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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 6 April 2005

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

Wednesday, 6 April 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. John Tamihere—Investigate Interview
2. Public Service—Staff Numbers
3. John Tamihere—Investigate Interview
4. Work and Income—Industry Partnerships
5. John Tamihere—Investigate Interview
6. Pharmac—Subsidies
7. Traffic Policing—Detectives
8. Suicide—Reports
9. Police, Wellington—Staffing
10. 111 System—Lone Star Cafe, Newmarket
11. International Energy Agency—Oil Conservation
12. Land Transport New Zealand—Licensing Fraud in the Asian Community


Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

John Tamihere—Investigate Interview

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Has she had any meetings or discussions with Ministers maligned by John Tamihere in his Investigate magazine interview?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I meet and have discussions with my Ministers all the time.

Dr Don Brash: Is it not the case that John Tamihere is right when he says that the issues that motivate most of her Government members—union, gay, and Mâori rights—are not the concerns of the majority of New Zealanders?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The issues that motivate this Government, and that motivate most New Zealanders, are: getting unemployment down, which we have been particularly successful in doing; making sure there is fair labour law, which that member has never stood for; lifting minimum wages; increasing the statutory annual holidays to 4 weeks; and implementing paid parental leave so parents can spend some time with their new babies; and also Working for Families, which only this week is paying most families with family support another $25 a week for the first child and $15 for each other child.

Dr Don Brash: Is not the real reason that the Government is so upset at John Tamihere stating that her Government “champions values mainstream New Zealanders do not relate to” the fact that the truth hurts?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member knows that the truth hurts every time he sees an opinion poll in the papers.

Dr Don Brash: Has her Government gone too far in pushing minority interests, to the detriment of more pressing concerns of mainstream New Zealanders?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government wants to go even further in lowering unemployment, improving incomes for families, making sure that the health system works even better, that children get an even better education—all things that would go down the drain because Mr Key has promised to cut public spending, teachers, and nurses.

Public Service—Staff Numbers

2. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Minister of State: What reports, if any, has he seen on changes to the number of staff employed in the public service?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): I have seen a report arguing that many of the people employed in the public service are “surplus to requirements” and should be sacked in order to fund tax cuts for the rich. Some people want to turn back the clock to when Government departments were so short of resources that business people who wanted tax returns were left on the phone for hours, when students were left begging for food at food banks because their loan and allowance applications had not been processed, and when Government policy decisions were made on the whim of Tory Ministers, rather than on any sound policy advice. I agree with Judith Collins when she said that Gerry Brownlee is as useless as tits on a bull. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Is there an objection?

Gerry Brownlee: We just want to know the rules.

Madam SPEAKER: It was a quote, as I understand it, that was made.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not a quote; it is not accurate. The only person who has said that in this House is the Prime Minister. She speaks like that; the rest of us do not.

Madam SPEAKER: My understanding was that it was in response to a quote that was made. Many quotes have been made in this House, and in the context of this debate to stop one we would have to stop them all.

Dianne Yates: In what key areas has the number of Government employees increased since 1999?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We have employed 2,700 extra teachers, over and above those needed for roll growth, 950 extra medical doctors, 3,300 extra nurses, over 800 extra police, and well over 1,000 extra police staff. I want to know from John Key which one of those he is going to cut.

John Key: How does the Minister interpret the advice he recently received from Treasury, which stated that increases in State sector output do not appear to have been achieved as a result of any increases in costs, and is this one of the reasons why his finance Minister, Dr Cullen, is now embarking on a programme of cutting at least $400 million per annum from future baselines, with or without his help?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not going to leak Budget secrets, but I assure the member that next year’s baselines are higher than this. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Interjections are permitted, but not barracking. Would the Minister please continue with his answer.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Having looked at the Minister of Finance, I think it is possible to share with the House the fact that next year’s baselines will be higher than this year’s—not a $400 million cut, as said by that member.

Hon Marian Hobbs: Has the Minister had any Wellington representations on John Key’s promise to cut the number of public servants to pay for tax increases?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that Mr Blumsky supports Mr English, and that is why John Key is attacking Wellington.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister clarify the situation by stating how many people were employed in the public service when the Government came into power, how many are employed now, and how the Government justifies the significant percentage increase?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I could go into all the details, but it is fair to say the overall growth is running at about the same rate of growth as the rate of growth in jobs, generally.

Sue Kedgley: Will he be supporting the Greens’ flexible working-hours member’s bill to allow employees with young or disabled children the right to request to work flexibly, given his Government’s stated commitment to help State servants—indeed, all New Zealanders—achieve a better work-life balance, which he announced yesterday in his Work-Life Balance: a resource for State Services?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Government will certainly support the bill to the select committee. In fact, a flexible work approach is quite common amongst many members across the Chamber!

Tariana Turia: What explanation does the Minister offer for the fact that the median salary of Mâori staff in the public service is only 92 percent of non-Mâori staff, a gap that is particularly significant within the manager occupation category?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Mâori staff in the public service tend to have lower qualifications and less experience, and there are not as many of them in senior management as a result of that. As a result of all of that, salaries on average are lower.

John Tamihere—Investigate Interview

3. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported statement that she considered many of the comments about her Government by John Tamihere in his Investigate magazine interview untrue; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because I do.

Gerry Brownlee: Has she then reconsidered her previously stated position that she wants politicians to “say what they mean and mean what they say”, or does that premise only hold true for persons other than John Tamihere?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In a democracy, people are free to say what they mean and mean what they say. They also have to recognise that that may have implications for the way their team regards them.

Gerry Brownlee: Will she require Mr Tamihere to say that what he stated about her Government in his interview with Ian Wishart was incorrect, as part of her requirement for an acceptable apology from him?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no ministerial responsibility for Mr Tamihere.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That has to be just the biggest hiding from a question that we could possibly hear, and an obfuscation of the worst kind. This is a situation where a member has stated publicly that he may resign over this issue. The Prime Minister has laid down, for the information of the nation, the conditions under which Mr Tamihere may come back. If he cannot accept those conditions, quite clearly the Government’s thin majority means it is in trouble. For the Prime Minister to say that she has no responsibility in a ministerial sense is a complete nonsense.

Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister should have raised the matter as a point of order—as opposed to an answer to a question—that she had no ministerial authority. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 131/6, which makes it quite clear that a “Prime Minister is not answerable for actions taken in a non-ministerial capacity, whether as Leader of the Opposition or as leader of a political party.”

