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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 9 June 2005

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: )

Thursday, 9 June 2005
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Health Services—Waiting Times
2. Chinese Spy Network—New Zealand
3. Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Treaty of Waitangi Settlement
Question No. 1 to Minister
Question No. 3 to Minister
4. Economy—Reserve Bank Announcement
5. Labour Party President—Auckland Chamber of Commerce
Question No. 1 to Minister, 31 May
6. Treaty of Waitangi—Education Programme
7. Kyoto Protocol—Carbon Sink Credits
8. Schools—Funding Changes
9. Biological Diversity, Convention—Mâori Consultation
10. Employment Law—Impact of Changes
11. Foreign Aid—United Nations Target
12. KiwiSaver Scheme—Overseas Expert Reports

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Health Services—Waiting Times

1. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Health: How much pain and discomfort does someone have to be suffering in order to get treatment within 1 year in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Any New Zealander who requires acute or urgent treatment is dealt with within hours or days. People who are assessed by clinicians as being able to wait are treated in order of clinical priority. This was introduced through the booking system in 1998. The existence of pain and suffering is one of the important factors that clinicians take into account when determining the appropriate course of action for a patient.

Rodney Hide: What then does the Minister say to Mrs Beryl Wright, who is here today watching, whose son Alvin is suffering advanced Huntington’s disease and who suffers severe toothache because he needs 10 decayed teeth removed under general anaesthetic, only to be told by the dental department at Wellington Hospital that he would have to wait a year because his case was “only semi-urgent” and that others were waiting 2 years, especially in light of the fact that the chair of the Health Committee, Steve Chadwick, called out in this House yesterday that no one was queued up on the waiting list, in pain?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am advised by Capital and Coast District Health Board that Alvin Wright was seen at the Porirua dental department on 3 May 2005 for a routine dental check-up. Following the assessment, his mother decided he should have a full dental clearance, and details were noted about what needed to be followed up in his care. I am advised that the patient notes record “no pain, no swelling, and no evidence of urgent treatment”. The assessment was that he would be booked for semi-urgent care, and that the standard advice to patients and family is that if the person’s condition deteriorates, he or she will be reassessed. There is no record for reassessment in this case.

Lesley Soper: Does the Minister consider that the total number of publicly funded operations could be increased if more surgery were performed in private hospitals?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. As many surgeons work in both public and private sectors, performing more operations through the private sector would meane a corresponding reduction on the number of operations performed in the public sector. District health boards already fund operations through private hospitals where it is appropriate to do so. As private hospitals do not have the facilities for intensive care units, it is not appropriate to carry out all surgery in the private sector, particularly if there is a risk of complication, so I think that those who say the answer to our problems is that we do more in private or use more private health insurance ought to rethink their strategy.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why does she continue to deny the facts around her failure to manage the New Zealand health system, when only yesterday she denied the latest benchmark report that showed that 14 out of 21 district health boards failed to attend to serious conditions such as heart attack, massive bleeding, and concussion within the target time frames, with the nonsensical reply: “Any patients who present with these conditions should be seen within that time, and I believe they are.”—that is nonsensical blather; why does she deny her own ministry’s facts?

Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, I never denied the report. After all, it is on the website for every New Zealander to look at—something that was never done under a National Government. Anybody can look up the benchmark report any day of the week. If the member were to speak to clinicians, they would tell him that no person who has had a heart attack or who is haemorrhaging waits longer than he or she needs to. The way it is recorded is by recording the time on a computer when a person finally gets around to recording it. The specialists themselves say that that is a poor way to measure triage times and that it ought to be changed.

Peter Brown: Has the Minister had the opportunity to study the document I tabled the other day in regard to Mr Anthony Russell, or is she taking the same line as her colleague David Cunliffe, who, when he went to see Mr Russell, promised everything and effectively did nothing; notwithstanding any of that, when can I expect a response?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think it is fair to say that I always take seriously issues raised with me. In fact, the leader of the member’s party raised an issue of a drug yesterday and had asked when I would provide that information. I went straight back to my office and noted that I had sent a letter to Winston Peters on 10 May. I take these issues seriously and, as members know, I reply.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not think that I asked anything at all about what Winston Peters asked the Minister. I accept her explanation, but I did ask about a Mr Anthony Russell, who is no longer on any waiting list, whatsoever. He is just one of the people who have been cast off. He has been to David Cunliffe, who apparently promised help and did nothing. I have asked the Minister and I have tabled the documents; when will I get a response?

Madam SPEAKER: When the member asked the question, he made an assertion at the end of it of a general nature, which is what the Minister replied to. If the Minister wishes to add to her answer, she can feel free to do so.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I assured the member that I will give him a reply. That is what I did, and I pointed out my record of giving replies.

Sue Kedgley: Has the Minister seen any proposals that could have the effect of reducing the amount of money going into health and, therefore, making people such as Alvin Wright wait even longer for treatment?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I believe I have. I read the transcript of a speech by Rodney Hide yesterday in which he said we ought to be putting more money into the private sector and private medical insurance. I have also seen Treasury’s response to the notion of a rebate on private medical insurance. Treasury questions both the impact of private medical insurance on the length of waiting in the public sector, and the effect of the growth in private medical insurance on spending in health. As Mr Hide quoted Treasury report after Treasury report as justification to attack Government health policy yesterday, I have no doubt he will now withdraw his latest policy announcement.

Rodney Hide: How can New Zealanders have any confidence in this Minister’s bluff and bluster about the health waiting lists when mothers like Beryl Wright know that the real truth is that their sons, daughters, husbands, mothers, and fathers are queued up in pain, despite what this Minister claims—I can assure her that Alvin is in pain, and so can Alvin’s mother, and so can Alvin—and what will this Minister do for Beryl Wright’s son Alvin, especially since the Minister seems to have plenty of money for sex-change operations, and none for a dying man who is suffering, to have his teeth repaired?

Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, I think it is absolutely disgusting that Rodney Hide is using a person—talking about him dying—to try to make a cheap political point. If he really cared about Mrs Wright’s son he would have pursued this issue in the appropriate way. He did not. He chose to come to Parliament to show off. I say to Mrs Wright that if her son is in pain, she should contact Capital and Coast District Health Board today, because it has assured me that if a patient is in pain he or she will be seen immediately.

