Questions and Answers Wed 30 March 05
Questions to Ministers
United Future—Confidence and Supply Agreement
Working for Families Package—Family Support
New Zealand Qualifications Authority—Confidence
Question No. 8 to Minister
Mâori Land Court—Release of Minute
Question No. 5 to Minister
New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004—Effectiveness
Building Act—Changes to Section 363
Police Officer Altercation—Investigation
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit:http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard)
Questions to Ministers
United Future—Confidence and Supply Agreement
1. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Prime Minister: Is she satisfied that her Government has fulfilled the goal of the confidence and supply agreement with United Future to provide “stable Government over the next term of Parliament”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The answer is yes, because today the Government celebrates 965 days since the signing of the confidence and supply agreement with United Future. That represents the longest period of stable Government under MMP.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister recall that United Future has voted against her Government on 20 major pieces of legislation and with the National Party Opposition 65 percent of the time, while still supporting her Government on matters of confidence and supply; if so, what conclusions does she draw from that regarding the operation of our MMP system of Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I draw two main conclusions. The first is that National can never get the numbers together, and the second is that it is possible to have disagreements while maintaining strong, stable Government. I thank United Future for that.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You are some distance from this end of the House, but during the question asked by my colleague Peter Dunne there was a considerable amount of noise and interjection. Since I have been in Parliament Speakers have ruled that questions should be heard in silence, and I would like to see that upheld during this question.
Madam SPEAKER: I agree with the member. There will be silence in future when questions are asked. When questions are answered the odd interjection is understandable, but barracking is not. Members are entitled to hear the questions and the answers.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister believe her Government has lived up to all its agreements in its confidence and supply arrangements with United Future, including “improving the economic well-being of all New Zealanders”, given the fact that disposable, after-tax real household annual income has remained static over the last 5 years?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I certainly do. What an extraordinary statement that was for the member to make in the very week that most families currently receiving family support are getting another $25 a week for the first child and $15 a week for each subsequent child.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That was an interesting response from the Prime Minister. It told the House that the best her Government can do for hard-working New Zealanders is to turn them into beneficiaries, but it in no way answered the question.
Madam SPEAKER: The question was addressed.
Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister recognise that the United Future party has sacrificed its beliefs on prostitution law reform, GST on rates, smoke-free legislation, and tax cuts, and that the Government even watered down the definition of a family in the Families Commission Bill; if she does recognise that, does she not think the very least that she owes the party is the knowledge of exactly when the election will occur, and will she confirm it will occur in late September?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know that United Future has adhered to its conscience on the conscience issues, and to its party policy on the other issues, and all those things. I think that what has been distinctive about the arrangements in this particular term of Government is that United Future has found a way of working with our Government that protects its brand differentiation. That stands in marked contrast to the National Party choosing to collapse a coalition because it wanted to privatise Wellington International Airport shares.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If a Minister is to give an answer consistent with the public good, the Prime Minister should surely have recognised in that answer that it was she, and her management, that caused the collapse of the last coalition Government when the Alliance was blitzed, in much the same manner as will happen to United Future beyond the next election.
Madam SPEAKER: That is probably a point of information rather than a point of order.
Rodney Hide: Can the Prime Minister confirm that, despite the United Party’s vehement opposition, the Civil Union Act was passed, the Prostitution Reform Act was passed and, in fact, the entire 20 pieces of legislation that the United Future party members opposed because of their consciences were passed, and that the United Future party would make a good doormat for any political party in Government in this country?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that those pieces of legislation passed because members of Parliament from parties that very seldom support the Labour Government did, on a conscience basis, support those measures. And, as one who did support them, I thank those members of ACT who did support them.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister agree with the assessment of the OECD that political stability has contributed to economic growth in New Zealand; if so, does she think she had other options available when forming a Government in 2002 to achieve, or improve, on current economic growth levels?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do agree with the OECD that political stability is very important in getting sustained and good economic performance, as this Government has got. I am very happy with the arrangement entered into after the last election.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave for Mr Dunne to have 10 more questions so he may outline one thing he has done in the last 3 years.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Is leave seriously sought? I am sorry; the member cannot seek leave on somebody else’s behalf.
Hon Peter Dunne: What was the Prime Minister referring to when she said in 2002 that “I do not believe that it is acceptable to New Zealanders to see small parties exercise the balance of power irresponsibly.”, and have the concerns that led to those remarks been quelled during the term of this Parliament?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: When I made that comment it was in reaction to what I perceived as a threat to bring—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I know there is a temptation to interrupt and intervene. As I said, the occasional comment is acceptable. But I cannot hear the answer, and if, in fact, that barracking continues I will not be able to rule when someone says that the question has not been answered. Can we please have silence.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In making that comment I was reacting to what I perceived as a threat to bring the Government down over a single issue. I note that a great success of this term of Government has been the relationship with United Future, which has enabled us to disagree from time to time but still to have strong, stable Government.
Rod Donald: Can the Prime Minister confirm that during this term of Parliament more Government bills have been passed solely as a result of Green Party support rather than the support of any other party, and that the passage of 16 pieces of legislation on issues such as occupational safety and health, accident compensation, climate change, civil union, and the Supreme Court have helped to fulfil the goals of the cooperation agreement between the Labour-Progressive Government and the Green Party?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For the record, I wish to confirm that the support of the Greens on many critical pieces of legislation has been part of achieving strong, stable Government.
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Police; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Dr Don Brash: Is she aware that the Commissioner of Police commented this morning on television that the police “do the very best that we can with the resources we have.”; if so, what does she intend to tell the nine rape victims, whose files have not yet been allocated by the police for proper investigation, what she will do to address their appalling situation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Personally, I am rather too busy to be watching television in bed in the morning, so I did not see the interview referred to. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would members allow the Prime Minister to complete her answer, and perhaps she could get directly to the answer.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If I am to take at face value what the member heard when he had the time to watch television this morning, what I would say is that the commissioner knows well that the budget for the police is up around 20 percent over the last 4 to 5 years and that there are a lot of resources there to deploy.
Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I draw your attention to the fact that the Prime Minister has not answered the question. She commented about what she was, or was not, aware of, but she did not answer the very serious point made by Dr Brash about what she intends to do with respect to the nine rape victims who find themselves in a position where their cases have not been investigated.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed the question. She may not have answered it to the satisfaction of all members, but she addressed it in her reference to resources.
Gordon Copeland: How can she continue to have confidence in a Minister who has failed to secure enough resources for police, leading to such a loss of public confidence in the police force in Counties-Manukau Police District and other places that there is a grave danger that it may not recover?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The assumption in the member’s question cannot be sustained. The figures I have show that already by July 2004, when the Minister had been Minister of Police for 3½ years, total police numbers were up about 12.3 percent, and the budget increase numbers I have are 19.7 percent. So I do believe that this Government has given a great priority to police resourcing.
