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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 10 May 2005

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

Tuesday, 10 May 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Immigration Service—Information from MPs
2. Childcare—Grandparents
3. Police—Former Commissioner
4. Research—Health
5. New Zealand Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship
6. Elderly and Disabled—Support Services Report
7. Tertiary Education—Savings Provision
8. Police—Former Commissioner
9. Truancy—Reduction
10. Education—Rural Areas
11. Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Enrolments
12. Music—Government Support


Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Immigration Service—Information from MPs

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Did she say the following: “If Winston Peters had the interests of New Zealand at heart rather than just grandstanding he would be providing information to Immigration so things could be checked out. That’s what all our electorate offices do week in week out, where we see a problem we report it so it can be dealt with”; if so, on what basis did she make this statement?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, on the basis that it is better to sort out such matters behind the scenes and not give ammunition to refugee status claimants. I do appreciate that Mr Peters has raised other cases with immigration Ministers in the past and has not always had reports back on them. I invite him to sit down with the Minister, the Associate Minister, or senior officials to go through those cases.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Prime Minister admit that today when she knew it yesterday, and can I give her a few examples of files—and these are just a sample, I might add—that close with the words back from the Minister: “I will notify you of the outcome of this investigation.”, dated July 2004, November 2004, November 2004 again, December 2004, February 2005, April 2005, and again April 2005; why, when she knows that her Minister has been advised, as was his predecessor, did she repeat that abject lie on TV?

Madam SPEAKER: The member knows that he cannot accuse another member of being a liar.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did not accuse her of being a liar. I said that she must have known—because she confirmed it in her primary answer—that the Minister had numerous communications with me and on not one occasion did I ever receive a reply. Yet she went on TV and repeated what Mr Swain said.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have taken offence to the statement that a lie was told, and I ask for it to be withdrawn and apologised for.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw and apologise?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. Can I repeat the question?

Madam SPEAKER: Can we now have the answer to the question?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We cannot have an answer to the question when the Prime Minister has objected to it. Surely he should ask the question again.

Madam SPEAKER: She objected to being called a liar. She did not object to the question.

Gerry Brownlee: That was the substance of the question.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Do you wish to repeat the question, Mr Peters?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Prime Minister make that statement yesterday on morning TV, when she must have known of the countless occasions on which I have brought files of information to the attention of that Minister, as well as to his predecessor; why did she then go and say that on national TV?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The statement stands because I can find no evidence that the member wrote to the Minister about the cases that he has put in the public arena in the last week. I might say that the lawyer for Mr Khashaly has pointed out that the fear of persecution by his client arises from the publication of Mr Khashaly’s name by Mr Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the track record of the Minister and his department of never replying, why would any member of Parliament bother writing to them, and why is she now repeating a statement by the lawyer that she knows is demonstrably false, in that, chronologically speaking, the man was described in this Parliament, although he was not named, after he had been to Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyers to lodge a refugee application; if she knows that that story is not true, why is she repeating it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I have referred to continually is the chance of success of such applications being increased by names being put in the public arena. As to the issue of substantive replies, I know that a number of substantive replies have gone to the member, but there are other cases where he has not had them. I invite him to sit down with the Ministers and senior officials, and to go through them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister now outline the number of substantive replies I have received from that Minister?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the member wants that sort of detail, he should ask the Minister. I have half a dozen substantive replies in front of me, from the research that has been able to be done since the question was lodged this morning. I also know that there are a number of letters where there has not been a substantive reply at that time, and there may be very good reason for that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, what is the very good reason that I have received no details whatsoever on the case of a successful refugee claimant such as Asha Ali Abdille, who has a string of criminal convictions yet has attempted to bring 14 of her family members into this country; why have I not received a reply on that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The fact that the member has not had a reply does not mean that no action has been taken. If the member wishes to discuss the matter with officials, I have given him that invitation.

Hon Paul Swain: Can the Prime Minister confirm that following the claim on that particular issue, an investigation was carried out and information was released, but that action was not taken because issues around the severity of the prosecutions that had been made would not rule that person out as far as refugee status was concerned?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am happy to take the Minister’s word for it.

Keith Locke: Can the Prime Minister recall the Government receiving any submissions from Mr Peters that are supportive of asylum seekers such as the one he has just referred to, or have all his submissions tried to cast doubt about those asylum seekers, even when they have been persecuted, imprisoned, or tortured in their home countries?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Without having had the time to go through all of them, I suspect that most of them have the character of “dobbing in”. But I say to the House that it is important people do come forward with information if they feel that other people are trying to cheat the New Zealand authorities. [Interruption]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Very shortly—laugh now, and cry later! They are nervous, are they not?