Judy Turner: Can the Minister further clarify—for the House and for the district health boards, which seem unclear aboutf the parameters in this matter—her earlier comments that there are certain conditions under which surgery can be performed in the private sector?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not think district health boards are unclear about the matter. For example, under the orthopaedic project a number of district health boards are having major hip and knee replacement operations done in the private sector. In cataract surgery they are having operations done in the private sector. This is done by arrangement with the private sector through the district health board. District health boards are not confused as to what they can and cannot do. There are very clear protocols. In fact, when we announced both of those projects we announced that if there was capacity in the private sector, operations could be done in the private sector.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister accept that her own answer to question for written answer No. 13655 and the September 1999 Heath Funding Authority

report show that in September 1999 the total number of patients on all waiting lists was 176,000, that her own answers to questions for written answer Nos 5986 and 5984 confirm that at the end of March 2005 the figure was 181,000, and that there is no arguing that more people are waiting now than when she came to power?

Hon ANNETTE KING: One of the features of the booking system introduced in 1998 is not how many people are on a list, but how long they actually wait for first specialist assessment and for an operation. In 1999, 50 percent of those waiting for first specialist assessment had waited longer than 6 months. As of now, the number of people who have been waiting longer than 6 months is 21 percent. That is a huge drop in the waiting time for first specialist assessment, something the member likes to raise all the time. She does not understand how the system works.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that cancer patients in Wellington, who have endured anxiety and uncertainty for years about their ability to access cancer services at the one time in their lives when they need it, now face double waiting times while the Wellington Cancer Centre is relocated; and given that this is a scheduled change, is it too much to ask that there be planning to minimise this kind of disruption?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, it is not too much to ask, and I am reassured by Dr David Lambie’s comments that this will be managed within the time frame that is expected. We are talking about a new linear accelerator—not a replacement—which is due in July next year, and I am assured that they will have it by July next year.

Heather Roy: Can the Minister then deny, in light of her answer to my previous question, that under her watch she has created the category of “active review”, a category that hides over 29,000 patients, which her own ministry defines as patients “for whom surgery is the best option, but can’t get it within the current funding, or provider capacity”; why is it, then, that 2,138 of those suffering patients have been waiting for over 2 years, and 90 of those for over 4 years?


Rodney Hide: Does the Minister not think that her desperation is scraping the barrel, given that she criticises Mrs Beryl Wright for coming to see a member of Parliament to seek help for her son; this Minister simply says she should try and get in touch with Capital Coast Health, even though Mrs Beryl Wright went to Capital Coast Health, filled out all the forms, waited day after day and heard nothing, then rang after 3 week,s only to be dismissed and told that Alvin would have to wait at least a year, and then rang again but could not get any sense out of Capital Coast Health; after that, Alvin’s caregiver was so concerned as to pursue the matter, and now, finally, Alvin has an appointment on 31 July for a reassessment; why is she critical of Mrs Beryl Wright, who simply wants her son treated?

Madam SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, it is probably appropriate to remind members of the discussion that we had yesterday that both questions and answers should be given concisely.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I certainly did not criticise Mrs Wright; I criticised Mr Hide.

Heather Roy: What reassurance does the Minister think her answers will be to the families of two men who were admitted to Wellington Hospital twice for heart surgery, were twice sent home, and who died while on her waiting list for their third attempts at operations that they obviously needed; does she stand by her statement that people are not dying of the condition that they are on the waiting list for?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Unfortunately, people who are booked for elective surgery do have their operations cancelled sometimes. They are usually cancelled because somebody has had a car accident or a heart attack, and those people take priority in terms of the theatre. Unfortunately, that does happen, and there is very little we can do about it, because we must take those people in priority order. There have always been people who have died on a waiting list, but when we looked at the numbers that that member provided to the New Zealand public, and did a search of those numbers, we found that few, if any, had died of the condition for which they they were waiting for treatment—they were waiting to have cataracts or knee replacements done.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Died of old age!

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, some did die of old age. That is correct, because people do die when they become old. But they did not die of the condition they were on the waiting list for, as that member dishonestly said to the public.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In the answer to the first supplementary question from the ACT member, the Minister read out what must have been personal and confidential information from a patient record. I have listened to many debates about waiting-list patients over the years, and that would be the first time that that has happened in the House. I would be interested to know whether you regard it as fit and proper that a Minister of Health has access to confidential medical records of individual patients. I also ask the Minister to table the document from which she read out, so the House can see whether that was confidential, personal medical information.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This issue arose once before, and I think it was actually Mr Richard Prebble who gave the most complete and useful comment on it. Once a member in the House raises a question about an individual patient, presumably with the permission of that patient, then it must be presumed that permission has been given to release all details. Otherwise, the Minister cannot possibly answer the question or the accusations that have been raised.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not any more assistance, but thank you for your contributions. It is not for the Speaker to judge whether it is fit and proper for a Minister to have access to official information. I make that point to begin with. But, as members are aware, there is no privacy rule as such in this House, according to Speaker’s ruling 49/1. Whether personal details should be mentioned by any members or Ministers is, of course, a matter for the judgment of the members or Ministers themselves, and, in the context of the matter having been raised, as has been mentioned, then that has been considered to be appropriate.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I accept your ruling, but this is really a matter of parliamentary behaviour. The question is not so much whether the information can be presented to the House—it certainly can be—as whether the Minister has broken the law by having access to that confidential information. Health legislation says that for people to have access to that confidential information they have to fit a definition in relation to a public agency. If the Minister does not fit that definition, then she would be in breach of the law. The second point is that documents were quoted from, and I can therefore ask the Minister to table those documents, and then we can ascertain their nature.

Madam SPEAKER: In answer to the first point, I say that it is not for the Speaker to say whether the Minister has broken the law. On the second point, I ask the Minister whether she was quoting from an official document, and I say that if she was, it should be tabled.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I was not, and I tell the House that Alvin Wright’s case has been in the newspaper.

Rodney Hide: Putting aside her criticisms of me for trying to help at least one New Zealander—

Madam SPEAKER: The member will come to the supplementary question, please.

Rodney Hide: Actually, the rules are quite simple, Madam Speaker: if a Minister has a crack at someone who asks a question, then just as you ruled that the Minister can take a cheap shot back, so too can the person asking the question.

Madam SPEAKER: What is the question, please?

Rodney Hide: If you let me finish I will ask it, but I keep getting interrupted by the Labour members behind me who are trying to cover for their Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please ask his supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: Putting aside the Minister’s criticisms of me for trying to help at least one person out of the 180,000 on the waiting list, what can she say that her great health system can do for Alvin Wright, who, I can assure her, is in pain and having difficulty eating because of his decayed teeth and toothache—what can she do for Alvin?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can assure the member that if Alvin Wright is in pain and is having difficulty in eating, then he will be seen in the health system as soon as possible.

Heather Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek leave to table several documents. The first is question for written answer No. 13655.

Leave granted.

Heather Roy: The second is a table of the first specialist assessment numbers on the waiting list in September 1999.

Leave granted.

Heather Roy: The final documents are parliamentary questions Nos. 5986 and 5984, confirming a number of 181,000 patients on the waiting list.

