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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 7 April 2005

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

Thursday, 7 April 2005
Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Farming—Sustainability

1. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that there is little evidence that existing efforts to address environmental effects of farming are “sufficiently profound or widespread enough to maintain and enhance New Zealand’s natural capital.”; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Acting Minister of Agriculture): The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report has raised many concerns about land treatment. Those concerns are worthy of being addressed. This Government was aware of some of the issues prior to the report. That is why we set up the Sustainable Farming Fund and provided funding of $9 million per year for projects to improve farming practices.

Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister concerned about recent moves to reticulate vastly more water and electricity in order to service increased dairying in dry areas such as Canterbury, when those areas are manifestly unsuited to that type of agriculture, or has some miracle occurred to enable dairying and potato growing to be now sustainable on those poor, stony, and shallow soils?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Unfortunately, I am not an expert in this area, but I can say to that member that in-stream values and such issues are protected through the regional planning process and the Resource Management Act. We are very aware of the growing pressure, particularly from dairying. That is why a large number of projects funded through the Sustainable Farming Fund are investigating better ways of managing the environmental effects of farming.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister aware of an OECD report of 2001 that rated New Zealand as the most proficient user of nitrogen fertilisers amongst all OECD countries—a fact that seems to have been ignored by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: This Government acknowledges that farmers in New Zealand are very environmentally aware. We are some of the most efficient in the world, and we do take environmental issues as a concern in all practices. The report done by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment will form background material for the 2006 OECD report on environmental performance in this country. I am sure that, once again, it will be shown that we are making huge improvements in this area.

Clayton Cosgrove: What is the Government doing to address the concerns raised in the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: This Government, as I have said, is carrying out a number of initiatives to ensure that the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment are being carried out. We have undertaken a number of initiatives prior to the report. We will continue with those, and continue to fund the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Ian Ewen-Street: Is the Minister concerned that 90 percent of our surface water is unsuitable even for swimming and that 10 percent of our groundwater is heavily contaminated with nitrates; if so, when will the Government take real measures to improve the quality of our freshwater resources?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not accept the claims made by that member. There are nitrates in most water around this country at very, very low levels. There is concern about their increasing levels. The clean streams accord negotiated between local government, central government, and the dairy industry is a very good initiative in that direction. I would like to applaud the industry for its initiatives. I hope that the Green members will all attend the Ballance Farm Environmental Awards being held up and down this country, which acknowledge and applaud the new practices undertaken by many thousands of farmers in this country.

Tariana Turia: Will the Minister agree to the establishment of a forum for strategic dialogue and the development of a “team New Zealand” vision for farming and food, in the interests of natural capital, economic capital, social and cultural capital, and human capital; if so, what steps will he take to support that initiative?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We have set up a Food and Beverage Taskforce. I attended its second meeting last week. It is taking a comprehensive look at the production, manufacturing, and marketing side of all food production in this country. It will look at the issues that that member has raised.

Ian Ewen-Street: Does the Minister agree with the statement of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment this morning at the Primary Production Committee that New Zealand has “dropped the ball” even on attempts to measure the sustainability of agriculture; if so, what has the Government done in the 6 months since the publication of the Growing for Good report to develop indictors that are relevant to the environmental impacts of agriculture?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We have received and welcomed the report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. It does not mean that we are not in a position to assess environmental guidelines in this country. He has assisted us. I can start to read out the 101 projects being funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund if this House wishes. Otherwise, I am happy to table that report for the member to pick up.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Government considering introducing a scheme similar to the one that was introduced in the United Kingdom recently in which farmers can earn money for protecting and enhancing their local environment by, for example, protecting freshwater rivers from pesticide, fertiliser, and nitrogen runoff in order to encourage wildlife, and taking other measures that cut pollution and increase all forms of wildlife on farms; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I understand that we fund the Forest Heritage Fund. The Queen Elizabeth the Second National Trust is assisted as well to protect many of the values in natural areas on farms. We will continue to do so, and we will take the advice of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister aware that locally produced food is more sustainable than food that has been flown or shipped from around the world; if so, is he concerned that New Zealand, one of the great food-producing nations of the world, imports more food than almost any other OECD country—including 24,358 tonnes of meat last year—if so, what measures is the Government taking to reduce our dependence on imported food and to encourage local production?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As a country that depends upon its ability to export to many countries around the world, the only fair approach we can take in trade issues is to allow those countries, where they can do so efficiently, to export into our country. We will receive those goods. It will be up to consumers, ultimately, as to whether they buy them.

Ian Ewen-Street: Does the Government have any plans to calculate the costs of the negative environmental impacts of agriculture, as it has done for transport, given that those costs have been estimated at $4 billion per year in the UK; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware of any initiatives to calculate that cost. I do know that this country and this economy depend upon the billions of dollars earned through sound, environmentally sustainable agricultural production in New Zealand. I seek leave to table the list of 101 projects funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Leave granted.

John Tamihere—Investigate Interview

2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported statement that John Tamihere’s comments maligning her and her Government were a result of stress?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister has no doubt that Mr Tamihere has been going through a period of considerable stress.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That really does not answer the question at all. It loosely addresses it, perhaps. The question asked whether she sticks by her statement. Now she is saying that she has no doubt that he was. It was categoric at the start of the week, and it now seems to be sort of “perhaps”. Maybe we should have that clarified by the person who answered the question.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Did she note in Mr Tamihere’s apology on the Close Up TV programme that he did not resile from the comments he made about her Cabinet colleagues or herself, except for Dr Cullen whom he wants to share a toothbrush with, and about her caucus; and will she now accept the resignation he says he has offered, or does she instead accept the truth in what he says?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, I am sure the Prime Minister did note that, and, secondly, the Deputy Prime Minister is grateful for the offer but has enough toothbrushes. What was the third point?

Madam SPEAKER: Clarification is sought for the third point.

Gerry Brownlee: The third point was: will she accept the resignation that Mr Tamihere says he has given, or does she, instead, accept the truth in what he said?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not for the Prime Minister to accept Mr Tamihere’s resignation from Parliament; it is the Speaker who accepts a resignation from Parliament.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There was no hint from Mr Tamihere that he might resign from Parliament. There was a strong suggestion that he had offered his resignation from the Labour Party. Of course, if he resigned from the Labour Party that would leave him as a member of Parliament, much as Mrs Turia was left as a member of Parliament after her resignation from the Labour Party. The person answering on behalf of the Prime Minister said that it is not up to the Prime Minister to accept the resignation. If she is the leader of the party, who else would accept it?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.

Dail Jones: How long can the Prime Minister continue to support John Tamihere, a Labour MP in a Mâori seat, when he is prepared to crucify his fellow Mâori MPs by suggesting that they, and he, were duped by Dr Michael Cullen and New Zealand First over the foreshore and seabed legislation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding, although I have not seen the Close Up interview or the transcript, is that in fact he paid tribute to Dr Cullen’s drafting skills.

