Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 5 April 2005
Tuesday, 5 April
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Tertiary Education—Funding
2. Prime Minister—Comments on John Tamihere
3. Land Transport Management Act—Toll-funded Roads
5. Technology—School Programmes
6. Prime Minister—Comments on John Tamihere
7. Pharmac—Treatment Access and Expenditure
8. Police, Minister—Confidence
9. Legislation—Party Support
Question No. 10 to Minister
10. World Bank—Presidency
11. Police, Minister—Confidence
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to shift tertiary education funding from areas of low quality provision to areas of higher strategic relevance?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): There are quite a few, but particularly today a new statement of tertiary education priorities has been published. That focuses the education system on quality rather than quantity, on relevance to national goals, and on collaboration rather than competition. The statement makes it clear that low-quality courses and providers have no place in the publicly funded system. It clearly demonstrates our commitment to scrap the previous approach, introduced by Nick Smith and supported by Bill English, of funding anyone who comes through the door or, in their case, who turns on the radio.
Lynne Pillay: What are the key differences between the new statement of tertiary education priorities and the last one?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It sets out a definition of tertiary education provision that is strategically relevant, and specifies the particular roles that particular types of tertiary education providers play in the system. I expect that as a result of this, in the value-for-money reviews already under way, there will be significant changes, from 2006 onwards.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm to the House that Labour has spent $210 million setting up the Tertiary Education Commission; and that that body in the last 2 years has overseen massive blowouts in low-value tertiary education courses and right now is investigating rumours that there were 30,000 enrolments in diving courses in 2004?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No.
Hon Brian Donnelly: What would the Minister suggest I say to the lady who sent me an advertisement from the Gulf News of 24 March for enrolment in the Te Tohu Whakangungu Kaihoe waka course, a 36-week course in Polynesian navigation, with the question: “I thought this type of course was going to be discontinued. The country is desperate for trade training to produce skilled workers.”—that help is on the way?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That waka is going under.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister willing to increase the target number for Modern Apprenticeships to 10,000, given a Department of Labour survey that shows a severe skills shortage in 15 trades, all in Modern Apprenticeships areas; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We are reviewing the Modern Apprenticeships targets, in looking forward. It looks as if we will get to the current target of 8,500 much earlier than was predicted. The one issue I have around increasing targets is the ability to get tradespeople to do the training. That is one of the problems at the moment. Too many such tradespeople are going out of the polytechs and private training establishments and back on to the tools, because the money is so good.
Tariana Turia: Is not the movement to shift tertiary education funding to areas of so-called highest strategic relevance just another way of closing down private training establishments and reducing wânanga rolls; if not, how will private training establishments and wânanga benefit from that move?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. In fact, the changes in the private training establishment area were promoted by the member when she was part of the social development committee and part of the Government. But there will be some changes. I have no doubt that wânanga rolls will go down, because some of the things that are being taught in wânanga are not strategically relevant.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table a document detailing the expenditure of $210.284 million on establishing the Tertiary Education Commission.
Prime Minister—Comments on John Tamihere
2. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: What basis did she have for stating that Ian Wishart’s interview with John Tamihere “seems to me like the product of a long liquid lunch,” and does she stand by her statement?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): On the basis of reading the transcript; and yes.
Rodney Hide: Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s claim about excessive alcohol, what is her response to John Tamihere’s claim in the interview that this Labour Government is run by anti-family homosexuals and trade unionists who do nothing but plot and plan and double-cross their coalition partners?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I suggest the member gets some new glasses and examines the quality of our front bench.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister seen Mr Tamihere’s reference to “ministerial klingons” and to the Hon Steve Maharey and others as “very smarmy, very clever, but no substance”, and does she understand that many New Zealanders are very grateful to Mr Tamihere for providing those revealing insights into her ministerial colleagues, which were gained from his privileged vantage point in her Cabinet in recent years?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I have seen the statements. I note that Mr Tamihere referred to a number of his colleagues as very clever, unlike Brian Connell’s reference to the Leader of the Opposition as “stupid”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister please reconcile these two events: Lianne Dalziel being told to go home for allegedly not telling the truth, and John Tamihere being told to go home for irrefutably telling the truth?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In recent months I have been in the House when members of the Opposition have refused to believe that anything Mr Tamihere says is true. I find the change of attitude very remarkable.
Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement that John Tamihere in his interview defamed Ministers and her Beehive staff, and will she take this opportunity to point out exactly what statements made by Mr Tamihere in his frank and candid interview are false?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no doubt that the reference to my deputy as duplicitous and one who sets out to deceive is defamatory, but we all have broader shoulders than to rush off to court, unlike some people.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement by John Tamihere that her chief of staff Heather Simpson wanted him “in the tent as damaged goods”, and can she confirm that that has been the strategy pursued by her office with regard to Mr Tamihere, and also with regard to the Hon George Hawkins?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot confirm any such thing.
Madam SPEAKER: I call the Rt Hon Winston Peters. [Interruption] Members will leave the Chamber if they speak when a member is asking a question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which of the allegations made by Mr Tamihere are untrue, and which of the allegations are true but unbearable; and does she not agree that honesty is the best policy in politics, so why is John Tamihere not being promoted back into Cabinet?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not intend to seek an unlimited period of speaking time to answer that question. The article, frankly, is drivel.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I of course seek leave for the Prime Minister to have as long as she needs in order to go through the article and explain to us which bits are true and which bits are not.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. I am sorry, was the member seeking leave or just making a comment?
