Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 1 June 2005
Wednesday, 1 June
Questions for Oral Answer
1. China—Human Rights
2. Iraqi Immigrants—Investigation
3. Sexual Health Campaign—Minister's Statement
4. Education System—Performance
5. First Home Ownership—Government Assistance
6. Taxation—Consumer Price Index
7. Genetically Modified Corn—Unapproved Presence in Food
8. Health Services—Waiting Lists
9. Meningococcal Disease—Vaccination
10. Rescue Helicopter—Coordination with Police
11. Early Childhood Education—Possible Policy Change
12. Refugees—Criminal Charges
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Was freedom of speech one of the human rights issues she discussed with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during her meeting with him this week?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.
Rod Donald: Was it a mark of the high regard in which the Prime Minister is held by the Chinese Government that it censored her answer to a question about human rights in China during a live CNN broadcast, or was it indicative of the intolerance of that oppressive regime?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As we all know, freedom of expression in our sense does not exist in China. But it is probably true to say that things are better now than they were when my old friend Keith Locke was an enthusiastic supporter of the Chinese regime.
Keith Locke: I wish to make a personal explanation with regard to the statement the Minister has just made that I have been a supporter of the Chinese regime. At no time have I supported the Chinese regime. I have always pushed for multiparty democracies. I have defended Chinese dissidents over many years. The Socialist Action League, a political organisation to which some people in this House sometimes refer to and that I belonged to over 20 years ago was, as the Minister will know, a very strong critic of the Chinese regime, because that regime was undemocratic. The Minister is implying that I was in some ways a Maoist and was supporting that regime, and I object to that totally. I ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw and apologise. I do correct myself. The member was not, indeed, a Maoist; he was a Trotskyite.
Madam SPEAKER: When a member withdraws and apologises, no other statement is to be made.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Government’s concern for freedom of speech extend to the situation that occurred before the private dinner hosted by Madam Speaker last week, when I was taken aside and cautioned by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff that I should not raise any topics relating to Taiwan during that dinner with chairman Wu Bangguo, and can the Minister advise whether that direction came from the Prime Minister’s office or the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or whether it was just something dreamt up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot advise on that. I do not have that information. New Zealand, like every other Western democracy, recognises only the regime in Beijing as the legitimate Government of China.
Rod Donald: Why is the Prime Minister negotiating a free-trade agreement with a country that continues to occupy Tibet and oppress its people, and what was Premier Wen’s response when she raised the issue of Tibet with him?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no information about Premier Wen’s response. Obviously, there are still issues around Tibet. I notice that recent statements from the Dalai Lama indicate that even the Dalai Lama is no longer pushing for Tibetan independence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister see any great distinction between communist regimes such as that which invaded Afghanistan and that which was involved in supporting Pol Pot—two regimes heavily supported by Keith Locke; if she does, can she pray tell us what it is?
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I was anticipating the point of order.
Keith Locke: In the past, members in this House have been required to withdraw and apologise for calling me a supporter of Pol Pot. I have never been a supporter of Pol Pot or of his crimes against the Cambodian people. In light of that previous ruling, I think Mr Peters should withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That was not the previous ruling. The fact of the matter is that a number of members have tabled in this House two sets of documents, both of which emanated from one Keith Locke, an MP in this House—not that he was an MP when he wrote them, of course. The articles support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the emergence of Pol Pot. That is a fact, and if he wants to deny it then I am happy to table the documents all over again.
Madam SPEAKER: The member has taken offence at the comment that was made, and it is the normal practice in these instances that the member withdraws and apologises.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I am ruling on a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: This is fairly important.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sure it is very important. Would you please sit down.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker, you asked me to withdraw and apologise, and I do. I seek leave now to table these documents. One is Cambodia Liberated: A victory for humanity, edited by Keith Locke. [Interruption] Sit down.
Madam SPEAKER: The Speaker will say who is to rise and who is to sit. Members will sit when another member is on his or her feet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is my point. I was on my feet and the member was rude to interrupt me. I also seek leave to table an article regarding the rightness of the invasion of Afghanistan by the heinous communist regime of the Soviet Union.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. By way of personal explanation, the article the member has just tabled does not mention Pol Pot or state that I support Pol Pot.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. I note, however, that the supplementary question bore little relation to the original question, which related to China. If the member wishes to put his supplementary question again, could he please relate it to China.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It cannot be right that a person can come to this House years after having written articles in support of a regime, and then expect us to believe his word that he did not do so. He may want to recant and say that he was sorry, stupid, and naive, and we may accept that he has changed his mind. But he cannot deny that black is black and white is white when these articles clearly set that out. That is what he is expecting us to do. He is using the Standing Orders in an abusive way to get away with it.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; it is a matter of debate. I ask the member to restate his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When we look at despotic, undemocratic regimes, is there a great difference between that of Pol Pot, the Soviet Union at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan, or, for that matter, communist China—the new-found enemy of the Green Party?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that all known communist regimes have been repressive regimes to a greater or lesser extent. But, of course, that has been matched by any number of oppressive regimes at the far-right end of politics as well.
Keith Locke: How bad does China’s human rights record have to become before the Prime Minister would think again about giving preferential trade access to that regime?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If we were to choose with whom we traded purely on the basis of total support for every action Governments took, we would be confined to a very small range of trading partners, indeed. It would not even include Australia and the United States.
Rod Donald: Does the Prime Minister recall her own passionate opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa and the sanctions that she supported to help bring down that regime, does she recall accusing that former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley “prefers to build links to oppression while democratic voices are silenced in jail” during her speech to the 1998 Labour Party conference, and does she accept that her own behaviour towards China leaves her open to that same accusation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, yes, and no.