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Might you explain to the House the inconsistency in your determination about ministerial responsibility, whereby previously the Minister of State Services was able to make all sorts of comments about Tories and about what MPs on the Opposition side of the House said or might have said, and that was OK, but when it comes to the Prime Minister you take a very narrow definition of what ministerial responsibility requires. I simply ask for some consistency from the Chair as to the responsibilities of a Minister.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That big issue is actually a relatively simple one. Of course, the question in this latter case was whether a question was in order. The member is now raising, somewhat late, the issue of whether an answer was in order. A question has to be about a matter relating to ministerial responsibility. If a Minister adds certain matters in an answer members may object if they wish to, but they have to be quick to catch it.

Gerry Brownlee: When it comes to a Government holding a majority in the House, surely that is the ultimate responsibility of the Prime Minister. Therefore, as a Minister she should have responsibility for circumstances she can control—which this question goes to the heart of—when it comes to the ability to maintain that majority.

Hon Richard Prebble: Madam Speaker, the ruling you have given is, of course, correct, but I draw your attention to the peculiar facts of this case. In this case we have someone who is an ex-Minister, and who is out on—I do not know what they call it—a sort of study leave.

Hon Member: Psychiatric leave.

Hon Richard Prebble: Psychiatric leave! That is my fault, Madam Speaker; I should not have asked for assistance. The question of whether the member can come back, in relation to that question put forward by Mr Brownlee, obviously includes his returning to Cabinet. The idea that the Prime Minister does not have any role in her Cabinet—well, it is a novel one, but it is not one that has ever been argued by the Prime Minister before. I suggest to you, therefore, that the comments made by Mr Tamihere and the conditions that the Prime Minister will set before she will have him back—even though the Labour caucus may vote members up, the Prime Minister has a say in those matters—are perfectly reasonable matters to put to her. She may not like answering the question, but I think it is reasonable, certainly, that that question should be allowed and that that answer should not be allowed to stand.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That is a very interesting point, but of course the question did not raise the issue of Mr Tamihere re-entering Cabinet. Had that issue been raised, of course it would have raised a further interesting question, because in the Labour caucus the Prime Minister does not appoint Ministers to Cabinet but merely allocates their portfolios. So, perhaps to help the member if he tries to ask such a question, I tell him that he will need to phrase it in terms of extending the size of the Cabinet, thereby creating a vacancy on which the Labour caucus will then vote.

Madam SPEAKER: I have had enough comment, and I thank members for their contributions. The fact still remains, however, that the Prime Minister was not responsible for the matter that was asked about in the question. In respect of the subsidiary point that a member—I think it was Dr Smith—raised relating to the Minister of State Services, I say that in his answer to the question the Minister did address it. In the course of doing so he made a comment, but no formal objection was taken to that comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you tell us, then, when the Prime Minister is not responsible, as the Prime Minister, for the statements she makes? The statement that this question was based on—remembering that we cannot ask questions without having a fair basis for asking them—was from the Prime Minister’s own comments at a press conference. If the Prime Minister is speaking at a press conference about a matter that goes to the heart of her ability to command a majority in this House, then where is the point where she is no longer responsible, as a Minister, for her answers?

Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister would have been responsible if the matter had related to a member of Cabinet. But it did not, so the question has to go back to ministerial responsibility.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a new point of order?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It is a point of order in response to the ruling you have given, with respect to the—

Madam SPEAKER: Is the member challenging the ruling?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, I am not; I wish to identify the Standing Order that you are required to enforce as Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry—would the member say that again?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I want to draw your attention to the Standing Order you are required to enforce. Until you have heard my point of order, I think you should hear me out. Madam Speaker, you have often raised complaints about the Opposition repeatedly raising points of order during question time. Yet you are now saying to us that if we do not raise a point of order, you will let Ministers stray well outside the Standing Orders. It is your responsibility as Speaker to enforce the Standing Orders. We have had several answers from Ministers that directly contradict Standing Order 370. So I require your clarification of whether you see it as your responsibility to enforce Standing Order 370, which states that members, in answering questions, must be concise, must be confined to the subject matter, and must not include any discriminatory references to any member, or any offensive or unparliamentary expression. Clearly, Trevor Mallard’s response earlier did breach that Standing Order. Am I to take it that unless we jump to our feet every single time to take a point of order, you will simply let Ministers get away with breaching Standing Order 370?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member raises an interesting and a fair question in terms of Standing Order 370. In that context I will also refer you, Madam Speaker, to Standing Order 364 in relation to the content of questions, which must not contain “… arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions or expressions of opinion”. If Speakers, off their own bat, enforced both those Standing Orders very strictly, we might well find ourselves reverting to the situation we once famously had under Speaker Wall, when only one supplementary question was allowed in the entire question time. Some reasonable degree of free flow is required on that. But if the member wishes to take a very strict approach, I will be happy to police the questions and he can police the answers.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank members for their contributions. It is true that I have not chosen to strictly enforce every Standing Order, on the grounds that I thought it was important that members exercise considerable freedom in the House in relation to the questions that they ask and the answers that are given. However, if it is the wish of the House that I do strictly enforce them, I am happy to do so.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a new point of order?

Gerry Brownlee: Yes, it is. Yesterday when Mr Dunne asked what you determined was a hypothetical question to the Prime Minister and challenged that decision, you allowed him the opportunity to reword his hypothetical question in such a way that the Prime Minister could answer it. I ask for the same courtesy today.

Madam SPEAKER: I have no difficulty with that, at all.

Gerry Brownlee: How would the Prime Minister react should the Labour caucus choose to re-elect Mr Tamihere to a Cabinet position if Mr Tamihere, in his apology, has not stated that all the comments he made in the Ian Wishart article were incorrect?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As Prime Minister, I accept the decisions my caucus makes on electing members to Cabinet. I am happy to hear the member confidently predict the return of a Labour-led Government.

Dr Wayne Mapp: In what way is John Tamihere’s statement in the Investigate article that unions have increased their power after the announcement of the Labour list untrue?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Labour has selected a very talented and diverse team of candidates.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that for that last question to have any truth at all, Labour would have to increase its percentage of the vote above what it received at the last election, and is she grateful of that indication from the National Party about its confidence in that matter?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I heartily agree with that. I can say—

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: The point of order will be that that question was addressed in her capacity as the party leader. Is that right?

Simon Power: It’s not bad.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you very much. I am pleased I have the confidence of the member. That was not a legitimate question.

Brian Connell: Why does the Prime Minister think that the letters to the editor in today’s New Zealand Herald and Dominion Post, which are representative of mainstream opinion, are so resoundingly positive about Mr Tamihere’s comments in the Investigate magazine article?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am sure that the National Party research unit has been in overdrive on the letters page. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: The question will be heard in silence.