Rodney Hide: In light of the answer he has just given, does the Prime Minister believe it is acceptable for John Tamihere to go around saying that the Mâori MPs were in fact duped by the drafting skills of Michael Cullen—including that of New Zealand First being duped?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding is that Mr Tamihere did not make that claim.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister contemplate a mechanism such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from South Africa—and in the absence of Desmond Tutu I would be very happy to serve, myself, on it—and what it might make of the Christchurch Press article today, in which Mr Tamihere says: “… you can still have a professional relationship with a bloke but still think he’s a tugger.”, and who in the Labour Party was he talking about when he used that phrase?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Leader of the House advises that he could definitely have a professional relationship with some people who think they are “tuggers”.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There were two parts to my question. The first was whether this was a phrase capable of being reconciled on, but I wanted to know who the Prime Minister thought Mr Tamihere was talking about amongst his colleagues when he referred to them as “tuggers”; he completely refused to answer that part of the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address that part of the question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no advice on that matter. On the first part of the question he originally asked, perhaps some of us would rather see Mr Peters in a tutu rather than as a Tutu.

Gerry Brownlee: That’s a pretty preoccupying predilection over there.

Madam SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, was that your question?

Gerry Brownlee: No.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please address the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Why does the Prime Minister continue to suggest that John Tamihere has been suffering from stress, when last night when he was asked whether he was under stress he answered that he had been down a bumpy road—“But, no,” he said, “I’ve checked my suspension, and my suspension is riding OK.”; and does she agree with him?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Despite rumours, the member’s suspension was not under threat from the Prime Minister at any point, but I am advised that, in fact, anybody who has lunch with Ian Wishart is probably showing signs of stress already.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister, or her stand-in at the moment, why on earth would he conceive of New Zealand First members of Parliament wearing tutus, although it is obviously the kind of garb and dress that some members of his caucus commonly wear?

Madam SPEAKER: It is a little wide of the question, but would the Minister please answer it.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not quite sure what the member is getting at in that respect, but I respect that some of my colleagues are very open about their sexual orientation.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is the situation we now have that Mr Tamihere has made very serious allegations against the Government that the Prime Minister says are untrue and defamatory; that last night on the Television One Close Up programme Mr Tamihere did not retract any of the allegations but has said there is a reconciliation with the Government; and, if that is so, does the Prime Minister accept that this House and, indeed, the public are entitled to know who is telling the truth—the Prime Minister or Mr Tamihere—and how does she propose to resolve that matter?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister has no responsibility for the statements made by a back-bencher, only for statements made by Ministers. If I understand what Mr Tamihere said, the process of reconciliation is under way with the Labour caucus.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Prime Minister confirm that there is no way Mr Tamihere is going to be disciplined by the Labour Party, because disciplining him would cause it to pay too big a political price?

Madam SPEAKER: The question is addressing a matter relating to the party, not ministerial responsibility.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Forgive my inexperience. Can I reword it?

Madam SPEAKER: The member can reword the question.

Gerry Brownlee: It is a fairly substantial rewording, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: As long as it relates to ministerial responsibility, that is fine.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister believe that her Clayton’s style apology to the United States President for any offence she had caused when making remarks about the Iraq War served as a template for Mr Tamihere’s apology given on Close Up last night, and did she or her staff assist him in its preparation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do know that the Prime Minister met with Mr Tamihere on Tuesday, because the New Zealand Herald told me so and I also knew out of my own knowledge. As to comparisons between this event and matters relating to President George Bush, I think that is drawing rather a long bow, indeed.

Working for Families Package—Senior Citizens

3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: How much additional money per week are senior citizens likely to receive as a result of the Working for Families package?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I am advised that just over 2,700 people on superannuation and veterans pensions have already received extra income from the Working for Families package—mostly from accommodation supplement changes. The exact gain would depend on individual circumstances. A very small number of senior citizens looking after dependent children will also gain from other aspects of the package. Senior citizens have not had to wait for the Working for Families package, of course, to receive assistance from this Government. One of the first things we did was to restore the 65 percent wage floor for New Zealand Superannuation, from April 2000, at a cost of over $800 million over 4 years.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister therefore confirm that his refusal to answer the question—which was: how much?—applies to all but 2,700, and confirm that even for that number he has refused to outline the amount they will get; in short, confirm that his policy in respect of the Working for Families package simply does not include elderly New Zealanders, whom most sane, rational New Zealanders regard as part of the family?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am happy to give the member a breakdown of what each of the individual 2,700 people, plus those senior citizens who look after dependent children, might get from the package. But I think that reading it out in the House today, given that it is already 3 o’clock, would be a little bit time-consuming. I have said that that number has gained from the package already, and that a small number will gain if they have children in the future, so I have not refused to answer the question, at all.

Georgina Beyer: What else has this Labour-Progressive Government done for older New Zealanders?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Since 1999 this Government has reduced driver’s-licence fees for all drivers over 75, protected the interests of retirement village residents, provided lower doctors’ and prescription fees for all those over 65 enrolled with primary health organisations, funded the new older persons’ mentor programme, phased out asset testing for long-term residential care, established the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to secure retirement income for future generations, and committed to doubling the number of major hip and knee replacement operations within 4 years. I will stop there; the list is way too long.

John Key: Is it likely, in the Minister’s opinion, that the 100 single or married people who earn between $50,000 and $80,000 and who receive an accommodation supplement are retired New Zealanders; and, if they are not likely to be retired people who earn between $50,000 and $80,000 a year, are single, have no children, and receive an accommodation supplement, could he just tell the country what those people have done to deserve an accommodation supplement when many hundreds of thousands do not receive one?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am aware that the member is referring to an answer he would have received from Dr Cullen in his capacity as the Minister of Revenue, in charge of the Inland Revenue Department. [Interruption] Whatever he was reading from, whether it was from the Ministry of Social Development or the Inland Revenue Department, I have here the answer to the question: “The client’s entitlement depends upon their income and family circumstances at the time of payment. This can change from pay period to pay period as these circumstances change. To get approximate annual income figures the statistics that the member refers to, in terms of the $80,000 and so on, has annualised clients’ income at a point of time in a yearly figure. While this provides an indication of the spread in income of recipients, results do not necessarily reflect the actual annual income that clients receive for the 12-month period.” Now, if the member would like to go back to the question of the words, I tell him that what this refers to is the modelling of the issue. No one in the $80,000 bracket receives it.

Hon Peter Dunne: When the Minister referred to the small number of senior citizens with dependent children, was he referring to grandparents with responsibility for the upbringing of grandchildren; if he was referring to those people, why are only a small number of grandparents responsible for grandchildren covered by the Working for Families package and not all grandparents and, if he was not referring to them, will he be extending the programme to include grandparents caring for their grandchildren?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the members of United Future know, the issue of grandparents raising grandchildren—or, indeed, the issue of any relative raising a child—is under active consideration. Within the package we are talking about here, we are talking about such people as the ones who are on orphans benefits and unsupported child’s benefits. Those benefits are going up, and therefore those people will be receiving an increase.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister admit that the realignment of income from 1 April is based on figures already 15 months out of date, and does he agree with the reported comment in the Timaru Herald on 15 January this year that said that superannuitants were feeling the pinch of a cold summer, the rising cost of living, and their superannuation not being kept up to 65 percent of the average wage; and why is he ignoring the 80,000-plus superannuitants who rely solely on the pension as their only source of weekly income?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, no, and the Government is not ignoring the superannuitants in this country. As I mentioned before, one of the first acts of this Government was to increase their income, and they are now $21 a week better off because of this Government.