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: With respect to the three men named in question No. 1 in the House yesterday, what investigations, if any, has he conducted into their applications to enter New Zealand, and does he have any concerns arising from those investigations?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): The department is looking into allegations made in Parliament yesterday by the member. However, one of the concerns I have is to ensure that the information provided is both accurate and sufficient. For example, the department will need a little more to go on than “a man named Jazwan”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That being the case, what information does the Minister lack, with respect to the Ali family, on 16 fraudulent applications into this country, all of which were given to his Prime Minister in April of this year, and which he said had been handed on to the Serious Fraud Office, yet, as of today, no one from any official office has seen them; is that the kind of reaction one gets when the information is provided with specific detail—relationships and all?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I said that they had been handed to the fraud unit in the department. I am advised that that matter has been followed up, and I am also advised that contact has been made. I will say that the problem with getting accurate information—for example, correct spelling, and other matters—leads to the case whereby a man who thinks that he has been attacked has felt the need to come forward and reject the allegations that were made in the newspaper yesterday. The critical point is that virtually everybody, apart from New Zealand First, knows what this is about. It is trying to get a few cheap points in election year and casting a shadow across our immigration communities.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the light of that explanation, can he explain the reluctance of the New Zealand Herald, and others, to ask the Ali family why they will not take a DNA test, which will conclusively prove that they are lying; and why have we had 7 days of deafening silence from those people who are happy to print the Prime Minister’s photograph with this family of crooks, but without any investigation taking place?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is the same old formula from the New Zealand First Party: attack immigrants and attack the media.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are not having that indolent Minister getting up and giving that as an answer. I asked him a specific question with respect to that family, and the fact that he is reporting the media’s views of it, yet he gets up and makes a contemptuous answer, both with respect to his duties and to his obligations to the House. Can we please now have an answer.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The last part of the question required the Minister to make some comments on the acts of the New Zealand Herald. Luckily, he has no responsibility for the New Zealand Herald.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. I need no further assistance. The Minister is not responsible for the New Zealand Herald. Perhaps rephrasing would help the matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Dr Cullen gave you some assistance when he said “the last part”, which presumes there was more than one part. Can I have the answer to the first part?
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member repeat the first part.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Minister why has there been no inquiry by him of this family, as he has taken the view of others that somehow a longstanding MP is lying and that they are as pure as the driven snow?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Unlike that member, who seems to be the one who will be leading the hit squad through the country, I leave those investigations to the Department of Labour.
Dianne Yates: How has the Government demonstrated its commitment to improving border security?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: It has done so in a range of very, very good ways. The Government has allocated more than $30 million over the past 2 years to strengthen border security. We have established a fraud unit, which was not available at the time when that member was Treasurer. We have introduced the advance passenger profiling system. We have set up a review over 2 years of all applicants from the highest-risk countries, and started the process of bringing back to New Zealand decision-making in applications, starting with the highest-risk countries.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree with Iraqi community leader Dr Umara in this morning’s New Zealand Herald that Mr Peters’ allegations are smearing the 3,000 to 4,000 Iraqis living here and that some of them are so distressed they are talking about leaving New Zealand; and will he reassure the person he referred to earlier—Mr Amir Salman—who has denied, completely, Mr Peters’ scandalous claims?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do agree with comments from a number of community leaders, who are saying that the attacks now coming out are smearing the good name of a range of people in those communities. Of course, as most people know, the reality is that Mr Peters does not care about that, because he is after a few cheap points in the poll.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I must insist you do your job here. He is not going to get away with that in this House—
Hon Ken Shirley: That’s not a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a point of order—because he has gone way outside the question. He is now attacking a member of Parliament and imputing motives—
Madam SPEAKER: Would members please be quiet while the member is making his point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters:—and he should be stopped. It is the third time he has done it. I know he is having difficulty in answering the question properly—
Madam SPEAKER: The member has taken offence. Would the Minister please stick to the answers, and now withdraw and apologise.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw and apologise, and—
Madam SPEAKER: And that is all that is required at this moment.
Hon Tony Ryall: Would the Minister advise the House when his department met with the Ali family, as he answered previously to a supplementary question; and would he describe what he understands happened at that meeting?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have simply been advised that contact has been made. Of course, that is a matter for the department, and I do not get myself involved by getting in a car and going around streets trying to collect up names—as, apparently, that member from New Zealand First does.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister understand the irony of the person he is seeking to defend today being quoted as saying that he has been mixed up with “the real bad people” who are in this country today; and what would the Minister’s response be if he were to know that that man has been responsible for sending massive sums of money out of this country to Iraq—how does he do that?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I think it is: “See all of the above.”, but in answer to the question, the reality is that that man considers he has been besmirched, so needs to come forward. The irony of the matter is that when names are mentioned in Parliament that may or may not be accurate, potentially innocent people get offended by it.
Kenneth Wang: Why has the Minister not expelled these three men without more investigation, when last month he expelled the wrong person in a panic reaction to Mr Peters?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Perhaps the member was referring to the revoking of permits. No one has been expelled yet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Minister name now which person in New Zealand First has named in this House a person the Minister regards as having been improperly named and who should have been given the defences of Parliament, from the lists of those named for Lianne Dalziel and the ones I have given to him—which ones is he talking about when he says they have been improperly named?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am referring only to someone who has felt the need to come forward after allegations were made in the paper yesterday. I am saying that investigations are under way, but the point of the answer to the member’s question is that one needs a little more to go on than, for example, “a man named Jazwan”.
Sexual Health Campaign—Minister's Statement
3. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Health: Does she stand by her statement last year with reference to the No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba campaign that “A sexual health campaign aimed at young people is not going to work if it doesn’t get buy-in from young people.”; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes.