Peter Brown: Will the Prime Minister clarify the situation? If it is true that John Tamihere was not telling the truth, as the Prime Minister said a few moments ago, then he must have been telling lies. If he has been telling lies and the Labour caucus wants him back in Cabinet, will the Prime Minister tell us whether that is an acceptable standard for a Government of New Zealand?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have told the House many times before, the Labour Party elects Ministers to its Cabinet. It elects people who are team players and who have ability.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister remember her statement that her Government would bring in new standards of behaviour—[Interruption] Should I start again?

Madam SPEAKER: If the member’s own side will permit him to do so and will hear his question in silence, yes. The member will please start again.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister remember her statement that her Government would bring in new standards of behaviour, and does that preclude people who she says are telling lies from being in her Cabinet?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is not a phrase I would use, but I would cheerfully compare the record of this Government with that of the Government the member served any day.

Work and Income—Industry Partnerships

4. NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Tainui) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has he received about Work and Income’s Industry Partnerships Programme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I have received advice that in their first 9 months of operation these partnerships, with industries as diverse as hospitality, roading, track maintenance, bus and coach, retail, plumbing, national road carrier, and meat, have now helped 500 people to get off benefits and into skilled jobs in those areas. Initial projections for the Industry Partnerships Programme set a goal of getting 45 percent of participants off a benefit within 9 months. That goal has been surpassed; after 9 months, 60 percent of participants are now exiting the benefit system.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm what else is being done to meet the demand for labour that has been identified by employers?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We are now seeking to gear our work towards meeting the demand set by employers, through initiatives such as the regional work that Work and Income is undertaking in conjunction with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs, seasonal initiatives to better manage the demand for labour in seasonal industries, the Mobile Employment Service in rural areas, mature focus case management, the Modern Apprenticeships scheme, the huge increases in industry training, and the very successful Gateway programme in schools. Around industry partnerships, I intend to announce two further partnerships in the immediate future.

John Tamihere—Investigate Interview

5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that John Tamihere defamed the Hon Dr Michael Cullen when he said: “You’ve got Cullen—we wouldn’t survive without Cullen—he can cut a deal on a piece of legislation, he can change a single word in a piece of legislation without those other … [parties] knowing about it, and it melts down everything they wanted but they still think they got their clause in.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because I believe that it does.

Rodney Hide: Can the Prime Minister confirm, then, that Michael Cullen told the Mâori Labour MPs that the foreshore and seabed legislation confirmed kaitiakitanga over the foreshore and seabed and provided proper process when, in fact, the legislation provides only for waka launching, and collecting shellfish and buckets of sand; if that is not duplicitous, what is?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am advised by the Deputy Prime Minister that that reference was to the ancestral connection orders, which, of course, at a later point were taken out of the bill at the request of the Mâori members.

Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Dr Don Brash. [Interruption] Dr Don Brash’s question will be heard in silence.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister assure the House that Dr Cullen has never amended a piece of legislation to water down or change the effect of provisions that support parties thought they had agreed to; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know that Dr Cullen deals with support parties openly, honestly, fairly, and respectfully, and I have no better support than to quote the leader of United Future, who dismissed allegations of duplicitous dealings as absurd, and also the co-leader of the Green Party, who said that the passage being quoted certainly did not match that party’s experience.

Heather Roy: Was it Michael Cullen double-crossing United Future that saw it voting for the definition of “family”—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are in trouble in terms of the Standing Orders. Standing Order 364 states that one should not make any “discreditable references to the House or any member of Parliament”. To accuse a member of Parliament of double-crossing is certainly discreditable. This is where we run into trouble when we demand strict interpretations of questions and answers.

Rodney Hide: We have an interesting situation now, because that is precisely what the primary question says; John Tamihere says precisely that Michael Cullen double-crosses the other parties, and we will get ourselves into a great deal of trouble if we cannot actually refer to that article, as I did in the primary question.

Madam SPEAKER: If a member objects to a personal reference, then it is the practice that it must be withdrawn. There has been an objection. The member will please withdraw the reference and rephrase the question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on that. Is this a new point of order?

Rodney Hide: No, I am asking for your guidance. As we cannot say “double-crossing”, could we say “cheating” or “duplicitous”? What word would you prefer?

Madam SPEAKER: If a member objects, on a strict interpretation of the rules, the reference must be withdrawn. The member will please withdraw it and rephrase the question.

Heather Roy: I withdraw, and I ask the Prime Minister whether it was Michael Cullen tricking the United Future party that saw it voting for the definition of “family” in the Families Commission Bill; if not, why else would a Christian party vote for that definition?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The answer to the first part of the question is “obviously not”. The answer to the second part is that United Future is responsible for how it votes and on what.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Prime Minister recall, with regard to the last question, that what in fact happened was that negotiation took place between the Government and United Future on those phrases in the bill as originally presented, that the bill was amended when it came back to the House to get a mutually agreeable position on that clause, and that most of the phrases that were suggested came from this side rather than from her side?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can absolutely confirm what the leader of United Future has said. Further, his party’s willingness—as, in so many cases, the Green Party’s willingness—to work with this Government has made it a successful, long-lived, stable Government for New Zealand.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In the interests of protecting Dr Cullen’s reputation—

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?

Ron Mark: Yes, it is. It is to do with people who might impugn the reputation of a right honourable member in this House, which you are responsible for ensuring does not happen. Now that we have heard a direct admission from the leader of United Future that indeed it was he who tricked his own caucus, surely the member should be required to withdraw that remark and apologise to Dr Cullen.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Prime Minister sympathise with the Progressive Coalition members feeling short-changed when Dr Cullen fought tooth and nail in Cabinet to block 4 weeks’ annual leave but now claims all the credit?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can say that Dr Cullen never took any such stance.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that my behaviour in terms of the undertakings I give, not merely to coalition parties, but opposition parties in the House, contrasts very substantially with promising not to sell any State assets before an election and then leading the sale of them afterwards, as Mr Prebble did in 1987?

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. All questions require to be authenticated, and that assurance was not given by me—

Hon Member: Wasn’t it?

Hon Richard Prebble: No, it most certainly was not. The person who is doing the double-crossing is the person who is asking the question. But the second point is that I realise that Helen Clark, from your ruling, is not responsible for Mr Tamihere, but how come she is now responsible for me?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that I want no responsibility whatsoever for the member.