John Key: I seek leave to table an answer from the Hon Steve Maharey, in which he makes it quite clear that there are 100 New Zealanders who earn between $50,000 and $80,000 a year and receive the accommodation supplement.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a written answer from Minister Rick Barker, admitting that the rate of return for elderly people has gone below 65 percent on frequent occasions.

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

Early Childhood Education—Compliance Costs

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Has he been advised of the compliance costs of the data collection requirements for the new early childhood education funding system that requires some services to perform a staff hour count?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The staff hour count is not compulsory. Education centres that want the significant extra funding for quality services available from this month are, however, required to certify that staff are present. They have always been required to certify the attendance of children. Most centres can count their staff numbers.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that his new system requires early childhood centres to record every child and every registered teacher, every hour of every day; and does he recall this email: “Dear Mr Mallard, yesterday I spent just over 2 hours completing Wednesday’s record.”, and does he recall his response in an email to his staff member, which shows he has no idea what is happening, that states: “Charlie, can you please get me an update. My understanding is that all that has to happen is that the roster which had to be done anyway is transferred to a form to be held for audit.”, and how can early childhood centres have any confidence in a Minister who thinks there is nothing to it when they are spending 2 hours a day filling out the forms?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Every early childhood centre is required to have a roster. At the end of the day—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Every day?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, staff do come and go from early childhood centres and they have always been required to have a roster to show how many staff are there. They transfer the information to a form. My understanding is that it takes competent people 5 minutes.

Lynne Pillay: Have the increased hourly rates been made available to private centres?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm John Tamihere’s view that Labour politicians have no idea of life with children because they do not have any, as demonstrated by this email from a teacher who went to one of the Ministry of Education training sessions: “I brought up the problems at the ministry training session in New Plymouth. The facilitator recommended that we should ask our parents—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Can that member please leave the House. There is to be no interruption while questions are being asked. Can the member please complete his question.

Hon Steve Maharey withdrew from the Chamber.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you are quite right to ask Mr Maharey to leave. But I believe he is set down to answer questions in the House. It would be a penalty on Opposition parties who want to ask that Minister questions if he were to be out of the House. I am sure Mr Maharey is quite pleased not to be here. Perhaps, like Mr English, Mr Maharey could be asked back to answer the question.

Hon Phil Goff: I was sitting next to the member whom you have asked to leave the House. I can affirm that he was not interjecting; he was talking to myself and his other colleague. There was no attempt to interrupt the speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: The member can come back for his question.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm John Tamihere’s view that Labour politicians have no idea about life with children, because they do not have any, as demonstrated by this email from a teacher who went to the ministry training session in New Plymouth: “I brought up the problems at the ministry training session in New Plymouth. The facilitator recommended that we should ask our parents to change their working hours so they can drop off and pick up on the hour. They felt no reasonable parent would be put out by this.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the question was in two parts. I can confirm that between the Deputy Prime Minister and myself there are an average of 3½ children for whom we are responsible, and there are a few more parents further down the front bench. I do not have as many children as the member admits to, that is absolutely correct, but I do know that any such suggestion made by a ministry official is nonsense.

Hamish Sands—Government Actions

5. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What is the Government doing to secure the release of Hamish Sands’ body and to determine the cause of his death?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I would like first to express my condolences to the family of Mr Sands for his death. The UN team sent to Bouake has positively identified his body and has arranged a visual examination by a surgeon from the French hospital. We are currently working through a number of different channels to encourage the New Forces group to release the body, and that has been promised. We have made arrangements, when it happens, for the body to be transferred to Abidjan for a full autopsy to determine the cause of death. We then hope to repatriate the body, in line with the wishes of the family.

Martin Gallagher: What specific steps is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade taking to achieve that?

Hon PHIL GOFF: To secure access to the body and its release, the ministry has been working through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as it has been from the start of this matter. Both organisations have had direct contact with the New Forces group, and both have been very helpful. We have also made our representations through the United Kingdom, Canadian, and South African diplomatic channels, as each of those countries has posts on the Ivory Coast. I put on record for the information of the House our thanks and the thanks of Mr Sands’ family for the ready cooperation of those countries and their assistance at every point that they have been asked for it.

Police Priorities—Detectives

6. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by his statement: “I am advised that detectives are not reassigned from their primary duties”; if so, why?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes. I am advised that detectives are not reassigned from their primary duties. However, under the direction of district commanders all police staff, including investigators, may from time to time be deployed to respond to any offence, including traffic offences.

Ron Mark: Why does this Labour-led Government think it appropriate, at a time when there are thousands of unallocated files awaiting investigation, seven of which involve rape, and when police are warning New Zealanders of the serious threats posed by a burgeoning methamphetamine P market, which is being run by organised crime gangs that previously were mortal enemies, in joint-venture operations across international and ethnic boundaries, that the cream of our police—detectives—are now being pulled from their investigations to issue traffic tickets for seatbelt and warrant of fitness offences?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It is simply not reality. District commanders have the responsibility of deploying their staff to the best effect in order to meet their obligations to police the whole spectrum of criminal offending. From time to time there may be one-off, special deployments involving staff across all units, but that would be rare and would certainly not involve pulling staff from significant and active inquiry work. That is a quote from Assistant Commissioner Peter Marshall on 15 February this year.

Tim Barnett: What comments, if any, has he seen in relation to the crossover of duties performed by the police?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have seen a report quoting Senior Constable Peter Daly in today’s Christchurch Press: “No doubt there are times when general duties police are called to traffic, but I’ve never seen someone taken off a rape case and sent to write tickets. I keep hearing that but I’ve never seen it. But then I’ve only been in the job 17 years,”.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister been advised that he may have breached a suppression order while he was talking about staffing issues on Radio New Zealand this morning?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is a very interesting question, but what on earth does it have to do with the principal question, which is about the reassignment of detectives from their primary duties?

Madam SPEAKER: I am inclined to agree with that. It is really right outside the scope of the original question.

Gerry Brownlee: I realise that it is a very sensitive issue, but the fact is that this morning the Hon George Hawkins was on the radio talking about these staffing issues. Also, if we look at the primary question, we see that it very much goes to the heart of staffing issues within the police. If the reassigning of detectives from their primary duties is not a staffing issue, then I do not know what is. Everyone in this House knows that it was the article on the front page of today’s Dominion Post, in which these issues were discussed, that got Mr Hawkins into the studio today to justify his position. My question simply asked whether he has been advised that, during the course of that, he may have breached the suppression order.

Madam SPEAKER: What the member says may well be right, but it is very clear, both in the Standing Orders and in the Speakers’ Rulings, that supplementary questions have to be relevant to the principal question. Supplementary question, Gerry Brownlee.

Gerry Brownlee: This is a rewording, I hope.

Madam SPEAKER: As long as it is relevant to the principal question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It seems to me that if a supplementary question is ruled out of order—

Madam SPEAKER: It is ruled out of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen:—and it clearly was, then we cannot really give a free supplementary question on top of that.

Madam SPEAKER: It is not a free supplementary question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It must be an additional supplementary question.