Judy Turner: Is she concerned that $630,000 more funding, on top of the $1.3 million already spent on her No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba campaign, is simply throwing more money into gimmicky slogans that fail to give teenagers substantive information about the risks of sexually transmitted infections, let alone question whether sexual involvement is even appropriate for them, and will she commit to implementing a more realistic programme, given that a recent evaluation of the campaign stressed that a more multifaceted approach is needed to produce meaningful changes in teenage sexual behaviour?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No. If the member is talking of the survey that was on television last night, I think that survey was undertaken before the commencement of the No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba programme. I can tell the member that an evaluation has been carried out on the programme, and it showed that 97 percent of respondents were aware of the campaign, 65 percent had discussed it with their friends, and 49 percent indicated that the campaign probably had increased the likelihood of their using condoms in the future. The number of respondents who said that they would still have sex if no condom was available had decreased from 46 percent pre-campaign to 36 percent post-campaign. There were also other results from that evaluation. I would prefer to rely on that evaluation than on a survey that—although it may have been perfectly good— was taken before the campaign on which the member based her question began.
Lesley Soper: Does the Minister agree with Dr Sue Bagshaw’s comment on Close Up last night that education alone will not make a difference in young people’s awareness of the need to use condoms?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I do agree because I agree that education needs to go alongside the development of other life skills, including learning to negotiate in a relationship, which in some cases is learning the skill to say no.
Judy Turner: Has she read the study released yesterday by the Otago University school of medicine that showed that only 44 percent of sexually active teens use condoms, and then only because they fear pregnancy rather than contracting a sexually transmitted infection; if so, does she agree with the view of the author that advertising campaigns and sex education in schools are not enough to change students’ attitudes towards sexually transmitted infections?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, and that result is a worry. That survey was taken before the campaign that the member mentioned in her first question. As was pointed out on television last night—and I agree, as I said in my previous answer to my colleague—the issue does require more than education.
Judy Turner: Does the fact that the latest No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba advertisements on bus stops feature only the cartoon character and the slogan mean that her Government thinks teenagers are not smart enough to absorb more informative messages, and does she think the slogan gives the impression that being in possession of a condom is the only consideration needed when contemplating sexual involvement?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No and no.
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he think the education system has got worse during the time in which he has been Minister of Education, as indicated by 44 per cent of respondents to a survey by the New Zealand Herald; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): No. New Zealand has a very good education system. Our students are among the top in the OECD at reading and maths. Students are staying at school longer and are leaving with higher levels of qualifications. More children than ever before are participating in quality early childhood education. More people than ever before are completing postgraduate degrees. We have nearly 140,000 people involved in industry training and Modern Apprenticeships. Our Government is committed to further raising the standard of education. We know we can do better, but unlike the member, I am not willing to go around the country running down our polytechs, our schools, our teachers, and our students.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain to the House his role in the following problems that have affected public confidence in education: the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and New Zealand Scholarship shambles, the wânanga being out of control, dodgy tertiary courses, millions more in fees for parents of children at State schools, multiple reviews of every public education agency, sackings of senior bureaucrats and board members in education agencies, and a ballooning bureaucracy that starves schools of funds; and given that all those things have already happened, why should the public have any confidence in him or the Labour Government in their stewardship of education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is a long list, and I will deal with the first item. I will quote Chris Haines, the president of the School Trustees Association, who is well known to the member. He said, about the NCEA: “It is clear that the former system had long outlived its usefulness as a fair measure for student learning. We now have a system which more fairly recognises student achievement.” That is why the previous National Government decided to introduce it, and why I agreed with the member.
Hon Brian Donnelly: What is the Minister’s explanation for the result that 44 percent of the people who were polled believed that the education system has got worse under his watch?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Probably the habit of the Minister of getting on with improving things, rather than talking about it. I think I should change, and public relations campaigns in the future would be a very good idea.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Can he tell this House what evidence he has seen to suggest that the Government’s policies are resulting in students staying at school longer and leaving with higher qualifications?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The number of students leaving school with no qualification has dropped from 18 percent in 2002 to 13 percent last year. For Mâori, those leaving with no qualifications have decreased from 34 percent to 26 percent—[Interruption] That failed woodwork teacher had just better be quiet, or his records will come out. In terms of retention, the number of students staying at school right through to the end of year 13 has increased from 57 percent in 2002 to 61 percent last year. There is a lot more to do, and this Government will take at least the next 6 years to do it.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is the Minister aware that during his time as Minister of Education the average student debt has got worse, rising from nearly $12,000 to over $14,000, and would he consider United Future’s policy to reduce a portion of a caregiver’s debt when he or she has had a child for 2 years, in order to relieve the burden of student debt on young families?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: They don’t have to pay it back.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Minister of Finance has pointed out that if people who are caring for children do not have income, they do not have to pay their loans back. I must say that we have a dilemma. The idea has superficial appeal, but what we, in fact, do for people in that circumstance is to extend their loans, at no cost to them—something that is very generous and costs the taxpayer a lot of money.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that despite the fact that he has increased education spending by over $3 billion per year, or by about 60 percent, a poll by the New Zealand Herald found that 84 percent of the public believed that education was “worse”, “the same”, or did not know; and what responsibility does he take for being regarded now as a failed education Minister?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No.
First Home Ownership—Government Assistance
5. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Housing: How will the Government be assisting people to become first home owners?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): Budget 2005 has provided the resources to assist 8,000 Kiwis per year to get their first home. This will be done by extending the Mortgage Insurance Scheme from 1 July this year, allowing 2,000 Kiwis to acquire their first home in the coming year, then rising to 5,000 per year. Through KiwiSaver, individuals who join KiwiSaver will become eligible for a deposit subsidy of $1,000 for every year they save with KiwiSaver, up to a maximum of $5,000. We expect a further 3,000 homeowners to arise from that scheme, making an overall sum of 8,000 Kiwis per year reaching the Kiwi dream.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise what the risks are to the success of this package of homeownership assistance?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I can. There is only one threat, and that is the threat to axe the KiwiSaver programme and deprive thousands of Kiwis of the chance of attaining the Kiwi dream of owning their own home. The package that has been offered is one of tax cuts by 2014! I predict that, well before then, John Key will U-turn on the KiwiSaver, as he has already U-turned on the “Cullen fund”.
