Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 5 May 2005
Thursday, 5 May
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Paid Parental Leave—Changes
2. Police—Former Commissioner
3. Prisoners—Complaints Process
4. Seabirds—Fishing Industry
5. Families Commission—Former Chief Executive
6. Immigration Minister—Confidence
7. Immigration—Security Intelligence Service
8. Drinking Water—Systems
9. Carbon Tax—Finance, Minister
10. Cannabis—Legal Status
Question No. 9 to Minister
11. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Final Results
12. Immigration Service—Confidence
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Paid Parental Leave—Changes
1. LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Associate Minister of Labour: What changes is the Government making to paid parental leave?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Labour): I am delighted that the Government has recently decided to extend the paid parental leave scheme to self-employed new mothers, giving them practical financial support and greater choice about when to return to paid work.
Lianne Dalziel: Has the Minister seen any responses to the announcement of the extension of the scheme to the self-employed; if so, what do they say?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen a report from Judith Collins, the National Party spokesperson on some issues of concern to women, in which she said that she would much rather have had a tax cut than support paid parental leave when she was self-employed. To provide the equivalent amount of money that this Government is giving through paid parental leave would cost taxpayers $9.9 billion a year. She did not say in her statement where that money would come from.
Judy Turner: Can the Minister confirm that the extension of paid parental leave to the self-employed was supported by United Future as one of its Budget proposals to the Government?
Madam SPEAKER: The Hon Ruth Dyson has no responsibility for United Future.
Hon RUTH DYSON: I can confirm that support. It is based primarily on the fact that United Future has a well-deserved reputation for supporting families, as does this policy.
Lianne Dalziel: What future plans does the Government have for the paid parental leave scheme?
Hon RUTH DYSON: A full evaluation of the paid parental leave scheme and the experiences of women, including those currently not eligible for paid parental leave, their partners, and employers will be carried out this year. Any gaps or accessibility issues will be considered after that evaluation.
2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Do the statements made by the Minister of Education in the House yesterday on the Peter Doone affair represent her Government’s official position on the issue; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Government’s official position was outlined on 25 January 2000, when details of Mr Doone’s resignation and departure from the office of Commissioner of Police were announced.
Gerry Brownlee: Is it that the Prime Minister wants to hide something that caused her to send the Minister of Education into the House yesterday to make a series of defamatory statements that she will not repeat outside the House; if not, why does she not release the transcripts of her five conversations with the Sunday Star-Times?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister certainly did not send Mr Mallard into the House yesterday; he was already here. As for the other matter, those notes belong to the Sunday Star-Times, and the Prime Minister has no intention of trying to influence their release while there is still legal action possibly pending.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Where do we head to in this situation? I have a question that is directed to the Prime Minister. Are the words that Dr Cullen will give today on behalf of the Prime Minister deemed in this House to be the Prime Minister’s words?
Madam SPEAKER: Yes.
Gerry Brownlee: Will the Prime Minister give an unqualified assurance that she did not tell the Sunday Star-Times that the use of the words “that won’t be necessary” was accurate, and that it should stand by its accounts of events; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister has made it clear on many occasions that she would have stated that those words were contested.
Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister apply the same standard to herself that she applies to her Ministers, and if it transpires that what she has been telling this House does not square with the facts and that she did in fact confirm for the Sunday Star-Times the words “that won’t be necessary” were used with no qualification, will she do the honourable thing, like Lianne Dalziel did?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister has stated very clearly that she is absolutely certain that she stated that those words were contested, and I would certainly rather rely on the Prime Minister’s word than on the word of the person that that member is relying on.
Gerry Brownlee: Are we to take it, then, that the Prime Minister continues to stand by her statement earlier this week in relation to the information she provided to the Sunday Star-Times regarding the then Police Commissioner Mr Doone: “I do not believe that incorrect information was provided.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is true. I repeat again that the Prime Minister states that she would have stated that the words that members have mentioned were contested.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to consider that answer in light of the question. Yes, the Minister addressed the question, but there is a very fine point here. The Prime Minister has said in this House that she did not believe that she gave incorrect information to the Sunday Star-Times. We are asking her to say “I stick by that.”, or perhaps “I have reconsidered.”
Madam SPEAKER: The Standing Orders do require that the question has to be addressed, but it does not necessarily have to be addressed in the way that the member who asked the question may wish it to be. It certainly was addressed, in terms of its substance.