Madam SPEAKER: It is an additional supplementary question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have heard the Greens and members of United Future ask questions that were so wide of the wicket that they would have scored a six on their own, and the Speaker has allowed them to have another go. The fact is that Mr Hawkins, incompetent as he is, had to get on the radio this morning to justify the disastrous situation in the police force up and down the country. It is a staffing issue that has got him into trouble, and he should answer in Parliament today whether or not his staff are scurrying around working out how to get him out of trouble. We know that one member of Parliament has been done for a so-called breach of a suppression order in recent times, and now it would seem that the Government is trying to get this Minister off that. We want to know just what advice he has had. He cannot speak as a Minister about staffing matters, trying to justify himself, and breach the law, and not expect to be asked questions about it in this House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Now we are in quite a different area. The member has now thoroughly abused the point of order procedure. I refer members to Speaker’s ruling 19/5: “A member should raise a point of order tersely.” The member went all around the paddock on an issue that had nothing to do with the point of order, which was actually about the fact that when a supplementary question is clearly ruled out, the Speaker has discretion to invite the member to rephrase it, but the member cannot then expect simply to get another supplementary question that does not count against the party’s allocation.

Hon Richard Prebble: Mr Brownlee having asked his question, I would have thought the Minister of Police would welcome an opportunity to get up and tell us—as I am sure he would—that he does not believe he breached the suppression order. Otherwise, we are left with the impression that the Government believes he did, and does not want him to speak any more.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

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

Madam SPEAKER: I do not need any further assistance on this. The member has already been indulged—at least, to my memory—on two other occasions, when he has been able to rephrase his questions instead of having to ask second questions. On other occasions when a member has been indulged and has been able to rephrase or clarify a question, it has always been relevant to the principal question. On this occasion the member is raising matters that are totally outside the scope of that question. If the member wishes to ask another supplementary question he can, but it must relate to the primary question.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like to point out that Mr Brownlee, by bringing United Future and the Greens into the question when raising that somewhat spurious point of order, really also challenged your consistency as Speaker. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please be quiet and give the member the courtesy of silence while he is raising his point of order.

Gordon Copeland: I think he was also challenging your performance and your objectivity as the Chair of this House. I do not think that is orderly.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. Ruling on that point of order, I say it is not the first time that that member has done that, and it has been observed by me. If there is another occasion on which it happens, then, of course, action will be taken. I ask the member whether he wishes to ask a supplementary question within the scope of the primary question.

Gerry Brownlee: When the Minister was discussing staffing issues on the radio this morning, did he breach a suppression order?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I did not.

Stephen Franks: Will the Minister give an undertaking to take ministerial responsibility and explain exactly what investigation or other action he will take if he is presented with evidence that all of the detectives in a particular office were recently sent out to get traffic tickets—were sent away from their other work?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: None. It is over to the district commander to assign duties, and it is not the job of Ministers to do it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a transcript of this morning’s interview, in which—on the last page of that transcript—the Minister clearly breached a suppression order. The prohibition as to the nature of the crime was mentioned by him. He breached it and he should not be misleading this House.

Madam SPEAKER: The normal practice is for such leave to be sought at the end of supplementary questions. Are there further supplementary questions? [Interruption] The member has sought leave to table a transcript. Is there any objection? Yes, there is. It will not be tabled.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would just ask you to now think about what you have ruled with regard to National members having to use an extra supplementary question out of the allocation that we receive on a daily basis, effectively to ask the Minister the exact same question. I ask what the difference is between asking whether the Minister had been advised on whether he had breached the suppression order, and asking him very directly whether he did breach it. The fascinating thing is that he was able quite categorically to state that he did not. I think we can then assume that he may have received advice. I just ask you why we have been able to ask virtually the same question, and to get an answer very quickly from the Minister, but it has had to cost us two questions.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say that the member, obviously, had advice to rephrase the question, so he brought it within the context of the primary question. There is no problem with that. If that member challenges one of my rulings one more time, then he is on notice. I have ruled; you challenge my rulings all the time. Can we please move on.

Marc Alexander: Why does the Minister continue to claim that the police are not stretched for staff, when so many stories about understaffing are emerging from within their own ranks and are being publicised in the media and in the House; and if he persists in denying those claims, does that mean he thinks his officers are a bunch of ungrateful and deluded whingers?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There are more police than ever, they are better-funded than ever, and I have great confidence in them. That is why the crime rate has dropped 8.2 percent.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that it is true that he in fact, despite public denials, has actually asked for increased resources to go to the police but has been refused, and can we take it that that is because increasing their resources would be seen as an admission of failure in terms of stemming the rising tide of the crime statistics?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That member must know that the police are well funded. They have a Minister who has got them more resources than anyone else has in recent years.

Marc Alexander: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The main question that was asked was whether he had asked for more resourcing and had been refused that resourcing. He did not address that question.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That member will have to wait until the Budget.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question that was asked of him. It was addressed.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House whether he is happy to have detectives taken off their caseloads and sent out to man traffic checkpoints and issue warrant of fitness infringement notices, in the light of statements such as this one, from a letter dated 29 March 2005 and written to me by a senior investigating police officer: “A large amount of serious crime is not being investigated because there are not enough investigators to go around.”, and such as this one in a second letter, dated 9 July 2005 and from the criminal investigation branch and signed by Inspector Shearer, the area commander of the Manurewa Police Station: “The level of crime reported in the counties police district over the last 2 to 3 years has seriously affected our ability to investigate all matters in a timely matter.”—the letter goes on to apologise to the victim that the police can no longer prosecute the case because it has taken too long, given their staffing? Is that what this Government is all about?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That is not what this Government is all about. We are about bringing crime rates down, doing it well, and getting improving results.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the transcript from today’s Television One Midday news where the judge in the Sergeant Solomona case gave, as one of the reasons, the severe lack of resources of the police force in south Auckland.

Leave granted.

Question No. 4 to Minister

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland): I seek leave to table an email from the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, to one of his staffers in his office, pointing out that he does not understand the new early childhood roster system.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that email. Is there any objection? Yes. It will not be tabled.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland): I seek leave to table an email from a teacher who attended a ministry training session in New Plymouth where teachers were told to ask parents to change their working hours to fit the system.

Leave granted.

State-owned Enterprises—Sales

7. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What reports, if any, has he received regarding the sale of State-owned enterprises?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): I have seen a survey showing that 79 percent of New Zealanders oppose State-owned asset sales. This Government’s policy is that no State enterprises will be sold.

Mark Peck: What other reports has the Minister seen on State-owned assets?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a report that indicates a return to the failed policy of selling off State-owned enterprises. That report is from the National Party. My advice to the 79 percent of New Zealanders who oppose the sale of State-owned enterprises is to strongly oppose National’s policy of flogging off the family silver.

John Key: Does the Minister support State-owned enterprise New Zealand Post’s decision to sell 50 percent of its courier business to German-controlled DHL Worldwide Express, and, if that is in line with the kinds of policies advocated by the Labour Party, will he now be campaigning against the policies of the party he belongs to?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As that member well knows that is a joint venture, not the sale of New Zealand Post. Of course, the point is that that member actually wants to sell New Zealand Post and Kiwibank. He cannot sell them just yet, because he knows that 79 percent of New Zealanders are against that. So he talks doubletalk and weasel words, but everybody knows what National is up to—it wants to flog off State-owned enterprises.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Minister seen the transcript of a radio interview with Mr John Key where he said that the National Party’s new spending allowance would be $300 to $400 million a year—not enough even to meet the growth in tertiary education alone; if so, is it true, under that circumstance, that it would have to sell every State asset off as fast as possible, simply in order to stand still?