Madam SPEAKER: Would the House settle please, and let the member ask his question in silence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Prime Minister say: “I have been pushing Ministers of Immigration for the last 2 years to follow the Australian precedent and bring a lot of the offshore processing back to New Zealand. I think that would be much better.”; if she did, should the conclusion not be that she is getting nowhere and neither are the Ministers getting anywhere, so in that circumstance why would anyone on earth trust them with information?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There would appear to be a number of non sequiturs in that question, but suffice it to say that I think I have finally been heard on this subject.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Prime Minister not aware that in some parts of Auckland there is a thriving market for doctored, forged, and falsified receipts, as in the case of a man who has smuggled in bags of blank receipt forms from the Middle East, which he sells to members of his community for false insurance claims in return for a cut from the payout?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am aware that in New Zealand there are people who are citizens, permanent residents, and would-be refugee status seekers, and who try to cheat and lie to authorities. If the member has such information, he should please make it available to the police.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister of Immigration appraised the Prime Minister of a complaint—on which, I might add, he has done nothing—involving 15 fraudulent documentation accesses to this country; and when is she going to take the security of this country seriously?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not ask for reports on each of the approximately 800 letters a year that the Minister gets, and the 4,000 that the Associate Minister gets. I say to the member that if he has evidence of wrongdoing he should come forward with it to the Ministers.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Prime Minister not expect a Minister to raise the alarm with her when he learns of cases like that of one family whose whole documentation is false, but that has got access to and is living in New Zealand, and would she not expect the Minister of Immigration to say that that is not a one-off but shows a serious crisis; and should she as Prime Minister, instead of giggling and laughing, not do something about that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I do not expect the Minister of Immigration to brief me on every such case. I might point out that last week Mr Peters was in the media on the subject of two people—out of 2.25 million visitors we get a year.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister not concerned that even if one person was of enormous risk to this country, that would be enough; and how many weeks does she want to keep this Parliament going while we up the averages in respect of her incompetence?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not know of any country, Western or otherwise, that has yet found an absolutely foolproof way of stopping people from trying to cheat its border control systems. If we have evidence, we will act on it.

Childcare—Grandparents

2. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is he satisfied that grandparents who provide care for their grandchildren receive adequate financial support; if so, why?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): In most cases, yes. Grandparents and other extended family caregivers may be entitled to either a foster care allowance, an unsupported child’s benefit, an orphans benefit, or family support. In some cases they might also receive a family tax credit. I do acknowledge that some grandparents in receipt of New Zealand superannuation have concerns about the adequacy of financial support when they are raising a grandchild. I have therefore asked officials to consider what might be done in the future to provide more support for them, and I am certainly happy to consult with United Future when I receive that advice.

Judy Turner: Why, when the unsupported child’s benefit and child disability allowance are not meant to be means tested, have there been several cases of Work and Income staff in Rotorua and Christchurch requiring grandparents who provide full-time care for their grandchildren to state the source and amount of their income in order to receive that support?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not aware of those particular cases, but, of course, if the member gives me the details of them, I will follow them up.

Georgina Beyer: What has the Government done recently to give more money to those providing valuable care to children who are not their own?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Apart from a very excellent dancing programme, we have provided from 1 April this year, as part of the Working for Families package, an $15 per week increase in the rates of the unsupported child’s benefit and the orphans benefit. Those benefits provide a contribution to everyday living costs of children in long-term care, and are paid to people who are providing care to children who are not their own because the parents themselves are unable to do so.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister think it is acceptable, when the Government’s own policy is to place children who cannot be cared for by their parents with relatives if at all possible, that a recent survey indicated a disturbingly high proportion of grandparents in that situation who have found themselves impoverished and in ill health; if not, what changes does he propose in order to ensure that the Government’s stated priority and the level of support it actually provides to those grandparents match up?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do think it is sad to see what appears to be now a trend of family members, particularly grandparents, looking after children. We are now trying to find out whether indeed it is a trend and, if it is, whether we have to make extra provision for that particular group. In the immediate term we have ensured that we work closely with grandparents raising grandchildren through their organisations. Those organisations work with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and Work and Income to ensure that their members get their full entitlements. As I said, we are also now looking at whether we should be doing more.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that caregivers should not be penalised in terms of financial support available to them by virtue of being related to the child; if so, when will he take action to ensure that the disparities between the total support received by Department of Child, Youth and Family Services foster carers and those grandparents who are providing exactly the same service and care are eliminated?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member knows, these are complex issues. Firstly, many people care for a member of their extended family without ever coming anywhere near the State to look for support, and it is the case that people support that very much as being the way they should act. Secondly, we are in a situation whereby we need to assess exactly what the needs of people who are looking after children in those situations are. That is what we are trying to do and, as I have said, I will share that information with the member.