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

Heather Roy: I seek leave to table Ministry of Health figures obtained under the Official Information Act showing the number of people on active review as at 31 December 2004, and showing the great amount of time they have been waiting in this category.

Leave granted.

Heather Roy: I seek leave to table a newspaper report from the Dominion Post dated 30 May 2003—

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

Heather Roy: Nobody actually knows what this newspaper article says, because I was not given the opportunity to outline it. They do not even know what they are objecting to.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am afraid that the Government takes the position that it objects to the tabling of almost all newspaper articles on the grounds that those articles are already in the public arena. It is a waste of parliamentary time to seek leave to table them.

Madam SPEAKER: If the member wishes to re-put her point of order and describe the document she may well do so, and we will do it again. Does the member wish to do that again?

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

Madam SPEAKER: I am dealing with the first point that was raised and then I am happy to take the member’s point of order.

Heather Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek the leave of the House to table a newspaper article from the Dominion Post of 30 May 2003, which outlines the cases of the two men who died while waiting for heart surgery at Wellington Hospital, and who were readmitted twice before they died.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. While my colleague Heather Roy was seeking leave to table those documents, which any member of Parliament is perfectly entitled to do, you sat by and allowed Trevor Mallard and Michael Cullen to heckle someone, on a point of order, seeking leave. They were calling out, and I am sure that members opposite will all agree with me. I am appalled that the Speaker would allow that to happen when someone is seeking leave through a point of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You asked whether there was objection, and we said “Yes”.

Simon Power: Just to assist Mr Hide, he is dead right when he described the situation that occurred. While Ms Roy was trying to describe the content of the document during a point of order the Minister of Education interjected upon her.

Hon Trevor Mallard: My recollection is that after Ms Roy started, you asked whether there was objection, we said “Yes”, and she kept on going.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I am sorry, that was my recollection too, and—

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

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I am—[Interruption]

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That comment from the member is totally out of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw and apologise.

Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. What I was about to say was that I think it was a question of timing. I apologise to the member if I interrupted her before she felt she had clearly identified the article. I thought she had. She was given another opportunity to do so. The process then went on.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not believe that what you have described is, in fact, what we observed. I was sitting exactly opposite the Minister of Education, and while you did ask whether there was any objection, the Minister said “Yes”. But then, subsequent to that, he went on to interject while a point of order was still in process. You ejected me from the House for exactly that same offence not so long ago, and it is important for both sides of this House to be treated equally.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The point of order raised by Heather Roy was over at the point where you had sought whether there was objection. The point, of course, is that it is necessary to give information only sufficient to identify the document. The practice has been growing in recent weeks to try to read out the entire document for which leave is sought for tabling.

Madam SPEAKER: This matter has been dealt with.

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

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a new point of order?

Rodney Hide: Yes.

Madam SPEAKER: As long as it is not on the matter that has already been dealt with.

Rodney Hide: Of course not. What Mr Cullen just said was totally untrue. Heather Roy did not seek to read out the entire article. Of course, that would be wrong. The confusion is this. Ms Heather Roy was seeking several points of order to table several documents. Leave was denied for one document. When she sought leave to table the next document, that is when the members opposite interjected. They were not saying “No” to the previous document; they had already done that. But they continued to badger her while she was seeking a point of order, and that was the purpose of it: to badger someone because they did not believe she should be seeking that point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I have ruled on the point of order.

Chinese Spy Network—New Zealand

2. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Has he sought an assurance from the Chinese Ambassador that there is no Chinese spy network operating in New Zealand, in light of claims that China has 1,000 spies operating in Australia; if so, was such an assurance forthcoming?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): No.

Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister now seek such an assurance from the Chinese Ambassador, in view of the allegations being made in Australia; or does he share the timidity of his own ministry, which seems too scared to do anything about China for fear of upsetting the free-trade negotiations?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer is no, and, frankly, it would be rather naive to go to any embassy and ask it whether it was involved in spying. What would the member expect the embassy to say? We have our own means of determining whether any foreign country, embassy, agency, or individual is indulging in espionage, but the Government, of course, does not comment on security and intelligence matters of this nature.

Rod Donald: In the same way that the Prime Minister did the right thing by offering Tampa refugees a home here, will the Government offer former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin political asylum in New Zealand, following Australia’s refusal to do so; or is she concerned—or is he concerned—that such a humanitarian act would jeopardise the Government’s free-trade negotiations with China?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Firstly, in relation to the latter point, made by both the member and the previous questioner, this matter has absolutely nothing to do with any trade negotiation. The member’s assumption is wrong: the Australian Government has not made any decision on any asylum application by Mr Chen. In fact, I will read out to the member what Alexander Downer, the Foreign Minister, said: “If Mr Chen is genuinely somebody in need of protection, then he will receive that protection.” The member’s request for New Zealand to make an offer of asylum is therefore, at the very least, premature, and would, in any case, not be the subject of public comment by me.

Hon Peter Dunne: Do I take it from the Minister’s somewhat intemperate response to my earlier question that he and the Government are satisfied that no espionage is being conducted in New Zealand by the Chinese Embassy or representatives of the Chinese Embassy, including the use of paid informers in this country; if he is so satisfied, is he prepared to give an absolute assurance of that to the House this afternoon?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, and the member can take from my answer what I said—and it was clear what I said. In fact, my answer was not intemperate. I thought that the member, who is generally a very reasonable member, asked a question that was intemperate.

Te Wânanga o Aotearoa—Treaty of Waitangi Settlement

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What payments have been made to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa under the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiated between Te Wânanga o Aotearoa and the Crown, and on what conditions have these payments been made?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The sum of $40 million, under the conditions of the deed, which I am happy to table.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen official advice tendered to him on 23 December 2004 that stated that the additional redress of $15 million was payable only on condition of certain performance measures, as indicated in the deed, being met; and as it now appears that the payments were made in 2002 and 2003 without performance measures having been met, why did he pay millions of dollars to the wânanga when it had not met the conditions for the payment?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I apologise for having to go into a little bit of detail on this question. The matter was subject to Crown Law advice around whether conditions had been met. The specific condition that I am advised was not met was in relation to the proportion of students who were Mâori. There was a requirement to have a minimum of 6,400 students who were Mâori, as part of the deed of settlement requirements. The wânanga actually had 20,400 students who were Mâori. With the proportions set out in the deed of settlement, there was a maximum of 6,800 Pâkehâ students. Unfortunately, there was a breach in that the wânanga had nearly 14,000 Pâkehâ students. I think that to withhold a payment—and, certainly, this is the advice that I have now received, confirmed by Crown Law—because too many white people were enrolled would have been unreasonable.

