Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 22 June 2005
Wednesday, 22 June
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Government Spending—Proportion of
2. Kyoto Protocol—Prime Minister's Statement
3. Oil Prices—Analysis of Impact
4. EDS (New Zealand) Ltd—Government Grant
5. Employment Relations Act—Union Member Payments
6. State Housing—Recent Developments
7. Apples—Australian Market Access
8. Marriage Arrangements—New Zealand Entry Criteria
9. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Review of Interim Results
10. Early Childhood Education—Possible Policy Change
11. National Immunisation Register—Minister’s Satisfaction
12. PILLARS Family Programme—Minister's Confidence
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Government Spending—Proportion of GDP
1. CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What has been the trend in Government spending as a proportion of GDP in the last 6 years?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The trend overall has been downwards, from 33.1 percent in 1999 to a forecast 30.1 percent in the current year just ending, and it is forecast to rise again to about 32 percent of GDP over the forecast period.
Clayton Cosgrove: Which areas of Crown spending have increased and which have declined?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The areas of big increase above the general rate of growth are health and education, where spending has increased faster than GDP—that is, teachers and nurses and doctors. The declines have been in social security, which has dropped from 12.4 percent of GDP in 1999 to 10.1 percent in 2004. Core Government spending is down from 1.6 percent to 1.2 percent of GDP, and debt-servicing costs are down from 2.3 percent to 1.6 percent now. The Government remains clear about its priorities in terms of health and education, unlike Dr Brash, who yesterday promised more in health, and today started prevaricating about that.
John Key: Is not the Minister actually misleading the public again, as the correct base should in fact be the year 2000, when core Crown expenses were actually 31.4 percent of GDP; and further, when we make allowance for the non-discretionary payments such as excluding social welfare, in fact core Crown expenditure has been steadily rising, and what is more it is yet to rise even further if Labour gets a third term?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thank the member for his confidence on that last point. On the other points that he made, he is now reduced to arguing that we do not have a small public sector, relative to other Anglo-Saxon countries. Now, for an Auckland member of Parliament to think we are still an Anglo-Saxon country strikes me as pretty strange in the first place. Secondly, we do not normally compare ourselves with the United States; and thirdly, he is right: some areas of Government spending have gone down. Those are debt servicing, and spending on welfare benefits, and that has enabled us to spend more on health and education, and indeed, in the last term of Government, on law and order.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers and noting also that we have an ageing population, what is the percentage that the Government believes is adequate for long-term health expenditure as a percentage of GDP, and when does the Government expect to reach it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As to the last part of that question, I do not think one can make a sensible prediction about what is adequate, because that depends on forecasting technology, as much as anything else. What I do note is that there is an extraordinarily close relationship between spending on health as a proportion of GDP, and per capita GDP. New Zealand lies exactly on that trend line. The only major international outlier is the United States, which spends a great deal more on health but with no better outcomes than New Zealand achieves.
Keith Locke: What has been the trend in overseas development assistance spending as a proportion of gross national income (GNI)—I ask about GNI rather than GDP because GNI is more the international standard—over the last 6 years; is it true that spending has gone up only from 0.23 percent of GNI to 0.27 percent of GNI in this Budget; is it true that that figure puts us in the bottom quarter of the OECD; and how can New Zealand stand proud in the international community with that record?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We are actually above the weighted average. We are also, on the international ranking, above our ranking in terms of GDP per capita. For us to lift spending to 0.7 percent would take approximately an additional $630 million per year, which is certainly somewhat less than the cost of the Green Party’s tax proposals.
Clayton Cosgrove: In the Minister’s view, how well understood are the expenditure trends he has outlined?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that they are poorly understood and have usually been grossly misrepresented by the confusion of core Crown spending with total Crown spending. Total Crown spending includes, for example, spending on the Air New Zealand share purchase, the creation and success of Kiwibank, State-owned enterprises, and Crown trading entities. Some day, perhaps, the National Party may understand that.
John Key: Is not the basis of this patsy question from the Government today just a feeble attempt to try to cover up the fact that the Minister’s Budget was a complete and utter failure, that most of his caucus personally blame him for the fact that they are now in a terrible position, and that all he is trying to do is muddy the waters, and the country will not buy it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, no, and no. But the member has one thing right: it is tax, or it is a cut in health, a cut in education, and a cut in law and order, which is why Dr Brash is now starting to backpedal in interviews about the National Party’s spending plans. I note that in the last four polls Labour has averaged ahead of National, but, of course, National is so excited to be higher than 21 percent in the polls.
Kyoto Protocol—Prime Minister's Statement
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement regarding the Kyoto Protocol: “There is good money to be made from the Kyoto processes, and I am confident that many New Zealand businesses will prosper as a result.”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because there are good business opportunities for those who develop leading edge environmental technologies. Members can ask Meridian Energy.
Dr Don Brash: When was the Prime Minister first advised of revised projections that indicated New Zealand would have a carbon credit deficit rather than a carbon credit surplus in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In the lead-up to the consideration by Cabinet of the officials’ report.
Larry Baldock: Does the Prime Minister agree that, given the rapidly diminishing number of countries that will have any carbon credits to sell to New Zealand, New Zealand may have to look at earning credits by investing in projects to reduce Third World greenhouse gas emissions; if so, has anyone in her Government considered what it would actually cost to earn in that way the 30 million tonnes of credits we may now require?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, the Government will take advice on the best way of meeting its Kyoto Protocol responsibilities.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government notified the United Nations climate change secretariat of New Zealand’s changed carbon credit position on 15 April this year, but did not notify the New Zealand public until last week; if so, why did she try to hide such a major change in New Zealand’s circumstances from the New Zealand people?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not have that particular piece of paper at hand, but my understanding is that the UN was advised of the level of emissions for a current year, not projecting forward.
Peter Brown: Will the Prime Minister confirm whether the advice that she seeks will come from the same person who advised that the country would be in $500 million surplus, as against a $500 million deficit; is the same person going to give the advice to the Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is quite a sizable group of officials that has advised the Government for a long time, and it has consistently advised Governments from the time of the honourable Simon Upton that New Zealand would be in a net credit position. It is important to note that while Don Brash does not know whether there is a global warning problem, Tony Blair considers it to be so significant that he is having a row with his best friend, President Bush, about it.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under the carbon trading system that was set up under the Kyoto Protocol, firms that are part of the solution in addressing climate change with clean technologies have the opportunity to prosper, and is that not good for both the climate and the economy?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, that is certainly true. One could give the example of how participation in the Kyoto processes has made renewable energy projects, like wind projects, economically viable when they otherwise would not have been.
Larry Baldock: Will the Prime Minister commission someone to study what it may cost to help countries like Indonesia to reduce their emissions by 30 million tonnes to meet New Zealand’s Kyoto obligations, so that New Zealand taxpayers may have some idea of what the true price tag of Kyoto compliance during the first commitment period will be, before they go to the ballot box later this year?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Any work the New Zealand Government commissions or pays for will be focused on how New Zealand meets its share of the responsibility for a serious global problem that is identified as such by the science academies of all G8 nations, and which is a subject that is leading the debate at the G8 summit at the present time.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister think it was appropriate for Minister Pete Hodgson to attack those who warned last year that New Zealand would face a Kyoto liability, and to say their claims were “at the bottom end of credibility”, and that those making the claims were “obsessive” and “incapable of dealing with the facts”, or will her Government continue to lash out at those who dare to criticise its policies?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The advice all Governments—National Governments and Labour-led Governments—have had on this issue is that there would be a net positive position. That was confirmed in an answer to a patsy question from Nick Smith to Simon Upton in 1995.