Stephen Franks: How can Mr Dail Jones have been persuaded that the Mâori Land Court has no jurisdiction to hear the Whakatôhea claim to control 50 kilometres of Whakatâne beach, when John Tamihere, who sold the deal to Mâori, thinks that Judge Joe Williams is dead right to take the claim, unless this law, too, is another of Dr Cullen’s clever dupings of a gullible temporary ally?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would say that there are two people in this House who know the foreshore and seabed legislation inside out; one is Dr Michael Cullen, and other is Dail Jones, who is very conversant with it.

Kenneth Wang: Were not changes made to the amendments to the Resource Management Act, after Jeanette Fitzsimons had chaired the committee and had made recommendations, exactly the sort of duplicitous behaviour John Tamihere has bragged about; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am afraid I cannot make head nor tail of the member’s question.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member like to repeat the question?

Kenneth Wang: Were not changes made to the amendments to the Resource Management Act, after Jeanette Fitzsimons had chaired the committee and made recommendations, exactly the sort of duplicitous behaviour John Tamihere has bragged about; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member has not been here very long, but chairs of select committees report bills back to the House. It is quite common after that for Supplementary Order Papers to come in, and for the Government to look for support to pass them.

Gerry Brownlee: If New Zealand First was not duped over the foreshore and seabed legislation, why has the Government not been more vigorous in challenging Judge Joe Williams’ decision to hear the Whakatôhea claim?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am advised by the Attorney-General that the Government certainly is contesting issues in the court.

Dail Jones: Is it not the usual practice for any court, whether it is a District Court, a High Court, a disputes tribunal, or the Mâori Land Court, to accept any documents that are filed by it, and for that court subsequently to make a decision as to whether the application is right or wrong, because that is the basic principle of English justice, the rule of law, and matters that New Zealand First stands for, but which neither the National Party, nor ACT, seem to understand?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.Madam SPEAKER: Point of order, Gerry Brownlee.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Gerry Brownlee: No, I have been called. [Interruption] No, there are new rules around here. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the members sit down. The member’s question seemed very wide of the original question. Could he please rephrase it very succinctly.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before you get the member Dail Jones to withdraw the inappropriate remarks he made at the end of his question, I think you should take issue with Dr Cullen. The fact is that you called me and he stood on his feet and absolutely barracked in the most uncontrolled manner, bringing disorder to the House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member sat in his chair and tried to raise a point of order without rising and seeking the call. Whether you called him is irrelevant, Madam Speaker. He cannot raise a point of order that way. Of course, we have no trouble if question time takes a long time today.

Rodney Hide: It may well have been that Mr Brownlee called inappropriately. The fact of the matter remains that you called Gerry Brownlee. He had started his point of order. I can understand Michael Cullen losing his temper these days. However, he stood up on a point of order and barracked, howled, screamed, and yelled at Mr Brownlee through the point of order, and indeed, at you, Madam Speaker. The reality is that Michael Cullen should be the one you are censuring. Because certainly, you cannot have two members on their feet speaking during a called point of order. The intent of Michael Cullen was not just to intimidate Gerry Brownlee, which will never work, it was actually to intimidate the Speaker; I take very, very grave offence at Dr Michael Cullen’s behaviour during that point of order, and you should hold him to account.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. The Hon Dr Michael Cullen was right. I should not have called the member, because he was seated. I did call the member, however, so would the member please give the House the benefit of his point of order.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Is it a new one?

Rodney Hide: It is absolutely new. Are you now saying, Madam Speaker, that if a member disagrees with a point of order, it is OK to take to his or her feet and shout and scream like a schoolboy throwing a tantrum and not getting his way, and you stand up after that and say that Michael Cullen was quite right. That cannot be in order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I certainly apologise to you. I have no intention of intimidating you, but I would be very happy to raise further points of order when attempts are made to intimidate you, and that particular member is by far the worst offender in that respect.

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I do not think that we need any more. We have lost track of what the original point of order was. I have ruled on that. I have invited Mr Brownlee—

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. There is another point of order ahead of the member.

Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker, as it happens you have probably sorted out the matter. As I understand it, you did ask Mr Jones to withdraw the remarks he made at the end of his question. We thank you for that.

Madam SPEAKER: Precisely, and I asked him whether he would please—

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think that it is actually an important matter. All Speakers have said that if a member is raising a point of order, the one thing that is completely out of order—and for which the censure is normally being sent out of the House—is to rise from one’s seat and to barrack the person making the point of order. It may well be that perhaps Dr Cullen is right, that perhaps you should not have called Mr Brownlee, but that is not the point. You did call him. Dr Cullen was absolutely out of order, and he cannot get out of it by saying that he apologises to you. In fact, he has to apologise to the House, and at a minimum, I think that you should ask Dr Cullen to withdraw and apologise.

You might consider whether some other, further sanction should be required, but for you to decide to pass on, well, I just say to you that if that situation arises later, and it is an Opposition member, we will have complete disorder. I really think you should think hard about your deciding that Dr Cullen has the right, and the sole right, to rise in his place and object to what is actually a ruling of yours. You called Gerry Brownlee, so his abuse that he hurtled at Mr Brownlee was abuse at you. Of course, apologies are not made just to the Speaker; they are made to the whole House, and the proper way to do it is to say: “I withdraw and apologise.”—not to add further abuse against an ACT member who was in no way involved in this incident.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During that point of order Mr Prebble did exactly what Mr Hide has done on a number of occasions: he said that if you did not do certain things and if you did other things, there would be disorder. That in itself is out of order. Members cannot rise on a point of order and threaten to create disorder if they do not get the ruling they like.

Madam SPEAKER: The Hon Michael Cullen did apologise. I heard him withdraw and apologise, even if others did not. I accepted that apology and we were moving forward. I suggest that is what we do now.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: A new point of order?

Hon Richard Prebble: Absolutely. I am raising a point of order against the statements made by Dr Cullen under a point of order. He suggested that I was threatening the Chair, and I most certainly refute that. In fact, I was rising to support the Chair, and to give you the advice that if we were to create an unfortunate precedent, in the future it would be used. That is not threatening the Chair; that is just my giving the advice that I have. If Dr Cullen had been here for a little longer, he would have known that that was excellent advice.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Apart from the obvious point that I actually outrank the member in terms of continuous service in this House, could I point out to him that, as so often with Mr Prebble, he has quietly forgotten half of what he said. He actually said that if members did certain things, then disorder would follow. There was a clear intention to indicate that disorder would follow from certain members, of which he was one. That is a threat we have heard rather too often in this House over recent weeks—that unless certain rulings are obtained, then certain action will flow—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would Judith Collins—sorry, Sandra Goudie—please leave the House for talking during a point of order.