Hon Bill English: Why has the Minister demanded repayment of $17,500 from the Enner Glynn Playcentre in Nelson, which was an overpayment due to a ministry mistake, but he has not demanded a single dollar of repayment from the wânanga for an overpayment of $15 million that was due to his own mistake?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I absolutely reject the second part of the question. The advice is clear that the payment should have been made. I know there was one senior official in the Ministry of Education who questioned that. The advice from Crown Law is that it was appropriate. We do not stop wânanga having money, for having too many honkies.

Deborah Coddington: Is the Minister satisfied that taxpayers have received good value for money from the massive payments made to Te Wânanga o Aotearoa; if not, why does he continue to pour taxpayers’ money into this institution?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Certainly not; and a lot less taxpayers’ money is going in under our rules than went in under those developed by Bill English and his mates.

Hon Bill English: How does the Minister explain to the New Zealand public the double standard he is using when he is demanding a repayment of $17,500 from the Enner Glynn Playcentre, an overpayment due to a ministry mistake, but he has not demanded repayment of a single dollar of $15 million that officials say should not have been paid to the wânanga; and how will he explain that to the mothers at the playcentre, which will go broke if the ministry persists in demanding the repayment?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I reiterate my comment: I have received advice, including advice from the Crown Law Office, that this payment to the wânanga was not an error.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the member was seeking a comment on the playcentre.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I addressed one part of his question.

Madam SPEAKER: You did, and I am afraid that the Standing Orders do state that if there is more than one question in a supplementary question, the Minister is required to answer only part of it.

Question No. 1 to Minister

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I accept your ruling following Bill English’s point about the Minister of Health reading out personal information, but we have got a serious situation now, because in reading out the information the Minister of Health seriously misled this House and, indeed, the public of New Zealand about Alvin’s condition and, in fact, about what transpired. I think, Madam Speaker, that you should allow me just two sentences to correct what Annette King has said, and it is this—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but that is not a point of order; it is a point of privilege, and there is a process by which it can be pursued.

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Another point of order? I have actually ruled on the matter. It is a point of privilege, not a point of order. The member has a remedy.

RODNEY HIDE: I have seen how they go.

Madam SPEAKER: What is the member’s next point of order?

RODNEY HIDE: My point is that Annette King said that Alvin went to the Porirua medical centre for a check-up. That is not true. He went—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but the member knows I have ruled on this point. Would he please sit down.

RODNEY HIDE: I am sorry, Madam Speaker, but—

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please sit down.

RODNEY HIDE: I am not going to sit here and let that Minister tell lies.

Madam SPEAKER: Mr Hide, I ask you to leave the Chamber.

Rodney Hide: I will happily leave, because there is no point in asking—

Madam SPEAKER: No, the member has raised a point of privilege, and you are perfectly entitled to raise a point of privilege, but not in this forum.

Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.

GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. One of your jobs is to make sure that the New Zealand Parliament is held in reasonable respect by the public. What Mr Hide has just pointed out may well be a matter of privilege, but how is it going to look when not only the patient affected but also his mother are sitting in the gallery, knowing full well that the information given to the House by the Minister was wrong, and when a member wants simply, with two sentences, to correct it, he ends up being slung out of the House? How does that help maintain the New Zealand public’s opinion of this House—or does it, in fact, do exactly that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): It certainly does help if the Speaker asserts her right to have her ruling obeyed and not shouted down and ignored by any member of this House, however senior. As to the issue, either Mr Hide was trying to raise an issue of privilege, which is done by a completely different method, or he was raising simply an interpretation issue, which is a matter for debate, and also is not a matter to be raised by way of a point of order during question time. I am sure everybody has every sympathy for the patient, but Mr Hide was running a stunt for the television cameras.

Madam SPEAKER: I wish to rule on this matter. This is question time. It is not a time for matters of general debate. No one actually knows the right or the wrong of the matter that was raised. Of course it is entitled to be raised in question time; it was raised, and answers were given. Mr Hide was asked to leave the Chamber because he raised, not a point of order, but a point of privilege, and when he was asked by the Chair to follow the Standing Orders and the correct process, declined to do so.

Question No. 3 to Minister

JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When Mr Mallard was answering a supplementary question to question No. 3 he referred to white New Zealanders as honkies. Is that acceptable language in this House?

Madam SPEAKER: The matter should have been raised at the time. It was not. There is no set list of correct or incorrect terms except, as we know, someone may not be called a liar, and we do have some forbidden terms, such as “racist”. I did wonder whether someone would raise it at the time, but I do not consider myself a censor in that sense.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have consulted my colleague the Minister of Mâori Affairs. He has told me that the term can be regarded as derogatory, and therefore I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, and I thank the member for raising it.

Economy—Reserve Bank Announcement

4. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What is his reaction to this morning’s announcement by the Governor of the Reserve Bank?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I note the governor’s view that the balance of inflation risks remains on the upside and that a further tightening in monetary policy may still be necessary. This reinforces the OECD assessment last month that any additional fiscal stimulus beyond that already planned could put the projected soft economic landing at risk and would need to be offset by higher interest rates.

Clayton Cosgrove: What implications does the Reserve Bank announcement carry for fiscal policy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A significant loosening of fiscal policy by way of either substantial tax cuts or increased spending will produce exactly the sort of “upside surprise” in the inflation outlook that the Reserve Bank warns it will be watching for closely. This reinforces my message of recent weeks. Tax cuts result in higher interest rates unless fully offset by cuts to spending.

John Key: Why do we have the highest interest rates in the developed world under the Minister’s financial leadership?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, because we have had just about the highest growth rate in the developed world over the last 3 or 4 years, which means that we are at the top of the cycle and facing capacity constraints, and secondly, because New Zealanders have a poor savings record. This Government has announced a major initiative. That party wants to destroy both that initiative and the Government’s own savings by making unsupportable tax cuts.

Clayton Cosgrove: What, if any, budgetary implications does the Reserve Bank announcement carry?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that it reinforces the need for all parties to produce alternative budgets and to explain to the public and the bank how their policy platforms will be paid off without setting off an inflationary spiral. National failed to produce one at the last election, and I suspect that we will not see one at this election either, because National members came out of their caucus on Tuesday looking very glum, as they began to understand the real numbers.

John Key: Does the Minister agree with comments made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Alan Bollard, today that he considers a material fiscal impulse to be the amount of 1 percent or more, noting that Working for Families has a fiscal impulse of 0.7 percent; if he does not agree with Alan Bollard in that regard, can he tell the people of New Zealand what he considers to be a material impact of fiscal impulse?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: This year’s Budget has a fiscal impulse of more than 1 percent of GDP. That is why, if any party wants to add any additional fiscal impulse, it will have to find savings. Secondly, 1 percent of GDP is about $1.5 billion. The member has already denied that his tax cuts will be anything like that size, and if that is true, the great majority of working New Zealanders will be horribly disappointed by the promised miserable size of the tax cuts that National is planning.