Rodney Hide: Is there any fact, or any argument, that would convince the Prime Minister that Kyoto was bad for New Zealand and should be dumped, or is it enough that it just makes her look good on the world stage?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: New Zealand prefers to be on the side of seven of the eight G8 countries on this subject. We note that just as the National Party gets its nuclear policy written in Washington, so it gets its Kyoto policy written in Washington.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it acceptable for the Prime Minister to assert totally incorrectly that our policy on any subject is written in Washington? That is totally without foundation.
Madam SPEAKER: When the Prime Minister answered the question, she did address the question, but that comment was not relevant to the answer.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is against Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings to allege that a member or a political party is under outside influence, and that was exactly what the Prime Minister alleged in her answer. She should be asked to withdraw.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank you, Mr Hide. I have ruled on the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: All the billboards are written overseas.
Madam SPEAKER: Is that a point of order—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: All the billboards are written in the United States—
Madam SPEAKER: Sorry?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh yes, they are.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his assistance in this matter, but Gerry Brownlee has a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not acceptable to us that you simply rule that something was out of order and not require it to be withdrawn.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled that it was out of order—
Gerry Brownlee: But it stays in the Hansard record. You are allowing a comment that was outside the Standing Orders to remain on the record. Now, that is quite inappropriate.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The fact that a comment is withdrawn does not withdraw it from the Hansard record.
Larry Baldock: Does the Prime Minister agree that it would be far more cost-effective to invest in domestic, no-regrets types of greenhouse policies with concrete environmental benefits, as promoted by United Future, rather than to write a cheque to Russia to buy a few credits, or to Indonesia to earn credits, at even greater cost?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not personally aware of the no-regrets policy, but I am happy to speak to the member.
Oil Prices—Analysis of Impact
3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Energy: What analysis, if any, has the Government done on the impact of rising oil prices on New Zealand?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Energy): Ministry of Economic Development officials regularly monitor the price of New Zealand’s crude oil imports, and also New Zealand prices for petrol, diesel, and other oil products, and report those prices and trends to me. In the current energy-modelling work carried out by my officials, the oil price assumptions being used are considerably higher than the 2003 energy outlook, and reflect current thinking. Although Treasury is not currently undertaking any analysis on the impact of rising global oil prices on the New Zealand economy, each economic forecast that Treasury prepares incorporates all the information available at the time, including the most recent developments in oil prices.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister stand by his ministry’s view: “It does not foresee a resource-driven crisis in oil supply in the foreseeable future.”, given today’s statements by the National Australia Bank that there is considerable opportunity for the oil price to exceed $60 a barrel, and by OPEC that it has “limited means to tame the market, as most producers are already pumping flat-out”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The advice that I have received does not quite back up what the member is suggesting. It is that there are two main factors around the current very high oil prices. One of them is in the area of current supply issues—actually getting oil out of the ground in some places where it has already been found. The other factor has to do with what might be described as the global geopolitical situation—areas that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade would be more aware of, especially in the Middle East—which is certainly hampering some supply.
Larry Baldock: Has the Minister seen the statement printed in the AA Advocate that the end of a world based on cheap oil was nigh, that oil production would reach its peak within a few short years, that we would be obliged to radically rethink not only the global economy but the capitalist ethos itself, and that the Labour Party was the only other party to acknowledge the fact of peak oil, though it could not afford to acknowledge how close it was for fear of scaring the markets; if so, would he consider that the author of those statements, Jeanette Fitzsimons, would be a suitable Minister of Energy for this country?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Picking the first and last questions, no.
Tariana Turia: What strategy does the Government have in place to inform the public of the issues related to oil dependence, and what risk management strategies are being developed to reduce the impact of peak oil?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: A person would have to not read the papers or look at television not to be aware of the fact that at some stage—and there is, clearly, a debate over when—peak oil will occur. I know that the International Energy Agency has a range of forecasts. I think its mid-range forecast is 2028 to 2032, and its worst-case scenario is 2013 to 2015. So there is a range of forecasts. Clearly, the agency’s optimistic scenario is even further out.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does that reply indicate that the Minister has now revised his prediction that the best estimate of when oil supplies will peak is 2037; if so, does he base that revised estimate on the position of the International Energy Agency, which has changed its position from saying that 2037 is a mid-point to saying now that the peak will be some time between 2013 and 2037?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member—albeit, I am sure, with good intentions—has misinterpreted those figures. Even so, I think the general feeling is that there are some better figures than those of the International Energy Agency.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: When will the Minister introduce energy performance standards for motor vehicles, to protect people from buying vehicles that will be too expensive to run in the future, as provided for in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are a number of steps to be taken before that happens. But I think people should be warned—people should be aware—that the price of fuel will, in the longer term, continue to go up, and that looking at alternative sources of fuel would be a good idea. If more members followed the habit of the member’s bench mate and used bicycles, that would help as well.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What has the Minister done—or what, if anything, is he planning to do—to fulfil his responsibilities under section 7(d) of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2000?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not have that section of the Act with me at the moment. Being a Minister in charge of dozens of Acts, I cannot recall every particular section immediately.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table section 7 of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, which requires the Minister to promote “practices and technologies that further energy efficiency, energy conservation, and the use of renewable sources of energy …”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would there be any significant savings if, for example, the Greens did not have a member of Parliament—namely, Rod Donald—living in Christchurch yet having an electorate office in Nelson, miles away from where he lives, to which he freely and gaily travels at taxpayers’ expense?
Rod Donald: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: That matter is outside the scope of the original question.
Rod Donald: I have not had an electorate office in Nelson since 1999.
Madam SPEAKER: That is an interesting point of information, but the question was outside the scope of the original question.
EDS (New Zealand) Ltd—Government Grant
4. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What reports has he received on the progress made in meeting agreed objectives following the provision of a Government grant to Electronic Data Systems (EDS), and what do these reports indicate?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): I have seen a report from the New Zealand Herald that describes the Government’s $1.5 million investment in global services company EDS’s Best Shore programme as “pretty shrewd”. In March 2003 the Labour-Progressive Government announced a partnership programme with EDS to ensure that it would develop a major client contact and software development centre here in New Zealand. The funding was dependent on EDS creating 360 new information and communications technology jobs in New Zealand over 3 years. In the last 2 years up to the end of May, EDS had already created 279 high-quality sustainable jobs and approximately $28 million of extra revenue up to December 2004.
Hon Matt Robson: Why does the Labour-Progressive Government believe that partnerships with larger companies should be part of its economic development policies benefiting all regions, including that represented by Mr John Key?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: New Zealand relies on just 160 companies out of a total of 300,000 in New Zealand—or 0.053 percent—for over 80 percent of our entire foreign exchange earnings. That has and does put our economy at risk, especially if a whole industry sector such as agriculture or forestry suffers any major setback. Without supporting the development of New Zealand businesses, including larger companies like EDS, we will not sustain, let alone improve, our living standards.