Madam SPEAKER: There is no ministerial responsibility for the second part of that question, but the Minister can address the first part.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have just noted that a few moments ago you were very firm with the deputy leader of National, Gerry Brownlee, about questions that are wide of the mark. You said that the second part of Dr Cullen’s question was outside ministerial responsibility. The first part of Dr Cullen’s question was entirely about Budget estimates and the level of expenditure. There is absolutely nothing in the primary question in that regard. If you are to be consistent with the rulings you have given Gerry Brownlee, there is no way that you can allow the first part of that question.

Madam SPEAKER: I accept the member’s argument, so the question is out of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a long list, amounting to $9 billion, of State assets sold by Labour when last in Government, at a time when Mr Swain was hankering to be a member of Parliament and Dr Cullen was one.

Leave granted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Toll Holdings transaction in which Dr Cullen gaily sold off, for the second time, ownership of our railway service in this country.

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

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I seek leave to table a survey that shows that 79 percent of New Zealanders are opposed to National’s State-owned enterprise sell-off policy.

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

Question No. 8 to Minister

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to raise a serious issue about corrections to answers, of which I seek a considered ruling. One week ago I asked this same Minister a question about when he knew about the flaws in the Building Act. He gave an answer that subsequently turned out to be incorrect. Later in the day he came to the Chamber and provided a correction. As is well known, after question time not many members are in the House. I quite properly sought a copy of the correction. I had the incorrect answer, and I wanted the corrected answer. I sought it from the Hansard office and it told me that, no, the only place I could get the corrected answer was from the Minister’s office. But now, a week after the incorrect answer was given to me, I still do not have the corrected answer. The reason I seek a considered ruling from you is that I believe it is proper that, when a Minister gives an incorrect answer and is forced to correct it in the House, the member who received the wrong answer must have some right to know what the correction was.

Madam SPEAKER: Members who are dissatisfied with answers to written questions should, first, take the matter up with the Minister, then, second, write to the Speaker. On the question of the correction the member sought to an oral answer, I will take that matter up.

Building Act—Reports

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for Building Issues: What adverse reports, if any, has he received on the effects on homeowners and building owners of the new Building Act 2004?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Building Issues): I have seen in a local Auckland newspaper, the Central Leader, that some developers had concerns about increased costs from the more rigorous inspection regimes under the Building Act. The same story goes on to quote the Chief Executive of the Property Institute, Colin English, who said that there were positive spin-offs from stricter rules, particularly from Auckland. He also said: “If the regulations work, there should be less leaky buildings. There are more checks and balances.”

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, when there is absolutely no evidence of do-it-yourself homeowners being responsible for the leaky-home crisis, does his legislation prohibit homeowners from doing work on their own homes, and is that not the sort of anti-Kiwi family law that has seen his colleague John Tamihere refer to him as a tosser?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Some people have expressed concerns about the tightening of control on the home handyman, but those predicting the end of do-it-yourself home handyman are grossly exaggerating the impacts. Works that are critical to a building’s safety and functioning will need to be signed off by a licensed person, but the home handyman remains free to do non-critical work without such oversight.

Russell Fairbrother: What will be the key effects of the Building Act on homeowners and building owners?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: A quote from the regulatory services manager of the Horowhenua District Council, Tony Thomas, best answers this question: “The Act ensures better decision-making throughout the building processes and provides more assurance to consumers and homeowners that buildings are designed to be built right the first time.” Who could argue with that?

Brent Catchpole: What reports has he received that councils are racking up their charges for consents and inspections since the demise of private building certifiers as a result of the new Building Act, and what is he doing to protect homeowners from that practice?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have not received any reports, but I have in front of me a quote from Manukau City’s Director of City Services, Wayne Godley, who said: “The new laws will make it clearer to industry workers what standards their buildings are required to meet, and better practices in building design and construction will be encouraged.” That is good news for New Zealanders.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My colleague asked a very specific question that concerns the public—about charges being racked up—and we got some sort of woolly-woofter answer like that.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.

Sue Bradford: Will New Zealand’s new building standards be made freely available on the Internet so that ordinary citizens can know how to abide by them; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Where copyright is not impinged and property rights taken, standards will be freely available where that is appropriate.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does he reconcile the Prime Minister’s rhetoric about an ownership society with taking away the rights of owners to upgrade their own homes; and where is the evidence that the old regime, where a homeowner had to get a building consent and a code compliance certificate, provided any difficulty for building standards to justify disallowing them from being able work on their own house?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The new Building Act is all about ensuring that people who are homeowners have a safe building.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was quite specific. It asked what evidence there was to justify changing the law in respect of a homeowner doing his or her own building work. The bland response from the Minister, saying that the Building Act was going to be good for homeowners, does not in any way answer a question that is on the minds of hundreds of thousands of New Zealand building owners.

Madam SPEAKER: The Standing Orders do not require an answer; it requires the question to be addressed.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like you to reflect on the ruling you have just given this House. I think that if you check the Standing Orders, you will find that an answer is required that addresses the question. The Standing Orders do not simply state that the question must be addressed; they state that an answer that addresses the question must be given.

Madam SPEAKER: And that is exactly what the Minister gave.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The point of order that I was raising was that you stated to this Parliament—

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a new point of order?

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I had not completed my point of order when you interrupted me. What you just told this Parliament is that the Minister does not have to answer the question but that he only has to address it. I was pointing out to you that the Standing Orders require the Minister to give an answer that addresses the question.

Madam SPEAKER: The answer has to address the question. In that particular instance the Minister’s answer addressed the question. It may not have done it to the satisfaction of the member, but it did address the question.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Is the member challenging my ruling, or relitigating it?

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I am seeking clarification on a very important issue.

Madam SPEAKER: I have just given clarification to that point. Would the member please sit down.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is an important issue, because question time in this Parliament is a very important time. I am seeking clarification, because I heard you very clearly—and if you check the record of the House you will find it yourself—telling this Parliament that a Minister does not have to answer a question. The Standing Orders state that a Minister must give an answer that addresses the question, unless it is not in the public interest to do so. This is a very important issue, otherwise I would not be taking up the time of the Parliament. What I am seeking from you, Madam Speaker, is clarification to the House that in fact answers do have to be given and that they have to address the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I am happy to give that clarification. The answer must address the question, and the Minister did.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: That was an entirely inappropriate comment. Would the Minister withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm estimates given to me by his department yesterday that between 60,000 and 80,000 buildings in New Zealand are in breach of section 363 of the Act that came into effect on 31 March, making insurance for those buildings invalid; if so, does he accept responsibility for this awful mess?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am still seeking advice over that. In an extreme case that could be an issue, and of course the best way to address this issue of uncertainty is for the member and his party to support the Government’s amendments next week.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was very specific: does he accept responsibility? The Minister made no attempt at all to address the issue of responsibility for the serious flaws in his legislation.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister’s answer addressed the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Madam Speaker!

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I am sorry; I listened very carefully. The member may not be satisfied with the answer and it may not fully address the question, but it did address the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: My question asked whether he accepted responsibility. In what way can you claim that answer from that Minister in any way addressed that question?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not required upon you to explain your reasons for doing something. Once we are into that, then every decision by every speaker and every Chair is open to litigation. We are seeing endless relitigation of rulings now. There is obviously a coordinated tactic on the part of the Opposition that simply does not like the referee.