Labour Party President—Auckland Chamber of Commerce

5. Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga) to the Minister of Finance: Did he personally apologise to the chief executive of the Auckland chamber of commerce for the behaviour of Transit board member Mike Williams at a meeting between Ministers and Auckland business organisations; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I apologised to Mr Barnett, but not in relation to Mr Williams’ behaviour in the meeting in my office. I did so—[Interruption] I think that member should apologise for her behaviour almost every day. I did so because the Government values its relationship with the Auckland chamber of commerce, and wishes to cooperate further in proceeding even faster in resolving Auckland’s transport problems. I note that the Auckland chamber of commerce has declined to sign up to the northern employers and manufacturers party political programme aimed against this Government.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Was Mike Williams present at the meeting as Labour Party president, or was he there formally as a member of the Transit board, and if it was the second, had he originally asked the chairman and the chairman delegated it to him, or did Mike Williams just show up because he is a political crony?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, Mr Williams is a political something; I would not describe him as a political crony. But my understanding is that he was there to give information about Transit’s position. Whether he talked to the board chair, I have no idea in that respect.

Peter Brown: Is this the same meeting that the Auckland chamber of commerce chief executive officer refers to in his press release today, when he states that the use of borrowing will be examined to speed up the completion of Auckland’s western ring route network; if it is, has the Government genuinely taken on board New Zealand’s First’s urging that Transit should be allowed to borrow against future income without the use of tolls, and without any further increase in excise tax, petrol tax, or road-user charges?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, what the Government has done already on one project has been to indicate that there will be the ability to borrow against a future income stream off that road. If one is borrowing against the future income to Transit, how will one build the next lot of roads?

Hon Maurice Williamson: Was Mike Williams one of the people John Tamihere was talking about in the Investigate article, when asked about the machine that existed on the ninth floor and he said: “Oh yeah, there’s definitely a ‘machine’ all right. It’s formidable. It’s got apparatus and activists in everything from the PPTA all the way through. It’s actually even built a counterweight to the Roundtable—Businesses for Social Responsibility.”; was Mike Williams one of those tentacles?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no idea what Mr Tamihere was referring to, but I can confirm there is a formidable machine on the ninth floor and it is going to flatten the Opposition in about 3 months’ time.

Peter Brown: Noting the answer the Minister gave to my supplementary question, is he telling the House there will be widespread tolling of the Auckland western ring route?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Legislation has already been passed to deal with the issue of tolling. We made it clear that the Albany to Pûhoi realignment project would be subject to tolling. There is widespread support in the Auckland business community, and in Auckland widely, for some tolling for specific roading projects. If Dr Mapp cares to look at his own party’s policy, there is support for that from National, as well.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Does the Minister have concerns that a board member of Transit was so ill-informed that he thought the major projects, such as the State Highway 20 extension at Mount Roskill had already begun, when clearly it has not, or does he think Mr Williams was confused by a plethora of documents put out by Transit—for example, one stating: “We expect State Highway 20 Mount Roskill to commence in September 2002 and to be completed by May 2005”, or a householder brochure sent out in August 2002 to every house in Auckland, which stated that the State Highway 20 Mount Roskill extension would commence in 2004, yet today the select committee was told the project has not yet started; if so, is that the reason why Mr Williams is so confused?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no idea at all about those particular matters. What I do know—[Interruption] I do not live inside Maurice Williamson’s head, and I am very grateful for that fact. What I can say is that the roading projects under way in Auckland at the moment are worth more than ten times as much as in the last year of the previous National Government, when it talked about roads but did nothing at all about them. Now, of course, the Opposition is big on promises, and has the ex - Social Credit finance spokesperson to front its roading campaign in Auckland.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Is he surprised to learn, notwithstanding the supplementary question previously asked by the member, that when that same member asked the Chief Executive of Transit New Zealand at this morning’s select committee meeting whether the Mount Roskill project had begun, he was advised that it has, that the tender has been let to a good Dunedin company called Fulton Hogan, that the pre-construction work is already under way, and that one does not start up bulldozers in Auckland in the middle of winter?

Madam SPEAKER: I note there was an interjection during a question. I am asked to apply—

Hon Maurice Williamson: I apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: The normal penalty is to leave the Chamber, but I know you are in the midst of asking your questions. I ask everyone to try to exercise a little control.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I would not be surprised, at all. I would not expect Mr Williamson to understand anything about Auckland roads, if he relies upon information from Mr Alasdair Thompson, the ex - Social Credit Party finance spokesperson.

Dail Jones: Does the Minister of Finance realise—and adding to what has just been said—that the tender has gone out and that it is proposed to extend State Highway 20 through Mount Roskill to the New Windsor area to Maioro Street, and that that is common knowledge in the Auckland area to most people, although I would think most Aucklanders in that Mount Roskill - north-western area would not like tolls?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not my understanding that the proposal is to toll that particular road, but it would be quite foolish for any Government to forgo the ability to engage in specific projects related to tolling, if we wish to accelerate infrastructure development within New Zealand. At the end of the day, things have to be paid for. I am sure the member is aware that outside Auckland there is some feeling that perhaps Auckland could contribute a little more to its own roading network.

Hon Maurice Williamson: I seek leave to table five documents. The first is a Transit document dated February 2000, in which it states: “SH20 Mount Roskill will begin in 2003”.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: The second one is a Transit media release of September 2000, stating that it will begin in late 2003.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: The next one is a major bulletin put out in October 2004, in which Transit brings the date forward to September 2002 for commencement.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: The third one is a 2002 media release, stating: “Green light for Mount Roskill motorway given”.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: The fourth is a media release from Transit from June 2004, stating: “Commencement later this year, by Christmas”.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: The last one is the big household brochure that went out in August 2004, stating that it would start in 2004—which it did not.

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

Question No. 1 to Minister, 31 May

Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive): I seek leave to table three documents. The first is a statement of Mr Amir Salman made to a meeting at the Pakuranga Community Centre, taking objection to the Rt Hon Winston Peters linking him with the Saddam Hussein regime and calling Mr Peters’ statement totally defamatory and disruptive to his family and his children.

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

Hon MATT ROBSON: The second document is a statement from Mr Omer Ali, taking objection to what he said is the defamatory statement made by Winston Peters that Mr Ali was a police chief in Saddam Hussein’s regime, which caused great trauma to his family. The statement was made at a meeting called by the Iraqi community council at the Pakuranga Community Centre, which over 200 people attended.