Jill Pettis: What other options for homeownership assistance has he seen?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen one scheme, which is opposed to the measure in this year’s Budget that will see 8,000 Kiwis per year reach the dream of owning their own home, and that is the scheme that prevailed in the 1990s, which saw $3.6 billion worth of Government mortgage portfolio sold off, and plaques to commemorate the selling off of those houses—like the $900 million one I am holding. Kiwis will need to get used to the notion that National intends to sell their houses.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the latest building permit figures, which show the biggest drop ever in the records of building consents and the number of houses being built, as a consequence of the Government’s Building Act.
Taxation—Consumer Price Index
6. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Following his confirmation that the carbon tax will have an inflationary impact, what is the best official estimate of the combined impact on the consumer price index since December 1999 of all Government sector increases in taxes, duties, levies, or charges?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): That calculation is not available from Statistics New Zealand data. The data include local government charges also, and they show that the two together had no significant impact on inflation over the period. However, those data do not include excise duties as being separately calculated, at all—they are included within the price of the goods that they refer to. The data also take no account of the deflationary impact of strong operating surpluses, particularly by transfers into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister accept that inflation would be lower if the Government did not increase petrol taxes, and that future inflation would be lower if the carbon tax was canned?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, all else being equal. But it is equally true that if increased funding was borrowed to pour into roading without an increase in excise duty, that would also have an inflationary impact via interest rates, because of the Government running a looser fiscal policy.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister accept, given the inflationary effect of the carbon tax, that no regrets - type policies to deal with our Kyoto commitments are a better solution—like United Future’s proposal, to be announced on Friday in our environment policy, to replant a riparian strip of bush along our streams, rivers, and lakes that will filter the runoff from agricultural land use—because policies like those would mean we would be doing something positive for our environment as well as earning carbon credits, rather than punishing our economy with a tax that may or may not be effective?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Although I am sympathetic to the notion of planting along riparian strips—
Shane Ardern: It’s already happening.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, it is already happening in part. Indeed, I have done some myself, as we happen to have a riparian strip at the back of our place. But apart from that, unless the Government is going to pay for it—and I am afraid United Future has already committed too much in tax cuts to have money left over for that—there will be demands as a cost upon homeowners and farmers, and then presumably Mr Copeland will argue that there has to be compensation for that.
Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister continue to believe that when he spends New Zealanders’ money, every dollar is well spent and it is not inflationary, but, when New Zealanders spend their own money, they always waste it and it is inflationary; and is he starting to realise that many New Zealanders do not share his views?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have not argued that. What I have argued—and the member should understand this, as a former Minister of Finance—is that the looser the fiscal policy is that the Government runs, the greater is the inflationary pressure that is created by the Government and the greater is the likelihood, therefore, of high interest rates. The ACT party, of course, has the very strange view that one can basically abolish taxation and still continue with expenditure, and that somehow that will be non-inflationary. I suggest that a long period of discussion with a former Governor of the Reserve Bank might disabuse him of that strange idea.
Stephen Franks: Why does the Minister not accept what the evidence shows: that it is the explosion in Government spending that is driving inflation and interest rates, and that the best remedy for that would be to reduce taxes and spending, not to increase them?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: For the last 3 years that member and every member on the Opposition side of the House have attacked me for running too contractionary a fiscal policy. They have suddenly decided, sometime out from an election, that we have been running an expansionary fiscal policy.
Hon Ken Shirley: Why does the Minister not accept that giving taxpayers back their own money would be no more inflationary than the Government taking that money and spending it for them?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is absolutely right, with this one proviso: as long as, basically, for every dollar reduction in revenue there is a reduction in expenditure. That, of course, is precisely the point that we have been making on the Government side of the House for the last week, with, I think, some impact on commentary from outside the House.
Genetically Modified Corn—Unapproved Presence in Food
7. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Is food made with the unapproved, genetically modified, and insecticide-containing Bt10 corn on sale in New Zealand; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): As I have advised the member in a series of responses to her recent questions for written answer, food derived from unapproved GM varieties may not be legally sold in New Zealand. A recent survey by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority found no unapproved GM food or ingredient being sold in New Zealand.
SUE KEDGLEY: Can she confirm that Bt corn has never been approved, and therefore is illegal in our food supply, and has the Food Safety Authority ever conducted any tests to establish whether this illegal, genetically engineered corn is or has been in our food supply, or instituted a recall of corn products; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Bt10 corn is not allowed to be sold in New Zealand. It is not legal for it to be sold in New Zealand. It has not been approved for sale in New Zealand. As I said in my primary answer, the Food Safety Authority recently conducted a survey and found no unapproved GM food or ingredient being sold. That includes Bt10.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I specifically asked whether any tests had been conducted. I would appreciate it if the Minister would answer my question. I did not ask about surveys; I asked whether any tests had been conducted.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot inform the member as to whether a test had been undertaken. However, any test can be undertaken, should there be a view that the product is in New Zealand. There is no reason to believe that it is, and therefore, as far as I know, there has not been a test, but I will find out for the member.
Sue Kedgley: How would the Food Safety Authority know whether it was in our food supply, without undertaking any testing, and why, when other countries like Japan and those in the European Union, require all shipments of corn from the United States to be tested, or certified, to ensure that they do not contain the illegal Bt corn, is New Zealand not doing the same thing and testing all imported corn from the United States to ensure that it does not contain the illegal, unapproved corn?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Because a very small amount of Bt10 corn was grown in the United States—0.01 percent—and it was this unapproved Bt10 variety, which was never intended for commercial production. That variety was either destroyed or put in quarantine for destruction.
Sue Kedgley: Why do other countries, such as Japan and countries in Europe, take this issue seriously but our Government does not, and why, given that the Government instituted a major recall of unapproved, genetically engineered Starlink corn in the year 2000, is it doing nothing about this unapproved Bt10 corn—not instituting a recall, and, basically, turning a blind eye to it?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Because there is no evidence that it is in New Zealand; what would we recall?