Rodney Hide: What is left of ministerial responsibility in this country when the Prime Minister herself attacks a hard-working front-line police sergeant for telling the truth about the lack of resources to a crime victim, then declares her full confidence in a Minister of Police who does not even know what is happening in his own backyard?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member will know from the statement issued by the Commissioner of Police, the police intend to have further contact with the dairy owner, but they have also set out the specifics around each of those complaints where they have acted according to the evidence they had.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is very interesting to hear about what the police are doing about the dairy owner; my question was about ministerial responsibility. The Prime Minister addressed that question in no way whatsoever.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I and the Deputy Prime Minister have been at pains to point out over a long period of time, there are clear distinctions between what the Minister takes responsibility for, and the commissioner’s operational responsibilities.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Prime Minister has so much confidence in the Minister of Police, why is that confidence not shared by the people in the Labour Party who ordered the listings and took Mr Hawkins down to the magnificent position of No. 25 even though he is a member of Cabinet; why is that confidence not shared by her own party?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not have any ministerial responsibility for a list process.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether it is her view that the police are short of resources, as indicated by the commissioner’s comments this morning, or that the commissioner has deployed resources so poorly that serious sexual offences are not being investigated?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is not a question of the police not investigating. Before cases are assigned, a considerable amount of work is often done. I can advise the member that in respect of a number of the cases forensic evidence is being awaited before cases are assigned, and inquiries are being carried out by the crime squad. The fact that a case is not assigned to an individual officer does not mean that no action has been taken.
Dr Don Brash: If allegations of serious sexual assaults remaining uninvestigated are not sufficient to have the Prime Minister question the stewardship of the Minister of Police, what exactly will it take to convince her of his inadequacy?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Had the member listened to my answer he would have heard that cases are being investigated. The fact that a case is not assigned to an individual officer does not mean inquiries are not being made.
Dr Don Brash: I seek leave to table, for the Prime Minister’s benefit and for the benefit of the House, the transcript of the interview with the Commissioner of Police on the Breakfast programme this morning.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection; it will not be tabled.
Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table the letter written by Sergeant Forgarty that the Prime Minister called “ill-advised”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection; it will not be tabled.
Working for Families Package—Family Support
3. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What changes to family support will come into effect on 1 April 2005 as part of the Working for Families package?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): This Friday family support rates will increase by $25 a week for the first child and $15 a week for each additional child. This means, for instance, that a three-child family could be up to $55 a week better off in the hand. The foster care allowance, the unsupported child’s benefit, and the orphans benefit will all increase by $15 per child. Taken in total, Friday’s changes will see some 260,000 families—more than half of all New Zealand families—entitled to extra money.
Georgina Beyer: Would these families be better off with a tax cut?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, they would not. A two-parent family with two children earning $37,440 will gain $40 a week from Friday, and $160 per week by the time the Working for Families package is fully implemented. That is more than the amount of total tax that that family pays; so even if we had a fantasy scenario of zero tax, that family could not get as much as money as they will get from Working for Families. If we take the well-known example of a single-income earner on $55,000 a year with four young children, that family would gain $149.77 a week from the time the package is fully rolled out. To receive that through tax cuts would mean a flat tax of 9.5 percent. That is what National is promising; that is why it is so ridiculous.
John Key: What does the Minister think about the following statement: “The accommodation supplement or voucher for housing has harmed, not helped, housing provision for poor New Zealanders, including many Mâori and Pacific Islanders.”; and is he surprised to learn that that statement was made by the Rt Hon Helen Clark in June 1994?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think it is commonly understood that the introduction of the accommodation supplement was in company with the reduction of State housing, the reduction of investment in housing. Thirteen thousand houses were sold off. As the Prime Minister has said, it would be much better for this country to be building State houses and having people safely in them, than to have an accommodation supplement. But, as we have one, we are using it to help people.
Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that those on the special benefit, who are often in dire financial straits, will see no gains as a result of increases in family support, because their benefit will be abated dollar for dollar; and does not “no worse off” in this case just mean “still in dire poverty”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No one will be worse off financially as a result of the changes introduced. Everybody who is involved in these changes will gain. The changes to the special benefit mean that people who are on it will be grandparented so that they retain their income; and people who come on to emergency assistance in the future will come on to the temporary assistance programme. And, of course, all of those people who have children in their household will gain from 1 April.
4. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: How many criminal cases in Counties-Manukau are not yet allocated to an investigating officer, and how many of these cases are rape cases?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that there are 1,167 cases where initial inquiries indicate the need for further investigation. Eleven files are of a sexual nature, including five cases that are rapes. I am further advised that three of the rape cases are awaiting the results of forensic analysis; one case is likely to be reclassified; and the other case is currently unable to proceed as the victim is in hospital on an unrelated matter and cannot be spoken to at this time.
Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that the Commissioner of Police, Robbie Robinson, was told of these difficulties by Counties-Manukau Police District managers 3 weeks ago, and when did the Minister himself first learn of these difficulties?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The audit of the Manukau police took place some 3 weeks ago, and the commissioner had that information. I was made aware of it yesterday.
Hon Tony Ryall: How many cases awaiting allocation is he aware of at any other police district, and how many involve sexual offending?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: If the member puts down a question I will get him the answer.
Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister confirm, though, that the situation in Counties-Manukau may by no means be unique to that police district because other districts also suffer from chronic under-resourcing, and that the only difference between this district and others is that Counties-Manukau has decided to be honest and straightforward about the situation?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I want to tell the member that the police have never been better resourced. We have increased the vote from $816 million up to over $1 billion, and, of course, the police continue to get better deals out of this Government than members opposite were ever prepared to give.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House how many detectives there are in Counties-Manukau, and how many of them have been required to perform traffic duties, issuing traffic tickets, at the expense of their investigative work that they should be doing?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the families who lost four youngsters at Pukekohe, in the Counties-Manukau area, will be somewhat surprised at that sort of question. If detectives see the law being broken, whether they are on the roads or in other places, they investigate and follow up. I have to say that Counties-Manukau saw an 11.3 percent reduction in the crime rate over the last 12 months. I think the police there are doing a good job, and I am not going to bag their detectives.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will no doubt have observed from that answer that no attempt at all was made to address the question of numbers that my colleague Ron Mark raised. Could the Minister please do that.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to comment on whether he has the information on how many detectives there are.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have that information. However, I can say, in relation to the files that are awaiting allocation, that the Auckland police board of management is putting in a team to attend to that. That will have good results.