Rodney Hide: Did the Prime Minister prepare a statement of evidence this year for the court, and in that statement of evidence did she point out that she would have told the Sunday Star-Times that the words “that won’t be necessary” were contested?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, the Prime Minister helped to prepare a statement of evidence. I cannot comment on the latter manner; I do not have information as to that myself.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it consistent with Government policy that Commissioners of Police should, after drinking for 4 hours and driving in a car with its lights off, when stopped by a young constable intervene when that constable approaches the car with a breath tester in order to test someone who had been drinking—is that appropriate behaviour for a Commissioner of Police, or is it consistent with the commissioner who bought us INCIS?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is an interesting question—I think the whole House would know what the answer is—but it is not connected to the substance of the questions that have been asked of Dr Cullen today. Those questions relate to the reasons why, as my colleague Bill English said yesterday, the Prime Minister continued, on five calls to the Sunday Star-Times, to pump bullets into the then Commissioner of Police, who was at that point, to all intents and purposes, dead. For Mr Mallard to ask that question in a way that suggests he is being factual is wrong. It is wrong on the public record, and can easily be shown to be so. We have to be factual in our questions. Government members, surely, should have to be factual in their questions.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I would have had far more cause to raise a point of order on the supplementary questions originally asked by the member, which were about the Prime Minister’s statements, when the principal question was about the statements made by the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education has just chosen to repeat some of those statements, and his supplementary question arises far more clearly out of the principal question than that member’s supplementary questions did.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the members. I have heard enough, so I thank them very much for their contributions. As members know, they are entitled under the Standing Orders to ask hypothetical questions, which was the type of question asked by the Hon Trevor Mallard. The question also related to the original question because it is linked to the Minister of Education’s statement. So the point of order is not valid on this occasion.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise this point of order on the same matter, but I will put it to you slightly differently. Mr Mallard in his question made a number of statements of fact. Statements of fact, as you know, have to be authenticated in primary questions and, if challenged, have to be capable of being authenticated even in supplementary questions. Now, we know that Mr Mallard’s statements cannot be authenticated. One reason we know that is that there was a report into that incident, which concluded that the statements that Mr Mallard made were not correct. That is one of the reasons why the defamation case is around—the statements Mr Mallard is making under privilege have actually been found not to be correct. For you, Madam Speaker, now to allow that is to say that Government Ministers who get up in question time can make allegations of fact against a third party that are not true and that are defamatory. Those statements cannot be established by Mr Mallard. If he studies the report into Mr Doone, he will find that those matters were not found to be factual. It would be outrageous for him to be able to get up as a Minister and put a question to another Minister that is clearly designed to damage the character of a private citizen.
Madam SPEAKER: The original question was put as a hypothetical question. That is the point I made—that the question was phrased as a hypothetical question. I suggest we now hear the answer.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If you were to rule that Mr Mallard’s question—hypothetical as it is now ruled to be—is in order, then I think you do the House a disservice. If you go back to the primary question, you will see that it asked whether the Prime Minister stood by the comments made by Mr Mallard yesterday. Everything Mr Mallard said in his hypothetical’ question today, he put factually to the House yesterday. The Prime Minister, in the guise of Dr Cullen, has today not answered the question that was put at the start of question No. 2, and has not said that this is a Government position. In fact, he has given all sorts of words around it, to get away from having to make that comment. So why would we be in a position now, essentially, of having asked the question, of having not received an answer from the Government, and of then allowing another Government member rather than putting the question factually to put it in a hypothetical way, so that the Prime Minister will presumably answer hypothetically? All of this would be very simple if the Prime Minister would just tell us what happened, and tell us whether she did unduly interfere in the process. She could do that by releasing the transcripts of the five particular discussions with the Sunday Star-Times, and then we could compare them against the Hansard record.
Madam SPEAKER: This will be the last comment I will take on this.
Rodney Hide: I think that Richard Prebble is right, and it is a misuse of question time by a Minister to use that time, whether in a hypothetical question or not, to try to put some more bullets into a private citizen. It is very easy to see that what Mr Mallard is saying is not factual, because he is not prepared to go outside this House, stand on its steps, and say that he stands by everything he said about Mr Peter Doone. If he were prepared to do that, then we could accept that what he said was factual.
Madam SPEAKER: I come back to the point that the question was phrased in a way that is permitted under the Standing Orders. I also note that there are many attacks on people outside this House that are made by those inside the House. Whether that is done may well be regrettable in some circumstances, but it is a matter of fact that it does happen from time to time. It is a matter for the members who raise those matters themselves as to whether they think it is appropriate. I suggest that the Minister answer the question, thus addressing what I think Mr Brownlee was seeking: an answer to the question. So let us see whether we can get that answer.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Is it the same point of order?
Hon Richard Prebble: No. It is on the same matter, but raises a further point. I take it from your ruling that you are looking at Standing Order 364, “Content of questions”, and are deciding that the matters regarding facts can be met because the question is hypothetical, and I follow the point that you are making. Now, with the greatest of respect, I ask you to reconsider the question, looking at Standing Order 364(1)(b), which states that questions may not contain: “arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions or expressions of opinion, ...”. The question put by Mr Mallard contains nearly all those matters. Even if you can—and obviously you have decided this, so I will not dispute it—decide that the question is hypothetical so that the ruling about facts having to be authenticated is met, the question is clearly out of order under Standing Order 364(1)(b).
Madam SPEAKER: In this particular instance it seems to be that the matters that were raised are matters that are on the record in the debate yesterday. They are matters that have already been raised in the House. An answer has been sought in response to them, and the answer should be given.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would ask you to consider again exactly what Mr Prebble—
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on this matter. Is this a different matter?
Gerry Brownlee: It is the same matter, but it is a different angle on it. [Interruption] It is not a laughing matter.
Madam SPEAKER: I will let the member be heard.
Gerry Brownlee: I was thinking about what Mr Prebble has put to you. The primary question asked whether statements made by the Minister of Education to the House yesterday represent the Prime Minister’s Government’s official position, and there was no response to that question from the Deputy Prime Minister. Yet when Mr Mallard is able to put all those allegations that he made yesterday in a factual way into a hypothetical question, which clearly sits outside the Standing Order, how appropriate is it to allow that question to stand?