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

Hon MATT ROBSON: The third statement is a press release from the Iraqi community council, taking objection to the statements of the Rt Hon Winston Peters that two members they hold in high regard in its community were representatives of the Saddam Hussein regime.

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

Treaty of Waitangi—Education Programme

6. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Coordinating Minister, Race Relations: What has been the total cost across all Government agencies in the last financial year of providing internal or contracted Treaty of Waitangi - related courses and education material on the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Coordinating Minister, Race Relations): As I said yesterday, there are over 3,000 Crown entities, and I do not intend to ask each of them to report to me on how much they spend in their staff training and development budgets or, in the case of schools, how many copies of the excellent books written by Jamie Belich or Claudia Orange they have bought. However, I have asked staff to trawl back through information held in my office, and I can tell the member that, on top of the money referred to yesterday to do with the Treaty of Waitangi Information Programme, last year we had reports from 22 agencies that spent, altogether, $413,000 between them, ranging from $96,000 in the Department of Conservation to nothing in the Ministry of Transport.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister saying, then, that the statement that exists on the website in the name of the Hon Trevor Mallard, relating to the first results of a review of targeted programmes and dated 16 December 2004, has not been activated, when it says that additional funding for those projects is made up of $10.5 million per school year in decile-linked operational funding, $16.5 million in per pupil operational funding, and a further set of two new initiatives worth $11.5 million, which alone totals $38.5 million; is he now telling the House that that money will not be spent or that he has no idea whether it has been spent?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is the money we gave to schools when we took away ethnically-based funding.

Gerry Brownlee: When the Minister said on 25 February 2004: “There are facts and there are perceptions, and there is a perception in New Zealand of enormous amounts of dosh being tossed towards Mâori. I’m not sure if that is true. It’s one of the things I want to find out.”, did he think that 15 months later he still would not know the answer?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There was an enormous amount of dosh being tossed around on an ethnic basis at the time the statement was made. As Dail Jones has so politely pointed out to the House, there is a hell of a lot less now.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister saying that he is not in a position to send even one email to all the schools involved in order to ask them how much they are wasting on Treaty of Waitangi education to indoctrinate New Zealand children, get replies back, and thereby assess how much the 2,600 schools in New Zealand are spending on this Labour Party indoctrination?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say that the curriculum in this area has not changed since the time that Winston Peters was in Government. I have not made changes in this area. Schools make choices as to the material they select in order to cover the curriculum. That is right. Sometimes the material is controversial. Sometimes people get things from Mrs Turia’s mate Hone Harawira that I think is rubbish, and sometimes people get things from—

Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like to ask the relevance to this particular question of that comment about what my mates are doing.

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure that that is a point of order. If the Minister finishes his answer, then we will get the whole context of what has been said.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Sometimes schools use materials from Hone Harawira and his mates that is extremist at one end. Sometimes they use material from the National Front and from other people associated with New Zealand First that is rubbish at the other end. Sometimes they use balanced material like Claudia Orange’s book, and I think that that is great.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That comment from the Minister deliberately aimed to draw an association between New Zealand First and the National Front. You ignored it; I and my colleagues did not. We take extreme offence at that man who sits among former members of the Communist Party casting such a slur on our party. I demand that you have him withdraw and apologise.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do so unreservedly.

Dail Jones: When does the Minister intend to undertake some inquiries as to the many millions that are being spent in this area, bearing in mind that it has already been 15 months since the terms of reference relating to the review of targeted policy and programmes in this area were released; and what explanation can he really give, other than by what he has just said—that it is a waste of time—and by his total neglect of his parliamentary responsibilities by failing to tell the people of New Zealand how many millions have been spent, in secret it seems, by this Government in that area?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: My role was to do some work to make sure that spending was appropriate. A big series of reviews has been set up, and those that have been completed—over a dozen of them—are reported on the website. Another 30-odd are coming down the track. Separately, I have had some responsibility for making sure that high-quality information is available. If the member looks on the website of the State Services Commission or at the website, he will find some high-quality, neutral information. It is not propaganda. I am getting sick of people who have closed minds. I do not agree with a lot of radicals in the treaty industry, but I do not oppose having high-quality, neutral information made available, unlike some people with closed minds.

Kyoto Protocol—Carbon Sink Credits

7. BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia), on behalf of Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson), to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: Has he received any reports about the amount of carbon sink credits New Zealand will have in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; if so, do those reports contain different predictions than any previous reports?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): I need the indulgence of the House. The answer is yes and yes. I see many reports, nearly always involving different projections and different methodologies. Two more were released today, although the one reported in the Dominion Post is a retread from last year.

Brian Connell: Does the Minister stand by his assertion at the time his Government ratified the Kyoto Protocol that New Zealand would have 6 million tonnes of credits to sell and his statement: “New Zealand would stand to make a couple of hundred million from this. Would they set fire to a $200 million cheque?”

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member will be aware that the projections on New Zealand’s net position are updated each year and are on the Climate Change Office website. I draw from that website and make statements according to the advice.

H V Ross Robertson: Does the Climate Change Office publish annual updates on New Zealand’s net position, including sinks; if so, what is the trend line?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes. As I said, they are on the Climate Change Office’s website, and members are welcome to go and access them. The trend in New Zealand’s net position since 1997 is downward. The two main reasons for this are both changes in methodology, but the fact that over the past 5 years New Zealand has been amongst the most successful economies in the Western World has also played a part.

Rod Donald: Has the Minister seen any new reports from reputable sources, particularly science bodies, on the seriousness of climate change and the urgent need for action?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Indeed I have, and I have one here. It is a statement entitled “Joint Science Academies’ Global Response to Climate Change”. It asserts that climate change is real and that the problem is urgent, and it is signed by the scientific academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russian, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

Brian Connell: What is the latest advice he has seen about New Zealand’s carbon balance for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol?

Hon PETE HODGSON: As I said, I continue to get reports. The next report is due to be posted shortly. I expect it to have moved through the Cabinet process over the next week or two. We will have completed all the details around it, and I will make it public, as I do each year.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will give us the same old answer that we always get, but the Minister earlier told the House that if we wanted to know about this stuff, we should go to the website. Now he has just been asked what the latest information is, and he has told the House that it is clearly not on the website. He obviously knows the information, and I think it would be very much in the public interest for him to expand on the answer he has just given.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The original question and the previous question were about general information, and that is on the website. When the Minister was asked about the latest report, he quite rightly said that it was yet to be completed and to go through the process, and would be published. The Minister does not have to release a report until it has been through the appropriate processes.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address that question.

Rod Donald: What reports has the Minister seen on the views of senior American and British politicians on the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The American President holds the view that: “The issue of climate change respects no border. Its effects cannot be reined in by any army nor advanced by any ideology. Climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world.” That is President George Bush. On the other hand, another global leader said: “There are those who argue that the evidence that global temperatures are increasing is non-existent. I am one who thinks the science is still debatable.” That global leader was the leader of the New Zealand National Party.