Police—Former Commissioner

3. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement to the House, regarding claims that commissioner Doone had said: “that won’t be necessary”, that “I can only imagine that the reporter put those words to me and I would not have been in a position to confirm them, because they were not in the reports.”; if so, how does she reconcile this with her signed brief of evidence that states: “I am informed that Mr Alley states he put those propositions to me and I said words to the effect of ‘you’re not wrong’. I accept that this is correct.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): By reference to the following sentence in that paragraph in the brief that Dr Brash has chosen not to quote, which says: “I am certain that I drew attention to the issue that Mr Doone had disputed these details during the inquiries to which I have referred.”

Dr Don Brash: Can she tell the House which version of events we are supposed to believe: the version she gave the House last week, in which she denied confirming the words “that won’t be necessary”, or the version she signed in her brief of evidence to the court last month, in which she agreed that she had confirmed those words? Which version of the story are we supposed to believe is correct?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member’s submission about what is in the brief is not correct.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister tell the House how the words “you’re not wrong”, which she agrees she used to Mr Alley, could possibly be construed to mean that she was in no position to confirm his statement, as she told the House last week?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: When a two-part proposition is put to one, and one laughs and says “you’re not wrong”, but immediately points out that the second point is contested, the facts are clear.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister deny to the House that the Sunday Star-Times in a phone call to her explained the gravity of her assurance by stating: “This is going to cost us a lot of money if we’re wrong.”, and does she accept that in a subsequent phone call the Sunday Star-Times editor read to her the opening paragraphs of the 16 June 2000 article so that the Prime Minister could confirm the accuracy of the detail before publication—which, indeed, the Prime Minister confirmed?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No notes from any conversation with that editor have ever been made available to me. What is absolutely clear is that the substance of the story was always correct, and that was that Mr Doone intervened in a way that was inappropriate.

Dr Don Brash: If, as media reports suggest, there are tapes or transcripts of her conversations with the Sunday Star-Times, will the Prime Minister give her consent to the release of those tapes or transcripts so that we can judge for ourselves whether it is the version in her court evidence or the version she gave in the House last week that is correct; if not, what does she have to hide?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know of no tapes. I know of journalist’s notes from Mr Alley. I know of no notes from Ms Chetwin. It seems to me that the Opposition’s role is to try to help Mr Doone, through questions in the House. The Opposition might also like to say whether its friends are bankrolling Mr Doone’s efforts.

Dr Don Brash: Did the Prime Minister state in her signed brief of evidence that she had received a phone call from the editor of the Sunday Star-Times, in which “Ms Chetwin’s purpose in calling me appeared to be to reassure herself that the paper had adequately checked and investigated the matter.”,

and does she accept that it was only because she gave that reassurance that the paper ran the story?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That probably was her purpose in calling. The point is that the substance of her story was always true. Mr Doone intervened. Dr Brash supports that inappropriate action.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall accusing in February 1999 the then Prime Minister, Mrs Shipley, of “prevarication and evasion” regarding a private dinner between Mrs Shipley and Kevin Roberts; further, does she recall demanding that all documents be tabled, and issuing an election statement on 23 November in which she said: “Labour will drive a culture of change, starting at the top.”;

if so, as she has admitted that she leaked confidential documents—for which any member of her administration who leaked them would instantly be fired—and as she has admitted that she anonymously confirmed a false statement, then allowed the newspaper to print a false statement on which she had “declined to comment”, is this what she meant by “a culture of change, starting at the top”; if not, will she take the advice she gave Mrs Shipley and resign?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I lost count after about eight questions there—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sure the Prime Minister can address those questions.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do, indeed, recall my comments at the time, and I make the following observations. No one was threatening to sue Mrs Shipley—that is the first point. The second point is that Mr Doone went precisely because this Government would not tolerate two standards of justice, one for the commissioner, and one for other people.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister tell the House why it is that although her evidence to the court is littered with references to her inability to recall important details about her conversations with the Sunday Star-Times, she is now so certain on the one aspect of those conversations that suits her case, and can she advise the House whether this type of selective amnesia is going to be the characteristic of this administration in the future?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can assure the member that conversations one has 5¼ years ago are not uppermost in one’s mind, but I can also assure the member that I was assisted by journalist notes made available to my lawyer, and I challenge the member to say that he can recall every aspect of what he said 5¼ years ago.