Madam SPEAKER: There is a link to the former commissioner in the question—that is undoubtedly true as one reads it—but it does arise out of the principal question. The hypothetical situation involving ministerial responsibility can be put to the Prime Minister. So I would ask that the Minister does address the question. We need to have an answer to the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In response to the hypothetical question, no, that would not be acceptable. In relation to the actual reports that occurred at the time, the Police Complaints Authority concluded that on the evidence available, no excess blood/alcohol levels were involved, but it went on to state that the commissioner’s action in interacting with the constable in the way that he did that night was undesirable.
3. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: What are the findings of the review he commissioned from the Ministry of Justice into prisoner complaints processes?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The report found that the policies and procedures of the internal complaints system were sound but underutilised. It found that the prison inspectorate does “a very credible and worthwhile job” and, together with the Office of the Ombudsmen, “can be relied on to identify most breaches of the minimum legal conditions”. However, the review also found that the Department of Corrections was unacceptably slow to respond to matters raised by the Ombudsmen’s office, and steps have now been taken to address this and will continue to be taken.
Martin Gallagher: What steps have been or will be taken to address deficiencies?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The new Corrections Act and regulations come into effect on 1 June. They give a statutory basis to the complaints process and make process improvements that will increase reliability and transparency. The Department of Corrections has a new chief executive, and I know he is committed to making a change in the culture within the department and ensuring its greater responsiveness to the Ombudsman. A new protocol between the two will set out performance standards. However, I have to say that should these moves not result in the improvements expected, an independent prisoner complaints body is likely to be put in place.
Dr Richard Worth: Why, if the Government is allegedly so committed to resolving prisoner grievances, does it not establish now an independent prison inspectorate, perhaps similar to that in England and Wales, and also adopt as a basis of inspections in respect of prisons the World Health Organization model?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The reason it does not do that now is that a select committee of this House has taken a long time to consider that option and has actually proposed that we maintain the status quo, but with improvements. I want to see whether those improvements work, as I am sure my colleague the Minister of Corrections does. We also have a review being done by the Office of the Ombudsmen that I will receive in December, and that will have things to say about this. Finally in relation to the member’s question, the review that has been done indicates that there are downsides as well as positives in having an independent prisons complaints service. I recommend that the member read that review.
Marc Alexander: How will the Minister ensure that prisoners exhaust all internal avenues of complaint before taking legal action, since this was not done by the inmates who won compensation in the High Court last year; and has he consulted with the Ombudsman on the best way to improve the complaints process, since the number of complaints it receives from prisoners tripled between 1994 and 2004?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have indeed spoken to the Office of the Ombudsmen, and the review report that I have released this afternoon, which I also commend to the member, makes some suggestions about how improvements can be made, including the protocols. In relation to the first part of the question, yes, under the legislation that has been reported back to the House today, any inmate who wants to raise any claim for compensation would have to demonstrate that he or she had been through all the relevant internal complaints systems. But we have a duty on that basis to ensure that those systems are effective and responsive.
Ron Mark: Does anything in the report indicate that had the prison inspectorate done a more thorough job of investigating the complaints laid with respect to the emergency response unit in Canterbury prisons, we would not have ended up with the 4-year running sore that brought the Department of Corrections itself into such disrepute?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The review does touch on the Duffy report, with which I am sure the member is familiar. The Duffy report found that the processes were adequate but were not followed, and that the department had been slow and unresponsive. That is reiterated in this review report. Clearly the culture of the department needs to change in that way. I, the Minister of Corrections, and the new chief executive officer of the Department of Corrections are committed to ensuring that the department does become more responsive and that its culture changes.
4. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: How many codes of practice have been approved under the national plan of action on seabirds, and have seabird deaths in the fishing industry reduced as a result of these codes?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Associate Minister of Fisheries), on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries: I am advised that one code of practice has been approved and applied. Three codes of practice are currently going through an approval process, with the mitigation measures set out in those codes already being used by fishers. Five further codes are due for approval by June 2005. The number of seabird deaths has reduced substantially in those fisheries that are using mitigation measures.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: When will he accept that the voluntary measures in the so-called action plan are not working, with eight codes due to have been approved months ago and only one actually in place, and when will he make best-practice fishing methods mandatory for all vessels fishing in New Zealand waters?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am advised that the Minister agrees with the Green Party and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society that this is an unacceptable situation. I can confirm that 2 weeks ago the Minister called for the Ministry of Fisheries to prepare a report on this issue. The report is expected to be with the Minister by the end of this week.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is he aware that the joint-venture tuna fishery has reduced its seabird deaths from 4,000 to just 20, using a package of measures that have been known and available for the last 15 years, and what possible excuse is there for any Kiwi vessel fishing in our own waters not to employ those same precautions?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Since the application of mitigation measures in the ling auto-longline fishery, the number of seabird deaths has reduced by 75 percent. In relation to the joint-venture tuna fishery, the number of seabird deaths has reduced by 95 percent. Certainly, the Minister has asked for the report by the end of the week.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: When will he require observers or other independent monitoring on all boats, as required now on those joint-venture boats, so he has the information he needs about the extent of the slaughter?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are already people out there, observing and watching. We have Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officers on those boats, and I suggest that the member over there could take a trip and watch those squawking gulls.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister consider adopting the Green Party policy of setting limits on the number of seabird deaths in each fishery, after which that fishery would be closed for the season—as is done now in the squid fishery to protect Hooker’s sea lions in the Auckland Islands?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Minister is always obligated to ongoing discussions with the Green Party in relation to that matter.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: While welcoming the Minister’s assurance, is 10,000 unnecessary deaths a year of seabirds, such as albatrosses and petrels and many of them seriously endangered species, an indication of the low priority the Government puts on its own biodiversity strategy, or is it just that the fishing industry is so scary that ignoring the environmental provisions of the Fisheries Act is easier?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No and no.