Mark Peck: Why would any Government want to work in partnership with any large company?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: In discussions that I and the Government have had recently with leaders of many European nations that have very impressive growth records—Norway, Finland, and Sweden, to name just a few—we found that they work with all companies, but particularly they partner the large and innovative companies in their economies, because they believe that those companies lift all boats in the economy. That is our experience, too. I have to say that if the two members who criticised this move, Mr Rodney Hide and John Key, ever got near this Government—or any Government—then that kind of innovative development would cease forthwith.
Hon Matt Robson: Why would the Government work in partnership with any large company?
Hon Members: We’ve had that one. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would members please be quiet. Would the member like to rephrase his question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—
Hon Matt Robson: Thank you, Madam Speaker. To err is human; to forgive, divine. Is there any reason—
Madam SPEAKER: Sorry, there is a point of order now, and I know what it is—off we go.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, you do not—unless you are clairvoyant, Madam Speaker. When Mr Robson sat down after the honest part of his question, it signified that his question was over. We do not allow people a second try on a second question when they have so absurdly got it right the first time round.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. You are quite right.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a new point of order. It is quite often the case that to get a satisfactory answer we have had to ask the same question twice, three times, and four times, and every time we do that it is deducted from the number of questions that we have. The Hon Matt Robson had finished his question, it was clear to me that he felt he had not had a satisfactory answer, and I fail to see why there should be one rule for Government MPs and another rule for Opposition MPs. He had his question, he asked it, and it is now up to the Minister to answer it.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a new point of order. It is not against the Standing Orders to ask the same question twice. So I will ask the Hon Jim Anderton to reply to the question.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: This Government works constructively with all industries and companies in New Zealand in the interests of the economy and people of this country, which is why this economy is now more successful than at any time in the living memory of most people in this House.
Employment Relations Act—Union Member Payments
5. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Labour: Was it the Government’s intention when the Employment Relations Act 2000 was passed that collective agreement settlements such as that between the Public Service Association and the Ministry of Social Development that provides for a $1,200 one-off lump-sum payment only for union members would be encouraged?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Labour): The Government’s intention, in passing the Employment Relations Act, was to provide flexible legislation that would allow the parties to negotiate fair agreements in good faith.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister assure the House that the $1,200 lump-sum payment to Ministry of Social Development employees who are union members is not connected to the pro-Labour, anti - tax cut campaign currently being run by the Public Service Association?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes.
Lianne Dalziel: Has the Minister seen any proposals for changes to the Employment Relations Act?
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 the Employment Relations Act, followed by a statement that the Employment Relations Act will be repealed in its entirety. All those statements came from the National Party. It is just another flip-flop from National, but we are all getting used to them by now.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that it is fair and reasonable for a trade union to negotiate a one-off lump-sum payment, and if he does accept that, why is it not fair for a group of non-union people to negotiate a similar-type arrangement?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Employment Relations Act provides for collective and individual agreements. Just as there can be those on collective agreements who get a little more than those on individual agreements, so it can be the other way round.
Gerry Brownlee: What does the Minister say to allegations that that two-part arrangement, with $1,200 paid to Public Service Association members now, and $350 paid to them and others who joined the union after the settlement date, is nothing more than a thinly veiled action by the Labour Party to fund part of its election campaign?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I say “baloney”.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a serious point of order. The Minister might not be aware, but a group of non-union people are not allowed to negotiate on their behalf. They would have to form an incorporated society, join a union, or pay a bargaining fee. I asked the Minister whether he thought that that was fair—the emphasis being on fair, not what they can do. Clearly, he does not understand his own legislation.
Madam SPEAKER: That is actually not a point of order. Does the member wish to ask a supplementary question?
Peter Brown: I feel that I asked the question that he should have endeavoured to answer.
Madam SPEAKER: He did address the question. I listened to it. He may not have done it satisfactorily, which is obvious. Does the member wish to ask another supplementary question?
Peter Brown: I am conscious that it will come out of our allowance. However, if the Speaker allows me the discretion to ask an extra one—
Madam SPEAKER: If I give the member a discretion, I give it to everyone, and then I am in real trouble. I shall ask the member whether he wishes to ask another supplementary question.
Peter Brown: I shall ask another question. I will be in trouble with my colleagues, but never mind. Does the Minister think that it is fair that non-union people cannot negotiate a collective arrangement in any way, shape, or form, even for a one-off lump-sum payment?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There was a lot of debate about that as it went through the select committee, and the Government decided that those who were to negotiate collective agreements were unions. That is the policy and that is the Act.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave of the House to table a document that clearly shows the connection between the Labour Party, this excessive payment, and its re-election prospects. The document, widely believed to be the Labour Party manifesto, is known as the PSA Journal 2005.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
State Housing—Recent Developments
6. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: What recent developments, if any, have occurred in relation to State housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): On Monday the Prime Minister and I launched a book called We Call it Home: A History of State Housing in New Zealand, which documents over one century the importance of public investment in the provision of housing for low-income New Zealanders. That is why this Government has reintroduced income-related rents, which benefit 57,000 households; provided funding for up to 9,000 new State homes; funded modernisation of housing, community renewal, energy efficiency, Healthy Housing, and rural housing programmes; and provided funding for partnerships with community organisations to build more houses.
Georgina Beyer: How does the Government’s approach contrast with other approaches that he is aware of?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It appears that others have not learnt the lessons of history that this book relates: the market does not always meet the needs of low-income people. Housing policy in the 1990s was a simple-minded aping of the market, as 1,300 houses were sold and tenants were left with market rents, which helped drive one in three children into poverty by the 1990s mid-point.
Georgina Beyer: What would be the result if an alternative, market-based housing system were introduced that ignored the lessons of history as set out in this book?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No one should make any mistake: if a future Government were to abolish income-related rents, we would see a crisis in housing for low-income New Zealanders, and a dramatic rise in child poverty. We know this, because those policies were introduced in the 1990s by the then National Government, and National would do it again to pay for its tax cuts.
Apples—Australian Market Access
7. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Does he consider that New Zealand has a dispute with Australia over its almost 85-year ban on the importation of New Zealand apples; if so, why did he not initiate formal dispute settlement procedures at the World Trade Organization?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade), on behalf of the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Yes. As the member states, New Zealand has had this problem for over 84 years, including the entire time that Lockwood Smith was Minister for International Trade. The Government has taken the unprecedented step of raising this issue at the World Trade Organization sanitary and phytosanitary committee, which meets next Wednesday. I note this is the first time a New Zealand Government has ever formally raised any issue against Australia at the World Trade Organization, and that the National Government of Dr Lockwood Smith certainly never took that action.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When, just 9 days before the federal election last year, the Australian Government rejected Biosecurity Australia’s draft approval for the importation of New Zealand apples, why did he not realise then that the dispute was simply a political issue to the Australian Government, and initiate dispute settlement procedures then?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The dispute most certainly is a political issue. There is no scientific basis at all for the exclusion of New Zealand apples from—
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why didn’t you do something then?
Hon PHIL GOFF: That member had 9 years, and his Government did absolutely nothing. This Government in 7 days’ time, for the first time, will take this case to the World Trade Organization—something the National Government never had the gumption to do.
Russell Fairbrother: Will New Zealand remove its support of Australia’s leadership of the Cairns group?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, that is one of the demands that the Australian Access Action Group made out on the forecourt this afternoon. I noticed that Dr Brash did not respond on that, at all.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What did you say? Nothing!