Hon Richard Prebble: I cannot seek leave. I am inviting the Prime Minister to seek unlimited time to explain which parts of the Tamihere article are untrue and which parts are true.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, as the member knows.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the absence of the Prime Minister’s desire to articulate what the allegations were and are, I seek leave now to articulate them for the benefit of the House and the country.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the member to articulate further on the questions he has been asking. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection, so the member’s request for leave is declined.
Rodney Hide: In light of the Prime Minister’s answers, what part of the following statement made by Mr Tamihere is false: “… Helen has been brutalised by people who have called her lesbian, no children and all the rest of it. Her key adviser Heather Simpson is a butch, and a lot of her support systems are, Maryann Street and so on, and she’s very comfortable in that world and comfortable with it. I’m not.”? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed the question. Both the questions and the comments were out of order. We will now get on with the answer to the question.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Only last week Mr Hide, to his credit, defended a man against allegations that at that time appeared to be based on homophobia. I am surprised that he would ask the sort of question he has asked in the House today. I speak in this House as someone who has been happily married for 23½ years and who has never been brutalised by anybody.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is the second time that someone has made an allegation in respect of my raising the issue of Jim Peron in this House—today by the Prime Minister, and prior to that by Mr Rodney Hide. I do not think that anyone who read the Sunday Star-Times on Sunday could have any view other than the one I have, and I now ask the Prime Minister to withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is most certainly a point of order. I have clearly taken offence, as you should have, Madam Speaker, on my behalf.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did not refer to the member in her answer to the question. She raised an issue that has been raised in the House, but she did not make specific reference to the member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: Does the member specifically take offence at the inference that was made?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I think that is rather obvious, for I have proven my point to the satisfaction of you and those people up there.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but what was the member saying? I did not quite understand his point.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I have proven my point about the rightness of my course of action in respect of that man called Jim Peron to the satisfaction now of everybody in the press gallery and of all my detractors, including the Prime Minister, on that matter.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I listened very carefully to what the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said that Mr Hide had defended a person against an accusation that appeared at that time to be made on the grounds of homophobia. Of course, the member subsequently produced more evidence on that matter.
Madam SPEAKER: I rule that there was no direct personal reflection on the member in the answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order—
Madam SPEAKER: Is the member addressing the point of order on which I have ruled?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am asking for clarification as to how you can distinguish between a clear reference allied to a person’s name, which the Prime Minister raised and linked to Mr Hide’s allegation last week, and the member not taking offence at what the Prime Minister just said.
Madam SPEAKER: The member can, of course, raise the matter, but the fact remains that there was no direct personal reference to the member.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister at no time addressed my question, which asked what in John Tamihere’s allegation was wrong. We heard from the Prime Minister earlier that everything in the article was wrong, but that she had no time to go through it point by point. I make the point that the allegation was not made by me; it was actually made by a former Minister in her Cabinet and a member of the Labour Party. I simply asked, given that she had said that the article was wrong, which parts of it were wrong. Instead I got a diatribe that was something about myself. I just want the question to be answered.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister, in the second part of her answer, did, in fact, address the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This really follows on from what Mr Hide was just saying. During the course of the exchange between Mr Hide and the Prime Minister, you seemed to let two interjections slide. One was from the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cullen, who shouted across the House: “If he gets in the gutter, he gets kicked.” That raises the question of whether Mr Cullen was talking about Mr Hide or about Mr Tamihere, who actually made the statement in the first place.
Madam SPEAKER: At the time I said that both comments—all interjections that were made during that particular interchange—were out of order.
Heather Roy: How can New Zealanders interpret this statement by Mr Tamihere: “They don’t have families. They’ve got nothing but the ability to plot. I’ve gotta take my kid to soccer on Saturday, they don’t.”, except as indicating that this Labour Government has no understanding of, and no empathy with, New Zealand families?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Every New Zealander has a family. People have parents. Most have siblings. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will be heard in silence. [Interruption] I have made that ruling because I cannot hear the answer to the question, so I ask members to be quiet while we hear the answer.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you ruling now that whenever the Prime Minister gets up to answer a question we are not even allowed to make an interjection?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am not ruling that. I have said before that the odd interjection is permissible. But when there is a barrage and we cannot hear the answer or the question, then that is, in fact, out of order.
Rodney Hide: What I ask for is some consistency, because during some trite answers from the Government we have heard forced canned laughter from the front bench and the second bench, to show that Government members are not running scared on what John Tamihere said. I suggest that if you say that we have to be quiet, then that should go for the Government, as well.
Madam SPEAKER: Of course it goes for all parties.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Just to be helpful, it may be a good idea to have the technicians look at the audio system by the Speaker’s chair. I seemed to be able to hear the Prime Minister very clearly from here through all that barrage, and yet you are sitting as close as possible to her and you do not seem to be able to hear. It may be a technical problem.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said earlier, every New Zealander has a family. Families take many forms in our society, and I think we should respect those choices.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it wrong for a member of Parliament, whether or not that member is in the Labour Party, to point out the disturbing, manipulative, social engineering policies of her administration, and the deep disquiet that certain people have, even in the Labour Party, about the social agenda of this administration led by her, when so many of her colleagues clearly, according to Mr Tamihere, share that view—10 he says, and 15 more on a good day—and why does that article automatically become drivel just because it embarrasses her?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This Government’s record on families stands second to none. Members should look at the Working for Families package that is rolling out this week, whereby every family currently receiving family support can look forward to getting more support from the Labour Government.