Rodney Hide: Is it true that there is a suspect’s name on the file of one of the rape complaints, and that this file is unallocated and is lying dormant while a rapist wanders free through Counties-Manukau; or does this Minister of Police simply not know that?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: As I said earlier, three of the cases are awaiting the results of forensic analysis. One case is likely to be reclassified, and the victim in the other case is in hospital on an unrelated matter. That is the information I have, and that is the situation as of today.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have had two supplementary questions thus far, and they were two different questions. Unfortunately I got the same answer to both of them. I know that the Minister is not as hard-working as the Prime Minister alleges, but surely to goodness—
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Rodney Hide: I think it is, because the Minister never addressed my question about—
Madam SPEAKER: That is a point of order.
Rodney Hide: —whether it was true that the rapist’s name is on one of these files, yet that file is lying dormant.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister responded to your question. If he wants to add anything to it, I invite him to do so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The fact is that the Minister was asked a question as to whether he had knowledge. He cannot just sit there and give no answer at all. Even if he got up and said “rhubarb”, it might not pass Speakers’ Rulings and the Standing Orders but it would at least be an answer, and thus far he has refused even to rise to make any attempt to answer the question.
Madam SPEAKER: In response, the Minister did advise that he had responded with all the information he had. That was a response to the question. It may not, in fact, be satisfactory, but he did address the question by doing that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, that was not an answer to the question. For him to say he has responded with all the information he had is some sort of answer, but he was asked whether he was aware of a case. Surely he can say yes or no, rather than treat this House and the public with contempt.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question as it was asked. He did not answer it to the satisfaction of members—that is obvious—but he did address it.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Warily, I ask this. After my point of order, you politely endorsed, I think, my point by going back to the Minister and saying that he might like to add a comment. Past Speakers have done that as a polite reminder to the Minister that he or she actually has to address the question.
Madam SPEAKER: Ministers do not have to address the question. I made a request. The Minister did not have to respond.
Rodney Hide: Well, I am sorry, Madam Speaker; in my time in the House, I have never seen a Minister invited by the Speaker to comment on a question just sit there. I have seen Ministers get up and not give very satisfactory answers, but they have always risen to their feet and said something.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I listened carefully. As I recall, what the Speaker said to the Minister was that if he wished to add a comment he might do so—if he wished.
Madam SPEAKER: Exactly.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Clearly, the Minister did not wish to do so.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is related to the series of questions dealt with by Mr Hawkins. My colleague Tony Ryall asked a very simple question about whether the number of unanswered complaints in the Minister of Police’s own home district was any different from that in other districts—in other words, whether it stood out. The Minister’s response was that if the member would like to set that down for him as a written question, he would give the member an answer. I would have thought that, after this issue being on television and being the subject of numerous newspaper reports, and given the fact that it was on the Order Paper yesterday, and is on it again today with the Minister having had 4 hours to answer, he might be able to give the House a better answer to a simple question like that. Most Ministers would say whether it was unusual—or are we to simply assume that every district across the country has the same sort of poor performance under this Minister as his own home district? I do not think it would be unreasonable to ask the Minister whether he can expand on that answer. Simply saying, during question time, that the member should write him a letter—
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Brownlee; I understand your point. It is a longstanding practice in this House that if a Minister is asked a very specific question, an acceptable reply is to say that he or she will find the answer when he or she has an opportunity to do so.
Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Based on the experience I went through yesterday, I cannot let that stand. The Minister did not say that he would find that out and make it available; the Minister said it should be put down as another question. Our problem is that we have a very limited number of oral questions, and, as you experienced for yourself yesterday, this Minister simply does not answer written questions. Some answers are delayed by up to 3, 4, and even 5 weeks, as we saw yesterday in the case of Marc Alexander’s question. It has been a tradition in this House that if specific questions about numbers are asked of Ministers—and Ministers often do not have that information—they will say that they are sorry but they do not have the information; they will make it available to the member once they have it. Instead of more oral questions being wasted at question time, or your forcing us to ask written questions that simply do not get answered by the Minister, I ask you to direct the Minister to say that he will get the answer to that question and furnish it to the member.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but it is a longstanding parliamentary practice to reply in the way the Minister did—that he requires notice of that question.
Hon Maurice Williamson: No, it is not.
Madam SPEAKER: It is.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What you are saying is correct, but that is not what the Minister said. Maybe it is what he meant to say, but I am left to wonder—and I think the House is wondering—whether the Minister was ducking the answer by saying that the member should put down another question, in which case he should have said that he did not know the answer. The House is a bit incredulous about that, because one would have expected a Minister, having learnt that there are unallocated rape cases in one police district, immediately to ask the Commissioner of Police whether there are others. So we are incredulous. But maybe this Minister has not asked that question. If he has not, he should have told us that. We are now gratified to learn that he will find that out, but only after he is asked a question by the Opposition. That is his position; I guess that is OK. But it is not acceptable for a Minister who receives a question whose answer could be highly embarrassing to say that he will answer that question only if the member puts it down as another question. So I guess we really want to know from the Minister whether he is saying to the House that he has no idea what is happening in other police districts around the country, and that he will not know until a question to him is put down. If that is the situation, I guess the House will just have to accept it.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I will make that information available as soon as I get it all.
Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You were commenting earlier on that you would require notification of that question. Can I say that it is my intention to ask that question tomorrow, which gives the Minister and his officials at least 24 hours to answer it if they do not have the information beforehand.
Madam SPEAKER: That is your decision.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister know whether there is the name of a rape suspect contained in one of Counties-Manukau’s unallocated files?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have not made that information available to me.
Stephen Franks: Exactly what does the Minister recommend south Auckland crime victims do to keep themselves and their property safe when the police tell them that they are too busy to investigate thefts or even bullet holes in shop windows?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The people of Counties-Manukau are pleased that the police have been able to reduce crime for the last couple of years. Of course, there will always be some criminal activity; we do not live in a paradise.
Stephen Franks: Madam Speaker, I seek leave for your authority to ask a further supplementary question without it coming from our allocation. That was a very specific question. It followed from similar questions yesterday asking what people should do when the police tell them that their crime is too low in the priority list for a police response, or that it has been filed. The Minister has had time to think about it. I have had no response whatsoever on the question, which was about how much self-help is required, or what people should do, when the police are obviously overwhelmed.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to add to his answer.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The people cannot take the law into their own hands. That is very clear. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Quiet, please. Members wanted the Minister to answer, so would they please listen to him.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I advise those people who are not having satisfactory outcomes to write to me or to the Police Complaints Authority. These processes are set up so that these problems can be dealt with.