Families Commission—Former Chief Executive
5. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: On what date did he find out for the first time there were problems in relation to Claire Austin’s employment at the Families Commission which culminated in her resigning from the Families Commission on 18 April?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)), on behalf of the Minister for Social Development and Employment: The Minister first became aware that there was a serious breakdown in the relationship between the chief executive and commissioners on 28 February. Between the end of February and 13 April, the Families Commission was working with the Ministry of Social Development to try to resolve those issues. The Minister was first advised on 13 April that Claire Austin was leaving, and that her departure involved a payout, and that this payout was confidential. By then the commission and Claire Austin had reached a legally binding agreement. The Minister has made it clear to the chief commissioner that the commission has acted in a way that is not consistent with Government expectations on these issues.
Judith Collins: When the Minister first knew of the problems at the Families Commission, did he then, or at any stage after that, advise Mr Prasad that he must not authorise a secret golden handshake for the chief executive officer; if he did, on how many occasions did he make his instructions known?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I made clear in the answer to the primary question, the first advice the Minister received on this was on 13 April, by which time the payment was legally binding.
Georgina Beyer: What measures has this Government undertaken to further the interests of New Zealand families, in keeping with the mission of the Families Commission?
Hon RUTH DYSON: In addition to the initiatives such as the Working for Families package that the House was advised about on Tuesday, let me briefly list five more. We have put in place a range of community-based services as part of the implementation of Te Rito, or the New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy; we have given financial assistance for advocates for children who witness family violence; through SKIP we have given parents raising pre-schoolers more support with positive parenting; the Active Movement initiative provides a range of physical activity options for under-5s; and from July the Ministry of Health will offer eligible primary schools the chance to apply for the free-fruit scheme whereby all students will get one piece of fresh fruit each day at their school.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your assistance in this matter. In the answer the Minister gave to my first supplementary question she intimated that the first that the Minister knew of the problem was in April, yet in the first answer she gave she said it was in February. The question I asked was when he first knew of the problems at the Families Commission, and this Minister said that it was in February; I then asked how many times did he go on to say there must not be any secret golden handshakes, and she went on to say, on behalf of the Minister, that actually he did not know about that until April. Is she now saying, on behalf of the Minister, that at no stage did the Minister say there shall be no golden handshakes, or is she simply saying that he did not really know until April?
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. That is not a point of order. It is a matter of debate, and I suggest another supplementary question.
Heather Roy: Can he confirm that he knows the value of the previous chief executive officer’s golden handshake, and that it exceeds $120,000?
Hon RUTH DYSON: In accordance with section 152(1)(d) of the Crown Entities Act, which was put in place by our Government precisely because of our dislike of confidential payments, the House will be aware that the commission will need to record in its annual report “the total value of any compensation or other benefits paid or payable to persons who ceased to be members, committee members, or employees during the financial year in relation to that cessation ...”.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is all very interesting to hear about that legislation and the policy, but that answer had absolutely nothing to do with the question that the Minister was asked. She was asked a simple question as to whether the Minister knew the value of the golden handshake. She never addressed that in any way, shape, or form. She either does know or does not. She has to address that part of the question. And she was asked to deny whether the total value of that package exceeds $120,000. She never addressed that part of the question, either. The answer given was to some completely different question.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. The answer did address the question, in that it said that that information would be available under that provision in the legislation, when the report is made to Parliament. The question is addressed in that sense, so it is not correct to say that the answer did not address the question.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on that matter. If it is a different matter, that is fine.
Rodney Hide: It is a different matter. Are you ruling that when an MP asks the Minister a direct question as to whether the Minister knows something, it is OK for him or her to say: “Well, section 5 of the Public Finance Act says x, y, and z.”, and you will rule that that addressed the question?
Madam SPEAKER: Because that particular section addresses the information that would be available. If the member does not like the way in which the Standing Orders are written at the moment, I invite him to raise the matter at the Standing Orders Committee.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I listened to the Minister’s answer carefully, although I have to say I did not hear everything because of other conversations going on. But it does appear to me that what she effectively said was: “I know the amount that’s been paid out, but I’m not telling you.” That is what her answer amounted to.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Peter Brown: I am just asking whether that sort of answer to a question is acceptable.
Madam SPEAKER: It addressed the question—when that information would be available, and under what provisions. So it addressed the question.
Hon Peter Dunne: How committed is the Government to the future of the Families Commission, given this particular incident, and also the fact that it was a United Future initiative?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The member is aware that the Families Commission was set up as a result of the negotiations with his party around the establishment of an MMP Government after the 2002 election. The proposal from the United Future party was a commission that would research the role, function, and nature of families, to assist with tackling the social and economic cost of family breakdown. Our Government agreed to the establishment of that agency, and is keen to see that it succeeds. The Families Commission has a comprehensive work programme aimed at promoting the interests of, and advocating for, New Zealand families.