Hon PHIL GOFF: Frankly, we will not do that, and Dr Nick Smith should take his medication and listen, because I am giving the answer now. That would damage the Cairns group as a whole—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Every time any member challenges Government members, they get nasty and personal. The record is very clear. I have not taken any medication for many, many years. I do not think I have even seen a doctor in the last year. That is how personal and nasty the Government has become. If the standard is going to be that when there is an interjection they can make those sorts of references, then I could make reference to the Prime Minister’s childlessness and to Lianne Dalziel’s drunken spell in Hanmer Springs. We could go a long way, but the deterioration in this House and in its standards would be such that they would go into the gutter. I suggest that it is time you made a ruling on that, and said that those sorts of personal insinuations are inappropriate.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Interjections are, of course, permissible, but the Standing Orders state that they should be rare and reasonable. That member gets very excited and constantly chips across the floor while sitting, as he does, just a couple of metres from where I am. It was under that provocation that I told him he needed to settle down and take medication. It was not particularly personal. It is something I would say to any Opposition member who becomes overexcited.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank you both. Hansard will record that the member who raised the point of order is known for his interjections, also. Of course, interjections should be rare and reasonable, and any response should be within the bounds of the Standing Orders. I remind members of that, both in their interjections and in their response to interjections.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not think that your ruling quite deals with this issue. What we had was a statement that is frequently thrown across the House from both sides of the Chamber, which has not been perceived in the past to be anything that is of great notoriety or to be defamatory. It was then followed up with the slinging of a couple of accusations that are pretty serious. I know what it is. Basically the two old parties are behaving in the same way, because they are worried about their polls and the fact that neither of them will get within a cooee of getting into Government by themselves at the next election. But it should not be part of your job, Madam Speaker, to allow that sort of thing to go on purely because they cannot get used to not having power by themselves.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. As I said in my ruling, I have reminded members of the requirements of the Standing Orders, and I expect them to abide by them in the future.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am still raising the same matter. This matter has been drawn to your attention earlier, Madam Speaker, but I really do think you should think about it. Just ruling that something is not satisfactory is not the way that Speakers have normally dealt with such mattes. Frankly, I think that the statement by the Minister did contain an implication that he should be asked to withdraw, and then Mr Smith should also be asked to withdraw his two personal allegations. If you were to do that, it would be a signal to the House that there is a line, and I think that both the Minister and the member who raised the point of order have both clearly crossed it. The statements were made in a point of order. Members cannot make unparliamentary statements when raising a point of order, and I think that Mr Smith would acknowledge that he did so. I am sure that if the Minister were to withdraw his statement, Mr Smith would withdraw his, and then we would be able to get on with question time.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I withdraw.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: And I withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: To both comments?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise both to the Prime Minister and to Lianne Dalziel. I would note, though, that I think this is about the 20th—
Madam SPEAKER: That is all that is required.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is about the 20th time that that accusation has been made across the House. Trevor Mallard did it twice yesterday, and Phil Goff has done it regularly, so it has been responded to under provocation. But I unreservedly apologise both to the Prime Minister and to Lianne Dalziel. I think the House would be a lot better if we kept to the issues.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member.
Lianne Dalziel: I wish to make a personal explanation in line with the statement made by the member. The inference I took was that I had been admitted to the hospital in Hanmer Springs for drunkenness. That is a complete falsity. I have never been admitted to an institution for any purpose, let alone for alcoholism. It was an appalling suggestion to make.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm the following: that this question No. 7 from the National Party today is in fact the first primary question it has asked on this issue this year; that New Zealand First has asked several questions on this issue, including recently, shortly before the announcement of the World Trade Organization action; and that this is just one further example of blatant opportunism and plagiarism on the part of the National Party?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The National Party is well known for both plagiarism and opportunism—
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for the National Party. I missed the first part of the Minister’s answer. Would he please repeat it.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not recall having heard a question from the National Party on this topic this year until today, when a march on Parliament was organised. I also have a record here of what Dr Smith said when he was the Minister, and that was that we should deal with these things without resorting to World Trade Organization action. Obviously, that is a blatant contradiction of what he is pretending in the House today.
Gerrard Eckhoff: What does the Minister have to say to those apple growers who will not survive another 3 years while the Government purports to take this case to the World Trade Organization, and why did the Minister not take a case, at least, in 1999, when he had the opportunity to start proceedings on this matter, which has been going on for 80-odd years?
Hon PHIL GOFF: In relation to 1999, as I recall it National was in Government, supported by ACT, and neither party said anything about the issue at all at that time. I think every member of the House agrees that the Australian ban on apples, which has lasted 84 years, is totally unsustainable, unjustifiable, and against science. The real question we need to address is how to change it. No Government has succeeded in doing that to date. But, clearly, there are two ways of doing it. The first is by taking the matter to the disputes settlement process, which I am informed would probably drag it out for another 3 years. The second is to address it after the compliance case between the US and Japan that is before the World Trade Organization. With the Australian High Commissioner promising this morning a result from the import risk assessment within months, that may yet be the quickest way to resolve this dispute.
Russell Fairbrother: Why does New Zealand not take retaliatory action against Australian imports of agricultural produce?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Again, that is the sort of suggestion that I think some of the firebrands are putting out in public. Clearly, it is not in New Zealand’s overall interests to engage in a tit-for-tat policy on market access. That would also be contrary to our principles of free and fair trade, and would put us in breach of the obligations that we are asking the Australian Government to honour.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it not correct that the application for apple access that his Government will be discussing at the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee of the World Trade Organization was initiated by the National Government in 1999, and that National took both America and Canada to dispute resolution at the World Trade Organization and won both cases; and why does this Government not get on with settling this dispute instead of just producing more talk?
Hon PHIL GOFF: That is all a little bit rich. I have here a statement made by Lockwood Smith in December 1998 promising that the issue would be settled within a year. He obviously did not achieve that, although no doubt the honourable member did his very best for the country. But he now is demanding from New Zealand an action that, for 9 years, the National Government itself utterly failed to take.
Dail Jones: Does the Minister stand by the statement made in the House by the Hon Jim Sutton on 14th June: “I have consulted with the leadership of the New Zealand apple industry and it supports the actions being taken.”; if so, who was the Hon Jim Sutton talking to, and how does he explain the approximately 700 people standing outside Parliament as we speak, protesting his lack of proper action on this issue?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Government deals with a whole range of business and agricultural interests, in terms of access to Australia. By and large, the reports that we have had back have been very supportive of the Government’s action. I think the pipfruit growers—the main body, rather than this action group—have been supportive of the fact that this Government, when no other Government has ever before taken World Trade Organization action, has actually done so. I recall a statement by Kerry McDonald from the Australia - New Zealand Business Council on radio the other day that was also very supportive of the tough but responsible action this Labour-led Government was taking in this area.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What issue was so pressing that it required Jim Sutton to be elsewhere today, instead of meeting hundreds of apple growers here at Parliament, or was he just following Helen Clark’s lead, when she believed it was more important for the Prime Minister to meet with Shrek the sheep than thousands of New Zealanders on the foreshore hîkoi?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Jim Sutton has always had the courage to front up. As it happens, he has a programme of some months’ standing, including two major speeches in Christchurch today. The member, if he wishes, can consult the Minister’s office to find out how long those functions have been on the Minister’s programme and the importance of those functions. That is why he was not there, but the Government was there and it was doing something different from the Opposition members: it was telling the truth.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: Yes—would the Minister withdraw and apologise for the last statement.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that there has not been one question from the National Party this year on this issue, and that after a series of questions from my colleague Dail Jones the Minister was moved to go to the World Trade Organisation; that being the case, why on earth would that industry ask Don Brash to speak at its rally?