Madam SPEAKER: Does Mr Hide have a supplementary question?
Rodney Hide: Does Madam Speaker see my point? You could not hear me calling because of all the barrage coming across from the Government, which never gets addressed.
Madam SPEAKER: It was across the House.
Rodney Hide: Why would the public not believe what John Tamihere said in that interview, when he has spent years in Cabinet and in the Labour caucus, and when all she can say in response is that Mr Tamihere was drunk and stressed, and the report is drivel, and she cannot address specific aspects of what Mr Tamihere has claimed?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no doubt that the member was stressed, caused in no small way by the fact that the member who has just asked the question spent many months making allegations against Mr Tamihere, not one of which was substantiated.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How could that possibly address the question, other than to totally dodge it? I asked why we should not believe John Tamihere, and now suddenly it is all my fault that he gave the interview where he has told the truth.
Madam SPEAKER: The question was addressed.
Land Transport Management Act—Toll-funded Roads
3. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What progress is being made on toll-funded roads since the passage of the Land Transport Management Act 2003?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport): The Land Transport Management Act is the sort of Act one passes when one wants to build roads. Yesterday Cabinet approved the construction of the northern extension to State Highway 1, from Ôrewa to Pûhoi, as a toll road under that Act.
Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has the Minister seen on plans to fund roads?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen one other report of a plan to strip $4 billion out of the Crown account that is already being used to offset roading-related costs, with no mention of the service cuts or debt increases that would be necessary to fill in the black hole created. That is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and if my bank manager suggested it, he would be gone by lunchtime.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree that the recently released Surface Transport Costs and Charges Study provided some evidence that general taxation was subsidising the road network, and therefore gave considerable support to the policy of allowing some much-needed additions to our roading network through toll funding, and does he agree with that; if he does, is he grateful for United Future’s support for the Land Transport Management Bill, which was passed?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes and yes.
Peter Brown: My noting those answers, will the Minister explain why he believes, as he stated to the Automobile Association conference, that it is reasonable to borrow money to pay for a tolled road, which can produce uncertain income, but it is totally unacceptable to borrow against future income generated from road-user charges, vehicle registration fees, and fuel tax, which produce certain income; will the Minister explain his philosophy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I did not say that. I said that if one is going to borrow to build a road, one needs to be able to have a revenue stream to service the loan. That revenue stream cannot be something as ethereal as economic expansion.
4. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement that “the money earned from a tuck shop and uniform sales should not be added on to what a school is earning.”; if so, why?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): No, the quote is incomplete. Clearly, revenue the schools derive from trading activities like uniform sales, tuck-shop revenue, or items such as charging for the use of a school building—once the cost of such activities are deducted—should count towards a school’s balance sheet. The point I have made on a number of occasions is that it is essential not to confuse school donations or extra-curricular activity fees with the revenue from trading sales. The Government funds the teaching of the curriculum, but a Government is not required, nor should it be required, to pay for uniforms or for a student’s lunch.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister consider it acceptable that students of Otûmoetai College who refused to take part in a money-earning work day for the school—work that included breaking up and carrying concrete—were assembled in a school hall of shame, and does he agree that the income generated by that sort of bullying approach should also not be added to a school’s earnings?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I did hear that accusation made on the Linda Clark show this morning, but I also heard it refuted by the principal. I certainly will be pleased to try to find out for the member more detailed information about what transpired.
Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister prefer to spend new education dollars on bureaucracy, such as a doubling of the amount spent on policy advice in the Ministry of Education, and a trebling of the amount spent on administering regulations, leaving schools and parents to fight in court over fees that schools desperately need to keep running?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am afraid the facts do not substantiate the allegation made in the questioner’s statement. In fact, the percentage of education funding allocated to the Ministry of Education has remained constant at 15 or 16 percent since 1999, as has the 84 percent of Vote Education dedicated to service providers. In terms of funding, the member surely is aware, as most members of the community are, that in the schools’ area this Government has increased education funding for schools by $1 billion, from $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion since Labour was in power.
Helen Duncan: What do schools receive by way of donations?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: According to the latest information available, based on what schools reported to the Ministry of Education, schools received on average $126 per student in donations in 2003. However, the levels of donations are highly variable. Fifty-one percent of schools recorded that they received no donation. I have reservations about the quality of that information, especially after listening this morning to a school principal describe something that should have been a voluntary donation as an activity fee. That is why I have asked the ministry to investigate the quality of the information it receives from schools as part of its investigation into how much, and by what method, school donations and activity fees are collected.