Sandra Goudie withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It is a matter I do feel quite strongly about, because we have seen, on a number of occasions recently, members effectively state that unless you give the ruling they want, trouble will follow in some form or another. Mr Prebble actually said that. He might have forgotten he said it, but that is actually what he implied in his original point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I will rule on it—

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: Mr Franks, I am on my feet. I have heard enough discussion on this particular point of order. Once the Speaker has decided she has heard enough argument on a point of order, that is the end of the matter. I will now rule on the point of order. I want to assure the House that the Speaker does not feel intimidated by the comments that have been made, but I also wish to assure the House that in future the rules will be applied much more rigidly. I ask all members who have an objection to anything to please raise it by standing in their seats and calling for a point of order. Could we now please move on.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am obliged to you for your ruling, and if you are now going to rule more strictly, it is absolutely out of order for Dr Cullen to get up on a point of order and suggest that I was intimidating the Chair. I take very grave exception to that, and I believe he should be asked to withdraw those remarks and apologise for having made them.

Madam SPEAKER: Mr Prebble, if you did not intend to threaten the Chair, then your word is accepted, and I have accepted it. Let us now move on.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The rules—many, many pages of these rules—turn on conduct that tends to disorder. It is perfectly appropriate, without raising the slightest imputation of threat—or even appearing to give credence to it by suggesting that you are willing, because of the rules, to accept Mr Prebble’s denial—for any member of this House to urge you to a certain course of action because doing otherwise might tend to disorder. We watched disorder in the House, from this end. We took no part in it. In the course of one member’s further point of order, reference was made to us as though we were responsible. You have now just made a comment to Mr Prebble that, in the conventions of speech in this House, implies that you are making some concession by allowing him to refute an imputation that he did not make. I wanted to take a point of order to urge that no ruling be made that even intimated that one could not raise the prospect of disorder in a point to the Speaker. It is disorder that most of those rules around inferences and imputations, or criticisms of others, are oriented round, and we must not be constrained by someone taking a point to say we cannot even raise it.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but he is relitigating the point that has been decided.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to draw to your attention the issue of the apology from Dr Cullen. Yesterday the Prime Minister was required to withdraw and apologise. She used the wrong words, you made her go back and do it again—quite appropriately—and that was accepted by the House. I think if you look at Hansard, you will find that Dr Cullen has not stood and withdrawn and apologised to the House. What he did do was to get up and apologise to you, and he made that quite specific. Whether he wants to apologise to you is his business; it is nothing to do with the order of the House. The requirement for an apology is that a member stand, withdraw, and apologise without qualification.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I am afraid the member is wrong. I said: “I withdraw and apologise.”, and then I raised a point of order.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to reflect on two points. The first is that Mr Prebble quite rightly took grave offence at the comments that Dr Michael Cullen made, and I believe that you actually sided with Richard Prebble in that. But the remedy is simple: Michael Cullen has to withdraw and apologise for what he said in his point of order. He has failed to do that. I shall make a second observation, which I ask you to reflect on. Gerry Brownlee was giving a point of order; Michael Cullen stood up and barracked him from his seat. Michael Cullen was asked to withdraw and apologise to the House, which I believe he did. Sandra Goudie, during a point of order, just made a comment. She did not get an opportunity to withdraw and apologise; you sent her out. I think you made the right choice in respect of Sandra Goudie, but how come Michael Cullen is not out of here?

Madam SPEAKER: The member is just relitigating the point of order.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Is it a new point of order?

Rodney Hide: It is my first point of order. Why is Michael Cullen not being required to withdraw and apologise to Mr Prebble?

Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on that matter. The Minister did withdraw and apologise. I accepted that there was no intimidation intended. We will now move on to Dail Jones’ supplementary question.

Dail Jones: Is it not normal practice for any court to accept any application that is lodged before it, and to deal with it accordingly?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I accept the member’s word and defer to his knowledge of legal matters, which is considerable.

Dr Muriel Newman: Can she deny that the Hon Phil Goff arranged for a $900,000 project for safer community councils to be knocked back by a Cabinet committee, only to resurrect it at the full Cabinet, where the funding was taken out of the $2 million closing the gaps project Te Rangatira with Te Rûnanga o Raukawa, and what is that if it is not duplicitous?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think we are still on question No. 5.

Madam SPEAKER: We are on question No. 5

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Indeed, question No. 5 is about Mr Tamihere’s comments about me and nobody else. To try to expand this question out to deal with other members of Cabinet is, I suggest, beyond the scope of the original question.

Hon Richard Prebble: We are aware that Dr Cullen, in addition to his serious duties as Leader of the House, is also the Minister of Finance. If there was a switching of financial matters from one vote to another, it would have required the attention of the Minister of Finance, and that is implicit within the question. This is definitely a reference to Mr Cullen and whether he is too clever.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say that that was ingenious but, let me say, at the margins. Would the Prime Minister please address the question.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no knowledge whatsoever of the matters the member has raised. If she wishes to explore them, she should put down questions on notice to the relevant Ministers.

Hon Richard Prebble: Reflecting on that answer and other answers that she has given, does she accept the dilemma that the House is in? A former Cabinet Minister and an honourable member of this House has given a 4-page interview making many, many allegations that, I understand, Mr Tamihere stands by, and she just gets up in the House and says that they are not true, and will not go through each allegation, but yesterday she actually told us that one allegation in the article is true—that Dr Cullen is clever. Given the fact that she is not prepared to deal with each allegation, how is the House to decide what is true and what is not, and why does she not do what would be done in the British House of Commons in this situation: simply rise and make, as she can, a ministerial statement under Standing Order 341, and go through each allegation and tell us which one is true and which one is not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would be very surprised if the member could draw the House’s attention to any ministerial statement in the House of Commons responding to some comments made by a back-bencher to a journalist over lunch, with half a glass of wine.

Rodney Hide: Has John Tamihere advised her that National’s Richard Worth has been in active discussion with him about joining the National Party as a Mâori MP, or is that something else that John Tamihere has not told her about?

Madam SPEAKER: That question does not relate to a ministerial responsibility. It deals with the role as party leader.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Having said that, it might be handy to know, because Mr Worth himself would like to know where that story came from.

Madam SPEAKER: We all know that that was not a point of order, but the point has been made.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is quite easy: Richard Worth can get up and make a personal explanation—

Madam SPEAKER: That is also not a point of order.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Hon Trevor Mallard has made all sorts of cheap shots across the House today using my name, and, in fact, you used my name when you meant another member of Parliament. I would like that Minister to be asked to withdraw and apologise for the imputation that I would have made such a comment.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; I did not hear what that comment was, and I am sitting quite close to him.