Brian Connell: When the Minister gets his next piece of advice, should the carbon balance be negative—in stark contradiction to the key reason he used to justify New Zealand ratifying the protocol ahead of our major trading partners—will he take responsibility for that very costly error for New Zealand and do the decent thing and resign?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member might reflect, given that he comes from the east coast of the South Island, that the effect on climate change on New Zealand in general and on our agricultural pastoralism in particular, and on the agricultural pastoralism on the east coast of the North and the South Islands, is likely to be severe or very severe unless we can knock the worst effects of it over. This is an issue that will not go away, and the member must face that.

Brian Connell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to reflect on that answer. I asked the Minister a very specific question: “If the carbon balance was negative, in stark contradiction to his justification for signing the protocol, would he do the decent thing and resign?”. He never attempted to answer that question in any way.

Madam SPEAKER: No, but he did address the question.

Schools—Funding Changes

8. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What reports, if any, has he received on possible changes to the way schools are funded?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have seen suggestions that all targeted funding for teachers’ salaries, teacher professional development, information and communications technology, and learning material should be abolished. School boards would be forced to negotiate individual employment agreements with each teacher, and all safeguards for quality teaching would be gone by lunchtime. Those proposals came from Don Brash and Bill English.

Lynne Pillay: What are some of the programmes and initiatives that would be at risk if such a proposal was to be adopted?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In short, heaps. To elaborate, there would be no laptops for teachers, no targeted literacy and numeracy programmes, no monitoring of truancy, no free software licences, no school transport for rural kids, and lots and lots of other things.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister realise that in the education sector he is making a laughing stock of himself with his childish, aggressive strutting over policy he claims exists but never did?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. When I spoke to the rural principals yesterday, I quoted Don Brash’s speech in which he said that National would move to giving a single grant to schools, covering both salaries and operations grants. If schools had a single grant, they would not have information and communications technology, Microsoft licences, or school buses in rural areas.

Biological Diversity, Convention—Mâori Consultation

9. TARIANA TURIA (Leader—Mâori Party) to the Minister for the Environment: What consultation, if any, occurred with Mâori regarding the position that New Zealand took at the recent biosafety meetings in Montreal to consider the Convention on Biological Diversity?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Prior to New Zealand’s decision to ratify the protocol, there were extensive opportunities for consultation offered to all interested stakeholders, including Mâori, on the issues New Zealand would have to consider if it became a member. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade convened two further meetings with stakeholders in preparation for the Montreal meeting.

Tariana Turia: How does the inadequate consultation undertaken with tangata whenua demonstrate compliance with the Environment Act 1986, which requires the Ministry for the Environment to ensure that in the management of natural and physical resources, full and balanced account is taken of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I reject the statement that the consultation was inadequate.

Metiria Turei: What is the Minister’s response to the concerns expressed by the European delegates at the second meeting of the parties in Montreal, who asked why New Zealand even bothered to ratify the protocol if its only intent was to obstruct its progress; is it not the case that New Zealand delegates are just there to do the dirty work of the GE export companies, which do not have a vote?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The text that was proposed by some of the delegates at that meeting would have shifted the very protocol away from its purpose as an instrument to protect biological diversity to an instrument that protected and regulated certain trade. New Zealand did not support that shift away from biosafety so, along with Brazil and other countries that were not able to be present there, such as Nicaragua, we did not support the text.

Tariana Turia: Is the Government resiling from its treaty obligations, and was that supported by its Mâori members or did the Government not bother even to consult them?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: We did not resile. Consultations included notification of the consultation process directly to over a thousand interested stakeholders, including Mâori. The public consultation process included notification of progress in the consultation process on the Federation of Mâori Authorities’ fortnightly electronic bulletin and on its website. I have here a list of Mâori authorities that were directly contacted through Te Puni Kôkiri.

David Parker: How did New Zealand officials at the Montreal meeting work to safeguard the interests of all New Zealanders, including Mâori?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The New Zealand delegation worked to secure practical and meaningful rules for biosafety protection. The proposed final text contained measures that could have impacted seriously on our exports. Our delegation was vigilant and prevented their adoption, thereby protecting our exporters and protecting the protocol’s integrity as safeguarding biosafety protection.

Employment Law—Impact of Changes

10. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Labour: What changes have been made to New Zealand’s employment law framework, and what has been the impact?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): The Government has taken a number of steps to bring about a fair and balanced employment law framework. The Employment Relations Act has helped to build productive employment relationships through the promotion of collective bargaining, and by protecting the integrity of individual choice. The Government has also introduced a new Holidays Act and paid parental leave, and has improved health and safety legislation. The impact has been positive for many wage and salary earners in New Zealand.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any proposals for further changes to employment law in New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. I have seen a proposal to scrap the Employment Relations Act, followed by a statement that the business community is broadly happy with that Act, followed by another statement that it will be repealed in its entirety. Those statements come from the National Party, which seems to make a habit of flip-flops and U-turns in its policy development process.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister appreciate that his Government’s 2004 law changes have led to an unprecedented wave of strikes and stoppages this year, by allowing unions to hold employers to ransom and bully them into multi-employer collective contracts?


Peter Brown: Is it of any concern to the Minister that many restaurants, cafes and retail outlets are closing on statutory holidays because they would have to pay their workers additional pay; if he is concerned, what will he do about it?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: When that policy was introduced there was recognition that it would have an impact on restaurants. That was made quite clear. It was up to the restaurants to decide how they were to deal with it. In fact, much of the anecdotal evidence that comes out shows that New Zealanders are quite happy to pay a little bit more on public holidays, so that workers who work on those days when most New Zealanders have a holiday get a little bit more for working on those days.

Paul Adams: Does the Minister intend to review grievance and dismissal processes in light of, firstly, employers’ dissatisfaction with those particular aspects of employment law; secondly, his colleague John Tamihere’s past promotion of a 1-month probation period for new employees; and, thirdly, the practice of sacked workers claiming unjustified dismissal so that they do not face an extended stand-down period for the dole; if not, why not?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. As I have already indicated, particularly at the time of the passing of the Employment Relations Act, the issue of the procedures around dismissal is something that needs further attention and further work. In my view, it relates a lot to issues around education, and we are beginning some work on that as we speak.

Peter Brown: Noting the Minister’s earlier answer to me, does he not appreciate that we are in a lose-lose situation for everybody—tourists, employers, and employees—and does he accept that there is a relatively simple way round it, and would he like the advice of New Zealand First on how to solve the problem?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In response to the last part of the question, no, but in response to the first part, I repeat that there were some issues related to the restaurant trade, but the fact of the matter is that during the 1990s virtually every penal payment was ripped away under the Employment Contracts Act. A very small amount has now been given back to the people who actually work on public holidays; the vast majority of people think that is fair.