Sue Kedgley: Is he concerned that many schools are so cash strapped that they are forced to get extra funding from vending machine sales of unhealthy high-sugar drinks, and advertisements for fast-food companies appearing in school dairies and on school playing grounds and playing fields; if so, will he widen the inquiry into school charges to include all school funding, earnings, donations, and corporate sponsorship; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I believe that the level of funding of schools is appropriate. New Zealand ranks third in the OECD on the percentage of GDP that goes to State schools, compared with Australia at 15th, the UK at 19th, the US at 11th, and Canada at 20th. As I said earlier, this Government has increased school funding by $1 billion since 1999, from $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion, and the operations grant has increased by 14.4 percent, in real terms, since 1999.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister then have no concern for the North Shore principal who has turned school caretaker in a desperate attempt to cut costs, or Kaipara Flats School that can afford a caretaker for only 10 hours a week who then works the rest of the time on a voluntary basis, and when will this Government significantly increase the public education funding to ensure our nation has a free public education system?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As the member is aware, the operations grant is constantly being reviewed, but I can inform the questioner that the percentage raised by way of parent contribution has remained almost completely static over the recent period.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree with the comment made by the New Zealand Trustees Association that if all parents chose not to pay the so-called optional donations there would not be enough money to run the education system; if not, where does he think the $460 million raised by parents in 2003 would have come from?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Firstly, let me correct the figure that the member has used. I am advised that the net amount of locally raised funds that schools received in 2003 was closer to $262 million, once the costs of activities were deducted. Unfortunately, she used the figure that includes trading revenue that was alluded to in the primary question. All I can say to the questioner is that the fact that 51 percent of our schools report to the ministry that they charge no such donations is a very powerful answer to the question.
5. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Associate Minister of Education: What steps has the Government taken to improve the teaching and learning of technology in schools?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Yesterday I was very pleased to launch a new $6 million initiative to help support, develop, and promote outstanding examples of technology education in secondary schools. This is part of the Government’s growth and innovation technology strategy in which projects and practice identified as valuable and innovative will be helped to develop still further, and then that best-practice knowledge will be shared with every school in the country.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister provide more detail about the key focus of this programme?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes. The key focus of the new programme is enhanced professional development for technology teachers. Contributing to the professional development of staff across the education sector is a most important focus for this Government. We will spend over $67 million this year alone helping teachers and principals to further advance their skills and knowledge—a 125 percent increase in funding since 1999. We believe that is a very worthwhile investment.
Prime Minister—Comments on John Tamihere
6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she still stand by her statement in December last year that: “I’ve always expressed my confidence that John Tamihere would return to the Cabinet at some point”; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): In the past I have expressed my confidence that Mr Tamihere would return to Cabinet at some point. I am unable to say that today. To return in the future he would have to rebuild the confidence of his colleagues, and clearly he has a lot of work to do.
Gerry Brownlee: Could she confirm that much of her reticence about Mr Tamihere’s returning to Cabinet is due to his reported statement that, when it comes to the leadership of the Labour Party, out of 51 in the current caucus, 10 would back him to the hilt, and 15 say they would; and, if that is not the reason, what is her reason?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I assure the member that I am not quaking in my boots.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We went through Rodney Hide’s question earlier, question No. 2, and got no answers from the Prime Minister about the allegations made in Mr Tamihere’s article. The only thing she was able to say for sure was that Dr Cullen is not the duplicitous character he was portrayed as by Mr Tamihere. I asked the Prime Minister whether Mr Tamihere’s claim to have the numbers is one of the reasons he is not coming back into Cabinet and if it is not the reason, then what were the reasons. Surely, at some point that should be outlined to the House.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can an answer that—
Madam SPEAKER: Are you challenging my ruling?
Gerry Brownlee: I would not be on my feet, if I were not.
Madam SPEAKER: I have already ruled on the point of order. The member may not like the answer, but given the question, he got an answer that addressed the question. Can we now please move on.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you tell us how the Prime Minister’s answer was consistent with the requirements of Standing Order 370 in all its parts?
Madam SPEAKER: The answer was consistent with that Standing Order. It does not have to satisfy the member; it merely has to address the question. Can we now please move on.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that John Tamihere has to be duplicitous, a liar, a tosser, a weirdo, a smarmer, or be without substance before he is allowed back into the Labour Party Cabinet?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: He does not have to be any of those things. He does have to be a team player.
Gerry Brownlee: Is it true, or does she agree with Mr Tamihere’s comments about the Government: “In this outfit it’s all ‘rosy’ on the outside, not the inside.”, and is it also true that when Mr Tamihere used to make a contribution in Cabinet on Cabinet papers, and say: “Hang on.”, she would say: “You want to be difficult again, do you?”; and is that the reason why she relishes this opportunity to keep him out of Cabinet?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The statements quoted by the member are not true, and I can say to the House that one Labour back-bencher under stress means that Labour is far more united than the National caucus, any day of the week.
Gerry Brownlee: Will she indicate to the House whether she thinks it would be difficult, regardless of any apology Mr Tamihere might like to make, for him to sit in a Cabinet with Mr Maharey, whom he described as “smarmy” but with “no substance”, or with Mr Carter, whom he described as a “tosser”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For a member of the Labour caucus to be in Cabinet, he or she must have the confidence of colleagues because they elect the person to that position. If that were the case in the National Party, there is no way Mr Brownlee would be in because one of his colleagues described him as: “Useless as tits on a bull”.
Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table the latest copy of Investigate magazine, with these words on the cover: “TAMIHERE comes clean”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection. There is. It will not be tabled.
Pharmac—Treatment Access and Expenditure
7. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Health: Does she agree with the recent comment by Pharmac Chief Executive, Wayne McNee, with regard to providing access to drug treatments and managing growth in pharmaceutical expenditure, that “We are confident that we have the balance right in the interests of New Zealanders.”; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): In general, yes, although there is always a need to constantly examine operating practices to ensure that the best interests of New Zealanders are protected and maintained.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does “having the balance right” in general in the interests of New Zealanders include ensuring that we have New Zealanders who seek access to medications to address bone density, HIV/AIDS, the early stages of breast cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, motor neuron disease, some forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others being denied access to those drugs by Pharmac, thus creating a position where New Zealanders are the least likely people in any country in the world to be able to access proper medications?