Hon PHIL GOFF: From the best of my memory, I confirm again—and this has not been contradicted by the National Party—that I do not think the National Party has asked any questions on this topic this year, but if that is not correct perhaps Lockwood Smith could indicate that fact. In terms of Dail Jones, Dail Jones is a fine person, but it is a little unfair to suggest that he was the reason we took this matter to the World Trade Organization. However, I welcome his support.
Rodney Hide: Can the Minister confirm that the apple growers wanted Jim Sutton to front up and he did not, and that they also asked Winston Peters to speak and he was not there either?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister may answer the first part of the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for you.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Minister is not responsible for where I speak. I and the people are. He therefore should be asked not to answer that question.
Madam SPEAKER: I did indicate that. [Interruption] I have ruled on the point of order. The Minister may address the first part of the question, but not the second.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have just allowed Winston Peters to ask why the Minister thought that the apple growers would ask Don Brash to speak. You had no problem with that. You ruled that to be in order. If that is the case, how can it be that when I asked the Minister, who was out on the forecourt, about what went on there, that got ruled out? Why can we not just have some consistency in the rulings? Either the question that Mr Peters asked was out of order—and if it was, then mine was—or if his was in order, so too was mine. Please point out the difference between them.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: As I recollect it, the Minister was asked whether the National Party had asked him any questions this year. That is quite different from asking him whether somebody else spoke somewhere else.
Rodney Hide: That’s not correct.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, I thank the member. I understood the question not to say that, but I am happy to look at Hansard. I understood it was a general question, but the specific question was asked by you. I have asked the Minister to respond to the bit he is responsible for, but not to the other part. And I will look at Hansard on the other.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been down this chute before, whereby you look at Hansard and I turn out to be right. What happens then?
Madam SPEAKER: I do not recall that. I will get back to you, and if that is the case, I will rectify it. I do not recall the question being asked, and there is no way I can verify that at the moment. I ask the Minister to please address the first part of the question.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I am sure that the people out there did want Jim Sutton to be there. Unfortunately, the people at the open traceability session of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production conference and at the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science annual convention also wanted Jim Sutton to be there. He is a very popular fellow, and he could not be in two places at once.
Marriage Arrangements—New Zealand Entry Criteria
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Do immigration officials take into consideration future marriage arrangements when deciding whether to approve entry to New Zealand, under any entry criteria?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): I am advised that Immigration Service policy takes into account future marriage arrangements when deciding who can come to New Zealand, where that is relevant.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister aware that members of the Somali community are complaining to immigration officials that their daughters have no one to marry, as their tradition prevents them from marrying non-Muslims, or even those from other Somali tribes; and does he believe that the Immigration Service should be accommodating the principles of discrimination, social segregation, and denial of intermarriage by way of allowing fellow Somali tribe members into New Zealand on those grounds?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, and no.
Tim Barnett: How has the Government demonstrated its commitment to improving border security?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That question had nothing to do with the primary question or my supplementary question. I am talking about criteria for the allowing of entry. I am not talking about matters of terrorism or danger to this country. I am talking about appropriateness, which is a totally different matter. I therefore believe that the supplementary question should be ruled out.
Madam SPEAKER: I agree with the member. It was too broad, given the specific nature of the primary question.
Hon Matt Robson: Given that the Minister will not have had time to get detail on the question asked by Mr Peters, I ask him whether he has yet received any reliable information, or, indeed, any information at all, to substantiate the claim made under parliamentary privilege by Mr Winston Peters that New Zealand citizen Omer Ali—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption] Quiet, Robbie. Good boy.
Hon Matt Robson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is my point of order. Sit down.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down. What is the point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The member is raising a point of order that he knows is totally erroneous, outside of the Standing Orders, and not appropriate in respect of this question, by way of a question in the House. He should not be allowed to do that.
Madam SPEAKER: The Hon Matt Robson was not raising a point of order—he was actually asking a question. We will have the question. Then, when we have heard the full question, I will rule whether it is within the context.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We know where the member’s question is going. He has a very simple mind—anybody can read it. The reality is that he will ask about other issues I have raised in the House that have no bearing on the appropriateness of allowing intermarriage exclusivity in a tribe and to no one outside the tribe. That is the issue that is being asked of the Minister. The member’s supplementary question is definitely outside the ambit of what I asked.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. He has reminded me on occasions that I am not psychic, and to my knowledge no one in this House is psychic. I think we should allow the member to finish his question, then we will be able to determine whether it is in the scope of the primary question. I have already ruled one supplementary question out, but I want to give the member the courtesy of being able to finish his question.
Hon Matt Robson: Madam Speaker, do you wish me to begin from the beginning, or just take up from where I was interrupted?
Madam SPEAKER: Please would the member give his question in full in the light of the comments that have been made.
Hon Matt Robson: That New Zealand citizen Omer Ali had been a police chief under Saddam Hussein, and that Mr—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was right, after all. The member intended to ask about two cases that have no connection to this issue, whatsoever. Otherwise, my next supplementary question would ask why the member became a hugger of paedophile Jim Peron when I raised the issue in the House.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Yes, the member’s question does not relate to future marriage arrangements. I am sorry.
Hon Matt Robson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The point I was making is that I am to finish the question, that it is related, and that that cannot possibly be judged until I give the whole question. As you said, Mr Peters has many problems, but being psychic is not one of them.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on this. I am sorry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister believe that family reunification policies were designed to accommodate the denial of intermarriage and to promote social segregation; if so, why?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The criteria for family reunification are set down in policy. From what I can see, there is no attempt to do the things that the member is accusing someone of.
Hon Tony Ryall: What will the Minister do to stop the multiplier effect, whereby 50 refugees have brought in 334 family members, who are themselves entitled to bring in more family members; and does it not concern him that his research shows that 80 percent of those people are still on a benefit after 5 years?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We were talking about Mr Robson’s questions, so how can one allow this question, which has nothing to do with future marriage arrangements, but which concerns those who are already family members.
