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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 17 March 2005

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

Thursday, 17 March 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. High-country Land—Tenure Review
2. Influenza—Vaccination Programme
3. Beneficiaries—Training for Employment
4. Influenza—Vaccination Programme
5. Industry Training—Targets
6. Education, Associate Minister—Confidence
7. Bird Flu—Preparedness
8. Paedophile—Supervision
9. Family Group Conferences—Youth Offending
10. Health and Safety in Employment Act—Application
11. Courts and Justice System—Student Initiatives
Question No 12 to Minister
12. Forestry—Export Potential

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

High-country Land—Tenure Review

1. LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Land Information: What recent reports has he received on tenure review in the South Island high country?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Land Information): I have received three reports in the last day: a report from Dr Don Brash stating that tenure review is a deliberate land grab; a second report, also from Dr Don Brash, conceding that the Government could not grab land that it already owned; and a third report this morning repeating the fact that it is a deliberate land grab. The gentleman is bewildered.

Lianne Dalziel: What other reports has the Minister seen on how much land is being freeholded or added to the conservation estate from the tenure review process?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen one report from the aforementioned Dr Don Brash, which quoted a figure of at least 60 percent of land that is going into the conservation estate. He is wrong. The figure to date is not 60 percent, but about 35 percent. When advised of his error, he blamed runholders for giving him the wrong figures.

Simon Power: Has the Minister received any further reports, including a copy of the Department of Conservation’s last annual report indicating that the department failed to meet 21 out of 35 self-imposed performance targets in the area of the management of natural heritage, and does he think the department should concentrate on its core business of meeting those targets, rather than managing the South Island high country?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not receive those reports, because I am not the Minister of Conservation. However, it is my view that the Department of Conservation has a mandate far broader than just making sure that we do not lose endangered species. I would say to the member that improving access to the high country for the trampers and walkers of our nation is a good idea, not a bad one.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree with the submission made by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society to the Finance and Expenditure Committee yesterday that the sale of Crown-owned pastoral leases to overseas interests should be prohibited, and that at the very least the tenure review process should be completed before any sale to overseas interests proceeds; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member will be aware that the Overseas Investment Bill, currently before a select committee, proposes a somewhat more effective regime in this regard. I trust that the member will support it.

Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister seen comments made yesterday by Dr Hugh Barr for the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations on the subject of the principal question; if so, what is his reaction to those comments?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, in fact I have. The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations has said: “Don Brash is way off target with his criticism of pastoral tenure review.” The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society said: “Brash has an agenda to privatise the high country, and restrict access to it to a privileged few.”

Lianne Dalziel: What reports has he seen on attempts to restrict the role of the Department of Conservation, in light of the answer that he gave to an earlier supplementary question?

Hon PETE HODGSON: One report from Dr Don Brash, who would restrict the Department of Conservation to protecting flora and endangered species, curtail its advocacy role, and give it a new mission statement that would shut out the Department of Conservation from promoting public access to, and enjoyment of, not only the high country, but also our world-renowned network of tracks and huts.

Rodney Hide: Has the Minister seen the reports that the ACT party has not flip-flopped on its policies, that it does consider the land tenure review to be a land-grab, and indeed, right at this moment, Mr Gerrard Eckhoff is out campaigning against this Government’s land-grab along the country’s rivers and waterways, and our members will oppose it, just as we will oppose all the socialism of this Government?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am delighted to observe that at least on one issue there is now agreement between the National Party and ACT, even if they are both wrong.

Question time interrupted.

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Influenza—Vaccination Programme

2. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First), on behalf of Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First), to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence that her Minister of Health will ensure that elderly New Zealanders will not die as a consequence of the lack of a suitable supply of flu vaccine?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: I have confidence that the Minister is doing everything in her power to ensure that the health authorities obtain as much flu vaccine as possible.

Barbara Stewart: At what point did Pharmac discover that the Sanofi Pasteur vaccine was only half the required strength for protection against the Wellington strain of the flu?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have information as to when the company discovered that. All I have here is information about when it informed us. The Minister was advised of the actual problem on 7 March. Almost immediately steps were taken to secure alternative vaccine supplies.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has the Prime Minister not asked the Minister of Health to resign, given that the Prime Minister confirmed to the House that Ms King was advised “of the issues” relating to the flu vaccine on 28 February, but Ms King did not make efforts to find out the nature of that vitally important public health issue, by her own admission, until 7 March?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister was advised on 28 February that there was a potential problem with the flu vaccine, but not until 7 March of the exact nature of it. That problem, of course, applies to 70 percent of the supplies in the Southern Hemisphere, which all come from the same company. The Australian Minister is in exactly the same position as our Minister, and no doubt the Australian Labour Party is going through the same performance in the Australian House this week that we are.