Hon ANNETTE KING: New Zealanders do have access to very good pharmaceuticals, and, in fact, increased funding has ensured that we provided new or expanded access in 2004 to 15 medicines, including new treatments for depression, childhood arthritis, hepatitis C, glaucoma, breast cancer, and alcohol addiction. During the current financial year, new treatments have been added for diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, severe pain, schizophrenia, raised cholesterol, and HIV/AIDS.
Steve Chadwick: What is the Government doing to improve access to drug treatment for everyday New Zealanders?
Hon ANNETTE KING: From 1 July 2005 we estimate that approximately 2 million New Zealanders will pay no more that $3 for most of their medicines. Lowering the cost of subsidised pharmaceuticals is an important means of removing financial barriers to primary health care services for people.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister believe that Pharmac has got it right with sole-supply tendering for the flu vaccine, where hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders were put at risk by relying on one source of supply; and what will the Minister do to ensure that New Zealand is less vulnerable in the future from a flu vaccine batch failure than it was this year?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Sole supply for the flu vaccine in New Zealand has been the case for the past 7 years. Pharmac is, however, prepared to look at whether it will have sole supply next year, and I support it in looking at that.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked a very specific question of the Minister. Does she believe that Pharmac has got it right with regard to the flu vaccine, and what will she do to ensure that New Zealand is less vulnerable to a batch failure in the future?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. It may not have been to the satisfaction of the member, but given the question, the answer did address the content of that question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have, almost like a mantra, repeated Standing Order 370 in respect of addressing the question. But I also draw your attention to the full wording of that Standing Order. It states: “. . . the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” In respect of Mr Hutchison’s question, I think it is in the public interest. You completely ignored that latter part of Standing Order 370(1), and I suggest that you need to take the complete Standing Order in judging whether, indeed, a Minister has addressed a question in the public interest.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The point is, of course, that under certain circumstances the Minister may decline to address the question at all because it is not consistent with the public interest to do that.
Madam SPEAKER: The member is entitled to seek an opinion. If the member does seek an opinion, then, invariably, the Minister responding will give an opinion to the question and that is less likely, on occasion, to satisfy the member asking the question. So in this instance, yes, the question was addressed.
Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister share Pharmac’s confidence that “we have the balance right in the interests of New Zealanders.” to the extent of allowing Pharmac to control drug spending for cancer treatments, even though this has been described as “potential dynamite” that could change the treatment of cancer in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING: With the use of Pharmac we have been able to ensure that we can widen the use of cancer drugs in New Zealand. From 2002, we put in place what is called a basket of cancer drugs that is now uniform across New Zealand, and Pharmac believes that it will be able to provide even more drugs to put into that basket.
Hon Peter Dunne: How can the Minister continue to stand by Pharmac’s sole-supply agreements when they have resulted not only in last month’s flu vaccine crisis but also, over the last few years, in shortages of medications for gout, of sedatives, of essential iron supplements for women and infants, of certain antibiotics, and of medications for hay fever, kidney dialysis, heart failure, epilepsy, thrush, rashes, and many more?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Pharmac has been operating a sole supply for many drugs since 1997, and the ability to be able to do that has ensured that taxpayers have something around an extra $200 million to spend on drugs. Whether or not there is a sole supplier, there will be, at times, problems with a particular drug. I think Pharmac does a very good job in ensuring that we have high-quality drugs in New Zealand.
Sue Kedgley: Is the contract to purchase further supplies of antiviral drugs that could protect us against a bird flu outbreak a sole-supply contract; if so, can the Minister assure New Zealanders that there will not be a delay in receiving supplies of these vital drugs, as there was with this winter’s flu vaccine?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I provided an answer to the member regarding the supply of antivirals and the timetable for it. As she knows, they are being purchased over a number of months, which will ensure that we have a total supply of over 800,000 doses by November this year. The tender for that has been done in the usual way. I believe that it is sole supply, and it is being provided by a company that is contracted to do it for us.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I specifically asked the Minister whether she can assure New Zealanders that there will not be a delay in receiving supplies of these drugs. She referred to the fact that there was a timetable. She did not answer my question, which was intended to reassure New Zealanders that there will not be a delay as there was with the flu vaccine.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think I can give an assurance in that the flu vaccine had to be specially made, because each year the World Health Organization decides what should be in the flu vaccine, then we have to go to a manufacturer to make the vaccine. The antivirals are not in the same category.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister still consider that Pharmac has the balance right in the interests of New Zealanders when, at a time when Treasury projects that the average weekly wage is $554, adult sufferers of aggressive rheumatoid arthritis are paying in excess of $500 a week for medication that in Australia, in Britain, anywhere in the European Union, in the United States, and in Canada would be provided free of charge?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Pharmac does recognise that drugs can make a significant difference in the lives of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, in 2004 it approved funding for etanercept, one of the TNF inhibitor drugs for children under 18. It is now actively working with suppliers to reach an agreement to enable funding for adult patients, and access criteria for adults will be essentially the same as in Australia.
Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister give the House an absolute assurance that she did not take the answer provided to her by officials to Dr Cullen to change a single word in the answer, which meant that the effect of the answer was melted down so that Mr Dunne thought he was receiving the answer that he wanted to his question, but he was not? If she can give that assurance, why should Mr Dunne believe anything that she says or that this Government tells her—in light of Mr Tamihere’s article—and how does he know that he is not being made a fool of, again?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think that the Hon Peter Dunne has dealt with this Government and this Minister long enough to know that he will get a straight answer to a straight question.
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she still have confidence in her Minister of Police; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister of Police is a hard-working and conscientious Minister, and after all the attention that has been paid to 111 calls, in relation to the incident where 100 patrons were present at the Lone Star Cafe in Newmarket at 8.40 p.m. on Easter Monday at the time that the establishment was being held up by three gangsters, one with a sawn-off shotgun, how long did it take the police to come the less than 1 kilometre from the Newmarket Police Station to the Lone Star Cafe in Newmarket?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no information about the Lone Star Cafe in Newmarket. The member will have to put down a question on notice.
Dr Muriel Newman: Has the Prime Minister seen the report in this morning’s New Zealand Herald that a 111 call on Saturday night alerting the police to a dangerous confrontation in the suburb of Mount Roskill in Auckland was not acted on, and that if another member of the public had not called 111, no patrol car would have been sent to that incident, which has left two young men hospitalised, one in a critical condition, whereas if the first call had been properly responded to, neither young man would be in hospital; if so, given Mr Hawkins’ repeated assurances that the 111 system failures have been fixed, could she remind the House exactly why she has confidence in the Minister of Police?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My attention has been drawn to the Dominion Post report of the same incident. The police advise that there is an inquiry into this incident’s taking place, as well as, of course, the general inquiry going on into the 111 system.
Marc Alexander: How can the Prime Minister continue to have confidence in a Minister who has overseen a staffing crisis in police communication centres to such a degree that, for the first time since 2000-01, the number of staff leaving last year, for example, exceeded the number who had been recruited by 71 to 51?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Under the current Minister the number of people working in the police is up 1,080 and the budget is up 19.7 percent. That is a very major contribution to ensuring that policing is effective.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to Mr Tamihere’s comments about the Prime Minister’s emotional make-up, could she explain why it is fair to leave a Minister of Police without the resources to do the job—and that has been demonstrated on countless occasions—so that we have the tragic case in Auckland, as reported in the New Zealand Herald today, where a person may die; and why would we not advise the public that, rather than call 111, they should just call this number?
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Because part of that question was visual, some people in this House have no idea what the question was. We would like also to see the number.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member who asked the question like to complete the question for the listeners at home, if for no one else.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No.
Madam SPEAKER: No, the member declines.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With the greatest respect, just because United Future gets up and says it wants an answer—I do not know why; it is probably for the first time in its history—is no reason for me to do that. I have no accountability in terms of parliamentary responsibility as a Minister; it is the Prime Minister whom I am talking to, and she will know full well whose number that is.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say that the member does not have to explain his question any further. We accept that. I merely invited him to do so, for the information not only of members in this House but also of those listening. Would the Rt Hon Prime Minister now address the question.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in an earlier answer, the police budget, over five Budgets, is up 19.7 percent. To address the member’s question, I say that that is not leaving a Minister under-resourced.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Prime Minister stand by Mr Hawkins’ advice to this House on the number of unallocated cases at the various police districts?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that the Minister came to the House last week and made a correction to those answers.
9. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement yesterday that “we work very carefully with parties who are supporting our legislation.”; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes.
Gerry Brownlee: With regard to the John Tamihere article, can the Prime Minister confirm whether one of the pieces of legislation that the Government’s support partners were duped on was the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill of 2004; and does she agree with Mr Tamihere’s assessment of that legislation: “I think we f…ed up with our 2004 amendments to the Employment Relations Act. I think it’s very silly, a number of things that we did then, merely to give unions greater organizational capabilities.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, and no.
Gerry Brownlee: Why does the Prime Minister think Mr Tamihere made all these allegations in the article if none of them are true?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said, I consider that he has been under considerable stress.
Stephen Franks: What will the Prime Minister’s Government do for United Future in relation to February’s new law that lets film censors ban Christian videos that might make young homosexuals feel low self-esteem; or have United Future members not yet complained, because her Ministers are so clever that “they still think they got their clause in”, when in fact they voted for a bill that “melts down everything they wanted”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Over what must be now more than 970 days of dealing with United Future, I have found it to be very conscientious as a parliamentary party—and actually to take a more informed interest in what goes through this House than many.
Hon Peter Dunne: With regard to Mr Brownlee’s earlier example of the employment relations law reform legislation last year, does the Prime Minister recall that United Future actually voted against that legislation; if she does recall that, could she explain to the House and to Mr Brownlee how one could be “duped” about the wording of legislation that one votes against?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is very important to note that I was not at all specifying that United Future was the party concerned in that instance, and I think that that question is quite out of order.
Madam SPEAKER: I would have to look at the record. I recall that there was a reference, but I am happy to check it. Would the Prime Minister now please address the question.
