averaging an alarming 40 percent, and up to 88 percent in some places where better-paid work exists, will continue to plague this industry?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Generally speaking, yes, which is why we increased the rates for home-care workers a few months ago by a further 6 percent.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers, will the Minister give the House a specific answer to this question: when will the aged-care facility operators be reimbursed for the Holidays Act legislation that was passed last year—now, soon, or never?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I will be able to advise the member of the outcome of those negotiations, which are Budget negotiations, in due course.
Judy Turner: Will the Minister guarantee that this current aged-care crisis is addressed by way of substantial increases in funding this year that will be significantly greater than the token 3 percent recently received; if not, what does he say to caregivers such as Pat Parata of Christchurch, who has stuck in this industry for 12 years, and is earning only $1.50 more an hour than when she started?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I refer the member to the answer to her primary question, which was that the Government made an extraordinary non – Budget cycle funding injection into the sector recently.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table an answer to a Parliamentary question showing that the Minister has not bothered to meet yet with District Health Boards New Zealand to discuss this funding crisis.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is an objection. It will not be tabled.
5. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister of Health: Why did she not inform the New Zealand public immediately when she learnt there was a problem with the flu vaccine on 28 February?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): It is plain common sense that no Minister or agency would make a public announcement until all the information was available and comments had been received from the vaccine manufacturer. On 28 February I did not have this information.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Did the Minister not think to ask searching questions surrounding the delay with the flu vaccine because she simply did not realise this was an extremely important public health issue affecting over 700,000 people, or because she is so used to ducking her responsibilities that she relied on the fact that she could always blame health problems on someone else?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, it was because I was informed I would receive information in a few days, which I did, and because the roll-out of the vaccine programme is not due to start until 21 March, and we still have not reached that date.
Steve Chadwick: What progress has been made in seeking suppliers of full-strength vaccine?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to inform the House that I have just been advised that Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will supply New Zealand with an additional 100,000 doses—50,000 within a month, and 50,000 a month later. That gives us a total of 150,000 doses, and work continues to secure more.
Rod Donald: Can the Minister confirm that the flu vaccine contains thinerosal, a known allergen that contains mercury; if so, does that not mean that New Zealanders who get a double-dose of the vaccine will get double-doses of mercury?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, this vaccine does not contain thinerosal.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I draw to your attention that the ACT party should be called in preference to the Green Party. My colleague Heather Roy has been calling consistently from the start of this question; it is just a question of order according to proportionality in this House.
Madam SPEAKER: I accept that. My apologies.
Heather Roy: How many patients will die of the flu this winter because of this dodgy vaccine?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No patients would die because of this dodgy vaccine.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister be instituting an inquiry into Pharmac’s handling of this issue, given that this is the first time that Pharmac has been involved, and we have a problem, or does she consider that Pharmac has covered itself in glory in its handling of the matter?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will not be initiating an inquiry into Pharmac’s handling. It followed the procedure that has been followed for the last 7 years—that is, to go to a request for proposal process, and then to have a sole supplier. What it has said—and so has the Ministry of Health—is that it will examine whether it would stay with a sole supplier in future, or look for multiple suppliers.
Steve Chadwick: What comments has she seen on the work being done by expert advisers on New Zealand’s approach toward a flu vaccination programme this year?
Hon ANNETTE KING: This morning the National spokesperson on health, who might be an expert in gynaecology but certainly is not on expert in communicable diseases, was raising alarm on the radio about the possible side effects—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear the Minister’s answer. Would members please allow the Minister to give her answer.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Order will not be maintained while Ministers repeatedly take gratuitous shots at members of the Opposition. If that is the sort of Parliament you want to run, that is the sort of consequence there will be.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Madam Speaker, I refer you back again to some of the original questioning, which accused the Minister of dereliction of duty. All the Minister said was that the member was a gynaecologist and not an expert in communicable diseases. That is scarcely gratuitous; it is actually a basic fact. I am sure the member takes no offence from that.
Madam SPEAKER: The point of order is not a valid point of order. Would the Minister please give her answer.
Hon ANNETTE KING: Dr Hutchison was on the radio this morning raising alarm about the side effects of double-dosing. I believe that he used his title as a doctor to raise unnecessary and alarmist fears, without waiting to hear from the experts; I wait to hear from the experts. I think that shows he is playing pure politics. He is also revealing the nature of his ignorance, because, in fact, New Zealand has provided two doses, in certain circumstances, to children in the past, and this is consistent with international practice.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why does she think an independent expert committee can decide whether two doses of the Sanofi Pasteur flu vaccine will be safe and effective within a week or two, when usually it takes months to carry out scientific, evidence-based trials, or is she just hoping her committee will get her off the hook?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I would suggest that Dr Hutchison goes and says that to the experts on the committee—paediatricians, infectious disease specialists, virologists, and so on—who are experienced in making such decisions and in fact are able to read international evidence, even if the member is not.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister a very specific question: why does she think an independent expert committee can decide whether two doses of the Sanofi Pasteur flu vaccine will be safe and effective within a week or two? She failed to address that.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I listened carefully and she addressed the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. She addressed the question by telling Dr Hutchison to go and ask that question of the committee. I am sure he is capable of doing that, but surely you would expect the Minister to answer a question asked of her in the House.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I listened carefully to the answer. The Minister said that the committee was composed of experts who are capable of reading the international evidence on these matters.