Madam SPEAKER: I will rule on the point of order. It is quite clear that it is not for the Speaker to judge the quality of the answer in any way. That is for the public and for members of this House. However, the Minister did address the question. Is there a supplementary question?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave for the Building Remedial Measures Amendment Bill in my name, accepted by the Clerk this morning, to be introduced and have its first reading following question time on Tuesday.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that. Is there any objection? There is; leave is denied.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to completely reject the suggestion made by Dr Michael Cullen that somehow the decision by the Opposition to take a different approach to the use of the Standing Orders is anything to do with you or your role as Speaker. That is quite wrong. At the start of question time today we had the opportunity for the Leader of the House to apologise for abusing the Standing Orders and for tipping up the conventions of the Standing Orders in a way that was abusive of members of Parliament. He declined. I hope it is now evident that the Standing Orders, as we said during the course of the exchange that went on at the start of question time, are open for all members to use in way that is less than productive. We do not normally do that because the conventions of the House also suggest that the Government should be able to advance its business. However, the rules appear to have changed.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This is exactly an example of what I just said. The member was relitigating the rulings you gave before we even started question time. That matter was already ruled on and in effect the member in commented on your ruling.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order that has been raised—if it was a point of order—I accept the member’s assurance. However, I would also note that matters that are raised as points of order that are not points of order and when that is done in a frequent manner, then that comes close to being disruptive of the House. I make that as a general comment to all members of the House.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a new point of order. Could you just clarify the standard you are now applying to members making comments when they are not meant to be making comments? I was thrown out of the House for commenting during a point of order, and I accepted your ruling. The Hon Steve Maharey was thrown out of the House for carrying on a conversation while a question was being asked, but Dr Cullen, who interjected during a question, and in a way that was not parliamentary, was able to apologise and withdraw but stay in the House. Is the difference in treatment related to whether the comments are made during a point of order as opposed to a question, or in this case was Dr Cullen allowed to stay because of his seniority?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I was not aware that the member had started to ask his question. I am actually very careful about that.

Madam SPEAKER: In fact, there was a pause between the question being asked and the matter being raised, but I did ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise, and he did.

Paternity—Current Law

9. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Is she satisfied that the interests of children, mothers, and fathers seeking to clarify legal paternity are adequately provided for by current law; if so, why?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister of Justice): Children’s interests have been emphasised following a recent Court of Appeal judgment. There is no requirement for an adult to submit to a parentage test, but these issues are included in an upcoming Law Commission report.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree it is totally unsatisfactory that a father seeking to establish paternity to provide grounds for a relationship with a child must endure 5 years of legal battle at huge expense where the other parent refuses DNA testing, such as in the recent case going all the way to the Court of Appeal; if so, does she agree with United Future that in this age of access to the science of DNA this situation is wholly unnecessary; if not, why not?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I agree that the case that the member cites involved very tragic circumstances. It should not be repeated, if possible. The Law Commission will soon release a report likely to canvass the use of DNA testing to which the Government will respond, but I note that recent legislation like the Status of Children Amendment Act gave Family Court concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court to make declarations of paternity, thereby cutting costs and increasing access.

Lianne Dalziel: What action has the Government taken recently to improve processes for people seeking to establish paternity?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The Care of Children Act and the Status of Children Amendment Act, which come into force this July, remove some barriers for men seeking to establish paternity. In particular, the courts will be able to recommend less invasive DNA sampling, as well as blood tests, which may lead to more people taking the paternity test.

Gordon Copeland: Does she support a law change requiring each birth certificate to name both the child’s biological mother and father, as proposed by United Future, to prevent the farcical situation of the court, family, or otherwise needing to assume wardship of a child for a couple of hours to get a DNA sample from the child where the other parent refuses; if not, why not?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I agree that those issues do require some attention, and in that way I welcome the Law Commission report, which is likely to make comment on these very issues. The Government may consider whether a law change is desirable as part of its response to that report, but it is likely that access to the courts will always be required, because one cannot write law for every situation. It is important to have the option of an impartial judge looking at the situation to assess the best interests of the child.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I did not catch when the Minister said the Law Commission report would be out. I wonder whether she could advise us.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I understand that it will be released in April this year.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister also support the policy of requiring both parents’ names—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please leave. Mr Copeland was asking a supplementary question.

Lianne Dalziel withdrew from the Chamber.

Madam SPEAKER: We will have silence while questions are being asked. Would the member please start again.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister also support the policy of requiring both parents’ names on a birth certificate on the basis that it is in the best interests of a child to know who his or her biological parents are, given that this was the persuasive argument for the Court of Appeal and given that New Zealand is party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which gives rights to this effect; if not, why not?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: In most circumstances I do think it is in the best interests of children to know who both their parents are, but whether that means we should have compulsory parentage tests is something that I think the Government will have to consider in response to the Law Commission report.

Health and Independence Report—Surgical Inpatient Discharges

10. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister of Health: Can she confirm that the 2003 Health and Independence Report shows that in 1999-2000 there were 160,574 publicly funded surgical inpatient discharges (acute and elective) and in 2002-03 this number had fallen to 157,754; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes, and I can confirm that the Ministry of Health advised me in October 2003—and I made that information public—that the surgical inpatient discharges reported in 2002-03 are incomplete and fail to include all surgical procedures carried out in the mobile-surgery bus and all publicly funded operations undertaken in private hospitals. As well, the ministry advised me that recent process and technological developments mean that some procedures that used to be carried out in public hospital inpatient or day-patient settings are now being delivered in outpatient or clinic settings. As people receiving outpatient procedures are not formally admitted to hospital, they are now no longer counted as discharges in the national system. This shift amounts to thousands of procedures, rather than hundreds.

Dr Paul Hutchison: How can she explain to the 2,000 people at present being cut from the Counties-Manukau waiting list—some who are going blind, some in constant pain—that her Government is funding sex-change operations at $30,000 each, and is that not exactly what John Tamihere says this PC Labour Government is doing—betraying mainstream New Zealanders?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If it is PC to fund a limited number of sex-change operations today, it must have been PC to have done it in the 1990s—and it was done.

Darren Hughes: Can she give examples to the House of procedures that were counted as inpatient surgical procedures and are now done as outpatient procedures?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I can. Cataract surgery, for example, is now commonly done as an outpatient procedure, and no one would claim that a patient has not had an operation. Other examples include orthopaedic procedures such as carpel tunnel release and release of tennis elbow; gynaecological procedures, such as D and C; and gastroenterology procedures, including endoscopy and colonoscopy.

Barbara Stewart: Is she aware of the reported comments today by a senior orthopaedic surgeon at Wellington Hospital that he has operated on only about half the patients he would have expected to treat in the first 3 months of the year, because the number of orthopaedic beds at Wellington Hospital has been reduced from 28 to 18; and does she as the Minister of Health acknowledge any responsibility to ensure that hospital productivity actually increases in proportion to taxpayer dollars invested?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In respect of the last part of the question, no, not always. In respect of the first part of the question, I am advised by district health boards that they expect to provide all their contracted volumes in orthopaedic surgery by the end of the financial year, and I have no indication they will not achieve that.