Health Services—Waiting Lists
8. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister of Health: Does she continue to stand by her statement that “people are not culled. They are sent to their general practitioners to be monitored”; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes. The principles of the booking system were put in place in the mid-1990s, with implementation commencing in 1998. One of the principles is that people must be told if they are going to get an operation, and when. People whose condition meets the priority criteria must be either booked for an operation or given certainty for an operation within 6 months. If a person is not operated on within that time, he or she is placed on active review. Under active review a hospital specialist assesses the patient’s condition at 6-monthly intervals. If the patient’s condition changes, he or she will be booked or given certainty. If a person does not meet the priority criteria, that person is returned to his or her general practitioner. That is how the system has worked since 1998.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why does the Minister continue to think patients culled from the waiting list, like Mrs Peggy Griffiths, are monitored, when despite my bringing her case to the attention of the House 2 weeks ago, Mrs Griffiths told me yesterday that she still remains in agony, hardly able to walk across the floor, and nobody has told her how, when, or by whom, she will be monitored?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I can tell members why I think that the system is working as the previous Government envisaged. I am informed that Mrs Peggy Griffiths, whose case the member raised in the House recently, will have confidence in the system, because she has been reassessed and she has been given certainty of an operation.
Nanaia Mahuta: Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting that the current booking system should be or would be changed?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No. Although Dr Hutchison makes a lot of noise about elective operations, he has not proposed a single change to the current system, because members opposite know that the system is fair, that people who need operations get them first, and that people whose conditions do not enable them to get access to publicly funded services are not misled into thinking they have a chance of an operation and spend years languishing on a waiting list, like the case that Dr Hutchison sent to me of a person who had waited 12 years.
Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware that the hospital system in Christchurch cannot deal with routine cases because its emergency department is frequently inundated with hundreds of waiting-list patients seeking urgent attention who have to be stabilised and who are then sent home to resume waiting; if so, does she consider that that state of affairs is acceptable?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am informed that over 65,000 people go through the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital and that there are many people who need urgent attention. I have been told that about 1,200 of those people were on a waiting list, and it was concluded that maybe 400 of them had something related to their condition when they turned up at the emergency department. The department is required to manage that, and the staff must also see those people who have had an accident or are having a heart attack. They do the best they can. There are troughs and flows of people—sometimes there are many, sometimes there are not so many, and the staff do very well. This happens around New Zealand, and around the world.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why are things so bad under Labour that Mr Leon Draper, a patient with a serious deteriorating arterial condition has, after over a year of waiting, been notified that he cannot even have a first specialist assessment, when he has written to Counties Manukau District Hospital Board, saying: “You do not have to go through constant pain and clutch for support when walking to the shops only 100 metres away.”, and he also has no formal monitoring?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am advised that Mr Draper was referred to a vascular specialist at Middlemore Hospital by his general practitioner. His general practitioner said, in a letter to the specialist: “I would be grateful for your assessment and advice regarding further management of Mr Draper.” Based on this information from the general practitioner the specialist decided, based on his clinical assessment, that the patient should be referred to the general practitioner for monitoring. So the member is not being quite straight with the House.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister has just said that I am not being quite straight. Fourteen months ago, when Mr Draper was first assessed, he could not walk 200 metres without having severe pain in his legs. Today, he cannot walk 100 metres without severe pain in his legs. I am being absolutely straight; this is right from Mr Draper’s mouth.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It is a matter of debate.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am speaking from the general practitioner’s letter.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister tell me whether Mr Anthony Russell of Harrybrook Road, Green Bay, a case that has just come to my attention, was culled from the waiting list; he was assessed in early 2000 as in need of operations to ease his feet and ankle problems and waited, only to be told in May this year by the Counties Manukau District Health Board that although he would benefit from an operation there are limited resources and there are others whose needs are greater, and therefore he has been taken off the waiting list—has he or has he not been culled?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot speak about an individual patient in that way, although if the member is prepared to give me the name and I am aware of the case, I can then look into it for him and give him the information. However, in principle I would say that if the patient has been told that he does not meet the criteria for priority for an operation at the moment, that is correct. He will be under the care of his general practitioner until such time as his condition changes and he is entitled to an operation. Everybody knows that not every case has the same priority, and that everybody cannot get an operation at the same time.
Stephen Franks: Can the Minister tell the lay people in this Chamber why she says that the sick people who have been “sent back to their general practitioners to be monitored” are wrong to think they are waiting, and what sort of list made up of waiting people is not a waiting list?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, they are not told they are waiting; they are told that if their condition deteriorates they will be assessed to see whether they need an operation. This is different from taking everybody who ever came into the health system and putting them on a list—89,000 of them by the mid-1990s, many of whom never had an opportunity to get an operation. This system is much more open, honest, and transparent. I challenge the Opposition to give us one policy that tells New Zealanders it would change a single thing.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister tell us what is happening to the 15 people who have been waiting in the active review category?
Hon ANNETTE KING: This was raised in the House last week, I believe. These are people who have been waiting for 5 years. First of all, the national reporting database is a relatively complex system, and one cannot always assume that each number actually represents a person. The 15 people actually turned out to be 12. Of those, four had received operations, one no longer needed an operation, three had had their conditions reassessed, and four had conditions below the treatment threshold and were returned to their general practitioner.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister deny that senior Ministry of Health officials have informed district health boards and orthopaedic surgeons that they must manage their waiting lists by culling patients or risk not receiving funding for the orthopaedic initiatives, and that the reason orthopaedic surgeons are deeply concerned by this unethical coercion is that they do not believe that suitable protocols are in place to monitor the culled patients safely?
Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, priority for an orthopaedic operation is given by the orthopaedist himself or herself. So if a case is a top priority, the orthopaedist has said that that case is a top priority. Health officials are not telling boards that they must cull people and that if they do not, they will not get the extra orthopaedic money. The whole programme is based on doing additional operations. So if a board does 1,000 hip replacements this year, it must do 1,000 hip replacements and it will get the extra money when it reaches 1,001. We will not do what was done in the 1990s, when waiting time money was put in for extra operations but no extra operations—over and above the normal number—were done, because the money went into operational costs, not operations.