Barbara Stewart: Did Sanofi Pasteur give a contractual guarantee that its vaccine would cover the Wellington strain of the flu?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not advised whether there was a guarantee. Certainly, it was contracted to provide a vaccine that would meet the Southern Hemisphere requirements, and clearly, as it accepts, this vaccine does not. Obviously, we may look to our remedies in relation to that, and I prefer, therefore, not to comment further.

Barbara Stewart: Is it accurate to say that only 50,000 people will receive the fully effective vaccine within the next few weeks, and that the additional 100,000 doses from Commonwealth Serum Laboratories may not arrive in time to be effective against an early flu outbreak; if so, what confidence can we have in the Government’s ability to deal with any outbreak of a more serious nature, such as bird flu?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the technical advice is that a 2-3 week delay in the vaccine is not expected to make much difference, given the pattern of influenza in previous years. In relation to avian flu, of course, no vaccine has yet been developed against it. That matter is being taken up by the World Health Organization as a matter of some urgency.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a paper published by Pharmac, in which it states that the flu vaccine will be available in New Zealand from 1 March.

Leave granted.

Beneficiaries—Training for Employment

3. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he accept that the provision of training is an important part of assisting people who receive invalids benefits and sickness benefits into the workforce?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. For instance, over 1,000 invalids benefit recipients are receiving a weekly training incentive allowance for support with their study costs. Plus, one of the most important changes that will occur with the shift to the single core benefit is that people’s eligibility for programmes and services, including training, will be determined by their individual circumstances, rather than their benefit category.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware that a sickness or invalids beneficiary needs to have been enrolled as a job seeker for 26 weeks in order to access the training opportunities programme, and is this not a classic catch 22, because to get a sickness or invalids benefit in the first place people will most likely be too sick or too disabled to work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I am aware of that. It is one of the reasons, however, that we are changing to the new service model that will allow people who perhaps have a disability, but are seeking work, to access services around training much earlier when they are capable of going back to work.

Georgina Beyer: What is the Government doing now to put in place a more proactive approach to helping people who receive invalids benefits and sickness benefits?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In addition to the changes I outlined in my primary answer, the new service for sickness and invalids benefits recipients piloted last year is now being rolled out across regions. This includes cutting case manager loads by more than half, addressing medical needs that stand in the way of a return to work, assistance to employers, and tailored career services and skills identification. We have seen from these pilots between a 9 to 17 percent increase so far in people moving back into work.

Judith Collins: Has the Minister seen the statistics that show that there has been a 38 percent increase in the number of sickness and invalids beneficiaries since his Government came to power, and why does he not concentrate on fixing up that mess instead of focusing on continual administrative shuffle-ups like the “new service delivery model” he is introducing right now?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I thank the member for that question. I am aware that there was a 94 percent increase in these figures during the time of her Government, and, unlike that Government, we began piloting programmes last year that—and I will repeat this for the member because I like the sound of the figures—we have already seen from the 6-months pilot between a 9 and 17 percent increase in numbers of people going into work.

Sue Bradford: When will the new programme that the Minister has just been talking about actually start, and can he assure training providers and beneficiaries that in future sickness and invalids beneficiaries will be able to access the Training Opportunities Programme despite not having been registered as job seekers for 26 weeks?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The pilots started last year—in other words, we started them during 2004—and they are being rolled out this year, and the full new service model rolls out from May.

Sue Bradford: Why is the Government dragging the chain on expanding the Providing Access to Health Solutions programme that, in his own words, offers specially tailored clinical and social support for clients experiencing anxiety, depression, stress, or similar mental health conditions to ensure a speedy return to employment, and when will all the one in five New Zealanders who could benefit from this programme have access to it?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We are not dragging the chain. We need to negotiate the provision of service with providers like district health boards. Of course it takes time for them to put those services in place and we will do that as fast as we can.

Sue Bradford: Can the Minister assure the House that he has no plans to introduce work capacity testing of the Accident Compensation Corporation variety for sickness and invalids benefits as a means of classifying them as job seekers; if not, when will he introduce the new tests?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In the new model we intend to look at the capacity of individuals to take on part-time or full-time work. The mistake that has been made in the past was to simply categorise people as capable. That was clearly a disaster. But to look at the individual circumstances of a person and his or her capacity is something that has actually been asked for.

Influenza—Vaccination Programme

4. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister of Health: If an early flu hits New Zealand this winter, can she confirm that only 50,000 New Zealanders are likely to have been successfully immunised by the fully effective vaccine, and that the additional 100,000 doses supplied by Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are possibly still months away, thereby putting lives at risk; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: No. The 2 to 3-week delay in delivery of the vaccine is not expected to make much difference, given the pattern of influenza in previous years.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why, when so many people’s lives are at risk, did she do nothing for a week but wait for a report, asking no questions, seeking no daily briefings, and demanding no urgent explanation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is a matter of record that Pharmac advised the Minister of Health on the evening of 28 February that there may be problems with the influenza vaccine. At that stage it was not clear what the situation was. The next day—1 March, a Tuesday—Pharmac started seeking alternative supplies.