Rodney Hide: Does the Minister stand by her statement, just given to Heather Roy, that no one will die of the flu because the vaccine fails to vaccinate properly; if she does, will she resign as Minister if someone does, sadly, die because of the improper vaccine, or is her job as Minister more important than this person’s life?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member might like to rewrite the question for the member who asked me the question. She said it was a dodgy vaccine. I said that it is not a dodgy vaccine; it is a vaccine that has full potency for two strains of influenza and not enough for a third strain. I was commenting on the fact that she said it was a dodgy vaccine.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is attempting to rewrite her answer, I think. What she said in her first answer was that no one would die because of this vaccine, which, as the Minister said, vaccinates against only two strains of flu, not three. She said in this House that no one would die as a consequence.
Hon ANNETTE KING: Of a dodgy vaccine.
Rodney Hide: She has said it again. I asked her whether she stands by it. The answer is yes or no, and she is refusing to answer. I think what we are hearing from the Minister is that she is quite happy to pretend that no one is at risk because this flu vaccine does only two out of three strains, but she is not prepared to stand up in this House and say that no one will die as a consequence.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think this is the problem that happens when people do not listen to answers carefully, then change subtly the wording of a subsequent question, and then complain they have not been given the same answer as previously. Heather Roy asked the Minister whether she can assure the House that no one would die as a result of this dodgy vaccine. The Minister said that yes, she can give that assurance. The member asked as a different question, if he cares to think about it, whether she can assure the House that no one would die as a result of the flu. That is a different question, if he cares to think about it.
Rodney Hide: I thank Dr Michael Cullen for pointing out that it was a different question. Now may the Minister of Health answer it.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened carefully to the points of order, and also to the questions and the answer. The Minister addressed the question. There is no valid point of order.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a very important matter. We have just heard the Minister of Health not ruling out people dying of the flu—
Hon ANNETTE KING: I wasn’t asked that.
Rodney Hide: She can interrupt because I know she is feeling sensitive about this. [Interruption] Are you going to do anything about that, Madam Speaker?
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please finish his point of order.
Rodney Hide: I would, if the Minister would shut up so I could say it.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please sit down. Please just calm down. The Minister knows she is not to interrupt—as is no member—during a point of order. Please abide by that rule. Would Mr Rodney Hide please address his point of order so I can rule on it.
Rodney Hide: Thank you. It is a very serious matter. The question that I put to the Minister was whether she would rule out people dying as a consequence of this vaccine not properly vaccinating people for the three strains of flu. What we are hearing from the Minister is that she is not prepared to rule that out. I suppose the only conclusion we can reach is that, yes, New Zealanders will die of the flu, although they have had this vaccine, because it is inadequate.
Madam SPEAKER: The point of order is really a supplementary question. Does the Minister wish to address that question?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Speaking to the point of order, I addressed the member’s question.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister agree that as of today she can give assurance to only 150,000 people that a fully effective vaccine is available, and that, according to experts, that will leave 500,000 people uncertain, and put some of them at greater risk of hospitalisation or even death, which should have been prevented?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I certainly wish we could have had the vaccine we ordered from the company. However, I am pleased to say that yesterday we had 50,000 doses, today we have 150,000 doses, and the work goes on. Next week the ministry will be able to inform New Zealanders as to whether the vaccine we have purchased is able to be double-dosed.
Rodney Hide: How many people, Minister, will die as a consequence of not being—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If we are going to ask for strict rulings, the member cannot ask a question like that; questions should be addressed through you. The member cannot ask a question in that particular kind of form.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please address the question in the correct form.
Rodney Hide: How many people will die of the flu this winter because this vaccine does not vaccinate them against all three strains as promised?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not have that information. At this stage, although we have 150,000 doses we are seeking more, and I am hopeful we will have more before the flu hits New Zealand. If members recall, flu arrived in New Zealand in September last year.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you need to carefully consider whether the Minister has given an answer consistent with the public good. Mr Hide asked a pretty simple question, and I would have thought the Minister would know why the flu vaccine was being funded. Surely, the flu vaccine is being funded because it saves lives. There must be some estimate somewhere that goes across her desk that states: “Go into the bilaterals and bid for this amount of money, so that you can effectively ensure that this number of New Zealand lives are saved from death by influenza.” For the Minister to say she does not know stretches all credibility.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I suggest that we are now getting into depths of absurdity. First of all, the Minister indicated to the House that work is still going on as to whether double-dosage can be used, which, of course, would increase the potency in relation to the flu version that is not covered adequately by the current vaccine that has been ordered. The member is asking for a whole series of things in terms of assumptions that cannot possibly be arrived at at this point. The Minister clearly addressed the question, and in fact gave an honest answer.