Rodney Hide: Did she tell the Sunday Star-Times after it had published the article that Peter Doone would not get a cent out of the Sunday Star-Times, because the Cabinet papers that she had seen would vindicate the Sunday Star-Times when they were released, and did she also state to the Sunday Star-Times that, anyway, Peter Doone was running out of money, having spent $40,000 fighting the Government to keep his job?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The substance of the story was always true, and I challenge members opposite to say how Mr Doone is bankrolling his case—with support from their friends.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, as the Prime Minister, was she having one communication, let alone five communications, with the media on this matter, knowing that there were issues yet to be settled, and is it not in line with the same performance with respect to Dover Samuels where, on 18 December 2000, it was reported that she said: “He could not be an effective Minister with allegations swirling around him.”, when she, in fact, was the person who was the chief swirler, who passed on a vicious, malicious, totally false allegation that saw him lose his job, and is that not a fact?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There was a time when I used to pick up journalists’ phone calls; that time is largely now gone. One does learn from those experiences.

Dr Don Brash: I seek leave to table, for all members of the House and backbenchers of the Labour Party, the brief of evidence of the Rt Hon Helen Elizabeth Clark dated 13th day of April 2005 for the High Court outlining the Prime Minister’s recollection of these events.

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

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Is that in full?

Madam SPEAKER: A clarification—is that in full?

Dr Don Brash: Yes.

Madam SPEAKER: There is no objection. The document will be tabled.

Rodney Hide: Is there anything in the statement of evidence by Mr Oskar Alley or Ms Suzanne Chetwin about their interaction with her that she contests, and if there is, why will she not share that with the House?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said at my press conference yesterday, there are matters in those briefs where no doubt content and context would be cross-examined if a matter ever went to court.

Research—Health

4. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What is the Government doing to increase investment in health research and strengthen the health research workforce?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): I have today announced a $70 million health research package. Sixty-one million dollars more funding over 4 years for health research will provide a major boost to research, with the potential to address the specific health needs of New Zealanders.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How many years?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Over 4 years, I repeat for Dr Smith’s edification. I know the member is stupid but he should concentrate on the answer.

Madam SPEAKER: That comment was unnecessary. Would the Minister please withdraw that comment.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It was; I agree. I withdraw. Some of that funding will go towards providing more training fellowships for health practitioners who want to get involved in research. It is a $70 million package overall.

Steve Chadwick: How does this increase for health research compare with previous levels of investment?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It builds on previous increases put in place by my predecessor Mr Pete Hodgson, including $19 million in last year’s Budget. Spending on health research has almost doubled over the last 6 years, rising from $27 million to $53 million, and that is without counting the new money to strengthen the research workforce. The new money this year is also the single biggest increase in health research since the Health Research Council was established in 1990. It may well be the biggest since the Medical Research Council was put in place. Health researchers have also benefited from the establishment in 2000 of the New Economy Research Fund, which now funds about $10 million of health research a year, increases in the Marsden Fund, and two health-related centres of research excellence.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does this increase bring New Zealand’s expenditure on health research up to the OECD average, or has the Government heeded Treasury’s advice that we should not aim to reach the OECD average; if it is the latter, why?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is the aim of the Government to bring ourselves into line with that particular average, and these increases do a great deal to bring us there.

New Zealand Certificate of Educational Achievement—Scholarship

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Did he make the following statement about New Zealand Scholarship in April 2003: “There will be no fixed numbers or proportions of students receiving the qualification. It depends on how many students meet the standard set in each subject.”; if so, why did the lack of cross-subject comparability in Scholarship allegedly come as a surprise to him?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I did expect that there would be intersubject variation, because the decision that Scholarship would be standards-based and that there would be no intersubject scaling was made by that member and his colleagues in 1998. However, like many others, I did not expect the extremes of variability that occurred.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister ignore all the following warnings about problems with Scholarship: correspondence from the Education Scholarship Trust, individual letters from a number of school principals, questions in the House last year, a select committee report tabled in this House that highlighted, in 2003, exactly the problems that his recent review has picked up, and also Professor Warwick Elley’s analysis of variability in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) 2004 results; and why does he not just own up to the fact that he was arrogant and complacent about this exam and that that is what cheated our students?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would not regard students as being cheated when a significant number who did not pass according to the criteria have, as a result of the very generous approach of my colleague the Hon David Benson-Pope, been given a significant amount of money, anyway.

Hon Brian Donnelly: When the Associate Minister claimed: “More work will be done to minimise the level of variance between subjects for those sitting scholarship exams in 2005.”, exactly what sort of work was he referring to, and how will it reduce variability of results?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that work is going on to put the results within bands, rather than having the extremes of variability that have occurred.