Hon Tony Ryall: The Minister himself talked about family reunification, and if supplementary questions cannot pick up on what the Minister said, what is the point of them? Maybe that is what the Government would like.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the member is right. The Minister will please address the question.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government, under its international obligations, allows 750 refugees to come in per year. This is something that has been going on over many, many years, which was actually supported by the National - New Zealand First Government of 1996 to 1998. There is also a quota for people to achieve family reunification as well. One of the things that people recognise is that having family members here helps people to settle properly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, of all things, is the Minister now trying to include New Zealand First in his fiasco, when he knows full well that the Tampa refugees did not come in under original UN recommendations at all but at the behest of himself and Helen Clark, and, therefore, his so-called defence of his failed actions will not be successful by adding my name to it?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I never mentioned the Tampa refugees. That member did. I do know that in the period when that member was Treasurer, 750 refugees were brought into the country each year, so people will be starting to ask questions about why this is suddenly a big issue for the New Zealand First Party.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Review of Interim Results
9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What percentage of students who applied to the NZQA for a review of their interim 2004 NCEA results had their final results changed?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Nine hundred and thirteen results were changed as a result of the review process. This represents .05 percent, or one-twentieth of 1 percent, of external standards sat. Of course, just about all those who apply for a review when they get their booklet back—as they do in New Zealand, unlike in other countries—on 913 occasions out of the 1.9 million, they found an incorrect adding up of marks, and in those cases, of course, just about all of them had the reviews accepted.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of problems with the assessment of level 1 Technology, where in some schools 100 percent of students failed the external assessment, and when they resubmitted their portfolios for reassessment 70 percent of them had the result reversed and they subsequently passed?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member had asked a question about that, I would have come to the House with the information. The member asked about reviews, which is quite different from reassessment.
Hon Bill English: Would the Minister concede that if it is the case that where 100 percent of students failed an assessment, and on reassessment 70 percent of them then passed, this would be just another piece of evidence that the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) does not provide students with fair and credible assessment, and when will he own up to that and do something substantial that will restore the credibility of NCEA assessment in the eyes of parents, teachers, students, and the wider community?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say that NCEA Technology, level 1, has had considerable problems right from the beginning, and over a period of 3 years, especially around the external examinations for it. If the member has not caught up with that in the last 3 or 4 years, I am very surprised.
Stephen Franks: What advice did the Minister receive before he decided not to refund New Zealand Qualifications Authority fees to students affected by the scholarship debacle, when Mr Benson-Pope earlier this year told the House that it was under consideration?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I make two points. Firstly, when people enter scholarship, they do not pay an additional fee; it is part of the NCEA fee. Everyone whose results were changed as a result of resubmitting or reviewing were given a full refund—if there was any marked change.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm what he just told the House, which is that he has known about problems with level 1 Technology assessment for 3 years, and still, at the end of 2004, it was such a shambles that where 100 percent of students were failed, 70 percent of them then passed on reassessment; and why did he not do something about it sooner, instead of sitting on his chuff for 3 years and leaving those kids without a pass after a whole year’s work, despite teaching from excellent teachers who thought they knew the standards, and are now totally confused?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As has been the subject of previous discussions—I think Brian Donnelly brought it up in the House, probably a couple of years ago—there has been—
Hon Bill English: You have still done nothing. How many years does it go on for?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, I think the member should have a discussion with the member next to him as to one of the solutions for his problems.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You ruled earlier today that personal comments of that kind should not be used in this House. The Minister should be asked to withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, I think that that goes both ways, really—with the interjection and with the response. So I would ask both members to stand, withdraw, and apologise, and then we will start again. The interjections made across the House provoked the answers. That is the point, really.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have on occasion used unparliamentary language here, and then was willing to withdraw and apologise if that was what was required. But I said nothing that breached the Standing Orders. I did not use any unparliamentary language. I simply interjected in a way you did not like.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Madam Speaker, I ask you to reflect on whether asking a member to get advice from the member sitting next to him is in fact unparliamentary.
Madam SPEAKER: Exactly. I do not regard it as unparliamentary in the sense that it offended the Standing Orders but, given the comments that have been made previously about exchanges across the House, I do regard both those comments as being designed to provoke the response they got. Therefore, to ask someone to stand and apologise seems to me to be the most appropriate thing to do at this stage, so that we can start again.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, this House will be a thoroughly antiseptic society if those sorts of rulings stand from hereon in. All that the member was advised to do was to take advice from his colleagues, which might help him, and he has now been asked to apologise. Plainly, those of us who have been in the House for some time understand that certain nuances, atmosphere, and mores operate here that are unique to this society. If we are going to kill those off then, frankly, the House will not be worth coming to—even though people want us to.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I do not need any help—please. I do not need any help on this.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I simply seek leave.
Madam SPEAKER: You seek leave.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the examination results from 1999, when I was the Minister of Education, that show there was none of the bunkum and problems that have been caused by this Minister. That will get the record straight.
Madam SPEAKER: It does not actually deal with the point I was making. I take the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ point, but the House is obviously not as robust as it once was. I have asked the member to withdraw and apologise, please—this member already has—so that we can then continue again.
Hon Bill English: Well, Madam Chair, I am not going to withdraw and apologise—
Madam SPEAKER: I am not the Chair; I am the Speaker.
Hon Bill English: Madam Speaker. I am not going to withdraw and apologise. You have no basis for asking me to do so. I have been here 15 years, and when I breach the Standing Orders I withdraw and apologise, and I have done so on a good number of occasions, as have most members. I am not going to apologise for an interjection, and I think you are making a mistake to set that standard in this House.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled. I would then ask the member to leave. I have made a ruling on this, and the member obviously does not agree with it, so I ask him to leave, please.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is quite reasonable to ask what Standing Order Mr English breached. That Mr English simply interjected, by saying to Mr Mallard: “And you did nothing.”, does not seem to me to be something that is highly offensive to the House.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 140/7. Now, can we please continue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The problem we got ourselves into here—and, with respect, it is your entitlement to make the ruling you have with regard to Mr English, but I have to say that I think it is extraordinary, as was the requirement for Mr Mallard to apologise—happened when a leader tried to demonstrate that he was a leader, and got up and made a very bad, very weak, and frail point. It had no merit from start to finish, and he should have been told that. As a consequence, one of his colleagues is now out, and we have a new standard in the House, which I think is thoroughly regrettable.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. We will move on.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe the difficulty that has arisen here is that I do not think you picked up the vicious innuendo in Trevor Mallard’s interjection. In this Parliament at times, members do suffer from the innuendo of other members of the House. Often that is not picked up by the Speaker, but that does not make it any less painful for those on the receiving end. What troubles me is that I do not believe that you picked up the vicious innuendo. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Bill English’s interjection, whereas Mr Mallard’s answer was wilfully intended to cause hurt. It was vicious, even though, I must say, it was cleverly done, in order to cause pain in a way he thought you would not notice. He succeeded, and I think it would be unfortunate if you let members get away with that kind of thing but punish the innocent party.