Mark Peck: Who determines the strains that are included in the vaccine?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Each year the World Health Organization determines the strains that are to be included in the vaccines for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Hon Ken Shirley: Since yesterday’s question time has the Minister found out how many New Zealanders’ lives are potentially at risk because of this shonky flu vaccine, and if she has not found out, why should we conclude other than the fact that she simply does not care?

Hon PETE HODGSON: We would expect there would be no lives put at risk, but we will know that with greater clarity next week—[Interruption] We will know that with greater clarity next week—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please allow the Minister to complete his answer.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are we not allowed to interject during a Minister’s answer? Those interjections were very reasonable, and the Minister was simply putting on an act to try to get some sympathy.

Madam SPEAKER: The odd interjection is permitted, but when they reach a level where it is difficult to hear the question or the answer, that is unacceptable. Would the Minister please repeat his answer.

Hon PETE HODGSON: We would expect further information—to more accurately answer the member’s question—next week, after the advice from the expert advisory group is through.

Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister reconcile her fulsome endorsement in the House yesterday of Pharmac’s sole supplier policy, with the fact that, subsequently, Pharmac has instituted an internal inquiry into the sole supplier policy, and bearing in mind that its experience with this vaccine is exactly the same as its botched experience with similar sole supplier practices in respect of gout medication and anaemia preparations, last year?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am delighted that Pharmac shows the flexibility to look at its practices. However, should it decide to go for a multi-supplier future it will, of course, have a multi-increased chance of failure of one of the products.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Was she aware of the problem the Americans had 6 months ago with the supply of their vaccines, and what actions did she take at the time to assure herself that she could protect our nation’s vulnerable with adequate supplies here in New Zealand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret I do not have the information the member seeks.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister clarify his answers? He said in answer to the principal question that a 2 to 3-week wait is not expected to make much difference, but he responded to the Hon Ken Shirley by saying he would know more in a few weeks’ time. Can we assume that “not much difference” means that a few people might die, that some people might die, or, in the worst circumstances, that a lot of people might die?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The reason the answers were different was that the first question was about timing and the second was about efficacy.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Can she guarantee effective delivery of the flu vaccine given the complex problems of choosing the most vulnerable for the fully effective vaccine, the problem that many may require a double dose of the less effective vaccine, and the added pressure on practices brought about by the meningococcal programme; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not sure what one does with that rap around the bushes but I would say to the member that the effective delivery of flu vaccine to the people of New Zealand this winter, in a timely way, is a matter that the Government is seized of.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table two reports. The first is a New Zealand Press Association item entitled “GPs will face problems on flu shots”.

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

Dr Paul Hutchison: The second report is from the New Zealand Herald, and it suggests that had the health authorities taken action sooner, they might have begun the search for an alternative supply earlier.

Madam SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the tabling of that document? There is. It will not be tabled.

Industry Training—Targets

5. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What progress has the Government made towards its targets for industry training?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I am very, very pleased to report that as at the end of last year nearly 140,000 people were engaged in industry training.

Hon Steve Maharey: How many?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Nearly 140,000, thanks to my former Associate Minister Steve Maharey. We are well on track to meet the target of 150,000 by the end of the year. Funding for industry training has nearly doubled since we have been in Government, and it contrasts with the cuts made in the death throes of the former National Government.

Lynne Pillay: What progress has the Government made towards its manifesto target of having 7,500 Modern Apprentices by June 2006?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am very, very pleased to say that not only will we meet that target but we will get there a year early. I am, however, sad to say that we are still to get an apology from the National Party, which said on the introduction of the Modern Apprenticeships scheme that: “$42 million is being spent on 3,000 apprentices who will not get any work.” There is a word for that, but I am not allowed to say it here.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that in the last 2 years the Government has spent $159 million more on Te Wânanga o Aotearoa than it has on trades training, and that since 2000 the funding for non-formal education of the Twilight Golf and radio sing-along variety has increased at 15 times the rate of funding for trades training?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I cannot confirm that, but I can confirm that the National Party said that Modern Apprenticeships were pathetic and that it will get rid of them. That is National’s policy; it does not like trades people.

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister’s rant about the National Party in no way addressed the specific question that I asked. I asked him to confirm the comparison of funding between the wânanga and trades training. I would ask that you ask him to answer that question or, at the very least, to address it.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question by saying that he did not know. If the answer had stopped there, there probably would not have been a point of order.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister confirm that there would not even be a Modern Apprenticeship Training Act if it had not been for New Zealand First?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Unlike the previous questioner, I am prepared to take that member’s word on that. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the Minister will withdraw and apologise.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do. I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Brian Donnelly: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The point is: if the member has withdrawn the statement that he made, will he actually answer the question?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I can confirm what that honourable member said.

Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister willing to increase the target of industry training’s Modern Apprenticeships to 10,000, as advocated by the Industry Training Federation, and by United Future in its Budget bids; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member will see the answer to that at the appropriate moment in the fullness of time.