Deborah Coddington: What more evidence or advice does the Minister need, given that he now has the report showing the NCEA Scholarship to be a shambles, to get him to honour his commitment to students, which he made in this House on 10 February, to scrap the $30 reassessment fee for each subject; will he now confirm to parents and students that that fee will be scrapped and that parents who have already paid will be reimbursed?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that anyone who has read the report will see that that is not the issue—and no.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister recall issuing a public statement saying that he first knew about problems with scholarship results on 13 January 2005; and how does he reconcile that with the record of meetings in the report of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s internal review, which makes it absolutely clear that on 15 December 2004 he had a meeting with the authority in which they discussed low achievement in a scholarship subject?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have always made it clear that PE was an exception.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister now saying that all the statements he made—both inside the House and outside—about not knowing about scholarship variability until 13 January were wrong, and that, in fact, he was discussing this issue on 15 December 2004; and why do he and his fellow Minister insist on tawdry cover-ups and half-truths all the time, instead of just owning up?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The discussions on the 13th were around overall pass rates, not about variability.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What’s the difference?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member asked what the difference is—that just shows how thick he is.

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you going to allow the comment made by the Minister of Education at the conclusion of his answer? Because if you are, we have a new standard in this House, and that particular standard will be applied to questions asked as well as questions answered.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, as good was given in that interchange. Comments were made on both sides that I could have ruled as being unacceptable, but I could see that we were getting to the substance of it. But I will pull everyone up, both questioner and answerer, in future if that is what members wish.

Elderly and Disabled—Support Services Report

6. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Why, nearly six years after the Government took office, has the report of the Working Party on Support Services for Older People and People with Disabilities found these services to be chronically under-funded and suffering huge workforce turnover, with many providing inadequate care?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Associate Minister of Health): The working party report itself answers the member’s question. Page 6 lists the factors as including increased demand, higher expectation, inflation, and more employment opportunities for those working in the sector.

Sue Bradford: What advice can he offer a Waikato residential care facility that has had five of 14 registered nurses resign in the past month, and has been able to replace only one of them; and how does he expect facilities like that to retain staff when wage rates offered by aged-care facilities are up to 20 percent lower than those paid by district health boards?

Hon PETE HODGSON: My advice would be to remind those people, or, indeed, the member, that the Government has put into that broader sector around $50 million, outside the Budget cycle this year, and that next year’s Budget is next week.

Sue Bradford: Why does the Government not simply set minimum standards for workers’ wages and conditions, and any other appropriate matters, then allow providers and district health boards to enter genuine negotiations with each other, in accordance with local circumstances?

Hon PETE HODGSON: We do, it is called the minimum wage, and it has been raised annually ever since this Government came to office.

Marc Alexander: Will the Minister take seriously the report of the Working Party on Support Services for Older People and People with Disabilities by raising funding to a sustainable level for the aged-care and disability services sector, or is that just another report designed to fool people into thinking this Government is doing something simply by having a report, which will collect dust and translate into nothing of substance?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret to advise the member that he should have read the accompanying Cabinet paper that came out at the same time, which would have told the member over what period of time the issue of sustainable funding would be determined so that funding at a sustainable level could occur.

Sue Kedgley: Can he assure the House that any upcoming funding will provide pay parity between carers in the aged-care sector, who currently receive $10.80 an hour, and health-care assistants based in public hospitals, who receive $16.50 an hour; if not, how does he expect to put a stop to the mass exodus of experienced staff?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not believe that there is a mass exodus, although I do acknowledge that there is a very high turnover rate. I hope that Budget announcements to be made next week will begin to address that.

Sue Bradford: Will funding increases for the 45,000 residential and home-based caregivers be ring-fenced to ensure pay parity between all district health board - funded caregivers; if not, what compliance measures will the Government put into place to ensure that increased funding leads to increased wages for the workers—minimum wage controls being manifestly inadequate in that situation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member may be aware that district health boards that provide for the health of older people already have—at least, some of them have—a number of conditions in their contracts that ensure that wages flow through to workers.

Tertiary Education—Savings Provision

7. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to encourage greater saving towards the cost of tertiary education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The Government is seeking expressions of interest in providing a tertiary education savings scheme with individual accounts specifically for meeting the costs of tertiary education. This would enable families to plan ahead, and it would also complement the existing forms of student support. Tertiary education is a significant investment for many individuals and their families, and the Government is committed to keeping the costs as affordable as possible, ensuring that low-income groups are not shut out, and giving grandparents an opportunity to put something towards their grandkids.

H V Ross Robertson: What would be the major elements of a tertiary savings scheme?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the Government decides to proceed with the scheme, it is likely that it would be voluntary. Contributions could stop and start, depending on a family’s circumstances. The Government may make a contribution to encourage participation in the scheme. That could include an upfront payment targeted to encourage early enrolment in the scheme. Funds could be used only for tertiary education costs, and individuals would not be able to access a student loan until they had drawn down funds from their savings account. An individual’s account balance would not, however, affect his or her eligibility for a student allowance.