Nanaia Mahuta: Has the Minister received any feedback on the current booking system from Age Concern?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Age Concern believes that the current system—which, to be fair, it knows was started by the National Party—is much fairer, more transparent, and more honest, because people know when they will get an operation and how long they will wait.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, they get deferred forever.
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, they do know that, because they are either booked, given the certainty of an active review, or returned to their general practitioner. They know exactly what is happening to them. Compare that to the old system—which the previous National Government rejected, because it knew it did not work—under which people did not know whether they would get an operation, and many people were still waiting for their operation years after they had been put on a list. Some of them would not even take a holiday in case their name was drawn out of the hat and they missed out.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister deny the recent New Zealand Herald survey that stated that 73.8 percent of people think that the health system is the same or worse under Labour, when she has created a system that culls patients such as Mrs Griffiths and Mr Draper from waiting lists to make her waiting lists look good?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I will first of all say that the Labour-led Government did not devise the system. I must give credit to the National Party for not only devising it but for implementing it. With regard to the second part of the question—that 73 percent of people think that the health system is the same or worse—I remind members of the TV3 poll of 1996 in which 75 percent of New Zealanders said the health system was seriously worse under a National Government.
Peter Brown: I seek leave to table some documents that outline the circumstances around Anthony Russell, which the Minister said she was interested in.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a letter from Mr Leon Draper to Chris Fleming, general manager of surgical ambulatory care, in which he states: “You are writing me off as a human being in the great hope that this condition will kill me and you will get a pat on the back for saving the country another pension.”
Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table an article from the New Zealand Herald. It outlines that 73.8 percent of people think that the health system is the same or worse under Labour.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. It will not be tabled.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table the TV3 Gallup poll of 1996, which showed that 75 percent of New Zealanders thought the health system was seriously worse than it had been before.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. [Interruption] I remind members that they would have all been excluded from the Chamber for talking during that point of order. Can we please settle down.
9. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made on the roll-out of the meningococcal vaccination programme?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am delighted to report that as of 15 May, 820,000 doses of the meningococcal B vaccine have been given to our children and young people in the largest immunisation protection programme in recent New Zealand history. Over 390,000 of our children and young people have received their first dose, and over 185,000 now have the protection of the full three doses. A further 2 million - plus doses of the vaccine are planned to be delivered in the next 6 months. The programme is now live in 17 district health board areas and will be rolled out in all districts by the end of the month. Parents are supporting it in droves, with consent rates for school-aged children at over 90 percent in most district health board areas.
Steve Chadwick: Have there been any unexpected outcomes from this programme?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Nurses have responded magnificently to the call to help with the campaign. About 120 extra nurses came out of retirement—or out of the woodwork—to help vaccinate in the Wellington region alone. That is a tremendous response. It has been the same in other regions. In the Auckland region, 180 additional nurses were recruited for the programme. They came from far and wide, they got out from behind their desks, they took time out of their motherhood duties, and they came out of retirement. We have seen a huge response from nurses in helping with this programme, as well as from our general practitioners.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister now accept that the delay of the flu vaccination campaign could have been avoided if Pharmac had ensured greater security of supply by way of a split tender, and that the meningococcal roll-out has made it very difficult for South Island health workers to manage two vaccination campaigns at the same time?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have been fortunate enough to visit some of those who are rolling out the programme in the South Island. They are incredibly pleased with what they are doing. They were waiting for it to happen. They are not whingeing and moaning like that member, who wants to make a political point. In relation to the first part of his question, it is all very well having hindsight about whether we should have a split tender. If we should have had a split tender this year, why did we not have one for all the years that we have had this programme—from the time it started 7 years ago?
Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that it is a breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights to coerce or put pressure on people to have a medical treatment; is she therefore concerned at reports that some children are being left with the impression that they will die if they are not given the vaccination, and will she take steps to put an end to that sort of pressure from enthusiastic people who are rolling out this vaccine?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is correct. Nobody should be coerced into a health treatment. However, I have had no such reports. I wonder whether that question reflects the member’s opposition to any immunisation. That is not the view of most New Zealanders.
Rescue Helicopter—Coordination with Police
10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister for Transport Safety: Has he listened to the recorded conversation between the Rescue Coordination Centre and police the night the Iron Maiden sank, and what is the reason it took nearly 2 hours to launch the rescue helicopter?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Minister for Transport Safety): Yes, I have listened to the recorded conversation between the National Rescue Coordination Centre and the police on the night of the sinking of the Iron Maiden. The rescue helicopter had been launched by the time control of the incident was formally handed over to the Rescue Coordination Centre.
Rodney Hide: Does the Minister accept from the recordings that the New Zealand Police stood the rescue helicopter down and sent the pilot home 26 minutes after the Mayday from the stricken ship, because the police wrongly believed that the Sikorsky S-76 did not have the capacity to reach the two men whom the Rescue Coordination Centre believed were adrift in a life raft, with limited time before they would be capsized over Pandora bank; how can New Zealanders have any confidence in the rescue services of New Zealand, when the police can get it so tragically wrong over the rescue helicopter’s capacity?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: On the face of the recordings, as the members says, it appears that that is the case. But there are a large number of factors that came into this. Obviously, any delay in the dispatch of rescue services is grossly unfortunate, but not always avoidable. However, there was certainly some understandable confusion in the Northern Communications Centre, perhaps due to two rescue incidents happening simultaneously. It is likely that even if the helicopter had been dispatched earlier, the men may not have been rescued. It is unfair for the police to be held responsible when people put to sea in the following circumstances: the crew were not sufficiently familiar with the vessel before attempting the trip; the stability of the vessel was in question; there were extremely rough weather conditions—in particular, gale-force winds and 4-metre swells; the skipper decided not to seek shelter once faced with those condition after rounding Cape Maria van Diemen; the vessel’s life raft was in a position that made it difficult to access in an emergency situation; and, sadly, there was possible drug use by the skipper during that period. Additionally, the Northern Communications Centre had to be sure that the helicopter crew themselves were not in danger by going out to rescue the men, and even in the event of the helicopter being at the scene, it is doubtful, with the equipment that the helicopter was then fitted with, that a recovery would have been possible—particularly in 4½-metre swells, gale-force winds, driving rain, and darkness.