Education, Associate Minister—Confidence

6. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT), on behalf of RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT), to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Associate Minister of Education, the Hon David Benson-Pope; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because he is a hard-working, conscientious, and, therefore, very occasionally somnolent, Minister.

Hon Richard Prebble: When the Prime Minister says that Mr Benson-Pope is a hard-working and conscientious Minister, can she confirm the belief that he rises at the crack of noon each day, works hard until the early hours of the afternoon, and then comes into the House to have a well-deserved sleep—is that his general work pattern?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The member does not emulate the work habits of Rodney Hide.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister consider that the Associate Minister of Education’s attempts to cover up the scholarship debacle, his refusal to admit any problems with National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results, and his telling parents concerned about NCEA to “get over it” were all results of his napping on the job just a bit too much, and does she intend to give him any time to readdress his work-life balance?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On behalf of the Prime Minister and of all my colleagues, the Prime Minister is prone to ring up some of her colleagues in even the early hours of the morning, and that, I think, includes the Associate Minister of Education.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister’s nocturnal habits may be of interest to the Labour Party, but in no way do they address the question asked here about what she intends to do about giving Mr Benson-Pope the sort of rest that he clearly needs, with his having been a Minister now for at least 4 or 5 months.

Madam SPEAKER: I think that the Minister certainly addressed the question.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the Prime Minister aware that the New Zealand Teachers Council reported to the Education and Science Committee yesterday that large numbers of schools and pre-schools are not forwarding names of staff for police vetting, as they are legally required to do, and will she guarantee that the Associate Minister of Education will resolve that problem?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not aware of the first issue, but I am sure that the Associate Minister will take that up with his normal due diligence, as befits a person representing the great Dunedin South electorate.

Hon Richard Prebble: Do Mr Benson-Pope’s sleeping habits explain the NCEA mess; if not, does he do more harm when awake or asleep?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister is working very hard on the NCEA scholarship issue. The NCEA itself is not under scrutiny in terms of the basics of that scheme. A number of issues need to be considered in relation to that. Regarding the scholarship issue, the member should tread very carefully. The main issues that emerged as a result of the recent study in relation to scholarship showed up things that have been happening for years in terms of the pass rates before scaling, in a number of science subjects.

Hon Richard Prebble: Can we take it from the Prime Minister’s vigorous defence of Mr David Benson-Pope that he is one of her more effective Ministers, even when he is asleep?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Around all his waking and sleeping moments, Mr Benson-Pope is loyal to the principles of the Labour Party. I just wish that that member had been when he was a Minister.

Bird Flu—Preparedness

7. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Is she confident that all health providers are adequately prepared for an outbreak of bird flu and have “access to the required personal protective equipment” as required by the National Health Emergency Plan: Infectious Diseases; if so, why?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes. Personal protective equipment is currently stocked by all district health boards and is sufficient to protect health staff against an outbreak of bird flu.

Sue Kedgley: Do we actually have a national stockpile, or do we just have enough equipment to cover average usage, as the Minister stated last week in reply to my written question; how much do we have in the stockpile?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Although we have enough currently to meet the needs of all health workers, the Government is exploring the ordering of further supplies, the details of which I am afraid I am unable to make available to the House because we are in commercial negotiations, and if I give either price or volume, then we will destroy those negotiations.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister clarify whether a vaccine to protect against bird flu has been developed yet?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, there is no vaccine to protect against bird flu. However, that issue is being pursued by the World Health Organization.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that the extremely limited stocks of antiviral drugs that we have in New Zealand—the 20,000 treatments in the stockpile—have already passed their original use-by date; and can she assure the House that the new stocks of antiviral drugs that have only recently been ordered are not also second-hand, outdated stocks that have passed their use-by date?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I cannot confirm either the first or the third part of the member’s question, but I can confirm that the increased doses were not recently ordered. The issue was first brought to Cabinet informally last year.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It seems to me that a Minister of Health should be able to answer a question as to whether some very crucial antiviral drugs that we need to protect us from bird flu have passed their use-by date. Could I get an answer?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. I do not know whether the Minister wants to add any further comment, as he was about to rise.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret not. The primary question was not about viral drugs; it was about personal protective equipment. Had the member stuck to the primary question, I would have been able to produce for her, I hope, good answers.

Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Now that we are safely past Mr Hide’s question No. 6, may I invite him to return to the House?

Madam SPEAKER: No.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Further to the Minister’s response, I point out that my question asked whether the Minister was confident that all health providers were adequately prepared for an outbreak of bird flu, and that the only way to be prepared is to have stocks of antiviral drugs, because that is the only protection—along with masks—that can be provided. So could the Minister please answer my question?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. The member may not be satisfied with the answer.