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she, despite New Zealand’s growing net debtor position, rising current account deficit, and the continuing sales of New Zealand assets to foreign buyers, still have confidence in her Minister of Finance; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister who has presided over an economy with strong growth and the lowest unemployment in the Western World.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is that the same economy that has seen a $5 billion blowout in our current account deficit, that has our net debtor position at $123 billion—about $32 million for every man, woman, and child in this country—and that also has interest rates heading to 9 percent, 10 percent, and more; if that is the case, what has the Minister of Finance been doing for the last 5 years, when I read in the latest special feature of the OECD report that 23 of the 30 countries in the OECD have a lower rate of income tax as a percentage of gross wages than New Zealand has? In fact, we are just going backwards, are we not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is the same economy with the same current account deficit as was recorded when that member was the Treasurer in September 1997. It is the same economy where net public sector debt is steadily reducing towards zero at the end of this decade.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister believe that the sale of almost half Carter Holt Harvey’s forest estate—150,000 hectares—to the highest international bidder is consistent with the national interest and with the commitments entered into by the company at the time the forestry was sold to it; and has she any concerns that, compared with Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board, our Overseas Investment Commission looks like a doormat of United Future proportions?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As a former Treasurer, the member knows that eventually the Overseas Investment Commission and the Minister of Finance will make a judgment on that. I do note that the highest-ever number of net land sales by hectare occurred when Mr Peters was in charge of the overseas investment legislation.
John Key: Why does the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Finance, when he does not have a clue what is going on with regard to education savings accounts—when on Sunday he was quoted as telling the Sunday Star-Times that education savings accounts were a negative, on Tuesday he was quoted in the Herald as stating that they had been dropped because they had significant design faults, and when only after a ticking-off from her office did he go scurrying to tell the media that those accounts are alive and well and will be out before the Budget?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know that the member will be very disappointed to hear that several days before the quite wrong report in the New Zealand Herald the Minister of Finance and I were discussing the next stage in developing that scheme.
Rod Donald: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Governor of the Reserve Bank that hard-working Kiwi families, farmers, and business people are paying a 1 to 2 percent interest rate risk premium on their mortgages and bank debts, because of New Zealand’s worsening current account deficit and record net foreign debt; and when will her Government take steps to improve our economic self-reliance and sustainability?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There are a number of reasons for current account deficits being high. This Government clearly intends over time to increase the level of savings. We are looking at productivity issues, so that we can help to increase the value of the economy. What we do not have is a high interest rate policy, unlike the former Governor of the Reserve Bank, who said in 1998: “Part of the problem in recent years may have been the less-than-ideal mix of monetary conditions, with interest rates too low to encourage saving or discourage borrowing …”.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Further to her earlier answer that said the highest level of net foreign land sales occurred in 1997 when Mr Peters was Treasurer, can she confirm that the lowest level—in fact, a net transfer of land sales into New Zealand ownership—has occurred in the last year while I have been Minister of Finance?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It so happens that I have a graph that demonstrates precisely that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister does not have such a graph. I ask her to produce it right now. [Interruption] No, she does not. I ask her to produce it over here. My point of order is that the Prime Minister knows full well the process of approvals. She is saying not 1998 but 1997, because the process of approvals occurred before I became the Treasurer. That is a fact. More important, I declined more overseas applications than any Minister of Finance before or since then.
Madam SPEAKER: The member is not making a point of order. He is debating the issue.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Under Standing Order 361, I require the Prime Minister to table that official document now.
Madam SPEAKER: Exactly. I thank the member. I was going to suggest the same thing be done at the end of the question, if the Prime Minister has quoted from that document.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The whole House has heard Mr Winston Peters accuse the Prime Minister of not having the graph that she clearly did have. He effectively called her—
Madam SPEAKER: No he did not. This is not a point of order.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Prime Minister aware that in contrast to the Minister of Finance, his counterpart in the UK, Gordon Brown, allows people to save £7,000 each year, which goes up to £8,000, then to £9,000, and then to £10,000 over the next 3 years; may we see her Minister follow that sensible lead, given the very worrying statistics set out in the primary question?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, the Government will be addressing the issue of savings in the Budget and does have plans to increase the level of national savings, unlike the former Governor of the Reserve Bank who, when he posed the question to himself of the key challenge of how to increase national savings, said: “I am frankly not sure how this culture of low household sector saving can be changed.”
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why will the Prime Minister not table the chart now, seeing that the question is being asked now, and is it not a fact that until I became the Minister in charge of the Overseas Investment Commission no application had been declined for a full 7 years, and that more applications were declined during my time as the Minister than under any Minister in charge of the commission before or since then; is that the truth or not?
Madam SPEAKER: Does the Prime Minister seek leave to table her document?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The convention is to table documents at the end of the question, so that Ministers can continue to refer to the information in them. I have to say, with regard to what the member has just said to the House, that it is quite untrue that the level of approvals under Mr Peters was lower than it has been since then. My graph shows that for the years 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 the net freehold land area sold to overseas persons was substantially lower than during the time when Mr Peters was Treasurer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister to confirm that more applications were declined during my time than during the time of any Minister before or since then. That was the question—not what the number of net sales were, or any other convoluted figure. I want that answer, and can I please have it.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The significance is in the net hectares sold offshore, and that is where that member excelled in selling New Zealand out.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am taking the lead from the Rt Hon Winston Peters and from your running of the House. Since it is now possible to seek confirmation by way of a point of order, can the Prime Minister confirm that she has said that the Government will address New Zealand’s household savings issue by introducing tax cuts in the next Budget?
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Budget is to be delivered on a date well known to the member, and he will just have to wait for it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a table of Overseas Investment Commission approvals, which shows that in my time in charge of them they had a dramatic drop from the number under Mr Birch, and were dramatically fewer than Mr Cullen has approved. This is the chart now properly interpreted.
New Zealand Qualifications Authority—Confidence
6. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he have confidence in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority; if so, why?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Generally, yes.
Hon Bill English: Can the Associate Minister now confirm that, with regard to the scholarship exam, he has adopted a policy whereby scholarship students will be assessed to ensure that ranking of candidates is produced by marks or grades, and that a fixed percentage of students will receive awards; and can he confirm that this is a major back-down on his purist theories about the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and standards-based assessment?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, no, no, and no.
H V Ross Robertson: Has he received any reports about student and teacher attitudes towards the NCEA?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I have had two reports recently. The first of them was from the Horowhenua-Kapiti Chronicle, referring to a public meeting at which the Opposition spokesperson on education announced that the National Party wished to return to a scaling system that was described by Waiopehu College principal, Steve Browne, as a system that had treated students unfairly in the past. Equally, at the same meeting, one parent, Carol Smith, said to the member referred to that her son, who was in year 13 at Horowhenua College, had had no problems with the system and that the first 2 years had been fine. Also comments were made by a distinguished teacher colleague of the questioner, Mr Allan Peachey, who stated recently in his publication: “I believe history will judge them”—principals who have tried to keep norm-referencing alive—“to have failed a critical test of leadership to the long-term disadvantage of students.” I think the Opposition spokesperson on education is equally failing that critical test of leadership.