Gerry Brownlee: If the question is wrong, how can the Prime Minister be asked to answer it? This is the sort of behaviour that Mr Tamihere is on about.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raised the question in a way that it would be in order: taking the example of the employment relations amendment legislation—
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How is it that now, without seeking leave, Mr Peter Dunne is re-asking his question? Either his question is in order and is put, or it is ruled out of order. He cannot suddenly just stand up, because he is the Government poodle, and ask another question.
Madam SPEAKER: It is perfectly in order for the Speaker to ask the member to redo the question. Would he please do it.
Rodney Hide: Madam Speaker, the point was that you had not asked him.
Madam SPEAKER: I did ask him.
Rodney Hide: When? He was halfway through—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. When the member asked whether he could re-ask the question, I said yes, please do the question again. So would the Hon Peter Dunne please ask the question.
Hon Peter Dunne: Taking the hypothetical example of the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, passed in 2004—which, I observe, United Future opposed—could the Prime Minister explain to the House how the act of opposing legislation means that members were duped by its proponents?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The whole intent of that question is to suggest that United Future was somehow accused of voting for the legislation and, therefore, were duped in the process. At no point in the question did I mention United Future. It is evident to everybody that a minority Government goes to various parties at different times in order to gather support for legislation. We know that United Future did not vote for that legislation, and I do not know why United Future is so upset about it. But for the Prime Minister then to be asked to answer a hypothetical question, when we all know that that situation did not happen, is quite ridiculous.
Rodney Hide: There is a more fundamental problem with that question. There can be no ministerial responsibility for whether Peter Dunne was duped, unless John Tamihere is telling the truth.
Madam SPEAKER: The member is perfectly entitled to ask a hypothetical question, and this would not be the first one that has been asked in this House. So would the question now please be completed, and the answer given.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You are significantly right in respect of Mr Dunne’s question but, despite our desire to see him get some points on the rack one of these days, the problem is that there is no prime ministerial responsibility for the question. That is the problem with it.
Hon Peter Dunne: The question sought confirmation from the Prime Minister that the act of opposing legislation could hardly imply one was duped into supporting it. The allegation behind the original question was that support parties had been duped into supporting legislation. I was rising with an example where that was not the case, and asking for the Prime Minister to explain to the House how others could possibly interpret it to be so.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I hesitate to disagree with my friend Mr Dunne, but I think Mr Peters is right on this one. The Prime Minister does not have responsibility for the consequences of the way another party voted. For example, the National Party frequently votes against legislation it secretly supports.
Hon Richard Prebble: I want to speak in support of Mr Dunne. He can ask the question, providing he can authenticate the various statements. The first statement he needs to authenticate is his voting record, which I am sure he can do. The second is whether he has been duped. I have the John Tamihere article and I am happy to table it so that he can ask the question.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank members for all their contributions. As I said, the member can ask a theoretical question. The question of whether there is ministerial responsibility has also been raised. I guess that could have been raised right from the outset of the many questions that have been asked in relation to this matter. I ask the Prime Minister to address the question briefly.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on that point of order. Is it a new point of order?
Rodney Hide: Yes. To clarify for the House, it is the basis of the ruling that makes the Prime Minister responsible for Peter Dunne, whether or not he is duped. It seems to me that you are accepting Richard Prebble’s request to table the document, and therefore we have to accept that the Prime Minister is responsible for whether the coalition partner is duped.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Can we please move on. Would the Rt Hon Prime Minister please address the question briefly.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm for the record that this particular Government bill was not supported by United Future and that therefore that party could not have been duped because it did not vote for the legislation. I am unable to explain that to Mr Brownlee because, as the ACT president said, he is “not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.”
Madam SPEAKER: That last comment was unnecessary and should be withdrawn.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am happy to withdraw that last comment, which I passed on from the president of ACT.
Madam SPEAKER: It has to be an unqualified withdrawal.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am happy to make an unqualified withdrawal.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister think that in the example outlined by Mr Franks with regard to the censorship legislation that becomes effective later this year, there is an example of Mr Tamihere’s allegation against Dr Cullen in action; in case she does not remember, Mr Tamihere said that Mr Cullen “can cut a deal on a piece of legislation, he can change a single word in a piece of legislation without those”—he uses a word that I will not use—“[coalition partners] knowing about it, and it melts down everything they wanted but they still think they got their clause in.”, when, clearly, in the case of this legislation the outcome is not what United Future would have wanted?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Absolutely not. I have known the Deputy Prime Minister for something close to 34 years and I know him as an exceptionally honest and straightforward member.
Question No. 10 to Minister
ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that the Minister with prime responsibility for New Zealand’s appointment to the World Bank is the Minister of Finance. Therefore this question should be addressed to the Minister of Finance.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, as the member knows, the Minister is entitled to allocate the question to whoever is appropriate in the Government. The question has gone to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the subject matter would generally be considered to be within that portfolio.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): When the question came through from the Clerk’s Office it was addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Government did not seek to transfer the question at all.
ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green): I submitted the question to the responsible Minister, fully expecting it to go to the Minister of Finance. I seek leave for this question to go to the Minister of Finance.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was addressed by the member to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and signed by a member of his party.
Madam SPEAKER: We will now proceed to the question.
10. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Will he reconsider New Zealand’s support of Paul Wolfowitz for the presidency of the World Bank following statements by the bank’s former chief economist, Joseph Stiglitz, that “The World Bank will once again become a hate figure. This could bring street protests and violence across the developing world.”; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): No. The member’s question has been overtaken by events. Last week Mr Wolfowitz was elected president of the World Bank unanimously by the board of the bank.
Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree with Joseph Stiglitz that this appointment will lead to the bank becoming “an explicit instrument of US foreign policy”, and why did New Zealand support this appointment when Mr Wolfowitz’s role as chief architect of the Iraq invasion, his attacks on New Zealand’s antinuclear stance, and his support of Indonesia’s undemocratic former President Suharto clearly show that he has a habit of deliberately opposing or undermining New Zealand’s foreign policy?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I do not agree with the statement by Joseph Stiglitz. I will explain to the member exactly how the election takes place, and then he will understand New Zealand’s vote. New Zealand is currently an executive director of the World Bank. As such, it represents a constituency of 13 different countries. Our requirement is to consult with each of those countries and find the consensus. The consensus was very clearly to support Mr Wolfowitz.
Tim Barnett: Is it the tradition that the United States nominates the president of the World Bank, and was its nomination in this case supported by the major contributing donor countries?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, it is the tradition that, as the major donor, the United States nominates the president of the World Bank. Its nomination was supported by all the major contributing countries to the World Bank—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan—and supported unanimously by all the executive directors. There were, of course, no other contending candidates.
Rod Donald: Is the Minister concerned that Paul Wolfowitz’s official biography on the US Department of Defense website fails to refer to development, poverty, AIDS, debt, or economic policy, and is he confident that a man whose major development project to date is the invasion of Iraq—a man who has absolutely no banking experience outside of using an automatic teller machine—has the right skills, experience, and vision to lead the World Bank?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think it is fair to say that Paul Wolfowitz has academic, public service, and management experience that he can bring to this position that should be very helpful. I also point out that one of the most acclaimed authors on the World Bank—in fact, under Mr Wolfensohn—has endorsed the Wolfowitz nomination, saying that Mr Wolfowitz is pragmatic on economics and passionate about democratisation in developing countries. I think it would be fair for the member to judge Mr Wolfowitz on his performance rather than on what he believes Mr Wolfowitz may or may not do.
Rod Donald: Does the Minister therefore believe that Paul Wolfowitz will be a good leader for the World Bank because of his deep concern for those living in poverty, or is it Mr Wolfowitz’s experience in helping US companies to grab Iraq’s oil profits that has left him well qualified to dole out lucrative World Bank contracts to those US business?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The policy of the World Bank, which is a vitally important organisation in terms of addressing the problems of poverty in the world, is not determined by one individual; it is determined by a board of governors. The World Bank has a board of directors, it has a mission statement, and it has a tradition. That bank has performed extraordinarily well in recent years, and I have no reason to believe that it will cease to do so now.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Did I hear the Minister correctly when he said that Germany, with a Green Foreign Minister, voted for Mr Wolfowitz?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer to that is yes. The Green Minister in Germany supported that nomination, as did every other country in the European Union, which, of course, represents the countries often most like-minded to New Zealand in international affairs.
Rod Donald: Can the Minister confirm that countries like France and Germany expressed concerns about that appointment up until they got a call from George Bush, and can he also enlighten the House as to whether the New Zealand Government took any account of the concerns of the World Bank Staff Association, which declared in no uncertain terms that it thought Paul Wolfowitz was an unsuitable appointment?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It would be deeply insulting to the major countries of the European Union to say that their minds were made up for them by another country. Those countries have established a track record in recent years of making up their own minds on various issues, often in contradiction to the United States.
11. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Police; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Hon Tony Ryall: Did the Prime Minister have discussions with Mr Hawkins over the past few days on his future role, or did she fear that she was not good with emotion and might go to pieces, and not turn up?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, and no.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Prime Minister aware of any difficulties or tensions between police headquarters and the Minister of Police?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why, considering that Mr Hawkins was kept in the police portfolio reportedly because Mr Tamihere, among others, threatened to resign, does she now regret not sacking Mr Hawkins last year and killing two birds with one stone?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The assumption in the member’s question is quite incorrect. I had no intention of sacking Mr Hawkins.
Ron Mark: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister of Police who was asked a simple written question: “What is the authorised staffing level at the Auckland Communications Centre, and what is the actual staffing level at today’s date?”, and who replied to such a simple question: “I have been advised that Police set target levels for the National Communications Service Centre, not for individual Communications Centres.”?; and does that sound like a believable answer from a competent Minister or the load of codswallop that everybody else thinks it is?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Ministers rely on staff liaising with the principal department to provide information for answers, and I imagine that that was the best that was received.
12. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What reports, if any, has he received on the Zimbabwe election held last week?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I have received reports from a number of different countries that had representatives in Zimbabwe for the election. Most reports suggest that although election day proceeded peacefully, the election itself can be considered neither free nor fair. The announced outcome of the election consequently is not accepted by New Zealand as reflecting a democratic mandate for the ZANU-PF Government of Robert Mugabe.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: On what basis does the New Zealand Government believe that the election was neither free nor fair?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There are a large number of factors. If I can touch on them briefly, firstly, the election took place in an environment of fear and intimidation that was fuelled by widespread human rights violations and misuse of the security forces, which deterred many citizens from exercising their democratic rights. Secondly, Opposition politicians experienced serious harassment. There was unequal access to State media, and many independent media outlets have been suppressed. Finally, there have also been post-election allegations of widespread electoral irregularities, including inaccurate voter lists and reports that many voters were turned away at the poll.