Judith Collins: When the Minister first knew of the problems at the Families Commission, in February 2005, did he then, or any stage after that, advise Mr Prasad that he must not authorise a secret golden handshake to the chief executive officer; if he did, on how many occasions did he make his instructions known?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I said in the answer to the primary question, the Minister was advised on 28 February that there was a serious breakdown in the relationship between the chief executive and the commissioner. At that time there was no suggestion of the departure of the chief executive. The Minister was advised on 13 April of her departure, and was advised on that same day that that departure involved a payout, and that it was legally binding and confidential.
Judith Collins: What did the Minister mean when he said in Opposition: “What will stop this kind of thing happening again is a Government and a Minister determined to stamp out the culture of extravagance that has been allowed to flourish.”; and does he expect the House to believe that he meant that if one gave a golden handshake during his watch, the most that would happen is that one’s pay rise might be delayed?
Hon RUTH DYSON: He meant exactly what he said.
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she still have confidence in her Minister of Immigration; if so, why? [Interruption]
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will have observed that when a member is asking a question, no member may speak—because that is what you kicked me out of the House for, just recently.
Madam SPEAKER: You had finished asking the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: But I am very interested to know what that failed, useless Minister said.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened carefully. The member had finished asking his question. It was then that a comment was made by the Minister.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because he is still a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall saying the same thing about the previous Minister of Immigration, on a regular basis; and if any of those assurances have any merit, what on earth is Isaac Meti Yosef Jago, who is residing in Auckland, and who arrived as a refugee on 6 April 2000, having come from Iraq where he was alleged to have been one of Saddam Hussein’s elite force of palace guards, doing in this country?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member would now like to give us all the names and details that he has, they will be taken up with the review team. However, so far he has failed to find anybody who is a security risk.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Prime Minister does not think that the Minister whom I named in the House the other day is a security risk and that she knows more than, for example, Dr Munjid Umara, the President of the Auckland Refugee Council, who said of this man that: “It opens the minds of all people to take care about which people can come to New Zealand and seek for asylum or refugee status. He”—that is, Saddam Hussein’s former Minister of Agriculture—“should have no place here in New Zealand.”; and why does the Minister not go and tell the Kurds that?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is why his visitor permit has been revoked. But there is a difference between being undesirable and being a security risk.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister confirm that there is a register of names in respect of Zimbabwe and Myanmar; and, if that is true, is there a similar register of names for undesirables from Iraq—yes or no?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am advised that the answer is no, but that matter is being looked into.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Of the 400 people who came here with false and misleading documentation, or who destroyed the documentation after they arrived, who the Minister of Immigration said were missing, how many has the department since found; and is this not the image of a leaderless, incompetent Government with an incompetent Minister?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, it is not. A large number of those people have been granted refugee status. Another large number of them have left New Zealand. But, of course, we have to be extraordinarily careful here in terms of distinguishing between people who are undesirable and people who are simply security risks. There is a distinct difference.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Government does not know who is here, how does it assess the criteria of a security risk?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In terms of those entering the nation and their names, frequently they will be checked by the SIS in terms of a security check. But if they are not a security risk there is no reason for the SIS to draw any matter to the attention of the Immigration Service under the present rules. The department is working on how to define better the notion of undesirable, but it is a very difficult and subjective matter.
Ron Mark: Rubbish!
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member may think it is rubbish. I think he is undesirable.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister have any confidence in a Minister who yesterday left an official to brief the media while he could not be seen for dust and small pebbles, such is his embarrassment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The chief official involved in immigration took charge of the media on that particular occasion because it was operational and related to how the department operates its estimates. I want to say one other thing. This member has for days got away with the notion that the Government should know where every visitor to this country is within the country. The only countries that can do that are called police States.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement to the House on Tuesday that since last week’s allegations by Mr Peters, “extensive checks” had been undertaken by immigration officials; and can she advise the House, in light of information now in the public arena, whether it is her conclusion that those checks were not carried out competently, or not carried out all?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The review is ongoing and clearly there is more work to be done in that respect.
Keith Locke: Can the Minister assure us that the new visa-checking system will not result in extra delays in issuing visitor visas, bearing in mind the American problem of tourists staying away in droves because of delays and overly intrusive checks, and that international conferences are being shifted to other countries because it cannot be guaranteed that delegates will get a visitor visa on time?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member makes a very important point. There is something like 2 million-odd tourists coming to this country each year—
Ron Mark: Whose fault is that?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government regards 2 million tourists coming to the country as a success, rather than a fault. That is the difference between us and New Zealand First on these matters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it to be the assumption of the public that the way to stop potential terrorists and undesirables in this country is to encourage them to wear burkas and carry Armalites, because otherwise the surveillance and scrutinising process will not work?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. If they came in wearing burkas and carrying Armalites, we might suspect that they were New Zealand First moles.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, the Government may think that this is a laughing matter, but nobody in the Western World does. Nobody with whom we have a responsibility to cooperate does. I am asking the Prime Minister’s agent today to get up and answer the question properly.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Further, border control in any democracy is difficult, because there is a balance between the democratic right of people to move—the notion that we are not a police State—and keeping out people who are undesirable and are security threats. The member’s position is simple: nobody should be allowed into the country.