Madam SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Does the Associate Minister not think it strange that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority can retain a demeanour of sublime innocence over NCEA, and a raft of other issues, while all around it all hell is breaking loose; and is there not just the slightest possibility that something is indeed rotten in New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s “state of Denmark”?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I know that the member is aware that the Government has instigated a State Services Commission inquiry into how the Qualifications Authority handled the 2004 scholarship exams, and that that review will also look into other aspects of our school qualifications system. The Government is seeking some assurance in this area.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is the third time you have called the Green Party in preference to ACT.
Madam SPEAKER: I apologise for that. You will be called next, and it will not happen again.
Metiria Turei: Does the Associate Minister stand by his response to question for written answer No. 1745 that “Currently, Cambridge International Examinations have no school qualifications registered with any Government agency”; and is he surprised to learn that New Zealand schools spent $2 million last year buying Cambridge International Examinations foreign examinations—examinations that are not registered with New Zealand Qualifications Authority?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, that is the advice I have received. I stand by that answer.
Hon Ken Shirley: Is it normal for an education provider to fail a New Zealand Qualifications Authority audit on 32 counts in 1 year, as Te Wânanga o Aotearoa did in 2001; if it is not normal, why did his Government increase funding to this education provider, from $3 million per year to $239 million per year, in spite of the massive, failed New Zealand Qualifications Authority performance audits?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: My delegations do not extend any responsibility into the tertiary sector.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question referred to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. My supplementary question related directly to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority audits. Could I ask the Associate Minister to say whether it was normal for that to happen, and, if it was not, why was there a massive increase in funding in the way that there was under his Government, in spite of the failed audits?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I would not regard that as a normal circumstance.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Associate Minister confirm that the person who heads the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has a physical education degree, and who is her political sponsor for that position?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can confirm that it is my understanding that Ms Van Rooyen is a graduate in physical education. I have no knowledge of the appointment procedure that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority board followed to appoint her.
Bernie Ogilvy: Has the Associate Minister given any consideration to merging the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Education Review Office, and the Teachers Council into some sort of educational standards authority to cut red tape and improve the kind of coordination that was missing in the Cambridge High School case, as all those agencies are concerned with educational standards of some sort; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I think it would be more logical to wait for the outcome of the reviews in train before any such considerations are given.
Hon Bill English: Now that the Associate Minister has backed down on his purist stance on standards-based assessment for Scholarship, how long will it take for him to change NCEA levels 1 to 3 so that thousands of students who are not among our top academic students can also get a fair go when it comes to assessment?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: There is no back down or change in relation to the scholarship exam. I can confirm that the examination for New Zealand Scholarship will remain standards based.
Hon Bill English: Is the Associate Minister aware that the work of the Scholarship Reference Group shows that the scholarship exam in 2004 did not rank students; if that is the case, how will the New Zealand Qualifications Authority decide who gets 140 school scholarship awards, which have not yet been given out and which require the authority to rank several students who gain scholarships at one school, or are those 140 students going to end up with some half-baked Cabinet certificate?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The reference group is confident that procedures can be put in place in the exam under a standards-based regime to receive exactly that goal. In terms of the historical results, I am not aware of the difficulty the member is talking about.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked a question directed quite precisely at the 2004 New Zealand Scholarship and at the 140 school scholarship awards, which have yet to be given out—something the Associate Minister would be completely familiar with. I did not ask him about difficulties; I asked him how the New Zealand Qualifications Authority was going to allocate those Scholarships, and he did not answer that question at all.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened to the answer. The Associate Minister did address the question. He may not have answered it to the member’s satisfaction, but he did address the question.
Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table documents obtained under the Official Information Act showing that Te Wânanga o Aotearoa failed 32 audits in 2001, the year immediately prior to the massive escalation in Government funding to that education provider.
7. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking, if any, to promote innovation within the export education industry?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Targeted innovation funding will provide leverage in developing New Zealand’s offshore education presence. Our projects include a joint project with a Chinese university, development for teachers of English in China, a foundation studies programme in Viet Nam, and a virtual field trip to New Zealand for year 8 to 10 students in Asia.
Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister received any advice on the value of the international education industry to the New Zealand economy?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. The Education New Zealand Trust estimates that the direct revenue from international education amounts to approximately $2.2 billion annually. But, of course, it also exposes New Zealanders to a wide range of cultural and intellectual exchanges, increases diversity, and develops networks that will be a huge long-term boost to New Zealand.
Question No. 8 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Quite obviously, the Prime Minister has popped out for a minute, perhaps into the lobby to sort out a problem or two. I seek leave for this question to be deferred until the Prime Minister steps back into the Chamber.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the question to be deferred. Is there any objection? There is. The question will be asked.
Mâori Land Court—Release of Minute
8. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the statement made on her behalf in the House yesterday regarding the release of a minute from the Mâori Land Court that “My understanding is that the minute was released by the Chief Judge of the Mâori Land Court himself to Mr Jonathan Milne, which, I am advised, is not the normal practice.”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: I answer on behalf of the Prime Minister, who is meeting with the Malaysian Prime Minister. The statement made yesterday was based on comments made by Mr Jonathan Milne to my parliamentary private secretary, Russell Fairbrother, when he stated that the judge gave him the paper. I am now advised that Mr Milne now states that he obtained the document by applying to the registrar of the Mâori Land Court in Wellington. That, of course, is in conformity with the normal practice under rule 167 of that court.
Gerry Brownlee: Does she support the statement made by her Attorney-General, Dr Michael Cullen, to the New Zealand Herald that: “Parliamentarians have to be extremely careful about criticism of judges.”; if so, will she now apologise to the Chief Judge of the Mâori Land Court, whom she has falsely accused of leaking what is, in fact, a publicly available document?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The word “leaking” was not used at all in the parliamentary answer given yesterday.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While that may be the sort of desperate clinging to a word in a question that gets a Minister off the hook, surely the essence of the question does have to be addressed. There is no way that a Minister can simply say he or she did not use a particular word, even though that may have been the inference of what was said. The Minister must address the question in its substance.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to expand on his answer.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will expand by repeating what I said yesterday: that the document was released, according to Mr Milne, by the judge to him. Mr Milne was clearly less than careful in his use of words, and I certainly regret any imputation that might have been contained therein.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister stand by her indication to the House yesterday that the Government is prepared to appeal the Mâori Land Court decision, if need be, in the case of the 50-kilometre stretch of the Bay of Plenty coastline; if so, why does she not just save New Zealand taxpayers time and expense by fixing up the foreshore and seabed legislation, which seems to have allowed customary rights to be claimed on the basis of kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It would be worth perhaps quoting somewhat further from the minute of the Chief Judge: “Of course, whether there is sufficient evidence to make another claim to customary rights in the nature of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga over the stretch of coastline in question is another matter.”.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked whether she stuck by her statement that the Government will appeal the decision of the Mâori Land Court if it does not like it. To just simply quote another part of the judge’s minute does not answer that question in any way whatsoever.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I was clearly indicating that the judge certainly has not made up his mind about what the outcome will be. The Crown will make up its mind what its subsequent action will be, depending on the nature of the judgment that is made.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely that then should become an answer. It should be given as an answer, rather than as a response to a point of order. The question simply derived from the fact that the Minister was prepared to stand in the House when acting as the Prime Minister yesterday, and to say that if the judgment went too far the Crown would appeal it. Today he is on the back foot, having embarrassed himself by attacking the judge, and is not prepared to stick by a decision that, clearly, was made yesterday.