Bernie Ogilvy: Will the Government consider what will happen to those savings of individuals in this commendable and forward-thinking scheme who choose not to undertake tertiary education; and should the scheme not also allow young adults to use their savings for other useful purposes, such as starting a business or buying a home?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I thank the member and his party for their support of this scheme, and for the advice the member has given me over a period of time on the design of it. But I would like to make it clear that if an individual got to a certain age without using the savings, an appropriate approach would probably be for that person to transfer the savings to a superannuation scheme. I do not think it would be a good thing to have the Government contributions available for the general use of individuals, and I do not think we would want to be arbiters of what is good use and what is not.

Police—Former Commissioner

8. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Did she receive a phone call from the editor of the Sunday Star-Times, subsequent to the publication of its 16 January 2000 story regarding Mr Doone and following a statement from Mr Doone describing the article as defamatory, seeking an assurance as to the accuracy of information contained in the story; if so, what assurance did she give the editor?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I have some recollection of a call at some point, but after 5 years and 4 months I cannot be certain of the content. One assumes it would have been similar to my conversation with Mr Alley, in which I drew his attention to the fact that what had been said was contested.

Dr Don Brash: Is she aware of the report in the Christchurch Press today that tapes of this conversation report the editor as saying: “This is going to cost us a lot of money if we’re wrong.”, to which the Prime Minister replied that the story was correct, and said: “I’d hang tough on this one if I were you.”; and will she confirm that statement to the House today?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: To the best of my knowledge that statement is a cut and paste, and the first statement that Dr Brash quoted was not from the editor.

Dr Don Brash: Was the editor lying in her brief of evidence when she said: “Ms Clark was very clear during this conversation that the newspaper had not reported any incorrect information. Indeed, she encouraged the newspaper to continue its investigation as the matter was reaching its critical stage.”; or does she now accept that that was an accurate account of events?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not believe I encouraged the paper. It needed no encouragement. It had been running the story for 6 weeks by the time these first conversations took place.

Dr Don Brash: Was the editor lying when she said: “The Prime Minister’s statements were central to our reporting of the Peter Doone story. In particular, without her corroboration the Sunday Star-Times would not have stated that Peter Doone had said ‘that won’t be necessary’.”, or does the Prime Minister now accept that this was an accurate account of events?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the lawyer for Fairfax has made clear, the Sunday Star-Times had a number of sources, and the Prime Minister was by no means an original source. I have consistently drawn attention to the fact that I drew the newspaper’s attention to the fact that what was said was disputed.

Rodney Hide: Why does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable for her to leak secret Cabinet documents, and the contents of a Police Complaints Authority report that was still privileged, when she states in her brief of evidence: “I recall that I went through some aspects of the information contained in the Police Complaints Authority report again.”; and is it acceptable for Ministers in Cabinet to leak the contents of documents before they have been considered by Cabinet?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is a matter of judgment for the Prime Minister how I use information from official reports. By definition, I cannot leak.

Madam SPEAKER: If members wish to hear the question and the answer, I ask them to be quiet.

Dr Don Brash: Was the editor lying when she said in her signed statement: “In the circumstances it is difficult to imagine a better-placed source. The Prime Minister was dealing daily with the issue, and we assumed that at the time she had access to more information and was better informed regarding the incident than almost anyone else.”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is why more weight should have been given to what the newspaper was told, which was that what was said was contested.

Dr Don Brash: Will the Prime Minister give her consent to the release of the tapes and transcripts of her conversations with the Sunday Star-Times, or, at least, the release of the journalist’s notes, which she has just admitted exist, so that New Zealanders can judge for themselves whether the story that she told Parliament last week, or the story she told the court last month, is correct?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said before, there is no evidence that there are tapes. There are journalist’s notes provided under privilege. I invite Dr Brash to tell us whether Mr Doone’s lawyers are drafting his questions.

Truancy—Reduction

9. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Education: What steps has the Government taken to reduce student absenteeism in New Zealand schools?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): I can advise the House that the Government has introduced a number of successful initiatives to reduce truancy, suspensions, stand-downs, and early exemptions in schools. On Friday I was given a presentation at Tauranga Boys College about its very successful suspension reduction initiative programme, which has resulted in a significant reduction in suspensions. Yesterday I visited Porirua College. Its suspension reduction initiative has reduced suspensions and stand-downs to zero.