Immigration—Security Intelligence Service
7. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service: Does the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service scrutinise immigration applications; if so, how did it miss the seven Iraqis?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service: The SIS does check immigration applications from countries of security risk. It checks them only to see whether the individuals pose a threat to security. None of the seven has been assessed as posing a threat to security.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the answers already given in respect of issues surrounding this, can the Minister tell the House exactly who an undesirable applicant would be, and who a security risk applicant would be; if a Minister in Saddam Hussein’s Cabinet and a palace guard are not deemed to be security risks, are we to conclude that nobody from Iraq would be?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the last point, no. What is a security risk is well defined in the SIS’s own legislation. No, there is yet to be a definition of the term “undesirable”; that will require considerable work. It is most important that we do not throw out the babies with the “bath” in this particular case.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister ever intend to take her responsibilities seriously in respect of our national security, and is she aware that the office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform in Saddam Hussein’s regime was, as one of its responsibilities, in charge of chemical weaponry production; would that not be an indicator that that man should not be in this country?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is why that man’s permit has been revoked.
Hon Murray McCully: Has the Minister been advised that the former Iraqi Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform who is now in New Zealand applied for a visitor permit without making any attempt to conceal his identity; if so, what does that suggest to the Minister about the quality of the checks made, firstly, when he was given a visa, and secondly, following Mr Peters’ allegations last week?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am advised that that is not the case. The member has different Iraqis mixed up.
Dr Muriel Newman: What changes to the directions given to the SIS to enhance national security has the Prime Minister introduced since September 11, and, in light of the recent debacle, can she confirm to the House how well she thinks those changes have been working?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Recent events do not involve a person who is a security risk, according to the SIS. The member has still not understood that very simple point. This person has been assessed by the SIS as not being a security risk. What I can say is that the SIS, along with the other Government security agencies, has had extremely large increases in capacity since September 11.
8. DAVID PARKER (Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Local Government: What new measures is the Government taking to help smaller councils improve drinking water systems?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts), on behalf of the Minister of Local Government: I am delighted to announce that the Government is establishing a fund of $136 million to help improve drinking water systems for New Zealand communities. The fund will be of particular benefit to smaller communities where the provision of safe drinking water is more expensive on a per capita basis. It is important that everyone has good access to good-quality drinking water.
David Parker: What are the expected benefits from the Drinking Water Subsidy Fund?
Hon RICK BARKER: There are two major benefits: firstly, there will be a reduction in waterborne disease, which is estimated to cost the New Zealand economy about $15 billion a year; secondly, we are not only ensuring better-quality water but also easing the cost to those communities and ratepayers of their meeting their basic infrastructure needs.
Carbon Tax—Finance, Minister
9. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: What involvement, if any, did he have as Minister of Finance in the formulation of the carbon tax policy?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): My colleague Pete Hodgson was lead Minister but I was involved at all stages of policy design. I, of course, led the design of the business tax package to recycle revenue from the carbon charge back to business.
John Key: What is the difference in disposable income for a consumer who faces a $210 increase as opposed to a $210 negative tax shift?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: One cannot equate the two, because—[Interruption] I think the member’s collar is turned up. He might need to turn it down. It is obviously affecting him a little bit. The tax from the carbon charge is a tax collected from business, but in the end it rests upon the final consumer. The tax reductions for business are in areas such as compliance costs, fringe benefit tax, and depreciation. They are very much larger than the revenue from the carbon charge so the net effect on taxation is negative. That should reduce the cost to business and to the community.
John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am surprised that the Minister did not understand such a simple question. I wonder whether you could ask him to answer it. What is the difference between a $210 tax increase on the pockets of a consumer, and a negative $210 tax shift? I am not interested in how he is funding his so-called business tax cuts; I am interested in the impact on the consumer. I think the House deserves an answer to that.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The negative tax impact on the consumer at the end of the day is substantially more than $210. The member has not grasped that fact yet and I suggest he waits for the Budget for the details.
Larry Baldock: What plans does the Government have to avoid the situation where hydro generators may reap a windfall from the increased electricity price affected by the carbon tax; if he has no plans for that, will he commit to returning that windfall, which would come to him through State-owned enterprises, back to taxpayers to help offset the carbon tax charge?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I can say is that the windfall tax will not fall only to State-owned enterprises, it will fall also to Contact Energy, which is a substantial hydro generator. So the Government will get some of that back, presumably, via tax on Contact Energy’s profits. Again, even if one adds a reasonable estimate of the windfall gains that the State-owned enterprises will get, and the dividend the Government will then get, that still adds up to substantially less than the tax cuts that will be announced in the Budget.
Kenneth Wang: Can the Minister name just one other Asian or Pacific country that is implementing a carbon tax; if not, why is New Zealand out of step with all of its neighbours?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Of course, very few other Asian countries are signatories—Japan is a signatory—to the Kyoto agreement, because most of them are not classified as developing countries, and the one major one that is has so far decided not to join the Kyoto agreement. But I am surprised that an ACT member would be opposed to measures that are designed to send pricing signals around the use of energy, particularly greenhouse gas - emitting forms of energy.
John Key: Why are consumers being forced to pay for a tax cut for business?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That idea is rich from a party that has promised a corporate tax rate cut as its first tax cut.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Can the Minister confirm that it was in fact the National Party that signed New Zealand up to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and that the ACT party is the only party in Parliament that has constantly argued against the signing, and the introduction of this foolish tax?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I accept that the ACT party has been the only consistently troglodytic party on this matter.