Hon Mark Gosche: Is the Minister satisfied that the National Rescue Coordination Centre is able to handle such searches to give the best possible chance of saving lives?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am entirely satisfied that the National Rescue Coordination Centre acted efficiently to coordinate the rescue operation from the time it was finally upgraded to class 3 and staff there assumed control. I am very confident that this situation cannot occur again in the future, because on 15 September last year, the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand and the police agreed on procedural changes to strengthen communications between the two during search and rescue incidents. I am advised that those changes were implemented in September last year. So the Rescue Coordination Centre is fully informed and involved from the outset, when appropriate. I think this addresses the issue that Mr Hide raised in terms of the confusion of communication that obviously occurred.
Peter Brown: Noting the rather long earlier answer the Minister gave us, I ask whether he will he tell us what portion of the tape recording gives any sort of indication that those factors had any bearing on the decision not to launch the helicopter? It comes across to most New Zealanders—and, I think, indeed, to the good member himself—that there was a lot of confusion, and that would be the honest answer to give the House.
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I certainly do not wish to give less than an honest answer to the member, and I can assure members that I am as concerned as he is about the communication issues and the confusion that occurred. As soon as I heard of the circumstances surrounding the situation, I immediately asked for a review, after I had had the verbal briefing from the Secretary for Transport on 15 March this year, by the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council of the search and rescue classification system. That review was completed on 15 April, and has recommended further changes: one, to reinforce existing polices about who does what; two, to strengthen communication procedures; and, three, to investigate alternatives to the current search and rescue classification system. These changes are currently being implemented. As I said before to the member, I have taken this issue extremely seriously. Two lives were lost in these circumstances but, sadly, it might not have been possible to save them even if the helicopter had been dispatched earlier than it was.
Rodney Hide: Has the Minister had an explanation from the New Zealand Police as to why the police search and rescue liaison officer based in the commissioner’s office, Geoff Logan, assured the National Rescue Coordination Centre three times that the helicopter was on the way to rescue those two men, when in fact the helicopter was not launched for another 58 minutes; if so, what was that explanation and, if not, why has he not sought an explanation as to why the police can so grievously mislead the Rescue Coordination Centre?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I have asked for an explanation of what occurred in this case. There was certainly some confusion in communication between the Northern Communications Centre and the police liaison officer. I do not believe that the police liaison officer misled anybody; I believe he reported what he thought was the correct situation. If the member has questions for the Minister of Police on the operations of the police, I suggest that he raises those with the Minister. I can assure the member that since I was first aware of this circumstance I have taken every step to ensure that the search and rescue side of things has been sorted out. I can tell the member that maritime and aviation incidents will not now be subject, in the way they have been, to some sort of decision part-way through the process, before the Rescue Coordination Centre is in the loop. It will be in the loop from the beginning of the issues, and that action has already been well agreed and put in place.
Rodney Hide: Having listened to the recordings of communication between the Rescue Coordination Centre and the New Zealand Police, does the Minister agree with Superintendent Tony McLeod, who only last week said: “I am very comfortable with how the coms. centre responded to the incident.”; if so, why does the Minister accept that the communications centre handled that incident appropriately and, if not, what is being done to stop that botch-up occurring ever again?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I will answer the last part of the question first: I can assure the member that a botch-up cannot occur again, because the Maritime Operations Centre and the National Rescue Coordination Centre take charge of the issues from the beginning, and then a decision is made during the process as to what resources are appropriate. That is a different situation from what we had in the old search and rescue class 2, class 3 system. However, I am not sure whether the police officer involved and I were listening to the same tapes, if that is his view.
Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table a transcript of the recordings between the Rescue Coordination Centre and the New Zealand Police on the night of 16 August 2004, when the Iron Maiden sank.
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I seek the leave of the House to table the official report of the Maritime Safety Authority into the foundering of the vessel Iron Maiden.
Early Childhood Education—Possible Policy Change
11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What reports, if any, has he received on possible changes to the Government’s policy of 20 hours’ per week free early childhood education for three and four year olds?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): As part of Budget 2004, the Government announced that all 3 and 4-year-old children in New Zealand would be entitled to 20 hours per week of free early childhood education. Immediately after that, I saw a report pledging to abolish the policy. Then I saw another report retracting that pledge. Now I have another report that in fact confirms that Bill English wants to slash the free early childhood education policy. Now we know where some of the money for the tax cuts for National’s mates is coming from.
Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister seen any report suggesting that early childhood centres should commit fraud or adopt dishonest practices—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry to interupt. There was an intervention during the asking of this question. I have been very tolerant with chatter throughout this question time, but that was an intervention. Who was the member who made it?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber, please, because that is normally what happens to those who intervene during the asking of questions.
Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.
Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting that early childhood centres should commit fraud or adopt dishonest practices in order to increase the amount of Government funding they get?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. I was there at the conference, and I have seen a report—in fact, an email—suggesting that early childhood centres should fraudulently fill out forms in order to claim for funding for qualified teachers, even if they are not there. I have already had feedback from people in the sector that they do not intend to follow Bill English’s suggestion.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is lying. When he was there I did not say that, and he should not mislead the House.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I seek leave to table a document that states: “I also want to say I was appalled at the advice given at the ECC conference that we falsify documents. The majority of us are honest professionals, and we would never dream of doing such a thing.”
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is; the document will not be tabled. In dealing with the first point of order, I ask whether the member has taken objection to what was said.
Hon Bill English: Absolutely. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Does the member wish to speak to the point of order?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: No, not to that one.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister then please withdraw and apologise?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: How can I withdraw and apologise for saying I received a document that I did receive, which was totally accurate?