Judith Collins: Well, he is right beside you, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, that is right and I genuinely did not hear it.

Judith Collins: He said that the comment that John Tamihere had been asked by Richard Worth to join the National Party had come from Judith Collins, and I would like him to withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Did the Minister say that?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I did say “Judith Collins.”, and I am prepared to withdraw and apologise for—

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, that is all we need. [Interruption] You have withdrawn and apologised unequivocally for what you said.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A member cannot qualify a withdrawal and apology. The member should just stand up and apologise.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This is actually quite important, because what Ms Collins claims the Minister said—and it is hard sometimes to hear across the House—he says he did not say. He said he simply said “Judith Collins”. One cannot be required to withdraw and apologise for something one did not say, and that is why the Minister indicated what he did say, before withdrawing and apologising for it.

Judith Collins: I do not think the House should be fooled into thinking that Trevor Mallard just spontaneously says “Judith Collins.” every time he looks over this side. Maybe he says it in his dreams, but I do not think he says it in the House! [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Right, settle down; I know it is members’ day and members have little else to do. Does the member want the Minister to withdraw and apologise?

Judith Collins: Yes, I do.

Madam SPEAKER: He has done that, I did not hear any equivocation of that, but would the Minister do it again without further comment, so we can please move on.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw and apologise.

Pharmac—Subsidies

6. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Health: Is she satisfied that Pharmac’s current approach to subsidising pharmaceuticals gives adequate weight to future savings in health and welfare expenditure; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes, Pharmac is careful to ensure that any cost offsets in health are taken into consideration when it makes funding decisions.

Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister reconcile that answer with the fact that research shows that for every dollar spent on pharmaceuticals, $3.85 is saved on other surgical and medical procedures, and also with the comments made by the chief executive of Pharmac that: “Pharmac must remember that every dollar spent on pharmaceuticals is potentially a dollar that cannot be spent elsewhere in the health sector.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There are, and can be, cost savings from pharmaceuticals. Health costs can include hospitalisation, surgery, or entry into nursing homes. However, not all funding decisions result in savings elsewhere, and sometimes those savings can take years before they take effect. For example, we now fund quite a large number of New Zealanders with statins, which reduce cholesterol. But at this point in time we continue to need a large number of heart operations. In the future we may well get those benefits; they are not captured at this point.

Steve Chadwick: Is the Minister aware of any example of costs being offset in the health sector by Pharmac’s funding decisions?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Pharmac began funding Tiotropium for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from February 2005—an investment of $33 million over 5 years. About 40 percent of this cost will be offset by an expected reduction in people admitted to hospital with respiratory problems. We have not achieved that saving yet, but it is expected.

Barbara Stewart: Does she consider it satisfactory that Pharmac’s monopoly on drug purchasing results in doctors’ treatment decisions being dependent upon Pharmac approval—for example, the use of TNF inhibitors for rheumatoid arthritis?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Doctors have the right to prescribe any medicine that has been approved by the regulator—Medsafe. Usually they will try to prescribe a medicine that has a full subsidy or a partial subsidy, but they are not restricted in what they can prescribe.

Sue Kedgley: Why is that despite high numbers of adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals, this Government has not made it compulsory for consumer information on possible adverse reactions to be provided with all medicines, nor has it followed Australia’s example and funded pharmacists to review medicines being taken by high users to check for possible adverse reactions and to recommend necessary changes?

Hon ANNETTE KING: When prescribing, doctors are very aware of adverse reactions, and I would be very surprised if most doctors, when prescribing, do not advise their patient of those adverse reactions. In fact, if there are adverse reactions we have a centre for adverse reactions to medicine, which monitors the side effects of drugs reported not only by prescribers and pharmacists but also by patients.

Hon Peter Dunne: Why does the Minister remain so satisfied with Pharmac’s performance, when it is borne in mind that in the developed world only Portugal and Japan have less access to new medicines than New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: We can always do better, but I think the member would be most concerned if the cost of pharmaceuticals was to spiral out of control and we were unable to provide many of the other procedures and health services that New Zealanders want. I find it interesting that we now have countries like Belgium, the United States, and Canada looking very carefully at what New Zealand does in pharmaceuticals, because they are finding it very difficult to be able to pay for them.

Hon Peter Dunne: Would the establishment of a national medicines policy that seeks to ensure appropriate balances between pharmaceutical policy, curative care, and other surgical and medical procedures, be one of the ways in which we could do better; if so, why has she, so far, refused to do any work on implementing such a policy in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree with the member that there is a need to do work on the long-term sustainability of health funding, which includes pharmaceuticals. Certainly, the Prime Minister announced such work in December, and she is supported very strongly by the Minister of Finance and the health Ministers. But it would be unfair to say that we do not have a pharmaceutical framework in New Zealand. It is made up of, first of all, Medsafe, which regulates our pharmaceuticals, then Pharmac, which manages the funding through an evidence-based assessment from adverse reaction to best-practice advocacy centres, and now a 3-year funding path. The only thing missing in what we do, if it is compared with Australia, is that we do not include direct Government funding to the pharmaceutical industry.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister not recall her answers to questions for written answer Nos. 12899, 12910, 12911, and 12912 last year—in September of last year, in fact—in which she stated that she had not agreed to the development of a national medicines policy, that she had received no advice on the desirability of a national medicines policy, that she had not received any advice from her department, and that she had set aside no funding for the development of a national medicines policy; and, if she does not recall those answers, how does she reconcile the answers she has given in the House today with those answers already on the public record?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I certainly recall those answers. The member talked about a national medicine policy; I talked about the Government looking at long-term, sustainable funding for health. That could include medicines, so it is not a matter of just the single issue that that member is pursuing but of the whole sector.

Traffic Policing—Detectives

7. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Are detectives being reassigned from investigative duties to undertake traffic policing; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that detectives are not reassigned from their primary duties. They are police officers, and they will deal with offences as they are detected, which may include traffic policing.

Ron Mark: Would it concern the Minister to know that senior members of the police force are becoming so fed up with the barrage of misinformation from his office that they are writing to me personally to alert me to the fact that investigators are being pulled off their normal duties to do traffic duties, like manning checkpoints, “at a time when a large amount of serious crime is not being investigated because there are not enough investigators to go around.”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There may be some police who will write to that member, but I can tell him that the crime rate is dropping. It dropped 8.2 percent last year, and the police are doing very well.