Heather Roy: In light of her answers, what explanation can she give for the fact that the number of patients waiting for a first specialist assessment increased by 5,102 in the 3 months from September to December 2004, and we now have 118,553 New Zealanders waiting to see a specialist for the first time?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can tell the people of New Zealand that of those 118,000 people, 93,000 have been waiting fewer than 6 months so they are inside the Government’s expectation; and 25,000 have been waiting longer than 6 months, which is around 21 percent, and that, I will tell New Zealanders, is a huge improvement over 1999 when 34 percent of people waited longer than 6 months.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she disagree with Grey Power president Graham Stairmand, who said: “A sex-change operation at about $30,000 will buy 10 cataract operations.”, and that “We would consider that doing the 10 cataracts would be money better spent.”, and does this not back up exactly what John Tamihere has said about the Labour Government, that it has lost touch with ordinary New Zealanders?

Hon ANNETTE KING: We do thousands of cataract operations a year, and we will soon be announcing a whole lot more. We intend to double the number of knee and hip replacements that older people get and we are well on the way. However, allowance has been made for up to four operations for people who require gender realignment. That member did not speak out against it in the 1990s. He has suddenly found a reason to. He would know, if he is really a doctor, that people who have to have this operation must undergo the most rigorous clinical assessment. I can only assume that he is telling the endocrinologists of New Zealand that they do not know what they are talking about.

Georgina Beyer: Has the Minister heard any reports or received any reports on some of the reasons why sexual reassignment surgery may be considered under the public system, particularly pertaining to suicide?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, in fact for a person to receive such an operation—and funding has been put aside from the high-needs pool for up to four operations a year—the person must undergo a psychiatric assessment, psychological counselling, and a specialist’s appointment with an endocrinologist, to meet the very high classification required to receive the surgery. [Interruption] One of the problems that has been identified is suicide. I take that issue seriously. Nick Smith does not, but I do. Any young person who is in a state of mind where he or she wishes to commit suicide because of his her gender identity deserves the same support as any other New Zealander in the health system.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table four documents. The first is from the Eastern Courier dated 1 April 2005, which states that 2,000 will be removed from the waiting list at Counties-Manukau District Health Board.

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

Dr Paul Hutchison: The second is from the Christchurch Press, dated 19 May 2003, stating that a total of nearly 25,000 New Zealanders have been dumped from hospital waiting lists.

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

Dr Paul Hutchison: The third document is from the Christchurch Press, dated 2 April 2005, where Grey Power president, Graham Stairmand, says that they would consider doing the 10 cataract operations would be money better spent.

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

Dr Paul Hutchison: The fourth document is from the Health and Independence Report, dated 2003, that shows the number of operations from 1999 to 2003 have gone down by 3,000 cases.

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

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a point of clarification. During my colleague Dr Paul Hutchison’s seeking of leave to table documents, members of the Labour Cabinet, including Mr Swain, commented all the way through, calling out “Yeeaas” in that sort of tone, before he had finished asking for leave to table. I am wondering whether that is going to be the standard from now on.

Madam SPEAKER: There was a lot of noise during the seeking of leave to table those four documents, from both sides of the House. I would ask members in the future, particularly the chatterers in the back row, to please keep the noise down.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table a document that shows that gender reassignment surgery was carried out in the 1990s under a National Government.

Leave granted.

Creative Industries—Government Support

11. DIANNE YATES (Labour—Hamilton East) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What is the Government doing to support New Zealand’s creative industries?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): Among a number of other initiatives, this Government supports the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme, which has been enormously successful. Since it was introduced it has helped nearly 3,000 New Zealanders to find work. It recognises that creative industries are important to New Zealanders, as we have a world-leading arts and culture industry, providing over 50,000 jobs and representing 2.8 percent of our GDP.

Dianne Yates: Has the Minister seen any proposals to change the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment scheme?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Yes, I have. I see that the National Party would scrap it because, apparently, Dr Don Brash does not see any value in creative industries. By saying that National would scrap the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme he is effectively saying that an entire sector, including the film, music, and television industries, is off-limits to job seekers. During these boom times when New Zealand music, film, and other arts—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would have expected you to bring the Minister back into line with the Standing Orders. This Minister has absolutely no responsibility, thank goodness, for National Party policy, so all of the answer is outside the Standing Orders.

Madam SPEAKER: The point of order is valid. Would the Minister please address the question in terms of her responsibility.

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I am responsible for this programme and I am concerned that there are grossly ill informed attacks upon it, and that, in these boom times in New Zealand film, music, and other arts, which are at the highest level they have ever been and are returning more jobs and more exports to New Zealand than they have ever done, there are threats that the programme will be withdrawn.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister clarify something? As a result of this programme, are we likely to see more art such as dunnies that bray like a donkey, statues of the Virgin Mary enclosed in a condom, or pictures falsified by the Prime Minister—is this programme going to lead to that sort of thing?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: We have seen an enormous number of young New Zealanders who are trained and talented getting jobs in areas like modelling, like design, like tattooing, like producing clothes—particularly high-fashion clothes—like producing films like Whale Rider and In My Father’s Den, like producing hit New Zealand music that is being exported, like that of Golden Horse, and many, many other such examples that are returning vast numbers of jobs and profits to New Zealanders.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think we are well aware of what you might call the good things the programme might deliver, but I asked the Minister specifically about these fringe-type art things that New Zealanders—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please be quiet while the member is making his point of order.

Peter Brown: I simply asked the Minister about what one might call fringe-art exhibits that really do upset some New Zealanders. Will this programme lead to more of those?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: This Government, unlike Soviet USSR, is not responsible for the output of artists, particularly those on the fringe. We are interested in seeing real jobs, real exports, and real profits to New Zealanders. These projects are designed for artists who want to work and to be paid for what they do.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that it is getting a bit rowdy, but Bill English was thrown out for interjecting on a point of order, and both the Hon Chris Carter and the Hon David Cunliffe interjected loudly on Mr Peter Brown’s point of order. It was done from the cross benches where he is standing. It was designed to disrupt his point of order. I am sure they will agree that they interrupted on his point of order. I think you should treat them as you treated Bill English.

Madam SPEAKER: All I heard was a level of buzz in the House that was unacceptable. I did not hear specific voices, and that is why I asked all members to be quiet. I have ruled on that, Mr Hide. I did not hear that; I did ask members to be quiet.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I heard them loud and clear and saw them. All that you need to do is ask them whether they called out during that point of order, and I am sure you will get an answer.

Madam SPEAKER: Did the members?

Hon Chris Carter: Yes, Madam Speaker. I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister will leave the House, then.

Hon Chris Carter withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If we are going to apply the rules in the same fashion, there was a point much earlier on when you did not know who had interjected and you could not identify the person. It was Richard Prebble. Perhaps he would now like to stand up and own up to interjecting during that point of order, and he might like to leave, as well.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has a point. It should have been raised at the time, but did the member interject when I could not hear?

Rodney Hide: It’s too late.

Madam SPEAKER: It is too late, but the member is making the point that if we are—

Hon Richard Prebble: Madam Speaker, I thought we were up to David Cunliffe. You have not got to me yet.

Madam SPEAKER: Can we move on, please.

Hon David Cunliffe: I would like to own up to speaking, but not with intent to disrupt, so I would be—

Madam SPEAKER: The member can leave as well then, please.