Madam SPEAKER: My ruling on the point of order is that the fact the Minister said she did not know is a direct answer to the question; therefore, the question was addressed.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table two documents, the first from the New Zealand Medical Journal of March this year, entitled “New Zealand’s Pandemic Action Plan”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. It will not be tabled.
Dr Paul Hutchison: The second document is a report from NewsQuest, dated 15 March, where Dr Peter Moody, the Medical Director of Pharmac, says there is no way that Pharmac would be able to arrange to replace all 750,000 Sanofi Pasteur vaccines, and it now needed to work out how best to use the vaccines.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that document to be tabled. Is there any objection? There is objection. It will not be tabled.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table a press statement from the Australian chief medical officer, announcing a supply problem for the flu vaccine, that was produced a day after New Zealand health professionals had been advised in New Zealand.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. The document will not be tabled.
Tertiary Education—Industry Links
6. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to promote better linkages between tertiary education organisations and industry?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Sixty research projects linking tertiary students with industry have been approved under the Enterprise Scholarships programme. These scholarships support students to undertake study involving a significant research component. Half the funding is provided by private companies or organisations, such as Crown research institutes, and half is funded by Government contribution.
Helen Duncan: How are students and industry benefiting from Enterprise Scholarships?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Organisations benefit by having access to talent, technology, knowledge, and training by working with students in research teams from any discipline area to improve processes, business solutions, train existing staff, and identify potential future staff. Students benefit from having significant financial support to undertake their studies.
Hon Bill English: If the Minister is funding links between students and business through the Enterprise Scholarships scheme, what is happening to the money he allocated to the strategic initiative scheme for exactly the same purpose—a sum of $25 million to organisations that are already flush with slush funds from the Government?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will share that comment with the private training organisations, which the member has criticised over the last 24 hours.
Tertiary Education Commission—Strategic Direction
7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: How much funding, if any, was allocated from the Strategic Priorities Fund for each of the following courses: the animal homeopathy course run by Bay of Plenty College of Homeopathy, the art of health course run by Taruna College, and the nail technology course run by the National School of Aesthetics?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The Strategic Priorities Fund was established in 2002, following our Government’s decision to cap the funding for private training establishments, which previously had been funded on a “bums on seats” formula developed by the member when he was in Government. In order to receive funding, providers have to demonstrate that courses meet a range of criteria, including: first, getting people into jobs, second, regional needs, and, third, links with industry. I am advised that those courses will, this year, receive around $180,000.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen a memo from the Tertiary Education Commission that explains that late last year it decided not to fund alternative therapies and some other types of courses from the Strategic Priorities Fund; can he explain to the House whether its change of mind was because of pressure from him, so that the Strategic Priorities Fund is now paying for a course like the art of health, which includes in its subject matter “Cosmic and Earthly connections: 7 fold human being in relation to the planets, organs, metals, and soul types.”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not sure why the member hates Rudolf Steiner schools so much. That course is run by the organisation that trains the teachers and workers in Rudolf Steiner schools. I do not, myself, quite go for that approach, but I do not believe Ministers should stop it. I had no influence on those decisions.
Hon Brian Donnelly: What specific steps has the Tertiary Education Commission taken in order to focus enrolment patterns to meet the objectives for the tertiary education strategy, or is a “bums on seats” funding policy still the order of the day?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There has been considerable work in this area, as the member is aware—for example, through the Performance-based Research Fund, into which $200 million is going. That is a move away from “bums on seats” to a strategic approach. There has been a major development in Modern Apprenticeships—a move away from a “bums on seats” approach to one that is strategic—and in this particular area, there was evidence provided that a group in New Zealand’s dairy regions, such as the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Southland, and the Wairarapa, is committed to ensuring that animal health standards meet overseas expectations of quality—in particular, the increase in demand for organic produce and meat. Again, frankly, that does not mean much to me, but it is worth $70 million to exporters. It is a rapidly growing market. The Opposition members may hate people who have alternative approaches, but this Government does not.
Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the Minister’s answer to that question, does he think that it is important strategically for the organic sector, as a growing export industry, to have vets who can treat animals without chemicals so that they can maintain their organic certification, or does he think, like Mr English, that neither the education sector nor the agricultural sector need to respond to market demand?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the answer to that is that it is a bit of both. Fonterra has indicated that if companies meet US standards for dairy products, they get a premium of 16 percent, and that that will be moving up to 20 percent. That is a market matter, and in order to get those premiums, antibiotics cannot be used. People do use organic and other methods. The Opposition members may not like us to export organically raised milk or meat, but this Government will not oppose it in the way that Bill English does.
Hon Ken Shirley: In addition to concerns over the strategic priority of some of these training courses, does the Minister believe that the reported 25 percent decline in enrolments in one training organisation is a result of my exposure of shortcomings, or does he accept that the previous levels may well have been inflated by fraudulent enrolments?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: On the fundamental point of the member’s question, the numbers were dropping well before he made his revelations.
Jill Pettis: Is funding for those sorts of courses new?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I happened to pull out information about a group of courses that were approved in 1999, and amongst that group were homeopathy, golf, and health and natural rebalance therapies. I think that a few Opposition members could use the latter.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he is aware that the Education and Science Committee has asked the Tertiary Education Commission to release the tertiary enrolment figures for 2004, and that the commission has agreed to release them, but that he is stopping the release of those figures because he is trying to hide further evidence of massive growth in low-level, low-quality courses at the expense of trades and apprenticeships; and why does he not release the figures?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I intend, tomorrow or on Friday, to release the figures on apprenticeships, which will prove that what the member says is untrue—and I think he knows that.
Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table documents that show fraudulent enrolments in a tertiary training course.
Hon Bill English: What would the Minister say to the parents who spoke to their petition on special-needs education to the Education and Science Committee this morning—which included stories about children at school who require nappies but have no one to change them—about his history of stupid decisions about the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on tertiary education courses that students do not attend, while those children with special needs go without?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would tell them to listen very carefully to the member try to run down New Zealand organic farmers. I would say to them that this Government has worked very hard to get people into jobs and to build the value of the economy, so that we can supply the sort of special education that all of us think is necessary. I would also say to them that the very low priority that the previous Government put on training special-education teachers is showing now. I do not know why National hates the parents of children with special needs.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sitting here not as a member of the National Party or the Labour Party, but I ask you to consider that the Minister, in his answer, said that members of an entire party hate the parents of special-needs children. You accepted that as an answer to a question.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please withdraw that comment.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw.
8. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she stand by her response to my question for written answer 15237 (2004) that a role of the Ministry for the Environment in respect of biotechnology is to “ensure our regulations remain appropriate”; if so, has she received any new information that would cause her to revise those regulations?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes, I stand by that response, and, no, I have received no new information that would cause me to revise current regulations.
Ian Ewen-Street: What, then, is the response of the Minister to the findings of the recent United States Government research that proved that individual genes do not line up with one-on-one, individual heritable traits but line up with multiple traits, which means that changing even one gene by genetic engineering will inevitably lead to multiple undesirable outcomes and inherent instability?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am well aware of that development in genetic technology, and that is the reason why we have an Environmental Risk Management Authority that takes such applications on a case by case basis.
David Parker: Is the Minister satisfied that the case by case approach she just spoke of is and remains appropriate for dealing with biotechnology advances in New Zealand?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, more than ever. My colleagues Peter Hodgson and Steve Maharey recently announced grants in excess of $20 million to put New Zealand at the forefront of biotechnology innovation, and we have rigorous testing processes under our hazardous substances and new organisms legislation to ensure we can take advantage of developments and be aware of changes in technology.
Larry Baldock: Would the Minister agree that the fact none of the predictions about overseas consumers boycotting New Zealand produce once the GE moratorium was lifted have eventuated is a reasonable indication that our regulations have been appropriate; if so, does she have concerns that the comments from Dr Tony Connor, a professor of plant biology at Lincoln University, as reported in the New Zealand Herald yesterday, that “…it has become virtually impossible to justify field trials of GM plants, because of the costs involved and the effort to win approval.” perhaps indicate that the regulations are too tight?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: What I take from Dr Tony Connor’s comments is an indication that we do have a rigorous assessment regime, and it does involve costs, but they are appropriate given the level of assessment, and the risk management called for by the public.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that since the moratorium was lifted there have been no applications for commercial release—in fact, no applications for field trials—and therefore is it no wonder that lifting it has had no impact on our overseas trade?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes.
Ian Ewen-Street: Does the Minister stand by her statement in a recent issue of the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s Perspective newsletter: “Continuing attention has been given to relationships with a whole range of stakeholders.”; or does she now agree with Bas Walker, the authority’s chief executive, who has admitted that the authority is being boycotted by non-governmental organisations and independent scientists, because of their lack of faith in the authority?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I stand by my comments in the magazine.
Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister aware of the recent review by Marvier and Van Acker, in which the authors contend that risk management protocols concerning GE organisms have to date paid too little attention to the role of human error in generating risk, and that coexistence of GE and non-GE crops is virtually impossible; and what advice has she received from Ministry for the Environment officials on this matter?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am not aware of that particular piece of research, but I am aware of ongoing research on coexistence that gives different advice.
Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister aware that species that grow through different life phases, such as caterpillars growing into butterflies, have identical DNA in both phases—in fact, in all phases—of their lives; and if that DNA were to be used to create a GE pig, for argument’s sake, can the Minister predict whether the resulting creature will be a pig that builds a cocoon or a pig that flies?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I can make no such prediction, though I wish I could.
Primary Health Organisations—Official Information Act Request
9. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: Why wasn’t the report Review of Primary Health Organisation Management Services, dated 11 August 2004, released when I made a request in September 2004 under the Official Information Act 1982, and why has it taken six months and intervention from the Ombudsmen for this report to finally be made available?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The member’s request for the report Review of Primary Health Organisation Management Services was made to the Director-General of Health, not to the Minister of Health. The review was undertaken to assist policy development and Budget decisions. Following the receipt of the review, policy work commenced. Budget decisions were finalised in the last few days. The report was released once the decisions were made.
Heather Roy: Is the Minister saying that she was not consulted, advised, or in any way connected to the decision not to release this report until forced to do so; and if she cannot say yes to that, how does she reconcile her role in this with her constant claims to be proud of her open and transparent provision of health information?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No.
Nanaia Mahuta: Is the Minister aware of any reports outlining attitudes towards primary health organisations?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I am. I have read a recent report in the first Grey Power quarterly publication for 2005 in which Dr Lynda Scott, one of the five health spokespeople the Opposition has had in the last 5 years, appeared to accept the introduction of primary health organisations and was reported as saying that when push came to shove, the primary health organisations policy was not much different from that adopted by the previous National Government. I am not sure how National can claim credit for what this Government has achieved in primary health care, but it is clear that National goes along with the thrust of what we are doing.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What responsibility does the Minister take for directly influencing the withholding of this report as well as for not informing the public of the vaccine crisis immediately, and how can anyone have faith in her when if something bad happens she tries to cover it up?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am a Minister who does not cover things up, but also I do not go out using my title as “Dr” and trying to whip up a political storm over an issue that is not political but is a serious public health issue in New Zealand. That member has done that, and he should hear the feedback today from some of his former health colleagues.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister may have inadvertently misled the House when she said she does not go out and use her title. My understanding is that—
Hon Annette King: I didn’t say that.
Rodney Hide: Yes, the Minister did say that. I am making a point of order. That is the third time the Minister has interrupted.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please refrain from interrupting on a point of order.
Rodney Hide: The Minister inadvertently misled the House by saying in her answer—and she might try to interrupt and say that she did not, but Hansard will show that I am correct—that she does not go out using her title as “Dr”. Well, she is not a doctor. She has no title to use, at all.
Madam SPEAKER: That may be a point, but it is not a valid point of order.
Nanaia Mahuta: What other feedback has the Minister received on the primary health care strategy?
Hon ANNETTE KING: A keynote speaker at last week’s primary health care conference in Wellington, which was attended by 600 delegates, was Dr Rafael Bengoa from the World Health Organization. He is a world expert on chronic disease management. He thanked New Zealand for its right approach, congratulated us on our sustained policy commitment, and said that our focus on chronic care needs is an integral part of primary health care reforms.
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Just for future reference, so that members of the Opposition parties are clear on your ruling, can you tell us on how many occasions it is acceptable for a Minister to interject on a point of order before action will be taken?
Madam SPEAKER: I will judge that as it arises. On that point of order, I tell the Minister that if she intervenes again, then further action will be taken. That goes for all members, not just for that Minister. We have been running a fairly fluid game here with interjections going backwards and forwards, and it has been a matter of give as good as one gets. However, it is getting to the point where it is very difficult to hear the answers to the questions, so I ask members to refrain from caterwauling. I do not mind the odd interjection, but when one cannot hear the answer it becomes very difficult.
Heather Roy: Is it not true that the reason the Minister did not release this report was that it found that Labour’s primary health organisations are deficient in performance monitoring, deficient in reporting requirements, deficient in business planning, and deficient in quality management, amongst other things; or was it because there was such a lack of financial information that they could not even identify relevant costs?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether I could seek the leave of the House to have the bell rung in order to wake up the Minister of Education, David Benson-Pope, for question time.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a valid point of order.
Border Control—Trade Facilitation and Security
10. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Customs: What initiatives has he launched to increase the dual purposes of trade facilitation and security capability at the border?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): This Government has invested $20 million in equipment, including three mobile container inspection units, two fixed-site X-ray units, five extra mobile trailers, and one multi-purpose screening unit, which are all now in use at the border.