Dr Richard Worth: Why, with at least 2,000 unassigned cases piling up in police stations around the country, will the police not ease up on issuing minor traffic tickets and focus on responding to serious criminal activity?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I would like to remind that member that our road toll is very high, and if the police think that that is the best way of getting it down, then I fully support them—unlike the National Party, which does not support the police.

Paul Adams: Has the Minister seen United Future’s policy to evaluate the effectiveness of integrated police and traffic enforcement, with a view to deciding whether traffic police should have a separate division; and does he agree that such an evaluation is urgently needed in light of growing concerns about police priorities and resources?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Ron Mark: How can the Minister not be concerned, when senior members of the police force are condemning the Government’s ring-fencing agenda as being so restrictive that area commanders are insisting that investigators do not obtain search warrants in relation to drug offences, as the investigation of drug offences is not a priority area assigned to that district where, quite interestingly enough, traffic policing is?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There might be some disgruntled police officers who may write to members, but most police are happy in doing the job and in getting crime down. The rate of crime has dropped 8.2 percent over the last 12 months. Perhaps the member has not noticed that, and perhaps he might change his attitude and start supporting the New Zealand Police.

Ron Mark: Why does the Minister continue to crow about police statistics when senior investigators reject them as “being deliberately manipulated to show both an increased resolution level and a decrease in reported crime”; and is it not a fact that when dealing with dishonesty offences committed by juvenile offenders, for example, officers are being told to record such offences using youth incident codes rather than dishonesty offence codes—which removes the offending from the official crime statistics?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The way crime statistics are gathered has not changed for a number of years.

Suicide—Reports

8. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Associate Minister of Health: What recent reports has he received relating to suicide, and what do these indicate?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): I have received two reports, which I have publicly released today. The first is the Ministry of Health’s report Suicide Facts—Provisional 2002 All-ages Statistics. The second is a review Suicide and the Media: A study of the media response to Suicide and the Media: The reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media, which is another Ministry of Health publication.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The first shows that the number of New Zealanders taking their own lives continues to fall, which I am sure all members of the House will see as good news. The Ministry of Health’s report Suicide Facts shows that a total of 460 people died by committing suicide in 2002, compared with 507 in 2001. Of course, no complacency can be offered with regard to the number of deaths—they are all tragic. The suicide rate has declined by 25 percent since reaching a peak in 1998—from 14.3 to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 people over the last 5 years—and is now at its lowest level since 1985. The second report recommends that the Government needs to work more closely with media organisations in relation to reporting suicide. Those reports can be found on the Ministry of Health’s new suicide prevention web page.

Moana Mackey: What action is the Labour-Progressive Government taking to ensure that the downward trend in our suicide rates continues?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The youth suicide prevention strategy has now been in place for around 6 years and has had encouraging evaluations and results. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth Development are currently leading the work on developing a new national strategy that will incorporate those results and that will address suicide and suicide attempts across all ages. It is not commonly recognised in New Zealand that although the youth suicide rate—that is, from ages 18 to 24—has been very high, 80 percent of all suicides happen outside that age range; in other words, in older New Zealanders. So that is why the strategy has now been widened to cover all ages in the community.

Hon Matt Robson: What further work has been done in the area of suicide, and will there be public consultation on the new suicide strategy?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The answer is a considerable amount, particularly with regard to the period post suicide attempts, and regarding assistance for families where there has been a suicide. The strategy for all ages, which I referred to earlier, will be released for public consultation next month.

Police, Wellington—Staffing

9. Dr RICHARD WORTH (National—Epsom), on behalf of Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty), to the Minister of Police: Does Wellington have enough police; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Last year, crime in the Wellington area dropped by 11 percent. That is the sign of a well-led, well-resourced police service, and the public are well pleased with that.

Dr Richard Worth: In the light of that answer, how does he explain the fact that Wellington’s front-line police numbers are so depleted that public confidence is down, as measured, police are speaking out about chronic shortages, and the mayor is pleading with Ministers for additional staff?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police and leaders always want additional staff. However, I can tell the member that Wellington residents, when asked in a recent survey about their sense of freedom from crime in the home after dark, felt the safest—94 percent thought that.

Georgina Beyer: Has the Minister received any reports about policing in the Wellington area?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. Just today the National Party candidate for Wellington Central said: “I have had a wonderful experience. I was burgled just the other day and the fingerprinting guys were awesome. They came within 2 hours.” That was on Linda Clark’s show this morning.

Dr Richard Worth: Which other Wellington local authority leaders, apart from the Mayor of Wellington, have raised concerns with the Minister about staffing in their areas?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Mayors over the last 5 years have come with issues and I have always listened, and that is why crime is down by 11 percent in the Wellington area.

111 System—Lone Star Cafe, Newmarket

10. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Was there an armed robbery at the Lone Star Café in Newmarket, Auckland on Easter Monday night; if so, what was the timing of events from the time of the robbery, the first 111 call, and the police arriving at the scene of the crime?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that the police received a call from the Lone Star Cafe regarding an armed robbery at 8.56 p.m. The robbery had occurred some 4 minutes earlier. Police staff arrived at 9.06 p.m.

Ron Mark: Why is it that despite the police commenting in the New Zealand Herald that the incident happened at 10 p.m., three witnesses at the scene of the armed robbery state that the incident occurred at 8.40 p.m.; and can he explain why there has been a deliberate attempt to cover up the true response time that it took for the police to attend this very serious crime scene?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I cannot explain who gives that member information. It amazes me.

Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that his answers yesterday and the information that has been published in the newspaper today from the police, which indicates that the Lone Star Cafe was happy with the police response, are a result of the Lone Star Cafe in Newmarket not wanting to make an issue of the delayed police response—[Interruption] I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you going to throw Lianne Dalziel out of the House?

Madam SPEAKER: Can members please be heard in silence?

Ron Mark: —and that the time that he has given us is not the time that he indicated yesterday; and can he therefore explain to the House what is more important to him: protecting the reputation of a business or getting to the bottom of what truly happened with this 111 call in order to ensure that the lives of patrons of restaurants who are caught in such a situation are not unduly and unnecessarily jeopardised?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No, I just answer with the facts. But I would say that the New Zealand Herald reported that a spokesman from the cafe said that there were no problems with the police getting there or with the handling of the robbery—they had done a very good job.