John Key: Can the Minister confirm that the real increase in cost to consumers will be far greater than $210 per year if the carbon tax is calculated off the higher rate of $25 per tonne and when the second-order issues are passed on to consumers, in which case the likely cost consumers face will be much nearer to $400 to $500 per year?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely not. The carbon charge is fixed at $15 per tonne for the first period.
10. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by his statement to the House last year in relation to cannabis that “… one of the areas that I am most worried about is younger people, and the effect that the chemicals in cannabis have on their mental development and their attitudes. That is one of the reasons why I personally believe we should be extraordinarily cautious before making any change in the status of this drug.”; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes. The views that I expressed then have been reinforced by the recent findings of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit study, which shows that 8 percent of teens who use cannabis may develop a psychosis, such as schizophrenia, as a result of that use. Amongst those carrying a cannabis-vulnerable gene, the rate of psychosis is as high as 15 percent.
Judy Turner: Would the Minister support a policy that requires any loosening of controls on drugs such as cannabis to undergo a vote in Parliament, rather than simply being implemented through an Order in Council; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member, I think, is referring to a matter currently before a select committee, the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 3). That is in the process of being discussed before that committee, and it is not my role as Minister to pre-empt or, indeed, to comment on what is happening there. But I do want to make very clear to the member that this Government has entered into a commitment for confidence and supply with the United Future party, and part of that commitment is that it will not change the legal status of cannabis, and it is committed to maintaining its commitment in that regard.
Moana Mackey: What action is the Government taking to reduce the impact of drug abuse on New Zealand communities?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Government operates under a National Drug Policy, which has a focus on three areas: measures, such as education, to reduce the demand for drugs; measures to control supply through law enforcement; and treatment of those suffering harm from drug and alcohol abuse. I draw to the House’s attention that in last year’s Budget $53 million was provided over 4 years for efforts to cut drug abuse. That indicates how seriously we take that problem.
Nandor Tanczos: Has the Minister heard the statement made today by the lead researcher in the study he quoted, Associate Professor Richie Poulton, that the key implication of the study for politicians is how to delay the onset of cannabis use by young people, and that in his view the fact that cannabis use is a criminal act does not appear to deter its use by young people; who will he listen to: Judy Turner, or one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The person concerned, who has done a lot of work on this, most certainly has made the point that cannabis is more dangerous in some situations than others, and he points to the young, because of the effect on them; to those with a mental illness; and, as the Canterbury longitudinal study also points out, to those who are heavy users of the drug. Clearly, those are the people most vulnerable. My concern is that if we were to legalise the drug as the member wishes, it would not lead to a reduction in the use of drugs; it would undoubtedly bring down the price, because it would be legal and it is easy to cultivate, and that would lead to more people using the drug. That is a problem we simply do not need in this country.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure the Minister did not deliberately mislead the House, but the Green Party policy is not to legalise cannabis; it is simply to remove criminal sanctions.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but thank you.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of reports that the Dutch Government is having to crack down on cannabis coffee-shops, particularly those close to schools, and does he agree that if the Government with the most liberal stance to cannabis in the world is having to reverse its position, we have got it right with our current position?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have not followed what is happening in the Netherlands at the present time, but I will take the member’s word for it. I think that we have got it about right at the moment. Of course, the illegality of the drug is not succeeding in stopping people from using it, but it is stopping more people from using it more regularly, and an effective response to the drug has to include not just maintaining its criminality but also having an education programme around the effects of the drug and the negative effects that it has. As the study I quoted before showed, for 8 percent of adolescents using it, it led to a psychosis. That is a very significant figure.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree with the statement: “The best way to stop young people using cannabis is to have a clear age limit that is seriously policed.”, made by Nandor Tanczos, who has also claimed that the policing of the current law does not work; and how would decriminalisation stop young people from getting access to cannabis, when the age limit would simply leave room for a gang-led black market to supply them?
Hon PHIL GOFF: As I indicated before, I think that decriminalisation of the drug would lead to its greater availability and heavier use.
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to have raised this question out of sync, but I have tried desperately to get an answer to it. The Minister of Finance, in his response to Mr Key’s question, used a word about ACT members, calling them “tropodytic”. Standing Order 115, “Offensive or disorderly words”, states: “If any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a member who is speaking or by a member who is present, the Speaker intervenes.” I was not sure whether the word was offensive, so I went to the dictionary provided by the Clerk of the House and I found that the word “tropodytic” does not appear in the dictionary, at all. I wonder whether we could call on the interpreter we have available in this House to give us an interpretation of that word, because I think it may be offensive, but I do not want to make that accusation without knowing its true meaning.
Madam SPEAKER: No—[Interruption] The definition we have here says that “troglodytic” means of cave dwellers. The member has raised the question out of time, but he has got a response.
JOHN KEY (National—Helensville): In answer to my supplementary question, Dr Cullen confirmed for the House that the carbon charge was priced at $15 per tonne, and it would be capped at that rate for the first commitment period. I seek leave to table the written question and answer sheet from the New Zealand Government where it makes quite clear, in an answer to a question it posed itself about the price being $15: “It is possible the rate could be reconsidered. However, the Government is clear that the price will be capped at $25 per tonne to the end of the first commitment period in 2012.”