Brent Catchpole: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Going back to the last answer given by the Minister, I ask you to reflect on the answer that she gave, in that she gave the name of a non-existent country—a country that no longer exists, in fact.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My understanding was that David Cunliffe was asked to go for calling out in the point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I did. I said would he please leave. And Maurice Williamson came very close to being asked to leave. At this rate it will be a very quiet House.

Hon David Cunliffe withdrew from the Chamber.

Marc Alexander: How is the Government supporting New Zealand’s creative industries when it allows one of its Crown-owned companies, TVNZ, to pay millions of dollars to secure Coronation Street after a bidding war with Prime Television, when it could be using that money to develop local programming and talent?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I am not the Minister of Broadcasting so I am not accountable for the decisions of TVNZ. However, I will point out that well over $180 million is being spent by New Zealand On Air for all television production in New Zealand, and I look forward to seeing that increased.

John Tamihere—Investigate Interview

12. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Housing: What concerns, if any, does he have about poor incentives in the social welfare system in light of John Tamihere’s statement that “We’ve got a range of poor incentives. We say to people ‘you stay in a state house at 25% gross’, and we’re teaching them to be crooks. There might be four income earners in there—we’ll never know it.” and what is he doing about them?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): This Government has made, and is continuing to make, changes to ensure that proper incentives are in place in the social welfare and housing systems, wherever they are required. One recent example, part of the Working for Families package that affects both areas, is that we no longer abate the accommodation supplement from the first dollar of earnings.

Rodney Hide: How can New Zealanders take the Minister seriously when his colleague John Tamihere said that he is “very smarmy, very clever, but no substance.”, and that he “deserves” to “wear all the bulls..t that’ll come” because of his policy failures—statements that Mr Tamihere has repeatedly refused to retract?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will let people make up their own minds.

Hon David Carter: How does the Minister justify his housing incentives, which allow a State house to be occupied by a family with a declared net annual income exceeding $115,000; and is John Tamihere not just telling the truth when he calls the Minister “smarmy” and states that his housing policy is a mess?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It may help to tell the House how people’s income is rated for a Housing New Zealand Corporation house. To be eligible for an income-related rent, a tenant and partner need to provide income statements for themselves for the past 52 weeks. Those should include Work and Income payments, salary and wages, and accident compensation payments. Tenants need to list all those residing in the property. The corporation also requests information about savings, investments, and other sources of regular income, such as family support and payments from boarders, flatters, and adult children. I should point out that only 9 percent of Housing New Zealand tenants are in houses on a market rent, and nearly all of them got their tenancy under a National Government.

Jill Pettis: Can the Minister please advise what reports the Government has received on the success of the income-related rent system?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Housing New Zealand Corporation has informed me that over 98 percent of new tenants qualify for an income-related rent, with over 90 percent of existing tenants qualifying. That means that over 56,000 families, or more than 170,000 people, are benefiting from the restoration of income-related rents. The average household is $35 a week better off. The last Government sold off 13,000 houses, but also charged that vulnerable group top-dollar, market rents to encourage tenants to move out so that it could easily sell off those houses.

Dr Muriel Newman: If news media reports are correct that the Labour Party is now undergoing a process of reconciliation and healing, and in light of the claims of rampant fraud in Housing New Zealand made by the Minister’s former associate social services Minister, does the Minister intend to welcome the assistance of Mr Tamihere, with his interest and expertise in the area of fraud, to assist him in exposing the widespread criminal activity that is apparently taking place in his portfolio under his nose?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister believe that someone who thinks that people who live in State houses tend to criminality, and that one of the Government’s best housing policies is the one teaching them to be crooks, actually belongs in the Labour Party?

Madam SPEAKER: There is no ministerial responsibility for that.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is merely some enthusiasm for the Minister to answer that question. I think that if he were to seek the leave of the House to answer it, we would certainly all agree.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Minister not agree that on that question, and on all of Mr John Tamihere’s allegations, it has now come down to a matter of credibility; and how galling is it for a person who believes he has lived a life of blameless excellence to find that he is disbelieved, with allegations made by a man who has two convictions for forgery and uttering and five drink-driving convictions, who has admitted he lied about receiving a six-figure golden handshake and falsified his tax return, and who has just been turned over by the Serious Fraud Office, yet he is being told he is believable—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member cannot make those allegations of criminal behaviour in the House. The early parts refer to matters of record, but the latter parts did not refer to matters of record at all, and were out of order. The member is going far too far. One could talk about falsifying one’s declaration on marital settlements, for example, without any evidence.

Rodney Hide: The White report shows that Mr Tamihere did not fill out his tax return correctly. He did not declare his income as required by the law. We have already tabled the High Court decision where Mr Tamihere admits to two counts of forgery and two counts of uttering.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It depends what words people use. Mr Prebble said that Mr Tamihere had falsified his tax return, and that was not what was found by the White report at all. The White report was quite clear that the responsibility for paying that tax rested with the employer.

Hon Richard Prebble: I am happy to withdraw that. I think we have enough allegations.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for doing that, but I also remind him that the Minister has no ministerial responsibility for John Tamihere. If we could just get to the question, it would be good.

Hon Richard Prebble: That is not the question. The question is about the Minister’s credibility. How galling is it for a person who believes he lives a life of blameless excellence to find that he is not believed when he has had allegations made against him by a person who has been convicted of forgery twice, and for the public to now believe that person’s allegation that the Minister is “smarmy” and has “no substance”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think the claim made by Mr Tamihere was that we have a range of poor incentives, that people stay in State houses, and that we do not know whether there are four income earners in a house and we will never know. I point out, in terms of credibility, that in fact we do know. There was a lot of noise in the House before, but I explained to people that we do know the incomes of all people who are in Housing New Zealand Corporation houses.

Rodney Hide: Madam Speaker.

Hon Annette King: Good God!

Rodney Hide: Annette King is calling out when I am supposed to be asking a question.

Madam SPEAKER: You have not started yet, Mr Hide. Would you please ask the question.

Rodney Hide: I would if she would be quiet for a change.

Madam SPEAKER: I think that was unnecessary.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It was a comment directed at you, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, it was directed at me.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: He said “you”.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, he did say “you”, actually.

Rodney Hide: I did not.

Madam SPEAKER: That is what I heard.

Rodney Hide: I said “she”.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please ask your question.

Rodney Hide: Will the Minister be taking any advice from Mr Tamihere regarding matters of fraudulent behaviour in his portfolio, in respect of money for which he is responsible, or will he be looking for Mr Tamihere to retract his statements?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In relation to Mr Tamihere’s concerns about the Housing New Zealand Corporation not knowing the incomes of people in its houses, I have just pointed out that we do. We know every single income earner.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I took notes during some of these answers today, but am none the wiser. My question asked whether the Minister would be taking advice from Mr Tamihere. That was not addressed. I was given the answer to a previous question. I asked him whether he will be seeking for Mr Tamihere to retract these statements. Again, he did not address that question whatsoever.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I listen to the views of all back-benchers in the Labour Party, but in the case of this particular issue I have already received advice from Mr Tamihere via an article in the Investigate magazine and I have just replied to it now. We know the incomes of all these people.

Madam SPEAKER: The question was addressed.

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

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