International Energy Agency—Oil Conservation

11. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Energy: Has he received an invitation from the International Energy Agency to comment on its draft report Saving Oil in a Hurry: Measures for Rapid Demand Restraint in Transport; if so, how will he respond?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Energy): No, I have not. New Zealand officials attended an International Energy Agency workshop on saving oil in a hurry, and demand restraint measures for transport, on 7 and 8 March this year. I am advised that the key messages from that workshop will be incorporated into the International Energy Agency publication referred to in the question but not yet published.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand is a signatory to the Agreement on an International Energy Program of 1974, which requires signatories to develop a rapid demand response to oil shortages; if that is the case, what are the measures in New Zealand’s plan and in what order will they be implemented?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will take the member’s word on the timing of the convention. On the response measures in crude oil, we have seen some publicity around that. As far as the details of the response plan go, if the member would like that from me, I am happy to arrange a briefing for her.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that the price of oil per barrel would have to reach US$104 to be in real terms where it was in 1979 and 1980; and does he therefore believe that it would be prudent for us to proceed on these matters with a degree of caution rather than a degree of panic, as has sometimes come through in Jeanette Fitzsimons’ questions to him?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Again, I will take the member’s word as to the cost of living. I think that the Greens are right to put these matters before us, but I do not feel quite the same sense of urgency that they do.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: With reference to that last question, is the Minister aware that Goldman Sachs is predicting a price of over US$100 per barrel shortly and that there has already been a futures trade for US$100 per barrel for June this year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not aware of the Goldman Sachs predictions. I am aware of the futures trade, and I have my bike out.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that Green members are going around this country talking about peak oil; and does the Minister share New Zealand First’s view that there is a difference between high-priced oil and peak oil, and that it does a great disservice to New Zealand as a whole for party members to go scaremongering around the country, as Greens members have been?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there is agreement that at some stage peak oil will occur. There is no doubt—it is a question of when. We have seen estimates that have gone out to the 2060s on that. There is a consensus amongst some commentators that it will occur in the 2030s, but I do not see any real sign of panic at the pumps at the moment.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that the report Saving Oil in a Hurry: Measures for Rapid Demand Restraint in Transport states that increased use of public transport can contribute little to saving oil quickly in New Zealand, unlike other countries, because we lack the buses, trains, and ferries that would be needed to expand services urgently; would it not be better to prepare now by building those systems rather than to suffer carless days and rationing, which are the elements in the plan we are signed up to?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There has been quite a lot of resource headed into the passenger transport area from this Government over the last couple of years, and I thank the member for the work she has done to help that.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister’s Government still committed to article 41 of the Agreement on an International Energy Program, which promises national programmes to reduce dependence on imported oil over the longer term; if so, what are the next steps in New Zealand’s programme to reduce that dependence, given that our oil imports have risen by 53 percent since that agreement was signed?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not sure that the member will entirely like the answer, but we are helping to drill quite a lot more.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the International Energy Agency given any reason for wanting to trigger emergency response actions when oil supply drops by as little as one to two million barrels per day, rather than the seven million barrels per day in the original agreement?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Not directly to me.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Did the Minister see the statements in The Economist on Monday that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can pump—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please leave the Chamber if they wish to speak.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Did the Minister see the statements in The Economist on Monday that OPEC can pump only another 1½ million barrels a day “—before it smacks up against its production ceiling”, and further, that: “… supply and demand would seem to be heading for a showdown.”; if so, does he agree that the International Energy Agency’s hair trigger proposals are driven less by the risk of short-term supply disruptions than by permanent oil depletion?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Not yet.

Land Transport New Zealand—Licensing Fraud in the Asian Community

12. PANSY WONG (National) to the Minister for Transport Safety: When was Land Transport New Zealand first alerted to claims of licensing fraud in the Asian community and on what date did they begin formal investigation of these claims?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister for Transport Safety: I am advised that the relevant dates are 11 February 2005 and 11 February 2005.

Pansy Wong: Can the Minister confirm that Land Transport New Zealand received various claims about licensing fraud as early as July 2003, as outlined in a letter from a group of registered driving instructors who raised concerns through letters and meetings about the ability of some communities to sell international licences and fix practical test results, and about interpreters illegally assisting applicants; and can the Minister confirm that no serious and wide investigation was undertaken until 23 March 2005, as reported in the New Zealand Herald?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The answer to the latter part of the member’s question is no, she is wrong. I gave the date in my answer to her main question not as 23 March but as 11 February. As to the first part of the member’s question, Land Transport New Zealand advises that it evaluates all such claims, and I imagine they investigate those that show the most promise.

Hon Mark Gosche: How was the alleged driver licensing fraud detected?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Land Transport New Zealand advises that it was alerted to the alleged fraud by a driver licensing applicant. As is standard practice, all such claims are taken seriously, and on this occasion an investigation was initiated immediately.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the Government will address the driver licensing fraud issue, that all New Zealanders involved will be severely dealt with, and that any Asians involved will be sent packing back where they came from?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The answers to the three assurances sought are as follows. I am very happy to assert not only that the Government will investigate promising complaints but also that it already has, and that two arrests have been made. How complaints are dealt with is a matter for the police and the courts. As to the question of whether Asians should be sent back home, I would like to make the comment that I do not believe for a minute either that this abuse is the strict preserve of Asians or that the majority of Asians have anything to do with it, and I resent the member’s implications.

Pansy Wong: Does the Minister still stand by his answer to my written question of 15 December 2004 that Land Transport New Zealand does not monitor ethnic newspapers for advertisements, because the organisation does not have staff who have the ability to translate and monitor ethnic publications; and is that why advertisements offering learner drivers guaranteed fair passes on theory tests and their choice of preferred testing official continued to appear in newspapers as recently as Friday, 31 March 2005, at the time when Land Transport New Zealand was supposed to be investigating these scams?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can confirm the written answers given earlier. I would further comment that I doubt that Land Transport New Zealand buys and reads all English newspapers either, frankly. Given public attention to such advertisements as might appear in a Chinese language newspaper, I do not think there will be many more, but I have no doubt that if there are, there will be no shortage of people wanting to tell us all about it.

Pansy Wong: I seek the leave of the House to table three documents. The first is a letter detailing complaints made since 2003 on matters including international students offering driving lessons, the sale of international licences, and related problems of the current licensing system.

Leave granted.

Pansy Wong: The second is a driving instructor’s advertisement offering guaranteed passes on theory tests as well as a choice of one’s preferred testing officer, dated 31 March 2005.

Leave granted.

Pansy Wong: The third comprises three driving instructors’ advertisements offering guaranteed passes on theory tests, passes on the first go, a choice of one’s testing officer and testing route, and weekend tests, all dated 31 March 2005.

Leave granted.

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

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