Madam SPEAKER: I draw the member’s attention to the fact that that interjection has been withdrawn and apologised for. Therefore, it cannot be reopened at this point.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We have just had 10 minutes or so on points of order, which arose from a simple reason—you sought for two members to withdraw and apologise. They both—Trevor Mallard and Bill English—then contested your ruling. Now, that is not allowed under the Standing Orders. If the Speaker rules that members are to withdraw and apologise, then that should happen. There is no opportunity to contest a Speaker’s ruling on that, and that is actually where we have spent all the time. If the House does not back the Speaker when she says something like that, we will get ourselves into a mess—as we just saw. So, if you ask members to withdraw and apologise, I ask that they do so, and not argue with you.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his contribution. Can we move to question 10 if there are no more questions—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have just asked us to refer to Speaker’s rulings 140/7, which is a 1996 ruling by Speaker Tapsell. It states: “While interjections have traditionally been permitted during debate, they are not in order at all during question time. If interjections become disruptive to the member asking or answering a question, the Speaker will intervene.” Are you now ruling that we are to have no interjections at all during question time? The response from Mr Mallard has caused this side of the House enormous offence. What Mr English has been asked to withdraw and apologise for, and—because of his insistence that it was not outside the Standing Orders—what he has been ejected from the House for, is asking the Minister how long this would go on, or words to that effect. Are you ruling that we now cannot interject at all?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am not ruling that. Interjections will, of course, not be out of order during question time, but the Speaker is entitled, at her discretion, to require members to withdraw and apologise. I had already warned the House about interjections, before that particular exchange across the House. In my judgment, both of those interjections did, in fact, provoke disorder. That is the basis for the ruling.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before all of that happened the Hon Bill English had asked a question about level 1 Technology NCEA results. He asked whether the Minister had known of problems there for the last 3 years, and, if so, what he had done about it. As a result of what has now occurred, the Minister never got round to answering the question. I was interested in the answer, and I think the people of this country are entitled to an answer to the question. I ask that the Minister now answer the question.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Intense professional development for technology—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before we come to that answer, I note that the question is actually set down in the name of the Hon Bill English, who has been asked to remove himself from the House. He has not asked the full range of supplementaries that he had intended asking. We ask that he be allowed to come back to the House to finish that line of questioning.
Madam SPEAKER: Under normal circumstances I would have agreed to that, but it seems to me that Mr English’s comments directed at the Chair as he was leaving were grossly disrespectful. I had made a ruling. I was entitled to make that ruling within the Standing Orders. He contested that ruling as he left the House. I am perfectly happy for someone to ask supplementary questions on his behalf and to find out what he wished to ask. But he had already asked that question, and if the Minister wishes to respond to it, then he may do so. I will not take it from National’s question total.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek the leave of the House to table the parliamentary telephone directory.
Madam SPEAKER: The member has sought leave to do that. Is there any objection? I am not quite sure of the member’s purpose.
Gerry Brownlee: It will become clear in a minute.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is clear what is about is about to happen, because it has happened twice before. The member will seek a series of points of order designed to force you to reverse a previous ruling. I raise two points about that, before we start on this charade. The first is that the member who has been required to leave was extremely lucky, in my view, not to be named. His comments on the way out—more than one; he made about four or five comments—would have led to his being named by Speakers on any number of previous occasions that I have witnessed. I thought you were actually quite generous in that respect, and Mr Brownlee would be wise not to push the matter too far. Secondly, I remind the member that there are, in fact, Speakers’ rulings about wasting the time of the House. That in itself can be considered to be out of order. A continuous raising of a trivial series of points of order, as I suspect the member is about to start, can be regarded in itself as being out of order, and could lead to action on your point.
Hon Richard Prebble: I think the House has to look at the matter of seeking leave. Seeking leave is an important parliamentary privilege, and members can use it. But there seems to be a notion on the part of some members that the Speaker does not have a brain. Of course the Speaker does, and the Speaker can tell when a person who is seeking leave is actually challenging the Chair. We have now had three, I think, incidents involving repeated calls seeking leave to table the Standing Orders, which we can all tell is actually a challenge to the Chair. It might be advisable for you to advise the House that you are capable of working out when you are being challenged. If a member does that, you can then require that member to withdraw and apologise for having challenged the Speaker’s ruling, and if the member does not do so—and the Leader of the House is right—you are entitled not only to ask that member to leave but also, if the challenge is repeated, to name that member. The reason I raise this now is that I really would like members who are abusing the right to seek leave as a way of challenging the Chair to think through that strategy. It is not as clever as they think it is. I have known previous Speakers who would have named a member for using it. I hear people saying that we have never had the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister thrown out on the same day. They are wrong. I saw Gerry Wall do it. I assure members that a number of Speakers would not have allowed what is going on to happen. I support very strongly the rights of members to seek leave to table documents, but I regard it as a challenge to the Chair when members get up and seek to table the telephone book or the Standing Orders. That is clearly a challenge to the Chair, and, from my point of view, it is an offence to the whole House. I think that if it happens again, you should ask the member to withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. I remind members to look at Speaker’s ruling 19/8, which makes the point the members have made: “Constantly raising trifling points of order is itself disorderly.” Perhaps while members are reflecting on that, we could continue.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With your indulgence, I would like to speak to the point of order currently on the floor, raised by Michael Cullen. I certainly accept the points he makes, although I did not like the particular suggestions that were of a somewhat threatening nature, which should be reserved entirely to the Chair. I also respect the point raised by Richard Prebble, particularly his suggestion that a member should be required to withdraw and apologise for challenging a ruling from the Chair. If you would consider the exchange that took place in the House earlier in the afternoon when you did, in fact, require both a very senior Minister and a very senior member of the Opposition to withdraw and apologise for comments they had made. You then went on to suggest to the House that the nature of those comments was not helpful to the order of the House and that you would not be permitting them to go any further. I would then argue quite strongly that in missing the innuendo clearly intended in Mr Mallard’s comments made in answer to Mr English, there was a challenge to the Chair. I think that if it takes a rather silly series of points of order such as the one I had just begun to embark on to make that point, then it indicates that the House is not in a tidy shape. So while I fully accept that pursuing this matter would be offensive to you and to the House—and we will not be doing so—we do make the point that where challenges to the Chair come from this side of the House, it is usually because of a particular grievance relating to a matter that has occurred earlier in proceedings.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but I would just remind the member that I did ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise, and he did. That was the end of that matter. If any offence was taken, it was dealt with in that way, which is appropriate in terms of the Standing Orders.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The area of technology education at secondary schools is one that has been fraught ever since the new curriculum was introduced some years ago. As a result of that, this Government has put intensive investment into professional development, both directly and as a result of the G3+ settlement and audit, so that teachers can better understand the curriculum and the standards.
Early Childhood Education—Possible Policy Change
10. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Education: What reports, if any, has he received on possible changes to the Government policy of providing 20 hours’ free early childhood education per week for 3 and 4-year-olds?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I have seen a report suggesting that giving 20 hours per week of free early childhood education in teacher-led, community-based centres does not make sense, is not supported by parents, and should be abolished. That was from Bill English.
H V Ross Robertson: Has he seen any suggestions of alternative approaches to funding early childhood education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. I have seen a suggestion that all centres, public or private, should receive funding for 10 hours per week of free early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds. That would, of course, mean substantial fees for those children attending morning kindergartens—free kindergartens—thus destroying an iconic service. That suggestion came from Dr Brash.
National Immunisation Register—Minister’s Satisfaction
11. HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister of Health: Is she satisfied with all aspects of the National Immunisation Register; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): In general, yes. The full implementation of the National Immunisation Register is being rolled out and will be completed by December this year. Establishing such a register is complex and expensive, but it is necessary if New Zealand is to improve its immunisation rates for preventable diseases. However, problems in implementation do arise. For example, last week there was a backlog of data because of a software issue, but I have now been assured that that backlog has been cleared.
Heather Roy: How can the Minister be satisfied, when taxpayers have stumped up $7.5 million for a computer system that has over 150 bugs in it, and, in 1 month alone, it failed to register or incorrectly recorded data on 11,000 children who were immunised; is this not just another taxpayer-funded INCIS?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Certainly not, and anybody who knows anything about computer systems, and certainly new systems, knows that there will be teething problems. I can assure this House, however, that each of the problems has been worked through, including that of information that was incorrectly entered into the system. There will come a day when that member, if she is still in the House, will be very pleased that we are able to ensure that we have rates of around 95 percent of New Zealanders being immunised—something we cannot do without an immunisation register.