Sue Kedgley: Further to the Minister’s earlier responses, is she saying that she has no idea how many of the essential surgical masks are stockpiled; if so, if the bird flu were to arise in the next few weeks or months, would she expect front-line medical staff to risk their lives by working without sufficient antivirals or even without adequate protective masks, and why has she not learnt from severe acute respiratory syndrome that we need to be prepared?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have tried to advise the member that right now we have sufficient stocks for health workers. In the event of a pandemic, the need for protective equipment goes wider than health workers; it goes into the community. We do not currently have sufficient stock for that. That stock is being ordered. The quanta are significant; they are not, however, publicly available.

Paedophile—Supervision

8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections: What did his department mean when it wrote to the people supervising Lloyd Alexander McIntosh on 10 December 2004 that: “It is essential we manage the costs of this contract within the expectations agreed by both parties.”, and on 23 December 2004 that: “there is a need to manage this contract within financial expectations.”?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): What the department meant was that it has a responsibility to manage taxpayers’ funds prudently while not compromising public safety.

Hon Tony Ryall: When the Hon Phil Goff was looking after that portfolio as acting Minister earlier this year, did the department advise Mr Goff that the people who know McIntosh best said that any cut in his supervision would be unsafe and unwise, and that staff had grave misgivings; and did the acting Minister seek to discuss this directly with those people?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I understand that there were discussions. As I understand it, an agreement was reached before Christmas. Then, after further discussions with the provider in January, it was agreed that the appropriate level of supervision while Mr McIntosh was outside would be two people. That is highly appropriate.

Russell Fairbrother: What reports has the Minister seen on sentencing options for serious child sex offenders?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a report that changes by the previous National Government in 1993 allowed sex offenders like Mr McIntosh out into the community, despite the warnings from health professionals about the consequences of doing so. I have seen another report, from the Minister of Justice, that serious child sex offenders can now, under the Sentencing Act of 2002, receive preventive detention, which means that they can be kept locked up for life.

Hon Tony Ryall: How does the Minister explain the department’s view, issued by his colleague the then acting Minister, Mr Goff, that halving McIntosh’s supervision was appropriate to prevent him reoffending, when McIntosh himself warned that unless he had two supervisors he would be a risk to the community?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Firstly, it was because the department had further discussions with the provider—as was the right thing to do. Secondly, the comments made by Mr McIntosh had nothing to do with the increase in supervision. Mr McIntosh has been making those comments for many, many months and years.

Ron Mark: How much will this high-risk paedophile cost the taxpayer over the next 10 years, given that the cost of his extended supervision has already skyrocketed to $350, 000—a figure that is four times what the taxpayer would pay to have him locked up in maximum security?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is hard to know what might happen in the future, but the member is right, it is a considerable cost. The member’s figure of around $350,000 is pretty accurate, but this is the cost of keeping someone like Mr McIntosh well supervised. If we compare this with what the previous National Government did, it let people like him out into the community, under changes to the 1993 Act, without taking into account all the things that people were saying, which were that it was the wrong thing to do.

Hon Phil Goff: Is it true that the first warning about the recidivist behaviour of Lloyd Alexander McIntosh was given in 1993 by a health professional who worked with him, that National Ministers ignored that advice but sacked the health professional who gave the warning, and that the result of releasing this man in 1993 without controlling supervision was that he immediately sexually violated a 2-year-old child, and can the Minister contrast that lack of control and supervision with what the Government is spending now to make sure Mr McIntosh does not do it again?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can confirm the facts. The reality is that the previous National Government let this man out, against the advice of health professionals. The National Government sacked the person who gave it that advice. As a result, Mr McIntosh went on to reoffend. Now we are in a position where, to try to keep the community safe, we are spending an enormous amount of money using the supervision type of regime. Many of these things would not have had to come before Parliament had the previous National Government listened to the advice that it was given by health professionals.

Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister advise the House what the agreement was that was reached before Christmas, whether Mr Goff, who was at the time acting Minister in his stead, was advised by the department that the people who knew Lloyd Alexander McIntosh best said that cutting his supervision in half would be unsafe and unwise, that staff had grave misgivings about it, and that the Minister did not even attempt to telephone those people about those concerns?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I understand it, an agreement was reached before Christmas. There were further discussions right through January until the end of January when there were further discussions with the provider and there was an agreement. I cannot understand what that member is now on about. What has happened is that this offender is now under the supervision of two people when he is out in public places. I thought that was what the member wanted.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The first part of my question asked the Minister to advise what the agreement before Christmas was. I was quite specific in asking that because, having got all the official papers, I cannot locate any suggestion that there ever was an agreement before Christmas. I am looking for the Minister’s explanation of that because I think it is a matter I might have to pursue further, if there was such an agreement.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I advise the member that I have been advised that there was an agreement before Christmas.

Hon Tony Ryall: To do what? That’s what I asked. What was the agreement?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Shall we have a little tango across the House, shall we?

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please continue with his answer.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: My understanding is that there was an arrangement that there would be supervision outside the facility with one person. Further discussions took place with the provider towards the end of January, because of the intervening Christmas holidays, and there was then a decision made and an agreement reached that there would be two people supervising Mr McIntosh. That is appropriate and I thought it was what the member was after.

Ron Mark: What is this Government doing to ensure that the provider, whom I have not named yet in the House, is not extorting more money out of the taxpayer by lobbying MPs, feeding the media, and colluding with McIntosh, who has already been reported in the newspaper as having written to the department saying that he wanted to be supervised by two people at all times or that he would go to the media if he did not get his way—because, many of us assume, Mr McIntosh likes having a butler, a footman, and a doorman to take him around town and look after his every need?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I would find it extraordinary if members of Parliament colluded with the media to try to put pressure on the Government, using public fear. I would find that a strange thing and I cannot imagine that ever happening before. What I can say is that this supervision regime is costly and it is because it is important to ensure public safety as far as this person is concerned.

Family Group Conferences—Youth Offending

9. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Is she satisfied that family group conferences are successful in reducing youth reoffending?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): Yes, family group conferences, which deal with the 25 percent most serious young offenders, continue to be successful in reducing the rates of youth reoffending.

Judy Turner: Then why has the numbers of young offenders facing their second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth family group conference all increased dramatically since 2001, with a handful even on their seventh, eighth, ninth, and 11th last year; and what makes her think that another family group conference, or even another 10, will succeed when the first one or two have failed?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I would like to make two points, if I may, in response to that question. The figures that the questioner has used actually included a number of reconvened and reviewed family group conferences, so they cannot be compared with new family group conferences. But leaving that aside, even if there are repeats, which there are for 10 percent of the family group conferences that have three or more conferences, and 18 percent have two; the remainder have only one. These family group conferences do hold the young person accountable for their actions, and that is a critical part of changing patterns of behaviour. They also, if required by the victim, involve the victim, and it has been consistently reported that this is a much more satisfactory involvement for the victim of the crime, in the first place.

Lynne Pillay: How does the Minister know that the short, sharp detention model used in other parts of the world is not more effective?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The family group conference restorative justice model that is used in New Zealand is viewed internationally as a best-practice model and literally has been picked up overseas, including in Australia, throughout the United States, and the United Kingdom. In the last year alone, Child, Youth and Family Services has had delegations from Hong Kong, Brazil, and Ireland to examine, with a view to copying, the successes of the family group conference model, and delegations from China and Singapore are expected this year. Other countries are giving up alternative models and following our family group conference model.

Judith Collins: How can the current rules regarding family group conferences be said to be effective against youth reoffending when one individual has had at least 16 youth justice family group conferences, and when will she accept the evidence and introduce a cap on the number of conferences available to individuals before they automatically have more serious action taken against them?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As with the previous questioner, the member’s figures actually include reconvened and reviewed family group conferences and are not comparable with the number of new family group conferences that are being held. Leaving that aside—but it is important to have facts as the basis of the question—it is an important process for holding young offenders accountable, and involving the victim in the way that person likes.

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that the National Party’s answer to this question—corrective training—was scrapped because it had a 92 percent reoffending rate within 12 months?

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister has no responsibility for anything to do with the National Party.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. The first part was—

Hon Phil Goff: What the Minister does have responsibility for was scrapping the previous corrective training programme, because her predecessor was consulted on that.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister may address that part of the question.

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is correct. The previous model was rejected because of its total failure, as is being evidenced by the rejection of similar models throughout the world.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that despite the effectiveness of the family group conference model, a number of deficiencies have been identified—in particular, the lack of family group conferences happening within a reasonable time frame; lack of sufficient mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and anger control programmes; and a lack of adequate monitoring of the outcomes of those conferences; and can the Minister tell the House what she is doing to address those deficiencies?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I certainly do agree with the concerns that the member has raised. In fact, they were identified in the baseline review process as being part of the gaps in services that we would expect if we wanted much more satisfactory action from Child, Youth and Family Services family group conferences. As a model they are satisfactory, but, as with any good model, there can always be improvements in the operation.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the custom of the House has been for Speakers to allow two questions to be answered. I was just wondering whether the Minister would tell us what she is doing to address those deficiencies.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order. In respect of supplementary questions, members are entitled to ask one supplementary, which the Minister addresses. On occasions there is more than one question involved in the supplementary question, but it is at the Minister’s discretion whether that is addressed. The member is perfectly entitled to ask another supplementary question.

Kenneth Wang: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that four burly thugs who burgled $30,000 from Mr Manchao Li should laugh all the way through a family group conference, safe in the knowledge that they will not be punished and do not have to pay back a cent, and what is the Minister’s justification for this outrage?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As the member probably knows, family group conferences are just one of the options available through the youth justice system; it is not the only one.

Judy Turner: Can the Minister confirm that one of the criticisms of family group conferences, which emerged from her own department’s report released last year, was that commitments made by the offender to apologise or recompense the victim were often not followed through, and does she agree that this failing jeopardises the very purpose of restorative justice, and sends the message to offenders that there are minimal consequences for their actions?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I certainly do agree with the assertion made in the member’s question about the findings of the report, and that is why this Government has taken that report seriously.