Mark Peck: Could the Minister tell the House what the effect of these initiatives has been?
Hon RICK BARKER: These initiatives have been successful on both fronts. The Customs Service has recently made a significant drugs seizure that would not have been possible without the X-ray equipment. In respect of exports, the new equipment has been effective in providing assurance about the contents of export containers, thereby ensuring that New Zealand exporters’ goods clear customs at their destination without delay or charge—a good result all round.
Gerry Brownlee: How does the requirement that Customs Service staff demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of Mâori culture and the Treaty of Waitangi, including its historical, legal, social, and economic significance to the Customs Service workplace, fit in with the new initiative and assist with security at the border?
Hon RICK BARKER: It is always important to be aware of cultural issues. But that is an operational matter and I suggest the member directs that question to the Comptroller of Customs.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You might like to ask the Minister to reconsider the answer that he gave. You may remember that a similar question was asked of Mr Mallard in the House a couple of weeks ago and he gave a similar answer—that the matter was operational. We checked it out with the State Services Commission, and were told that the relationship between staff and a Minister is a matter for the Minister, and that the advertisements that appear in newspapers, and other job advertisements, that require applicants to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of Mâori culture and the Treaty of Waitangi, including its historical, legal, social, economic, and other significance to the Customs Service workplace, are fulfilling a requirement put in place by the Minister.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I am somewhat surprised by the member’s comments. I would ask him to authenticate those comments to indicate whom he has spoken to, whether he received that in writing, and whether normal form was followed.
Madam SPEAKER: That may be another matter for another time. Ruling on the point of order, the Minister is entitled to respond in that vein. Whether the member who asked the question accepts the answer is entirely another matter.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister assure nervous exporters, who are already under stress due to the Government’s programme of border security cost recovery, that this time the cost of further securing the facilitation and capability of trade in the name of national interest will not be imposed upon them, and that due consideration of their difficult situation will be taken into account when deciding who will fund border security initiatives; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: I can assure the member that these programmes are in the best interests of exporters, as I said in my earlier supplementary answer. These initiatives have ensured that New Zealand exports are crossing foreign borders quickly, expeditiously, and without delay or charge.
11. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: What evidence did his department have for its assessment, as stated by the Hon Phil Goff on 12 January 2005, that halving the supervision of paedophile Lloyd Alexander McIntosh is “appropriate to prevent risk of reoffending at this point”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Currently, this offender has two supervisors with him at all times during the day. However, initial advice from the department at the time of the statement was that moving to one supervisor during the day was appropriate. Following further discussions with the provider, it has been agreed that it is appropriate to have two supervisors present whenever the offender is in public.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why, when in January Mr Goff was insisting that community safety would not be jeopardised by cutting McIntosh’s guards from two to one, has the Government quietly shelved the plan Mr Goff so endorsed?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The advice at the time was that that level of coverage was appropriate. However, the department went back and had good, lengthy discussions with the provider—and I commend it for doing that. On the basis of those discussions, it was decided to maintain the current level of supervision. I suggest that the member congratulate the department on that, rather than trying to attack it.
Georgina Beyer: What has the Government done to protect the public from high-risk child sex offenders?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, this Government passed the Sentencing Act 2002, which states that a recidivist child sex offender can receive preventive detention and be locked up, if necessary, for life. Secondly, legislation was passed last year that allowed for an extended supervision period of up to 10 years for serious recidivist sex offenders after the completion of their sentences. This Government, under the leadership of Phil Goff, has done a lot to try to make sure the community is safer.
Hon Tony Ryall: When Mr Goff endorsed halving Lloyd Alexander McIntosh’s supervision and said that there would be no increased risk to the public, was he briefed by his department that the people who knew McIntosh best had warned that those cuts were unsafe and unwise, and that staff had grave misgivings about them?
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table my statement, which is quite different from the misrepresentation that Mr Ryall has made.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. The document will not be tabled.
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It has long been a convention of this House—certainly in my short time here—that if a member wishes to table a document in relation to a question, it is done at the conclusion of that question, not after a supplementary question has been asked by the Opposition and before the Minister has answered it.
Hon Phil Goff: I believe that it is very important, when a misrepresentation is made by a member, that it is corrected immediately. That is why I sought leave at that point.
Madam SPEAKER: That may not be the normal process, but it has happened in the past. We will now move on to the question.
Hon Tony Ryall: When Mr Goff, in his press release of 12 January that defended the Department of Corrections, raised no questions whatsoever in parroting his officials’ advice and telling the public there would be no increased risk to its community safety, had the department advised the Minister that it had received advice from the people who supervise Lloyd McIntosh that such cuts were unsafe and unwise, and that the staff had grave misgivings about that?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am advised that there was a briefing with the department. There was a lot of discussion about the appropriate level of supervision, and as I have said before, after further lengthy discussions with the provider towards the end of January—as I understand it—the level of supervision was maintained at two persons. I think that the member should applaud that, because the department has been responsive to concerns by listening to relevant information from the provider.
Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that this Government’s ridiculous, extended supervision scheme has now created a bizarre situation whereby providers such as the one that has the contract to accommodate and supervise high-risk sex offenders like Lloyd Alexander McIntosh are now able to collude with the paedophiles they have in their charge, in order to ratchet up and extort more money out of the Government and out of the Department of Corrections, by negotiating and levering them through publicity, and through playing on the fears of the public—something that this Government cannot handle—and is this not an example of a new burgeoning industry we will see where we will end up paying people hundreds of millions of dollars to run a scheme that could quite easily be catered for by putting those people in preventive detention, immediately?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No.
Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that this is the same Lloyd McIntosh who, along with Barry Ryder and many others, was released in 1993 by the previous National Government, of which Tony Ryall was a part, with absolutely no control, no supervision, and no attempt to put legislation in place to provide it?
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can it be that that Minister has any responsibility for any action, alleged or otherwise, that occurred under a previous National Government?
Hon Trevor Mallard: We are talking about someone who is the current Minister’s responsibility. All the questioner was trying to do was to establish that it is the same man that Tony Ryall was happy to see go free and attack little boys in the 1990s.
Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker, I ask whether you heard the comments made to the House by Mr Mallard.
Madam SPEAKER: No I didn’t. There was too much noise, as you may have heard.
Gerry Brownlee: Well then, I think it would be unfair to require you to take action immediately. We asked you last week, and the week before, to consider a number of things and come back to the House, but you obviously have not had time yet to do that. This matter is very serious. I ask you to consider Mr Mallard’s comments, which will be in the Hansard available after question time, and then to decide what action should be taken. There have never been statements made—in my short experience in this House—that are likely to lead to so much future disorder as those just made by Mr Mallard.
Madam SPEAKER: I am very happy to do that, Mr Brownlee. I will also be considering, however, as I said, that I have allowed a fairly free reign of interjections and caterwauling across the House from all sides. The question will be whether that also can continue in the future. When one simply cannot hear the statements that are made there is no opportunity to intervene immediately.
Gerry Brownlee: I just make the point that Mr Mallard’s comments were made during a point of order.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Is this a new point of order?
Hon Annette King: It relates to this: today you have ruled that on several occasions I interjected during a point of order. I just want to say that that has to apply also to those who make the complaints, and that the chief Opposition whip interjected during a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I note that point. It has gone on, on both sides of the House.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think you may have unwittingly been put in some difficulty by Mr Brownlee, in that I think you responded to his question in relation to something other than what you thought he was referring to. Apparently, in his point of order, he was referring to the statement made by Mr Mallard in speaking to the point of order, which obviously you did hear since there was no large amount of noise in the House at that time. I think what Mr Brownlee was seeking from you was advice as to whether Mr Mallard’s comment in relation to Mr Ryall being happy to see somebody released into the community to attack little boys was out of order. I actually think Mr Mallard should withdraw that comment.
Madam SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to withdraw that comment. I did not actually hear it, but I will ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. New Zealand First has noted that you have noted the behaviour of members on both sides of the House. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that my colleagues’ behaviour in New Zealand First—
Madam SPEAKER: Their behaviour is exemplary. I have noted that.
Gerry Brownlee: You should point out to Mr Brown that it is inappropriate to talk about the absence of members from the House. We all noticed that Mr Peters was not here.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In response to Mr Goff’s question, yes I can confirm that it is the same Lloyd McIntosh. That is why I think it is absolutely disgraceful that National wants to play politics on that issue, when it let the sex offender out into the community in the first place.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to refer to two particular statements you made during this question time. A couple of times you referred to the fact that there have been general interjections, almost as a way of justifying behaviour on the part of the Government, which was clearly out of order. There is some behaviour in this Chamber that is in order, and some, such as interjecting during a point of order, that is quite out of order. The Opposition is going to find it a bit difficult if you go down that path, whereby actions that are clearly out of order are justified by you, because Opposition members were making a noise during the answer to a question. We are moving to a new plane where answers are going to be treated much more broadly, and certainly that will incite disorder. Personal abuse has always been here, and you are permitting it, so it will continue to incite disorder on a pretty regular basis. Our response to that should not be treated by you as a way of justifying a Minister’s interjecting on a point of order. All I am asking is that you treat issues that are out of order on their own merits. The fact that the House is noisy sometimes, does not justify the Government being out of order.
Madam SPEAKER: The member is talking to the same point of order, which has been dealt with.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the member makes a very fair point. But what we have seen today, also, are a number of points of order that, if I am to take them seriously from the members opposite, and because of the noise from their own side, they did not actually hear the answers being given, or at least took exactly the wrong impression out of it. For example, I cannot see how referring to Dr Hutchison as a gynaecologist is an abusive statement. It seems to be no more abusive than calling me a historian.