Foreign Aid—United Nations Target

11. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance): Does New Zealand have a timetable to meet the United Nations target of 0.7 percent of gross national income spent on foreign aid by 2015; if not, why not?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance)): New Zealand has a commitment over the next three Budgets to make a planned increase in overseas development assistance from 0.23 percent to 0.28 percent. With Budget 2005, this Government has committed to the largest series of dollar increases since New Zealand became a donor in the 1960s.

Keith Locke: Can the Minister confirm that for 5 years New Zealand has been agreeing at international meetings that rich nations must set a timetable to meet the millennium development goal of 0.7 percent by 2015; if so why is there no timetable today, and when will there be a timetable?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I am not aware of any specific commitments by New Zealand, and I have not, on the international forum, committed specifically to meeting a timetable. But we have, in the same way as European Union countries have done, committed to an intermediary timetable.

Tim Barnett: Does the Minister believe that aid can compensate for unfair trade; if so, why?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: George Monbiot, with whom I happen to agree, wrote in the Guardian on 31 May this year that if developing countries increased their share of world exports by only 5 percent, then “developing countries would earn an extra $350bn”—I think it is United States dollars—“a year, three times more than they will be given in 2015. Any Government that wanted to help developing nations would surely make the terms of trade between rich and poor its priority.” New Zealand does both. It works for fair trade rules, and it is increasing the amount and the effectiveness of its aid.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister see advantage in there being some form of multi-party agreement in terms of the commitment to reach the 0.7 percent goal; if she does see an advantage in that proposal, what steps is she prepared to take to try to bring it together?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I would see some advantage, certainly, in an across-Parliament agreement to move forwards in terms of overseas aid expenditure, particularly given that the Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not see a need for any urgent increase in aid, or any sharp increase in aid. But what I worry about is that tying it down, percentage increase by percentage increase each year, does limit our choices in 10 years, should something of drastic occurrence hit this particular country.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that at the rate of increase she has just explained—that is, from about 0.23 percent when Labour became the Government, in 1999, to 0.23 percent in last year’s Budget, to 0.28 percent in 3 years’ time—it will be about the end of this century before New Zealand reaches 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI), and what is the Government going to do about it?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: No, I do not agree with that assumption, and I would also like to point out that every year that this Government has been in office there has been a cash increase to our overseas aid budget. It is all very well to talk about percentage increases based on GNI; that is one way of measuring it. At the same time, we have set up NZAID, which has just been nominated by the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate as one of the most effective aid agencies in the world. That did not cost tuppence to achieve.

Keith Locke: Has the Minister seen, in the OECD report she has just referred to, the strong criticisms of New Zealand’s aid levels, including the statement that New Zealand was “capable of a significantly larger fiscal effort for ODA.”, and criticism of the lack of a Government timetable to reach the international target; and why is the Government letting New Zealand languish ignominiously near the bottom of the OECD table of aid?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: My responsibility as Minister for overseas aid is to concentrate on being effective, particularly in the Pacific. I want to take the issue away from percentages, and actually to note that to move from 0.28 percent to 0.7 percent in today’s dollars is to increase the budget from $360 million to about $960 million.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I did ask a specific question on whether she had seen, in the OECD report, the criticisms of New Zealand aid levels. She did not refer to the OECD report at all in her answer.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, I have read it.

Keith Locke: When Tony Blair can trumpet a target of 0.7 percent of GNI by 2015, as he has done very loudly in the last few days, when the European Union is galvanised by that target, and when Norm Kirk reached 0.5 percent of GNI in the 1970s, why cannot the New Zealand Government take action now, particularly when there is so much poverty in the world?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I would really advocate that the member reads the article “A game of double bluff” by George Monbiot—whom he has quoted to me in this House before—when he talks about Blair playing one game with aid money, and another game behind the scenes in blocking trade through using his friend Mr Mandelson in the European Union.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate report referred to in my questions.

Leave granted.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table an article in the Dominion Post by Trevor Richards, dated 1 June 2005 and entitled “Sharing our good fortune”, which strongly criticises the Government policy in this area.

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

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Is this the same OECD whose economic arm is always recommending to developed countries that they reduce the size of their government, and does she have any plans to tell the OECD to have its economic arm talk to the cooperation arm, so that they can tell the same story?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Not only would I like the economic arm to talk to its Development Co-operation Directorate arm, but I would also like it to talk to the environmental arm. In fact, some policy cohesion in the OECD would be totally appreciated.

KiwiSaver Scheme—Overseas Expert Reports

12. MARK PECK (Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any overseas expert reports on the Government’s KiwiSaver scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes. The prestigious London-based Pensions Policy Institute has praised the scheme and said that it has many design features that could be useful in Britain. That follows the World Bank report last month, recommending a multi-pillar approach to pension provision—all pillars that are reflected in the policy framework introduced under this Government.

Mark Peck: What features of KiwiSaver were identified by the Pensions Policy Institute as appealing, and what might threaten these in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The automatic enrolment, the flat-rate $1,000 Government incentive, the low administrative cost, the holistic approach to saving, and the help towards first home ownership are all identified by the institute as being good design features. The biggest threat, of course, would be a National Government, as National has refused to back the scheme and said, in any case, that it would certainly dump the $1,000 Government contribution.

John Key: Why does the State sector retirement scheme not comply with the KiwiSaver vehicle, and does he intend to rectify the State sector retirement scheme so that it does?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I anticipate that during our third term the State sector scheme will be brought up to the level to qualify it for exemption within the KiwiSaver scheme. Of course, if National were elected, the KiwiSaver scheme would go down the tubes to pay for tax cuts.

Craig McNair: Does the Government have any intention of raising the KiwiSaver scheme to a more realistic level of assistance, instead of the very small amount proposed at present?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Maybe the member has been too long in this House. For many modest-income New Zealanders, a $1,000 upfront contribution is actually quite a lot.

Gordon Copeland: Has he received any overseas reports on the Child Trust Fund set up by Labour in the UK, an incentivised savings scheme designed not only to make tertiary education more affordable but also to enable young adults to use the funds to buy a house or start a business; if so, why will he not open up the proposed tertiary savings scheme to those alternatives and align it to the KiwiSaver scheme—a cradle to the grave savings scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have. The problem is that in terms of the proposed tertiary education scheme, we are looking for an equity element and a public contribution element, which will enable us to spread the resources more fairly. The KiwiSaver scheme is about people saving for their own future, not for anybody else’s.

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: )

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