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you may inadvertently have missed a very subtle attack that took place in this House just a few minutes ago. Mr Williamson got up and asked whether he could have a word explained to him, so he could determine whether it was out of order, insulting, or offensive. Having had it described to him, he then sat down and said nothing. I take that to be an attack on the ACT party, and I think those parties should not allow their rift to be sorted out in the House in that way.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but that was not a point of order.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Final Results
11. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Associate Minister of Education: Have final 2004 NCEA results been made available to candidates, in accordance with the notification on the NZQA website that those results would be made available in April?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education: Yes.
Hon Bill English: How can the Minister claim that final National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)# results have been made available to candidates, when the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has just edited its website to state that final results will be available in May-June, which will be at least some 6 weeks late; and can he explain why, at the end of all this shambles, the results for students are 6 weeks late?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am advised that the students’ results the member is talking about were made available in April. Students’ results were available on the website in April—
Hon Bill English: Interim results.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, the final results were made available in April, I am advised. [Interruption] I want to repeat that point; I know some people are a little slow. Final results were made available on the website in April. There is a pile of other bits of information about school results, national results, and a number of other things that will be made available over the next couple of months. We do not need to have it on the website that something has is to be made available in April, now that it is May and it has already been made available.
Metiria Turei: Can the Minister advise how the Correspondence School NCEA students who have just received their results will use those results in the development of their career plans, given today’s sacking of two careers teachers, nine deans, and 19 regional advisers from the Correspondence School—arising out of chronic underfunding by this Government and irresponsible restructuring by the school’s board?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: At least two or three of those facts are incorrect.
Deborah Coddington: In light of the Minister’s answer to the Hon Bill English, when will he honour the commitment he made to parents in saying they would be able to compare schools’ NCEA results because they would be published on the website in April—not in May-June—or is he not publishing them because they would confuse parents even more?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is not a matter of candidates’ results. [Interruption] Well, the question was about candidates’ results. But I can inform the member that I am advised that the inter-school comparisons will be made available next week.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that six Official Information Act requests regarding NCEA Scholarship have been completely ignored by himself and by the Ministry of Education since they were lodged in early February; and when will he start to cooperate with the Office of the Ombudsmen, which is investigating the reasons why he and the other education Minister have breached that Act by withholding information that should have been available to the public at least 6 weeks ago?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: What this member is trying to do is to get the full information together so that it can be presented in a balanced manner, even if the member who is asking for it is not.
Hon Bill English: Will he give an undertaking to the House now that he will cooperate fully with the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsmen into why he and the Associate Minister of Education have breached the Official Information Act or, alternatively, will he just respond to the Official Information Act requests as the law required him to do 6 weeks ago?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I always cooperate with the ombudsmen.
Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table an answer given to a parliamentary question that I put to the Hon David Benson-Pope, in which he stated that full results of NCEA between schools would be published on the website in April.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. It will not be tabled.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website page that states that when the results are finalised, they go on the students’ records of learning posted out and online in May-June.
12. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have confidence in the New Zealand Immigration Service; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): Generally, yes, because by and large it is a hard-working and conscientious service.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from the Minister that if he has confidence in the department, then he is the one who is responsible for the bungling and the mess-up in allowing into this country a whole lot of people who are thoroughly undesirable and who could imperil our security?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister confirm that when the Prime Minister reassured the House on Tuesday as to the “extensive checks” that had been undertaken by immigration officials following Mr Peters’ allegations, she was acting on the advice of the Minister of Immigration; if so, can that Minister advise the House whether the Prime Minister gave him any feedback as to the quality of his advice?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Prime Minister and I have been in regular discussion on this matter. I always find the advice from the Prime Minister particularly useful.
Dianne Yates: Is the Minister aware of any possible consequences resulting from the public naming of individuals in immigration cases?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. I now know that, as I had warned earlier in the week, the lawyer of one of the individuals whose permit has been revoked is now advocating for his client to stay in the country on the basis that the publicity surrounding him would place him in danger if he leaves New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the Minister’s conclusion, then how does he explain that before the man was even named, he had been to McLeod and Associates, Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyers, to seek refugee status, but they have dropped him like a hot scone because they could see he would damage their hopeless public relations case in respect of Ahmed Zaoui—which is why he went to the second lawyer—the one we saw on TV last night; and why is he insisting upon putting on a display like “Comical Ali”, the former information Minister of Iraq, and why does he insist on making that “Comical Ali” look like a Privy Council judge?
Madam SPEAKER: There are several questions there.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I understand it, that person has now gone to another lawyer. It is a free county; he can go to any lawyer that he likes to.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister again whether he could put his junior colleague right with respect to this man who went to see McLeod and Associates, Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyers, having known from abroad about Ahmed Zaoui’s favourable treatment in this country, and so how can he draw the conclusion that—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The member speaking is to be heard in silence. Would the member please leave.
Hon Matt Robson withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would be obliged if the member could start again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister inform his colleague from Hamilton that the sequence of events does not admit her allegation—namely, that Winston Peters is to blame for this man seeking refugee status—given that before he was even named in this Parliament he was already seeking refugee status through McLeod and Associates, the lawyers for Ahmed Zaoui?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I stand absolutely by my statement that naming the person and making it public adds to the weight of that case.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table evidence of Mr al-Khashali going to see McLeod and Associates—the people who have got $2 million out of the New Zealand taxpayer for a terrorist.