Hon Bill English: Speaking to the point of order, I say that the Minister has made a direct claim that at a forum we were both at, I got up and advised early childhood centre operators to operate in a fraudulent manner and to falsify Government returns. That is absolutely untrue. Those words were never said. In fact, I said that operators were telling me that they were not always as detailed in filling out the forms as they should have been. I absolutely never said that, and the Minister is lying. If he keeps on doing that, it will bring the House into disorder. He is lying.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, the matters raised by the member are matters for the debate. However, the member, in the course of saying that, has accused the Minister of lying, and that is unparliamentary. Will he please withdraw and apologise.
Hon Bill English: I withdraw and apologise.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is very, very clear what happened then. You asked the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, to withdraw and apologise. He then stood up and contested that ruling. He does not have the opportunity to do that under the Standing Orders. He had an opportunity to speak to the ruling, and he did not take that opportunity. When asked to withdraw and apologise, he then contested the ruling with you. You allowed that to happen, and I am still waiting for him to withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. The member is contesting my ruling. The Minister did speak to it by saying he had that document, which he said contained what he had said. I have ruled on the matter, and I do not want there to be any more discussion on it.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is very rarely that I disagree with you and agree with Rodney Hide, but I think you did order me to withdraw and apologise. I do withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: You may do so if you wish, although my understanding was different from that. But if everyone wants to withdraw and apologise, that is fine, and I would then ask the member to sit down
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Is it a new point of order?
Rodney Hide: Yes. I take grave exception to your suggesting that I got it wrong. It was very clear—and I think other members will back me up—that you asked Trevor Mallard to withdraw and apologise. At that point he had to withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: And he has. Would the member please sit down. The point has been taken.
Rodney Hide: No, my point is that you then attacked me.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down. The matter has been resolved.
Rodney Hide: Actually, I would quite like you to apologise to me for your attack on my integrity.
Madam SPEAKER: If the member does not sit down, he is challenging the Chair. The matter has been sorted. Both members have apologised. I accepted the point you have made, and I accepted the Minister’s apology and withdrawal. Can we now please move on.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister not realise that when families are choosing an early childhood centre, they have to take into account the practicalities in terms of their lives—like whether the centre is convenient, what it costs, whether it has parking, whether they like the teachers, what its opening hours are, and whether they match the jobs that the parents have—and that all those things matter a lot more to working families than his politically correct view of who should be allowed to run a childcare centre does?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have been involved in that area for quite a long time, and I do know that people who currently have their kids in kindergarten will be appalled at the fees that would be imposed as a result of National’s policy.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister describe the response of the delegates at the conference to which he refers, whose members deliver 50 percent of early childhood education, to the Government’s policy of 20 hours’ free early childhood education per week?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Mixed.
Bernie Ogilvy: Will the Minister consider extending the Government’s policy of 20 hours’ free early childhood education per week for 3 and 4-year-olds to all early childhood education centres, as per United Future’s education policy; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This Government will consider anything. A higher priority for me would be better quality and cheaper early childhood education for younger children.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister take the chance to repeat to the House his explanation to the conference as to why he wants to discriminate against 40,000 children and their families, depending on whom the landlord is at the early childhood centre, where he said to the conference that Labour just believed the State should do more of it?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is not what I said. I said that there is always a trade-off between the quality of service and profit, and that this Government puts children first.
Hon Bill English: Now that the Minister has said that there is a trade-off between quality and profit, is he willing to go to the 40,000 working mothers and fathers who send their children to privately owned centres this week, and to say that they are making the wrong choice and are sending their children to low-quality, profit-making centres, and that he knows better and thinks that those parents should send their children to non-existent Government-owned and community-run centres?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Government believes in having quality centres. That has always been our priority. I remind that member that the vast increases in funding that have gone in have gone more into private centres than other centres, to help them to improve their quality—and they are very grateful for it. The member opposes quality, and he votes against it every time it is offered.
12. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay Of Plenty) to the Minister of Immigration: Is it possible for a person facing serious criminal charges to be granted refugee status; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): It depends on where the criminal charges are laid. I am advised that if they were laid in any country other than New Zealand, then article 1(f) of the refugee convention states that a person who has committed war crimes, crimes against peace or humanity, or serious, non-political crimes outside the country of refuge, or who acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, can be denied refugee status. I am also advised that if criminal charges were laid in New Zealand, then refugee status could be granted, but it would not automatically lead to the granting of residence. A refugee can be deported if the person is considered a danger to the community as a result of criminal convictions.
Hon Tony Ryall: How does he explain to law-abiding New Zealanders the fact that a foreign man with serious criminal charges pending for threatening to kill two New Zealanders can be granted refugee status by an appeal authority that knew of these offences?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: My advice would be that this has been around since, probably, the convention was introduced, and certainly during the period of the 1990s when that member was a Minister in Cabinet.
Georgina Beyer: Will the review of the Act consider issues relating to refugees?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. The Government has already indicated that it will honour its international obligations. However, the review will consider matters relating to refugees and refugee status. For example, the issue of refugees who have come from a third country in which they could have applied for refugee status, but who failed to do so, will be addressed.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why did no one from his department go to the appeal authority hearing to try to get this man out of New Zealand, when the department knew about his crimes?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is a matter for the department. But the member will know that part of the convention is as I outlined in my original answer.
Hon Tony Ryall: How can this man come to New Zealand on a student visa, and, after being held in prison as an overstayer, later be accepted as a refugee, with no one from the Minister’s department appearing before the appeal authority to stop that from happening?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: What the department does or does not do is a matter for the department, but what I can say is that the whole issue around the status of refugees is one of the matters that will be addressed as part of the review of the Act. It has been around since that member was actually a Minister in a previous National Government.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the Refugee Status Appeals Authority ruling in refugee appeal No. 75081.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What on earth does the Minister think he is doing in his job, if he cannot supply a satisfactory answer to the question that was just put to him by the member from the National Party?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: On the contrary, I thought my answers were fabulous.