Lynne Pillay: What other reports has the Minister seen on absenteeism?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I saw a report on Saturday in the Southland Times about a youth forum organised at Southland Girls High School, where 400 students were expected. Sadly, only four students turned up. In the words of the Southland Times, “National Party leader Don Brash will be hoping for a better voter turnout ...”.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Why is the Associate Minister threatening to prosecute parents who are sending their children to Orauta School, where the children are receiving a schooling, whilst at the same time he says that nothing can be done about the three families at Môkau, whose children are receiving no schooling at all?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Such situations as the two mentioned are clearly not in the best interests of the students concerned. The reason there are prosecutions proceeding at Orauta is that the statutory checks and controls on that situation cannot be exercised. However, that situation is much less serious than the Leader of the Opposition visiting such places and endorsing such breaches.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Minister confirm, from his investigations of the reasons for absenteeism, whether the reason that the 396 students were missing was that the forum was organised by Bill English?

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure what responsibility the Minister has for that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are talking about students who were missing from a school forum. There were 400 due. Four turned up, 396 were missing, and the forum was for Don Brash.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not know where the ministerial responsibility is for that.

Bernie Ogilvy: When does the Minister expect a national student database to be fully operational, in light of the fact that the Minister of Education has promised that for the past three elections—in 1996, 1999, and 2002?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I anticipate that the electronic student tracking system, which will be of immense value to schools—particularly in enrolment and transfer situations—will be available from the beginning of the next school year. I seek leave to table an article from page A2 of the Southland Times of last Saturday, titled “Forum attracts four”.

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

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I heard several interruptions from Mr Brownlee and others during my seeking of leave.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the member did. I could not identify who interrupted. The rules have to be applied across the board fairly. Who interrupted that seeking of leave?

Hon Damien O'Connor: I confess I may have made some sound.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, the member will leave the Chamber.

Hon Damien O'Connor withdrew from the Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: I was speaking to a colleague behind me, but if that interrupted Mr Benson-Pope, I am happy to leave.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber too, please.

Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Madam SPEAKER: Members will settle, please.

Education—Rural Areas

10. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he believe that isolated rural children are just as entitled to a quality public education as any other New Zealand child; if so, why?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister of Education): Yes. The Government wants all students to achieve in schooling, and a number of measures are in place to support isolated rural schools. These include the Staffing Incentive Allowance and the Isolation Allowance, which are aimed at helping rural schools to recruit staff. Annual funding for 560 isolated rural schools increased by 12.5 percent to nearly $8 million a year through Targeted Funding for Isolation, which is a component of the operations grant. New funding of $19.7 million over 4 years has been allocated to give area schools more teachers, extra salary units to help recruit and retain staff, and increased operational funding from 2005.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister support the decision by the ministerially appointed board of the Correspondence School to sack 35 of its staff, including 24 regional representatives; and does he agree with the Rural Women New Zealand spokesperson that: “‘In the past regional representatives have ensured the Correspondence School did a very good job in providing personalised teaching, targeting the unique situation of a child. Without home visits this will be more difficult.’”; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am advised that recent decisions made by the Correspondence School board have been made in response to the changing demographic of its students. Under the new management arrangement, a new, dedicated 15-person national student liaison team will work in four regions: northern North Island, central North Island, lower North Island, and South Island. Their specific tasks will be to provide pastoral support and guidance to students, and to establish relationships with whânau and hapû. There are currently over 4,500 Mâori students on the school’s roll. I also comment further that I have seen a report from the West Coast’s Greymouth Evening Star that quotes a local principal who talked about support mechanisms for Correspondence School students. He said that the school had already trialled protocols that had its staff—the local face-to-face school staff—acting as mentors to its students studying by correspondence. So he did not anticipate any great changes.

Jill Pettis: How many children attend the Correspondence School because of geographical isolation?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Of the roll of around 18,000, only 1,200 students can be accurately described as geographically isolated students. Of those, around 700 are early childhood enrolments. There is clearly a need to ensure that the geographic distribution of Correspondence School resources matches that of the school’s changing roll.

Metiria Turei: What is the Minister doing to address the real problems in the Correspondence School, which were identified by parents as: “You can’t send kids who fail at school home to sit at a kitchen table with a booklet and expect them to catch up on their remedial reading by themselves. It’s not OK for the Minister to neglect the needs of our farm and rural kids in order to slap a band-aid on the supporting sore of urban school failure.”; and why is the Minister doing nothing to make the board address these issues?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Government is doing a great deal to support students who have special needs, and that is why, since 2001, there has been a 34 percent increase, I am advised, in the funding of the Correspondence School alone—from $32 and one-third million to some $43.5 currently.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister aware that the loss of 35 pastoral care positions will mean that by the time of the next Education Review Office review the school is unlikely to be compliant with the National Education Guidelines, and will therefore once again be in danger of being closed down; and is that the real intent of the Government here—to force the Correspondence School to close?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, and I am rather surprised that the member thinks she can anticipate the result of a review yet to take place.