Madam SPEAKER: I will certainly take on board all those points.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was trying to raise this a little earlier, but we have obviously been preoccupied with other points of order. I am not sure about the answer the Minister gave to the House. He gave a very short answer to my question.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Does the member wish to ask a supplementary question?
Ron Mark: I am seeking clarification as to whether the Minister said that money is not being extorted from him by the people who are looking after Mr McIntosh, or that he agrees the scheme does not work.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The problem there was that Mr Mark followed his usual custom of asking an extremely long question, which had so many subparts within it, that the Minister could have answered “No” to any particular part, and the member is then in the difficulty of not knowing to which part the answer was given. The solution is to ask shorter and more precise questions.
Madam SPEAKER: I have noted that the practice has developed of the questions being longer than most of the answers. Often there is more than one question involved within the supplementary question, and we all know what the Standing Orders say about that. But we do, in fact, apply them reasonably liberally. So I ask members to just consider that issue when they are asking questions.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why did this Minister’s office deny receiving correspondence from McIntosh’s supervisors warning of an increased risk to community safety, when an Official Information Act request shows that his office and his department did have this letter in their possession?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It was because it was copied to me as a member of Parliament in Upper Hutt, not as the Minister of Corrections. As soon as I became aware of that, I advised the media accordingly.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table papers that show that when the Labour Government cut the level of supervision of Barry Allan Ryder, within days he had gone on to reoffend.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There appears to be objection.
Marc Alexander: What gives the Minister confidence that any amount of supervision for Lloyd McIntosh will be effective, given he has already sexually violated an intellectually disabled woman while being supervised, and has admitted both an intention to manipulate his supervisors, and to reoffend, and would it not be more effective to put the $350,000 tax bill for 1 year’s supervision towards securing him in a psychiatric facility for the obviously chronic nature of his medical condition, or is this no longer possible since Labour has closed these options down?
Madam SPEAKER: May I intervene at this point, and note the point that was pointed out by the senior Opposition whip. If, in fact, members want to table documents that should be done at the end of the supplementary questions. I think this is a good example of that. Could the member please repeat the question to the Minister, who obviously thought that it was over.
Simon Power: We thought it was all over.
Madam SPEAKER: Exactly, because of a departure from the normal practice.
Marc Alexander: What gives the Minister confidence that any amount of supervision for Lloyd McIntosh will be effective, given he has already sexually violated an intellectually disabled woman while being supervised, has admitted an intention to manipulate his supervisors, and to reoffend, and would it not be more effective to put the $350,000 tax bill for 1 year’s supervision towards securing him in a psychiatric facility for the obviously chronic nature of his mental condition, or is this no longer possible since Labour has closed down these options?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I think the incident the member raises was the one in Palmerston North. I think the point about that was that, primarily, the supervision was not as adequate as it should have been. What we now know is that the provider who is providing the supervision now will be trained and skilled, and the level of supervision now has been agreed between the provider and the department as being appropriate.
12. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Energy: Have average household power prices increased since the election of the Government in 1999; if so, by how much?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Energy): I am advised that the average retail charge per kilowatt hour has increased from 11.4c as at 15 November 1999 to 14.53c as at 15 November 2004. A significant proportion of this increase reflects increasing electricity generation costs, with higher prices being paid for thermal fuels. However, New Zealand still has some of the cheapest prices in the OECD.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that the Ministry of Economic Development has outlined price increases throughout the country along the lines of 40 percent since the Government came into power, and further to that, is he aware that some power companies, including taxpayer-owned companies such as Genesis Power, are warning that there will be further power price increases in the pipeline very, very shortly, and is that acceptable to the Minister?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have certainly seen some figures that are somewhere around the 30 percent level. I have not seen any at the 40 percent level. I have seen some gas price increases in the pipeline. But I can tell the member of prices for household power supply in some other countries. In Denmark for example, the price is 43c, in Italy 35c, and in Japan 32c. They do not have the natural resources; they are richer countries than we are, but sometimes we do not know how lucky we are.
Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that some of that price increase is a result of levies in order to increase power generation at Whirinaki, and that there are complications now with Whirinaki being able to deliver the power it can generate, because of limitations in the national grid?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Certainly, yes, some of the ongoing cost is around Whirinaki and I understand that the person who briefed the newspaper on transmission limitations was somewhat out of date.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister recall that Labour when in Opposition promised to solve the electricity problems for New Zealanders, and implied that prices would be cheaper; if he does recall that, will he tell us how he will deliver on that promise, and when New Zealanders can expect it to be delivered, without him telling us to go and live in Denmark?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I do not recall that.
Question No. 1 to Member