Madam SPEAKER: I have taken the point of order. It has been addressed. Both the point of order and the answer to the question have been addressed. Can we now move on, please.
Dail Jones: Is it not also correct—I am asking the Prime Minister this—that when one reads the minutes, on sees that the judge makes the point and draws the conclusion that the applicants, and they are the 15 people in Ôpôtiki who have not said whether they belong to hapû or iwi, must redraft paragraph 9 of their application to provide greater particularity in relation to the scale, extent, and frequency of the activities, uses, or practices that are the subject of the application, which is the key to a customary use application, and that the judge is thereby saying that the basis of the application must be reconsidered, because the current application does not seem to establish one?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that the Chief Judge has accepted an application and indicated that a great deal more work is required on the application and a great deal more evidence is needed. That suggests, therefore, that people should not over-react against matters at this point.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister accept that the Chief Judge has said that a claim on the basis of kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga, certainly supported by a little more particularity, would be enough for the court to hear the claim; if so, why does the Government not move to amend the foreshore and seabed legislation in order to prevent kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga being a basis for customary rights claims?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: This is the first claim taken under the Foreshore and Seabed Act. The judge has determined that the matters in front of him so far are sufficient to proceed further, subject to further evidence being provided. It is in many ways a test case. That is why I indicated that if the outcome is such that the Government believes there are grounds for appeal, then the Government will certainly appeal against the judgment. It seems highly premature at this point to rush in and start legislating against a judgment in a case that has not even begun to be heard at this particular point.
Question No. 5 to Minister
RtRt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): In the interests of accuracy, I seek leave to table a chart that shows that in 1996 the consents granted by the Official Investment Commission were 339, that then they dropped to 289 and 281 in the next 2 years, and that then there was a massive jump to 416 in 1999, and to 314 in 2000. I table this so that the Prime Minister can have her figures put right.
New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004—Effectiveness
9. MIKE WARD (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Is she satisfied that the New Zealand Packaging Accord 2004 has been effective in reducing the use of non-recyclable packaging; if so, why?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister for the Environment), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: The accord was signed 7 months ago to run for 5 years. It is in its early days. Baseline measures will be established over the accord’s first 2 years, and measurable improvements, including reducing the use of non-recyclable packaging, are expected in years 3, 4, and 5. I am satisfied the accord will be effective in this regard.
Mike Ward: Is the Minister disappointed by Meadowfresh’s recently introduced non-recyclable plastic and cardboard composite milk carton, and does the Packaging Accord have measures for persuading manufacturers to withdraw packaging that is so clearly contrary to the spirit of the accord?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware of the issue in terms of the non-separability, or the difficulty of separability, of the cardboard from the plastic, which also does not carry the required identification. I encourage the member to make use of the appeals procedure, which is part of the accord, to raise that concern with Fonterra.
David Parker: Why is the Minister confident the accord will work?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Over 80 percent of the supermarket business—Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises—and more than 200 organisations, including 85 percent of packaging manufacturing and a number of significant brand owners, have signed up to the Packaging Accord and intend to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The accord clearly states that the Government will consider regulation if such voluntary measures do not work.
Mike Ward: In view of the fact that the Minister clearly knows about this package, can we not expect the Minister to make use of the provisions to do something about it?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I will certainly consider that possibility in discussion with my colleague.
Mike Ward: Does the Minister believe that the Meadowfresh package has been designed in cooperation with the resource recovery sector, or that it has been reviewed against the packaging codes of practice provided for in the Packaging Accord; if so, does the Minister for the Environment not think that this package represents a failure of the accord to prevent the production of unsustainable packaging?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not have the information with me that would enable me to usefully answer that question.
Mike Ward: What does the Minister suggest that community groups in Central Otago, like Central Otago Wastebusters that already has mountains of non-recyclable packaging, do with these latest non-recyclable packages?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have no useful suggestion for them other than to avail themselves of the complaint process that is part of the accord.
Building Act—Changes to Section 363
10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for Building Issues: What changes is the Department of Building and Housing recommending to section 363 of the Building Act 2004 following reports that if the letter of the law was applied it would force the closure of Auckland airport and that new building consent laws have delayed the opening of the accident and medical centre at Porirua’s Kenepuru Hospital by 3 months?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Building Issues): I have asked the department to investigate amendments to section 363 to remove any uncertainty that may arise from an overly literal interpretation of its provisions. However, I can say the section is not bringing about the extreme consequences attributed to it by the member. Auckland airport will not be closing, and the delay at Kenepuru appears to have been the result of a number of factors.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain what public purpose has been served by Transit New Zealand having to withdraw its consent for State Highway 20 extension and instead replacing it with 39 individual consents to comply with the new Building Act, and how will this additional bureaucracy help us to resolve the huge transport problems facing Auckland?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The new Building Act is designed to improve consumer protection. It is a bit rich for that member to suggest that the Government has botched up with the Act when the whole reason we had to introduce it was to clean up the leaky buildings mess that that party put into place.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was quite simple. My point of order is in respect of the answer given by the Minister, and, yes, we did get some abuse as we normally do. But it was a question about what public purpose is served by a new Building Act that requires a single consent for the extension of State Highway 20 to be withdrawn and replaced by 39 separate consents. The Minister made no attempt whatsoever to answer that constructive question.
Madam SPEAKER: I was unable to hear the Minister’s answer. This is the last warning for those members who barrack while others are speaking. Maybe the Minister would like to repeat the answer.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The answer to the question that the member asked is actually of a more general nature than the specific transport issue that he brought up, which I have no responsibility for. However, I do have responsibility for the new Building Act that is designed to protect the consumer from the very mess that that member’s party created when it changed the regulations in 1991.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You invited the Minister to repeat his answer, and he did that, but his answer was unsatisfactory in the first place. It did not address the question. The question was quite a simple one. The Minister has repeatedly said that the Building Act is there to make life better for New Zealanders effectively. How does changing from a one-consent process for a stretch of road, to a 39-consent process for a stretch of road, benefit New Zealanders?