Tariana Turia: When will the department put into practice policies to empower and invest in families so that they can make effective decisions that address the offending that is often related to drug, alcohol, or violence?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As the member will be aware, there are is a wide range of policies delivered by a number of departments and agencies that do just that—invest in children, young people, and their families, as a cornerstone of our communities. But, as identified by the previous questioner, there has often been a gap in access to specialised services.

Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister explain to the House what she actually intends to do so that taxpayers’ money is not wasted on those out-of-control young offenders, such as the person we have heard about who has attended 16 family group conferences, and who does not take a blind bit of notice of them?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As I have indicated in answer now to three previous supplementary questions, that example is not of new reconvened family group conferences. They are family group conferences that have been reconvened for another reason other than a new offence. The family group conference does hold the person accountable, it does involve the victim, and it is not the only part of the youth justice system that is available in the case of young offenders.

Dr Muriel Newman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister was asked what she intends to do about the young people such as the person who attended 16 family group conferences. We are not litigating the 16 conferences, we are actually asking her to tell us what she intends to do, and she did not address that in her answer.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: When a member asks a question with an assertion contained within it, it is perfectly open to the Minister to answer the question by disputing the assertion.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister is entitled to dispute the facts on any question. The second part of the answer, I think, addressed the first part of the member’s question.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with the view of Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft and others that youth justice family group conferences need to be handled by an organisation with specific responsibility for youth justice, because Child, Youth and Family Services’ statutory role to protect children means that social workers are more focused on being the young offenders’ advocates rather than making sure they are made responsible for their crimes; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: On this particular point, no, I disagree with Judge Becroft.

Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the Minister’s answer to my previous question, can she now tell the House what steps she intends to take to address those deficiencies that have already been identified?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As part of the ongoing work of ensuring that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is able to deliver all its legislative and policy services in a way that is satisfactory, a substantial increase in funding has been allocated, changes have been made in service agreements, and there is a constant monitoring of the implementation of the baseline review recommendations.

Judy Turner: Are victims who are asked to participate in family group conferences of offenders who are already on their second, third, fourth, or even their 11th conference, made aware of the fact that these previous attempts have failed to stop offending; if not, does she think that victims have a right to know that facing their offender in a group conference is not likely to make any difference based on previous behaviour?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Frankly, I do not know, but I think the member has raised a very good point.

Judy Turner: I seek leave to table an answer to a written question to the Minister that shows that the number of offenders on their second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth family group conference have all dramatically increased.

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

Health and Safety in Employment Act—Application

10. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Labour: Has she received any reports on the application of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 in all companies operating in New Zealand?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Labour): The Department of Labour provides reports and advice to me on the application of the Health and Safety in Employment Act on a range of issues relating to companies in New Zealand.

Peter Brown: Is it acceptable to the Minister that principal organisations such as Carter Holt Harvey, for example, who engage contractors for a specific task or project, are exempt from occupational health and safety responsibilities, and that all those responsibilities fall on the contractor?

Hon RUTH DYSON: It is not correct to say that the company is exempt. For a prosecution to occur in New Zealand there has to be a natural person or a legal person in New Zealand who can be the focus of the prosecution. Where a company is not registered in New Zealand a prosecution could proceed against an individual working for that company in New Zealand, but not the company itself. Of course, there are also other actions that can be taken where work is not being undertaken in a safe environment, including the issue of improvement notices, and prohibition notices actually stopping the operation of the plant or factory.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister received any reports that would indicate how New Zealand workplace injury rates compare with Australian rates?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have. I have received a copy of the sixth report to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council on comparative performance monitoring of the Australian and New Zealand Occupational Health and Safety and Workers Compensation Schemes. The report indicates that for the most recent figures available for the 2002-03 year the incident rate of injury and disease in New Zealand remains lower than the Australian average, at 11.8 claims per 1,000 employees, compared with an average of 16.1 claims per 1,000 employees across Australian States.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister answer this question specifically: is it acceptable that an Australian-based company that is operating here in charge of an operation and has a serious accident, is to be exempt from our occupational safety and health legislation, and will she tell the House categorically, yes or no?

Hon RUTH DYSON: If I may repeat the answer I gave in the primary question that did, categorically, without any qualification, answer the member’s question. Nobody is exempt from the health and safety in employment legislation. The ability to prosecute where a company is not registered in New Zealand is limited to an individual in New Zealand, rather than the company itself.

Peter Brown: Can I take it from the Minister’s response that an Australian-based organisation in charge of a group of people, and in this case a platform collapsed, a man fell from it, the platform hit another man, and debris from that hit another man, that such an organisation is exempt from being held to account for such an accident, and can I take it that that is what the Minister is telling me?

Hon RUTH DYSON: For a prosecution to occur in New Zealand there has to be a natural person, or a legal person, in New Zealand who can be the focus of a prosecution. Where a company is not registered in New Zealand a prosecution can proceed against an individual working for that company in New Zealand, but not against the company itself.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table a letter that states that Carter Holt Harvey, Wrightway Roofing Ltd, and McArthur Engineering failed to demonstrate acceptable levels of competence and good engineering practices.

Leave granted.

Courts and Justice System—Student Initiatives

11. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister for Courts: What initiatives has he undertaken to assist developing understanding of the courts and justice system for students?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): Today I launched an educational website called Access to Justice. That can be used in secondary schools as part of a social studies course and civics programme. It has information about how our courts work, how legislation is developed, and what happens when someone goes through the courts. I have also publicised open court days that are being held throughout New Zealand.

Moana Mackey: Is the site relevant only to teachers and students?

Hon RICK BARKER: No, I encourage all to take advantage of the website as it clearly sets out the structure of our justice system, gives examples, and shows the principles that underpin our justice system. With knowledge, people will have confidence in our justice system.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is the House to understand from this question that the Labour Government is proud of the fact that an increasing number of young people have come to have an understanding of the courts and justice system; if so, is that the reason why this Government is so soft on crime, George Hawkins is still the Minister of Police, crime is out of control, and an increasing number of young people every year get to obtain a developing knowledge of our courts and justice system?

Hon RICK BARKER: I am pleased to say that this Government has taken firm action on justice issues. When the previous National Government was in power the maximum sentence a person could get for life was 10 years. Now the minimum period for parole is 33 years in some cases. The number of people in jail has gone up. This Government has taken tough action on crime. It is important that people have an understanding of how our justice system works.

Question No 12 to Minister

BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question is set down to the Minister of Forestry. I note that he, along with most members of the Government, is not here today, so I seek leave of the House to have the question carried over.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): The member cannot refer to the absence of members. If the member had asked his shadow leader of the House, who is a member of the Business Committee, he would know that there are people away at select committees today who are counted as being present for the purposes of voting. He cannot refer to the absence of members, otherwise I shall keep referring to the absence of most of the members of the Opposition.

Madam SPEAKER: It is not a valid point of order.

BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question is set down to the Minister of Forestry. I seek leave to hold the question over until he is in a position to—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to hold the question over. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Forestry—Export Potential

12. BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia) to the Minister of Forestry: Does he agree with the statement of the Minister of Industry and Regional Development that: “Forestry has the potential to be New Zealand’s largest export earner.”; if so, when does he think this will happen?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour), on behalf of the Minister of Forestry: Yes. I am advised that the Minister of Forestry always agrees with the Minister of Industry and Regional Development. He finds the Minister to be wise, intelligent, and committed to New Zealand’s economic development. The potential is there, because there is an increasing amount of timber available for harvest, and there is huge potential to add value on shore.

Brian Connell: How does the wise Minister of Forestry then reconcile that answer with these facts: since Labour took office in 1999 new plantings have plummeted from 40,400 hectares per year to a record low of 10,600 hectares per year—our third-biggest export earner is in free fall, and the Minister maintains he is wise, and sits there and fiddles?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Skillfully.

Opposition Members: Aw!

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. The member may not be satisfied with the answer.

Hon Matt Robson: What is the Labour-Progressive Government doing to capture the potential of the forestry industry?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I just so happen to have some of this information before me. The Labour-Progressive Government has, in contrast with the previous National Government, which shut the Ministry of Forestry down in March 1998, set up a partnership with the forestry industry—the wood-processing strategy. That has, for example, built desperately needed regional roads to access forestry production, established a centre of excellence for wood-processing training and education, developed a European market for high-quality New Zealand furniture, developed joint-venture research and development for wood products, and implemented a market access programme—and there is more good news to come.

Madam SPEAKER: That answer was too long.

Brian Connell: Why will this dodgy Minister not—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw that comment? I heard the word “dodgy”.

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Just yesterday that word was ruled in order when it was used by a Minister in answering a question in this House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: No, it was not. I suggest the member consult his Hansard. There has always been a difference in this House between describing actions as “dodgy” and describing the person as “dodgy”.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw the word “dodgy”?

Brian Connell: I withdraw. Will this wise Minister who has been engaged in some dodgy activities please explain why new plantings have plummeted to record lows, and, instead of treating the industry with arrogance and disdain, answer the question?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: With great delight. New planting has been falling since 1994, long before the Labour-led Government came into office. The new planting rate has tended to come in peaks and troughs. The last trough was during 1987 to 1991, and before that it was during the 1940s to the 1960s. New planting is mostly driven by economic factors, including a booming agriculture sector, which has meant a lot of land has been retained in agriculture rather than planted in forests. That has its benefits, of course, as we have had the strongest continuous economic growth for a generation right across every region. What a great Government we have.

Brian Connell: Why will the Minister not just acknowledge that the main cause for the decline is that this Government intends to introduce a land use change - tax and a deforestation tax?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because it is not true.


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

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