Steve Chadwick: What use is the National Immunisation Register?
Hon ANNETTE KING: It has already been valuable for the current meningococcal B programme, by giving district health boards information on how the programme is going. The same benefit will flow when the register is rolled out fully by the end of the year. And it will help us in our general childhood immunisation programme, which is an area where we have not performed as well as we should have.
Judith Collins: What assurance can the Minister give to this House and the people of New Zealand that the supplier will be made to fix the 150 registered known bugs in this system from Orion Systems International software?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The assurance I can give this House is that those issues are already being worked on. We do expect that there will be teething problems with a new immunisation register. Certainly, we expected there would be some problems, and they are being addressed.
Sue Kedgley: Why, when a condition for the provisional registration of the meningococcal B vaccine was that informed consent forms clearly identified concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine, did that not happen?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Considerable information was provided to parents, including information about the reaction from the vaccine, as well as the efficacy of it.
Judith Collins: How long has the Ministry of Health known about the problems with the Orion Systems International software for the National Immunisation Register, and who will pay to have the 150 registered known bugs corrected?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In any Government computer system, if there is a problem in terms of data entry—and one of the problems was data entry between compatibility of general practitioners, software, and the programme—then it is picked up by the ministry. If there is a problem with those who provided the service, then I am sure the ministry will be looking at what that service provides. I am told that the ministry first discovered the problems in March this year and has been working to fix them.
Heather Roy: How can parents have any confidence in the immunisation process, when it has been confirmed that this system failed to identify children who had missed doses, and mistakenly identified others who were up to date, and when the results were skewed and follow-up was delayed in the meningococcal vaccine campaign?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The public can be assured. I am advised that this problem occurred at Counties Manukau District Health Board, Auckland District Health Board, Waitematâ District Health Board, and Northland District Health Board, and that subsequent software releases have fixed the problems. Parents can be assured that when problems are identified, they are rectified. I challenge any member in this House, even one with his or her own blog site, not to find problems in it and then to have to fix them.
Rodney Hide: Does the Minister agree with Counties Manukau District Health Board senior manager, Nettie Knetsch, who said: “You know the first couple of months are going to be ugly, but we had hoped it wouldn’t be as ugly as it turned out to be.”, and can she confirm, firstly, that the Ministry of Health has just approved $2 million of spending for a new information technology project for Capital and Coast District Health Board with the same supplier, which has not fixed the bugs, and, secondly, that there are still children missing from the register because of the failed INCIS database system she spent millions of dollars on; would the Minister please answer the question?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Much as the member would like to have one of his mini-scandals he tries to get into the media, he does not have one here. This is a totally new programme. It was identified very earlier on that when a new register is developed there will be some problems. As long as those problems are addressed the whole system need not be thrown out, which is certainly what has happened with this system. The member raised the fact that Capital and Coast District Health has spent money on a new information technology system. That money was not spent on software for the National Immunisation Register. Each board is entitled to purchase software for patient-data programmes, or whatever else. They can purchase—
Rodney Hide: They haven’t told you. They’re too scared to tell you.
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is a blowhard. I have to put up with answering a question while he bellows and laughs. Does he really want an answer?
Madam SPEAKER: Has the Minister finished?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes.
Heather Roy: When did officials first alert the Minister to the failure of the National Immunisation Register database, and does she deny that senior officials have been gagged from speaking about that failure simply because this is election year?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Absolutely not is the answer to the last part of that question. I have been aware of problems with the programme from the beginning of the year, when they were raised. There have been no directions from me for senior officials to be gagged. I am sorry that the member has got it wrong, yet again.
Heather Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Minister was confused about the order of the two legs to that question. She said that the answer to the first leg was no, but in fact it was the second. She was asked when officials first alerted her, and I do not think that she addressed that part of the question.
Madam SPEAKER: The member may not have heard it, but I did hear the Minister correct herself by saying she meant the second part of the question. The answer made sense on that.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table a letter from Dr Jane O’Hallahan, director of the meningococcal vaccine strategy, stipulating that informed consent forms be provided, clearly identifying concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine.
Heather Roy: I seek leave of the House to table a newspaper article that states: “You know the first couple of months are going to be ugly, but we had hoped it wouldn’t be as ugly as it turned out to be.”
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
PILLARS Family Programme—Minister's Confidence
12. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in the PILLARS family programme for prisoner reintegration following release; if so, why?
Madam SPEAKER: There was an interjection during that question. We all know the rules. It is the last question.
Rodney Hide: It was in response to Annette King calling out, so I think she should be asked to leave, too.
Hon Annette King: In fact, there were three. There was also Heather Roy.
Madam SPEAKER: Soon there will be nobody left, but we are on the last question. I would ask all those members who interjected on Marc Alexander to please leave.
Hon Annette King withdrew from the Chamber.
Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.
Heather Roy withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): I am waiting for the results of an outcomes evaluation of the PILLARS programme that will be with me at the end of the month. I will then be in a position to form a view on the effectiveness of that programme.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that the 2003 draft final evaluation report of PILLARS accused the service of frequent caseworker turnover, of failures by caseworkers to meet scheduled appointments, of failures to identify drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, and child abuse, and of bad pre-release planning; if so, why has that organisation been funded for a further 2 years before another evaluation was forthcoming?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I cannot confirm that part. I can confirm that, as part of that, the programme was said to have well-developed infrastructure and systems, and effective, trained caseworker teams. I will, however, acknowledge and concede to the member that the evaluation system has not been good. I am expecting the evaluation to be with me at the end of this month. At that point there are two issues to be raised. One is whether the funding will be continued; if it is to be continued, then there will certainly be a tender process.
Martin Gallagher: How has the Government demonstrated its commitment to prisoner reintegration?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In the Budget this year the Government provided an extra $4.9 million for reintegration services for inmates over 4 years. That includes an additional 10 reintegration coordinators in 2005-06 who will play a key role in ensuring that inmates who have served their time are able to find work, housing, and health services, among other things. In addition, we are providing better industry training for inmates prior to their release. The Ministry of Social Development is working with the Department of Corrections on a range of initiatives designed to improve the reintegration of inmates upon release.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that when I questioned him in the select committee about why we are still waiting for the final evaluation of PILLARS, which was due in April last year, he said: “We’re not hiding anything, but, frankly, the evaluation hasn’t been all that flash.”; if so, does he not think the public has a right to see how his Government has wasted their money, or should they hold their breath for a creative re-edit?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I certainly stand by my comment that I do not think the evaluation system was all that flash. The reality is, though, of course, that there is an alternative competitor in Christchurch, as the member knows. I hear from some members in this House that PILLARS is not very good. I hear from other members in this House that it is a very, very good programme. Hopefully, the evaluation system will break through and give an objective assessment of those things.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that his department has committed to providing an evaluation of outcomes from reintegrative support services by the end of this month; if so, will he commit to continuing support for the concept of reintegrative services, even if individual agencies have failed to perform, by re-tendering for these programmes; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I thought I had answered that, but just to reinforce it: the first thing we will need to do is sort out whether the funding will continue—across the whole programme. If it is to continue, it will definitely be tendered.