Madam SPEAKER: I remind the member that members cannot prescribe how Ministers answer—for example “Yes” or “No”. In this case the Minister addressed the question, although the answer may not be satisfactory to the member.
Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the fact that section 363 of the Building Act becomes operative on 31 March 2005—that is, tomorrow—and provides that no part of a public building can be used if building work is being undertaken, can the Minister give an assurance that both the Beehive and Bowen House will be vacated from midnight tonight and remain so until the required completion certificate is issued?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am confident that members of Parliament can rest assured that they will not have to vacate their offices.
Mark Peck: Why was section 363 included in the Building Act?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Section 363 is a public safety measure that gives legislative effect to a key recommendation of the Cave Creek inquiry. It seeks to ensure the safety of the public by placing limits on the use of buildings affected by building work that have yet to be inspected and approved. My department has issued guidance to territorial authorities on the practical implication of the section.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm that this Government will comply with this law in the sense that the Beehive, from floor 3 to floor 9, can be occupied legally only as a consequence of interim code compliance certificates, and that those interim compliance certificates, as confirmed by his department this morning, become null and void tomorrow; and what sort of example does it set when this Government is not even prepared to comply with its own stupid laws?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The question the member has just posed is typical of the alarmist and extremist nature of misinformation that the member is promoting and propagating about section 363.
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the third time now, members on this side of the House have been brought to order for interjecting. On all of those occasions the interjections have followed abusive or derogatory remarks made by the Minister during the course of answering a question. I would like to make it clear that if Ministers, when answering questions, are going to use that opportunity to hurl abuse at members of the Opposition, then those interjections will continue.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think a very fair point was raised there, but, also, I remind the member that when the question contains abusive comments, then it does invite abusive comments in return. I think that sometimes members opposite who raise those points of order should listen more carefully to the questions they ask.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to repeat his answer, please.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Earlier today my officials, including my chief executive, briefed the member on the nature of the issues around section 363. He already knows that the question he has just asked me is simply untrue. It is easily understandable then why I become very impatient with the question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: As I have been accused by the Minister of misleading the House, I seek the leave of the House to make a personal explanation as to exactly what was said to me by the chief executive of the Department of Building and Housing in respect of section 363.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption]
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Members opposite have an appalling inability to understand the English language. The Minister said that the statement was untrue. That is not the same thing as accusing a member of misleading the House. If he had said that it was deliberately untrue, that would be different. I wish the member would just follow what is actually said.
Stephen Franks: The statement made was “which that member well knows is untrue”, which is an entirely different claim.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I accept what the member says. In that case the appropriate point of order to raise is to require the Minister to withdraw and apologise, not to seek to make a personal explanation, which would be a political one.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I again seek leave, under the Standing Orders, in respect of the comments made by the Minister for Building Issues that I deliberately misled the House about a briefing I received from the Department of Building and Housing this morning.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely you are required now to ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: I was about to do so, thank you. Because the member has taken offence at the implication, would the Minister please withdraw and apologise.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek the leave of the House to table the interim code compliance certificates that allow floors 3 to 9 of the Beehive to be temporarily occupied, and the provisions of the Building Act that abolish those and make it unlawful for them to be occupied.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought, is there any objection? There is objection. The document shall not be tabled.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the issues raised by Dr Smith place a certain number of duties on you, in fact. I think it is only fair that you are able to tell the House whether the Parliamentary Service, Ministerial Services, and those responsible for the building construction in both Bowen House and the Beehive will be complying with the law.
Madam SPEAKER: I understand that written questions have been lodged. I have not seen the answers, but as soon as I have they will be conveyed to the member. So at this stage I am not in a position—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am a little confused by that process. This is a responsibility that lies directly with you as Speaker. Your responsibility is—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down. This is a Parliamentary Service matter. It is not a point of order, but for the information of the House, as this is a matter of some concern obviously, I have given members the information that my understanding was that written questions had been lodged by the Hon Dr Nick Smith and answers will, in fact, be given to him in the course of time. [Interruption] It is a Parliamentary Service matter. I was merely giving this information, for the information of the House. [Interruption] Yes, I know, and that is what I am saying, that the questions have been lodged.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This morning I had discussions with the building enforcement division of the Wellington City Council, and also with the Building Service Development Manager of Parliamentary Service, on this very issue. The advice I received from the Wellington City Council was that if there was a literal enforcement of the law, then that would be the case with respect to the Beehive, and its continued occupation would be unlawful. I seek—
Madam SPEAKER: This is not a point of order. It is matter of debate.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It is a very important point of order. You, as Speaker of the House of Representatives—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down. This is not a point of order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I think you do owe me, Madam Speaker, the right—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down, or he will leave the Chamber. This is not a point of order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You have not heard it.
Madam SPEAKER: I have heard the point of order. You were talking to the same point of order. Can we please move on.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you ruling that members of this House cannot consider it a point of order to ask whether they are behaving in a lawful manner or complying with the law?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I did not say that at all, as the member knows well. I gave a response to his question. That was the end of the matter. There is no more to be said on that matter.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My original point of order on this matter was to indicate that the occupation of Parliament’s buildings and the activities that occur in those buildings are your direct responsibility, not the responsibility of Parliamentary Service, which is a vehicle for giving effect to your responsibilities. I ask simply whether you, as the person responsible for the buildings, are satisfied that the buildings are being lawfully occupied from midnight tonight, when it is very clear that throughout the country other New Zealanders will not be able to occupy buildings that are being altered.
Madam SPEAKER: As I have said to the member, I will be looking into the matter. Can we now move on. The member will be informed of what the position is.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would appreciate your clearing up for us the process by which you propose to go about resolving this issue. It is an issue of significance. If I heard you correctly, you said that written questions had been lodged and that you would advise us of the answers to those written questions. Are you suggesting that the conduct of your legal responsibilities is to be carried out in a manner whereby—
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am not and the member knows that. He is confusing two matters. Please sit down. Firstly, written questions were lodged. I acknowledged that, looking into the answers, and Parliamentary Service is giving advice on that. I accept that responsibility. Secondly, I said I would advise on any matter, apart from that, that related to this building that affected members. Those are two issues and they may well be related, I do not know. I said I would consider the matter.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Make it brief, please.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I will be brief. I just want to be absolutely clear that you have now told us there is no connection between—
Madam SPEAKER: I did not say that, Dr Smith. I said there may be a connection. I simply will not know until I have had an opportunity to look at it.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe I am entitled to complete my point of order, and not have it interrupted by the Speaker. You do not know what I was about to say.
Madam SPEAKER: I apologise.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: The point is very important in the conduct of your legal duties. We must have it clear that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between written questions lodged by a member of the Opposition, and your carrying out of your legal duties.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: One of the issues here of course is what you are responsible for. If members care to read Standing Order 363(2), they will find of course that the means of obtaining information from the Speaker in the exercise of her administrative responsibilities is done by way of written questions.