Metiria Turei: Why did the Government bail out the Modern Age English language school, the Taranaki Polytechnic, with $7.5 million, and Te Wânanga o Aotearoa with $20 million, according to yesterday’s announcement, yet refuse the $5.5 million to help the Correspondence School—a school that the Government has used as a dumping ground for 5,000 at-risk students, who are often not suited to this form of distance learning?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am not sure what figures the member is using but I tell her that, in addition to base-line funding, $6.592 million of viability-funding support was made available to the Correspondence School in the 2004 calendar year. The Correspondence School drew $5.635 million against this funding to meet its 2004 deficit.

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Enrolments

11. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Education: Does he concede that the fall in enrolments at Te Wânanga o Aotearoa from 34,000 equivalent full-time students in 2003, to 22,000 equivalent full-time students this year, is in part a result of the elimination of alleged fraudulent enrolments following closer public scrutiny, and what reports, if any, has he received of questionable enrolment practices?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The fall in enrolments is a reflection of a number of factors. It illustrates that the rapid growth at the wânanga over the past few years was unsustainable, and that the marked changes in unemployment rates, especially for Mâori, have led to a decline in numbers, as well. I have asked the Tertiary Education Commission to investigate a number of allegations, but as yet I have not received evidence of any large-scale enrolment fraud. The Tertiary Education Commission is continuing to investigate any cases reported.

Hon Ken Shirley: If the Minister is not prepared to rule out that fraudulent enrolments account for stolen millions of taxpayers’ money, will the Minister refer this matter to the Serious Fraud Office, particularly as the issues of both enrolment and course quality were specifically excluded from the Auditor-General’s terms of reference?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: At any such time as I get the evidence, of course I will.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that over the past 2 years he has paid over $100,000 to a consultant, Mr Graham McNally, to be a watchdog in the wânanga, that Labour candidate Shane Jones was on the audit and risk-management committee at the wânanga, and that the Minister was briefed—sometimes weekly—over 2 years on the 25 audits and investigations of the wânanga; and is it not true that in spite of all that advice the taxpayer has now had to front up with $20 million because the Minister was too lazy and scared to do anything about it?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, yes, no, and no.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Because of the noise, I do not think that anyone heard the Minister’s answer. I would like to hear him repeat it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This is an interesting example of what one might call perverse incentives; the noise is because his own colleagues are barracking, and that is why he could not hear the answer.

Madam SPEAKER: In the interests of moving forward, would the Minister please repeat his answer.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As far as I can now recall—yes, yes, no, and no.

Tariana Turia: Is it not true that the enrolments at Te Wânanga o Aotearoa are actually superior to the average for other tertiary institution organisations across the country; and can the Minister confirm that despite the adverse media publicity and the Minister’s comments, the wânanga’s enrolment and equivalent full-time student figures closely match those of 2004, and are on target to meet budget forecasts for 2005?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not sure what a “superior” enrolment is; and to the last part of the question: that is not my understanding.

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the financial strife confronting Te Wânanga o Aotearoa resulting from reduced enrolments, will the Government now be funding the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, known as the “WIPCE”, which is programmed for December, to be hosted by Te Wânanga o Aotearoa and being billed by the chairman as an extraordinary extravaganza; if so, how much funding is the Government providing for that extravaganza?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have no intention of funding the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education.

Music—Government Support

12. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What is the Government doing to support New Zealand music?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): In 2000 we established the New Zealand Music Industry Commission and further funded New Zealand On Air to facilitate the growth of the New Zealand music industry. In 2004 we passed the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Act. The Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme also supports key New Zealand musicians, such as a number of the members of the band Goldenhorse. This month is New Zealand Music Month—the fifth celebration of New Zealand music and musicians, which goes on for a whole month. As a result of the Government’s support, New Zealanders are now hearing and buying more New Zealand music than ever before. More New Zealand musicians are making sustainable careers and contributing to economic and regional growth through record sales and royalties here and overseas, as well as developing our New Zealand culture.

Moana Mackey: What is the Government doing to promote the export of New Zealand music?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: In April this year, as a result of the New Zealand Music Industry Export Development Group’s report Creating Heat, the Government announced additional funding of $5.4 million to support the export growth of the New Zealand music industry. That includes $2 million to the New Zealand Music Industry Commission over 3 years and $3.4 million to New Zealand On Air. This comprehensive package of support aims to build a strong, sustainable music industry with good access to export markets, representing significant Government support and the building of conditions for growth in the sector.

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

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