Madam SPEAKER: That is right.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That is why the answers to written questions are the means by which the Speaker can communicate back to members about those matters.
Madam SPEAKER: Exactly.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is an entirely new point of order and it goes back some time. You have just seen a repetition of it, and it is a gentle reminder that you are Parliament’s lady now. When the original point of order was raised by Nick Smith, Michael Cullen rose and while he was speaking to the point of order you clearly spoke into the microphone and said: “Yes, that’s right, yes, that’s right.”, encouraging Michael Cullen in speaking to the point of order. In fact, the same thing has just happened now. When Michael Cullen was on his feet speaking to the point or order you were concurring with him, and eventually egging him on. I am not being critical of the Speaker. What I suggest is that you hear the points of order in silence and rule at the end, rather than egging on your old team.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his contribution to the debate. I call question No. 11. Oh, I am sorry, there is still a supplementary question from the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You asked me to begin question No 11. You cannot revert now to giving the member a supplementary question without having the courtesy of asking me whether I would like to yield to him. I am happy to do so, but I would like some manners on the member’s part.
Madam SPEAKER: The member has one more supplementary question. Would Mr Peters be gracious enough to enable him to ask his supplementary question? Then that will be it for the day.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I thank Mr Peters. I am indebted to him. Noting that the Minister said in his answer to a previous question that a literal interpretation of section 363 would require public buildings that do not have a code compliance certificate to be vacated, why would that not apply to the public building of the Beehive?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member has used the wrong word. It is not “would” but “could”. My officials have urged local government to use a sensible approach to this, and all local government organisations have been following that very well. There is an ambiguity in the legislation, as the member knows from the briefing he received earlier. In that briefing he was given an assurance that this was not actually creating a problem anywhere in New Zealand, but the Government is taking steps to give greater guidance by means of our amendment to the legislation. There is no problem. We will make sure it does not become one.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the report of the Manukau City Council stating that section 363 would require the closure of Auckland International Airport on Friday.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I also seek the leave of the House to table the advice of the Department of Building and Housing to councils with respect to section 363 suggesting that they do not enforce it.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 117/1, given by Mr Speaker Jack in 1977, which is in reference to the Hon Nick Smith’s seeking leave of the House to give a personal explanation. When we follow that Speaker’s ruling, it is quite clear that the House would normally and invariably give such leave. Indeed, the Leader of the House, Dr Cullen, objected due to a misunderstanding on his part. On reflection, I think that leave should have been granted, and I flag it now and raise it. I do not think there is any point in the House going back to it, but I do think it sets a bad precedent for the future, particularly if the Government is to deny members leave to make a personal explanation when their reputation and honour has been impugned, as the Minister for Building Issues did in this instance.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I’d like to be quite clear about my reason for refusing leave. I had every reason to believe—and subsequent questions confirmed it, in terms of my own view—that the explanation would be a political statement about the interpretation of legislation, not a matter of personal honour. We have had one or two rather recent cases—too many of them—where personal statements have not been personal statements. If members continue to abuse the personal statement process, then leave will be declined more often.
Stephen Franks: We can understand the Deputy Prime Minister’s view on the abuse of the personal explanation process, but in this case it was quite clear that someone had been accused of consciously making an untrue statement to this House. Mr Speaker Hunt’s ruling 117/2, immediately below the ruling that my colleague referred to, is stated in quite firm words, and we do not want to see that derogated from, simply because there are some members abusing the personal statement mechanisms and going unpunished. That ruling states: “A personal explanation can be used about an answer a Minister has given. That is always the way in which a misleading reply is cleared up.” It seems that if we allow this to be a precedent for discouraging personal statements, where a member was accused of consciously misleading or of making an untrue statement we would be circumscribing our own privileges.
Madam SPEAKER: Whether leave is given, as the member knows, is really for the House to determine, not the Speaker. But I thank you for the contribution.
Police Officer Altercation—Investigation
11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Was a police officer involved in a physical altercation with a Michael Famodun on 12 November 2004, and is he satisfied that a full and thorough investigation was conducted into the outcome of that altercation?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised by the police that a complaint has been made to the Police Complaints Authority following an incident in a car-park in Auckland on 12 November 2004 involving Mr Famodun and an off-duty police officer. A Police Complaints Authority investigation is currently being conducted into the allegations, made by members of his family. I am advised that he died some 3 months after this incident. A separate police investigation is also being conducted.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister explain why the family of Mr Michael Famodun cannot bring the police officer known as RC1W249 before a court of law, when on 12 November 2004 Mr Famodun, who suffered from sickle-cell anaemia and who was half an hour out of hospital, was assaulted by this officer in a car-park, and who died, apparently from that assault, on 22 February, being aged 33 years and having on the death certificate, as cause of death, “a massive intercranial haemorrhage such as occurs from a forceful assault or blow to the head”, as appears was the case on 12 November 2004, inflicted by police officer RC1W249?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: As I said, there are two investigations going on into the matter: one by the Police Complaints Authority and a separate one conducted by the police.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister not been able to determine, thus far, that the man’s life was taken needlessly at the hands of an obviously seriously stressed non-duty police officer, who thwarted attempts to get police to the scene, saying that “no police personnel would be attending the scene, they were too busy to waste their time”, and who even delayed an ambulance getting to the scene to this extremely sick, unfortunate, and, now, damaged man?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is precisely why there are two investigations going on at the moment to try to establish the facts.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table a letter in which Mr Famodun sets out what happened, which was written before he died; a further letter from his sister, who is a trained medical doctor; and the death certificate, which sets out his cause of death.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents? Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection. They will not be tabled.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship Examination
12. HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education: What decisions has the Government made regarding New Zealand Scholarship in 2005?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Cabinet yesterday considered the report of the Scholarship Reference Group, a group of noted education leaders asked to be provide advice and recommendations on this year’s scholarship examinations. The Government has endorsed their key recommendations, and would like to acknowledge the work of that group in this forum. One key recommendation is that scholarships should be awarded to an agreed target percentage of students in every subject, set within a range of 2 to 3 percent of the number of students taking that subject at National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 3, thus giving certainty as to the number of students receiving scholarships.
Helen Duncan: How will New Zealand Scholarship be assessed in 2005?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It is the Government’s intention to continue with standards-based assessment for New Zealand Scholarship. The Scholarship Reference Group did not recommend for or against the standards-based examination. What it requested was an examination that is designed in such a way that “student performance can be assessed against an assessment schedule that ensures a ranking of candidates is produced by marks or grades”. This provides the certainty that the Government required for there to be no repetition of the difficulties with this year’s scholarship examination.
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )