Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 2 August 2005
Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 2 August
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )
Tuesday, 2 August July 2005
for Oral Answer
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Questions to Ministers
2. Student Loans—Cost of Interest-free Policy
3. Terrorist Groups—New Zealand
4. Student Loans—Cost of Interest-free Policy
Question No. 3 to Minister
Question No. 4 to Minister
5. Nuclear-free Policy—Reports
6. Student Loans—Cost of Interest-free Loans
7. Resource Management Amendment Legislation—“Pet Projects”
8. Health—Recent Developments
9. Student Loans—Interest-free Policy
10. Immigration, Minister—Confidence
11. Treaty of Waitangi Claims—Deadline
12. Home Ownership—Government Initiatives
Question No. 8 to Minister
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: For any prime ministerial motorcade, who makes the decision about the speed at which the motorcade travels, and what responsibility does the Prime Minister have for that decision?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I am advised that operational decisions regarding motorcades are taken by the police. I as Prime Minister have no involvement, and I will make no further comment on matters related to a case before the courts.
Rodney Hide: Will she take this opportunity now publicly to apologise to those New Zealanders who were left in fear from the speeding motorcade, particularly as she was quite happy at the time to say that she did not have any fear for the safety of other New Zealanders, when in fact that is not so; if she will not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I will not be making any further comment on this matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How could she not know about the speed of the car she was travelling in on the day in question, when the windscreen of her car had to be repaired and replaced, and a front paint job done because of the gravel and stones coming off the car in front of her car, the one she was riding in, and would not that be something she would notice in her busy schedule of reading her documents, at 140 kilometres an hour?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said, I will not be making any comment on a matter before the courts.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Now that the matter is sub judice the Prime Minister might take that stance, but why would she not tell the truth when it was not sub judice and when she was previously asked about that travel?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, it is a requirement to tell the truth in this House. I have nothing further to say about a matter before the courts.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Chair. I asked the Prime Minister why she did not outline the facts of the case prior to the matter being sub judice, which has nothing to do with the questions being asked in this House, but has to do with a prior time, and she cannot evade it on the basis of her answer today. It is simply a case of whether she told the truth outside the House when she was originally asked about the speed of that motorcade.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind the member that I am not in the position of Chair during question time; it is the position of Speaker. I also note that the Prime Minister did address the question, though obviously, of course, it may not have been to the satisfaction of the member.
Dr Muriel Newman: What does the Prime Minister say to those New Zealanders who see ordinary policemen being hung to dry for just doing their job, which was trying to get her to a rugby game that she did not really care about watching, but she did want to be seen at?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat, I have no comment to make on a case before the courts.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Prime Minister has no comment to make now, why did she say at the time: “It wasn’t Helen Clark, private citizen, rushing to a rugby match. It was Helen Clark as Prime Minister, with a set of public engagements for the day.”, and does she accept that that view would have put high expectations on those who were accompanying her on that day?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat what I said earlier—that operational decisions around motorcades are taken by the police.
Ron Mark: Is the Prime Minister asking the people of New Zealand to believe that as a passenger in a car that was travelling in excess of 170 kilometres an hour over gravel roads, with stones that were being thrown up hammering her car so badly that it had to be repainted, and the windscreen had to be replaced, when braking, accelerating, and overtaking cars on the road was going on, all the while she had her head down, totally oblivious to everything that was happening, because she was concentrating on her work, and would the public not be right in thinking that most normal New Zealanders’ knuckles would be white as they clenched to hold on in such a circumstance?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no comment to make on a matter that is before the courts.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister think for a moment that the people in charge of the speed of the car would have driven that car at that speed if she had not agreed with the speed they were travelling at; and if she does not think so, why has she not come out and at least made an apology to those men who are now before the court, rather than hide behind her putative office?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is nothing putative about the election of the Prime Minister. I repeat, operational decisions about motorcades are taken by the police.
Rodney Hide: Can she confirm that the Government is considering using Greg Murphy to spearhead an advertising campaign, targeting young drivers, against speed—which the ACT party fully supports, especially in light of the tragic events at the weekend—and will she consider funding the second part of that advertising campaign, which would be her going on television to apologise for the speed of the motorcade and explaining to New Zealanders that speed kills?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no knowledge of any proposed advertising campaign of that nature.
Rodney Hide: Was the Prime Minister telling the truth outside the House when she said that she was so engrossed in conversation, and so hard at work in the back seat of a car travelling in tight convoy that she had no idea that they were travelling at speeds in excess of 170 kilometres an hour?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in earlier answers, I have no comment to make on a matter before the courts.
Student Loans—Cost of Interest-free Policy
2. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with recent reports which suggest that the interest-free student loans policy announced last week will cost significantly more than the $300 million per annum currently estimated; if not, what assumptions has he used to reach that conclusion?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): No. As I told the House last week, the costing is based on 70 percent of all full-time students and 13 percent of part-time students paying their fees through a student loan, and up to 50 percent of full-time students drawing down living costs. The costing is also based on up to 60 percent of full-time students and 18 percent of part-time students drawing down course-related costs.
Hon Peter Dunne: What has changed since February, when the Minister said that major changes in student loan policy were likely to happen only “if the country struck oil and we were guaranteed economic security for the next 50 years”, and that improvements to the loan scheme will be “at the margins rather than a massive change”.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member looks further down the quote, he will see that I said: “but you can never rule out anything in politics”.
Lynne Pillay: What feedback has he received on the proposal to scrap interest on student loans?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: What I have seen in Nelson last night is the fact that Kiwis just love it. Grandparents love it, parents love it, and hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who are concerned about their families’ debt love it. This policy is travelling very well.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen further commentary from the National Bank, which says: “While risking getting a political pasting, we have to say that we agree with the thrust of Westpac’s analysis. We find it hard to believe students will not be smart enough to take advantage of the implicit arbitrage opportunity presented to them. They are supposed to be our best and brightest, after all.”, or does he regard that as another statement of lurid self-interest, as compared with his policy?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I note a bit of jealousy, do I? As the member knows—I think he is a former Treasury official—the maximum arbitrage position is at the end of someone’s study, and up until that point, of course, loans are already interest-free.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It may well be a joke to some political parties that the elderly do not receive the same degree of attention in this House, but I take offence at the continual belittling of the elderly people of New Zealand by comments such as that.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his intervention.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that one of the reasons that some have got their calculations wrong is that they have not been aware that under present policy there is already a partial interest write-off for those not in study, which was introduced in the 1998 Budget by the then Treasurer, the Rt Hon Winston Peters?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I cannot remember the exact detail of which Budget it was in, but my understanding is that it actually occurred in 2000.
Hon Brian Donnelly: It was in 1998.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I accept the member’s word as to the timing, but one of the reasons that a number of commentators have got it wrong is that they have not taken that and a number of other current Government policy factors into account, and we are quite happy to brief either Bill English or economists on those particular questions.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that in order to work, policies aimed at addressing student debt have to be balanced by a commitment to increasing access to student allowances, such as through the universal student living allowance advocated by the Green Party?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think we are making considerable progress with this particular policy. The policy that he has suggested would be even more regressive than the National Party’s policy suggestions.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister consider, to reduce the chance of a student loan cost blowout being caused by students taking out bigger loans in the future, making student loans interest-free only for those who have successfully completed their course of study, so that there is no chance of people accessing the cheapest loans around without any intention of actually attending a course, let alone completing a degree; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that takes a fairly negative view of the majority of New Zealanders. There is not much point in someone getting a student loan for fees paid to a university if the person ends up having to pay it back. A maximum of $150 a week can be borrowed, as opposed to the $800. I would point out to the member that the people who take a very long time to pay off their loans are those who do lower-level courses and do not end up with the very high incomes that are being targeted by the persons opposite.
Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister assure the House that this policy will not be accompanied by a secondary policy to tighten up the conditions of loan repayment so that what is given with one hand is rather stealthily taken back with the other?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen no such proposals.
Terrorist Groups—New Zealand
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service: Is she aware of any terrorist groups operating within New Zealand?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service): As the member is aware, I do not comment on operational activities of the Security Intelligence Service. As I said yesterday, every society has people from a range of backgrounds who are of interest to the authorities, but that is not to say that New Zealand is somehow under imminent threat.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does it concern the Prime Minister that a world-renowned al-Qaeda expert, Dr Rohan Gunaratna, who happens to be the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, has spoken out to the effect that about 10 groups linked to international Islamic terrorist networks are operating out of New Zealand; does that not pose a great risk to this country?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The annual report of the Security Intelligence Service last year, which got front-page treatment on the Dominion Post newspaper at least, referred to issues that the service had investigated over the previous year, which included apparent links between individuals in or from New Zealand and international terrorist activities, and also the people who sought to raise funds for such organisations. The service also stated that it assessed that there were individuals in or from New Zealand who support Islamic extremist causes. I repeat: that is something known to the service and publicly reported on. It is not to say that New Zealand is under imminent threat.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that statements such as one made last Thursday that both “moderate and militant” Islamic groups “fit hand and glove everywhere they exist.” smear all Muslims and incite religious division and distrust; does she agree with Dave Moskowitz, President—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am surprised you have allowed the member to go on for so long, because the Prime Minister is not responsible for anything but her own and her Ministers’ speeches. That is my major point. More particularly, she just told us that she will not answer any of those questions anyway, because the matter happens to be within her portfolio and she leaves operational matters to the Security Intelligence Service. She is not responsible for the quote from that speech. Therefore, the member is merely asking for an opinion for which she cannot have any responsibility.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Yes, the Prime Minister has ministerial responsibility for the Security Intelligence Service only, so could the member please frame his question within those terms.
Keith Locke: Has the Minister received from the Security Intelligence Service any report relating to extremist activities that gives any credence to the statement made last Thursday that both “moderate and militant” Islamic groups “fit hand and glove everywhere they exist.”; does that divert the Security Intelligence Service from its work and, instead, create religious mistrust and hatred—in the words of Dave Moskowitz, President of Temple Sinai in Wellington, such statements are “racist, hateful, and driven by greed for political power”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, I have received no such advice, and it is no more fair to smear all Muslims because some people of that religion commit acts of criminal murderous violence than it would have been to smear all Irish people because of the acts of the IRA.
Hon Matt Robson: Can the Minister advise the House what standard of proof would be required to establish that a group was carrying out terrorist activities in New Zealand; would it be higher than the proof given by the Rt Hon Winston Peters in the case of Omar Ali and Amer Salman?
Madam SPEAKER: The second part of the question is out of order. The Prime Minister can address the first part, please.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In order to suspect that someone is planning a terrorist attack, one would have to have some evidence of it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the question of evidence, what connection does the Prime Minister have, as the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service, when she goes on to Apna FM, on 10 July, at a time when there is vehement abuse and a tirade going over the airwaves about the West and about this country, and appears smack in the middle of the programme; what sort of information is she privy to when she puts herself in that position, and is she aware and concerned that that same outfit will shortly, with its connections through Mirchee Television Network Ltd New Zealand, open up our airwaves to al-Jazeera, the unique Arab television and radio station that gets a direct line to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda—does she know about that?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think I would have considerably better information than the member, who denounced the station as being Islamic, when I understand it is largely Hindi-speaking.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Hindi and Urdu are the same language. Let us have this Prime Minister be halfway informed about her portfolio. The second thing is: how many other radio stations are running Islamic prayers five times a day? So she is fooled again.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. That is not a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that the Prime Minister has clearly not given any kind of accurate answer, as I have proved two mistakes. Could we now have the honest answer?
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The right honourable Prime Minister did address the question. The member may like to ask a supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, I have proven categorically that the Prime Minister did not address the question at all. She made two palpable, demonstrable mistakes. Could we have an answer based on the original question?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I have ruled that the Prime Minister did address the question—obviously not to the satisfaction of the member.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can I just say, perhaps as a matter of information, that the Prime Minister did not address the question. She does not realise that in India Urdu is called Hindi, and Urdu and Hindi are the same language. Urdu is a Muslim language. So, if she tried to avoid answering the question by saying that the radio station was a Hindi-speaking station and therefore had nothing to do with Islam, that is absolutely wrong. Urdu and Hindi are the thing, and Urdu is Islamic.
Madam SPEAKER: I think the member for his information, but I would note that inaccuracy is not a legitimate complaint by way of a point of order. The original ruling stands.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When I was speaking there was a reference to Pol Pot. I seek leave to table Hansard of December 1979 at page 4844, when Mr Peters was in the National Government, and where the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Thompson, explained that Government’s support—that is, the Government Winston Peters was a member of—for what he called the Pol Pot regime, in answer to a question from Stan Rodger.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I do not oppose the tabling of that document, but I seek leave to table two documents that show an effusive support of both Pol Pot and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan by this reformed man, Keith Locke, who wishes to excuse his past stupidity and idiocy.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? [Interruption] It relates—
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member says there is a document he will table that mentions Pol Pot. I challenge whether he will table such a document. Such a document does not exist, so how can he table it?
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his contribution. Is there any objection to the tabling of the document? Yes, there is.
Student Loans—Cost of Interest-free Policy
4. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported statement that the student loan policy she announced on 26 July had been properly costed and was affordable; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I believe that the policy is affordable and that the costings are based on reasonable assumptions over the forecast period. Labour believes that tackling student debt decisively is a top priority, and that is what the policy is about—unlike National’s rather mean one.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister asked Treasury to forecast the long-term fiscal impact of her Government’s proposed interest-free student loan policy; if not, how can she assure this House and New Zealanders that her gift to students in this election year will not be a noose around the neck of hard-working taxpayers for years to come?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, this is a Labour Party policy, not a Government one. Even the most expensive and ill-founded estimates of its cost are significantly less than what Dr Brash thinks he could spend on tax cuts.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister seriously telling the House that her Government is so desperate for votes in election year—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I say to members that this is their last warning. I know it is the last day for question time, but the member is entitled to have his question heard in silence. The member will please start again.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister asked Treasury to forecast the long-term fiscal impact of her Government’s proposed interest-free student loan policy, or is she so desperate for votes in election year that the proposed, significant, new student loan policy will go to the public without any advice from Treasury, the Ministry of Education, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, or the Inland Revenue Department; and is this the standard of policy we can now expect from her Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If desperation for votes is measured by the amount of money that parties are prepared to chuck around, then the National Party wins that contest hands-down.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Prime Minister received any recent reports about the responsibilities of leadership in relation to costings?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, I did see an extraordinary reference to Dr Brash telling an economist that he had no command of the detail of National Party policy, at all.
Rodney Hide: Why will the Prime Minister not simply ask officials to cost the zero interest loans to students and the long-term implications; or is she not prepared to do that because she is scared of the results?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Labour may follow a different practice from those followed by National Party Governments and their allies in the past, but we do not expect officials to write Labour Party policies.
Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the costings of the Government’s policy announcements, will the Prime Minister tell the House how many of the 50 percent of students who would become eligible for student allowances under another term of a Labour Government will be eligible for a full allowance, and how many of them will have to be satisfied with $10 or $20 a week?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It might be the last day for question time, but one would think that after 6 years everyone would know the rules. That question is a mile wide of the wicket, and it is a waste of the House’s time.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It is because eligibility for borrowing is the difference between the actual student allowance paid and the $150 a week.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Prime Minister please address the question.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, not all the students who have eligibility for an allowance will get a full one. What I can say is that the Labour Party’s policy is immensely more affordable than paying a universal student allowance—estimates of which come rather closer to the billion-dollar-a-year mark than the costings for this policy.
Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister aware of the predicted consequences of her Government’s student loan policy—the one not assessed by officials—that would see $1.7 billion written off the Government’s balance sheet on account of the loans already made, which is equivalent to some $400 for every man, woman, and child in the country; if she is not aware of that, what does that tell us about the dangers of making policy on the hoof?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member may well want to reflect on making policy on the hoof when he tries to reconcile his sad offering, due in a couple of weeks, with promises that every New Zealander would get a significant tax cut.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister, in no sense, attempted to answer the question. I asked whether she was aware of the $1.7 billion to be written off the Crown balance sheet on account of her interest-free student loan policy. She did not answer that question, at all.
Madam SPEAKER: The difficulty for the member is that by his adding the last bit to his question, technically the Prime Minister did address it. Maybe she would like to expand on it for us.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course I am aware that there are balance-sheet implications. But I am also aware that if the National Party is assuming that people will want to borrow a whole lot more under this policy, then one assumes that that party is also aware that its own tax policy, on the same assumption, could lead to more borrowing—something that the National Party has not been very keen on emphasising.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I now seek leave to table this document from Keith Locke, which shows, clearly, that the Government at the time was not in support of Pol Pot, at all, but was seeking to give aid to the Kampuchean people, despite the nature of the Pol Pot regime, which is something totally different from what he told you when he sought leave in the first place.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would the members both sit down. Leave has been sought to table a document.
Keith Locke: I am allowed to make a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: Would you please be quiet.
Keith Locke: I am allowed to make a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: No. Would you please sit down. I will put the original seeking of leave.
KEITH LOCKE (Green): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is wrong when a member seeks to table a document and misportrays the document that is to be tabled. This document clearly has David Thomson stating: “New Zealand’s continued recognition of the Pol Pot regime”—
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. If the member feels that another member has misled the House, there are other ways in which that matter can be addressed. I suggest that the member see me after the session.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I objected to the way you told us both to sit down.
Madam SPEAKER: Oh, I am terribly sorry—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Well, you should be. You are there to do your job properly. The fact is that if a member is seeking leave, he is entitled to be on his feet and not be interrupted by somebody who is grossly out of order. Next time, Madam Chair—and I know that this Parliament has only a few days to go, but in the hope of improving Parliament before we rise—perhaps you could stick to what the Standing Orders and prior Speakers’ rulings state and not be so abrupt when some other party is at fault. That member should have been stopped in his tracks from the very moment he got to his feet.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but I was making my ruling. I did not need any further contribution to the debate. Can we please return to questions.
Question No. 4 to Minister
Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister whether she was aware of the $1.7 billion write-off required to the Crown’s balance sheet on account of loans already made to students, as a consequence of her Government’s announced policy of wiping out interest on those loans. She has not answered that question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): The Prime Minister stated that she was aware that there were balance sheet implications.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did address the question.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is rather unfair that Mr Winston Peters and Mr Locke managed to interrupt the flow of this question with their valedictory-type performances. I think that if you had been able to concentrate on the whole issue you would have found that the Prime Minister has avoided answering a question. She may well have addressed it, but surely when we are talking about such a sizable sum—such a big policy, such a flagship policy—we would expect the Prime Minister leading the party promoting it to know the implications and be able to say simply “yes” or “no” to the figure Dr Brash raised. Clearly, the Prime Minister has no idea what is going on.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): Given that the leader of the National Party has been reported as stating that he has no idea of the costings of the details of the policies announced by his colleagues—and that was in the newspaper just last Sunday—I see no reason why the member should expect the Prime Minister to have in front of her at this point the full details of balance sheet changes.
Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I did concentrate on the answer to the question and I was not distracted by the other members’ points of order going back to a previous question. As the member who raised the original point of order knows, all that is required under our Standing Orders is to address the question; it is not necessary to have the answer satisfy those who asked the question.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may have noted that Mr Brownlee interjected continually through that point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, I did not. I was concentrating on my own ruling. If he did, he—
Hon Phil Goff: Let me assure you that he did so continuously.
Madam SPEAKER: Because I did not hear it, I will just ask the member to refrain in future from commenting on rulings that are being made.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. From where I am sitting, I could not hear what Dr Cullen said in his point of order. Could I ask him to repeat it, please?
Madam SPEAKER: This is getting a little silly. Could we please move on to question No. 5 now.
5. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What reports, if any, has he received on changing New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I have seen a report in which a senior National MP asked United States political leaders for the United States’ assistance to persuade New Zealanders to change our nuclear-free legislation. That senior National MP was Dr Lockwood Smith, and that request was made to United States senators in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Don Brash, in the same meeting in which Dr Brash promised the senators that New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy would be gone by lunchtime.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We challenge the Minister to table that transcript. We have challenged him repeatedly to table the full transcript, not just the little bits that his Labour Party lackeys passed on to him and that we are expected to take as gospel. Mr Goff should table the whole transcript.
Hon PHIL GOFF: At the end of this question, in response to that request, I will table the precise words that were said by Dr Lockwood Smith and the response made by the United States senators.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before we ask any question in this House, we are expected to prove the veracity of the question being asked. Why has this Minister repeatedly been able to refer to comments provided to him by some little lackey from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who has breached every protocol we might have in place, yet the Minister is not willing to provide the entire transcript of that meeting? If you are going to allow the Minister to engage in that sort of activity, I think the House will be in a dire state for many years to come, because it will mean that Government Ministers can simply stand up, lie through their back teeth, back it up with some scrappy bit of paper concocted in their own office, and expect the House to accept that. The whole transcript should be tabled.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That bluster, of course, is merely trying to divert the attention of the House and the public away from the essence of the question and the answer. The Minister is perfectly prepared to table the exact comments made by the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith in seeking United States funding to try to persuade New Zealanders to abandon their antinuclear policy.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Is it talking to the same point of order or a new point of order?
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: It is exactly the same point of order. This relates to the requirement for questions to be authenticated. Under the Official Information Act, that Minister’s ministry has released to me transcripts of everything I said to the senators, and there is nothing in what his ministry has released to me that indicates in any way what that Minister has claimed in the House.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Talking further to the point of order—and it was the point I was going to make before Dr Smith’s intervention—I say that for 11 months Dr Smith has had the information from that meeting that Mr Brownlee wants. He has at no time indicated to me that he felt those comments were in any way inaccurate in terms of what he said at that meeting. He has the statement. Shortly, when question time resumes, I will tell the House precisely what he asked of the senators.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank members. We will go back to the original point of order. Ruling on the point of order, I note that, as members know, answers do not need to be authenticated under our Standing Orders, but questions do.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise what the nature of the request was, and what the response to it was?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I will quote precisely what Dr Smith said. The transcript states: “Dr Smith asked whether it would be worthwhile for a United States think tank to assist with a public campaign in New Zealand following the National Party study review.” The National Party study review that he had been talking about was the review done by Wyatt Creech of the nuclear-free policy. The response from the leader of the delegation was: “…that it was an internal issue for New Zealand, and as such it should be left to a New Zealand think tank. The United States should not involve itself in such a national issue.” The importance of that answer is that even the United States Senate delegation recognised that Dr Lockwood Smith was being entirely inappropriate in asking the United States to support, with the resources of a think tank, an internal matter for New Zealand. Apparently, not only do Dr Lockwood Smith and Dr Brash want the policy to be written in Washington but they want Washington to do their work for them in persuading public opinion in New Zealand, as well. That is a disgrace.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It might be helpful for the House if Mr Phil Goff could table the document now, so we could see it, in order to help with supplementary questions. It is plain that the ACT party has a clear policy on the visits of nuclear-powered warships, but I am confused, because the accusation from the Government was that Washington DC was writing the National Party policy and then funding it, and now Phil Goff is getting up and contradicting Trevor Mallard and saying that it refuses to do so. That is why I think it would be best if Phil Goff just tabled this document now, during the question, rather than at the end of this sequence of questions.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but it is not for me to rule on that. It is for the Minister to decide when, and if, he wishes to table a document.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just following on from what Mr Hide said. It is your role to make sure that question time is conducted in a reasonably orderly fashion. That was a very, very long answer from Phil Goff, and it sounded very much like the beginning of the post-election leadership battle in the Labour Party. It is interesting—the front-benchers are laughing, but the back-benchers look terrified. It is only fair that you constrain the Minister. You have now ruled that he can talk any garbage he likes when it comes to an answer, does not have to verify anything, can twist any statement he likes, and can present the answer any way he likes. But he does not have carte blanche to give that sort of a lecture to the House.
Madam SPEAKER: The member has also made a lengthy presentation, and I appreciate him for that. But it is not for the Speaker to rule on the quality of answers, although I do note that both questions and answers have been getting longer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister prepared to read out any disclaimer that came at that time from the Leader of the Opposition, seeing as he would have heard the suggestion—a disclaimer as to the impropriety of such a suggestion, or even that it had been conceived of as appropriate in a country that is a self-governing democracy, and has been for a long time; could he please read out the disclaimer that surely must be in that transcript?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I regret to disappoint the member. I read right through the report for a disclaimer from Dr Brash. Dr Brash never made any disclaimer about that improper suggestion from his foreign affairs spokesperson, unlike when he not only issued a disclaimer for but sacked Simon Power as the spokesperson on defence for his comments that New Zealand would do whatever Australia, the United Kingdom, or the United States wanted. As the member will appreciate, the difference between those two comments is that Simon Power was honest enough to make them publicly and Dr Lockwood Smith was not.
Jill Pettis: Has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade made Dr Smith aware of his reported comments, and has he disputed them?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, at the request of Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith his comments from the incident were written up for him and given to him, and to the best of my knowledge he has never sought to correct anything I quoted from him in the report or any of his other comments. He had the opportunity but he never chose to do so—certainly not with me, and, I understand, not with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I notice that Dr Lockwood Smith has been talking on his cellphone. I would just like an assurance that it was not an international call, just a local call.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon Ken Shirley: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand’s so-called nuclear-free policy does not provide a legislative ban on nuclear electricity generation in New Zealand; and how does he reconcile our so-called comprehensive nuclear-free status with the fact that a mini nuclear reactor has been operating in a residential suburb in Upper Hutt—on the old Tasman Vaccine Laboratory site—since the 1960s and is still operating today?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The nuclear-free legislation that was passed by this House some two decades ago deals with the question of nuclear-armed and nuclear-propelled warships. There is no legislation, to the best of my knowledge, that prohibits a nuclear power plant, but no party in this House has ever been stupid enough to advocate that, unless the ACT party is doing that now, as its valedictory statement.
Student Loans—Cost of Interest-free Loans
6. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Was any advice sought by him from Treasury on the student loan policy announced on 26 July; if so, will he release that advice?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The student loan policy is Labour Party policy, not Government policy. As such, Treasury does not give advice on that policy. Prior to the policy being adopted, costings were done at my request in relation to the ongoing and uncompleted work referred to in the Budget documentation. I am aware that the information in relation to the Labour Party’s policy has been released, to wide public acclaim.
John Key: Will New Zealand, as per the requirements of the Financial Reporting Act, adopt the international accounting standards after 30 June 2007; if so, what impacts will this have on the valuation of New Zealand’s net worth as a result of Labour’s proposal to change student loans?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We are getting into tricky territory between the Labour Party and the Government here. Of course, the Government has not produced estimates on that. I would assume that the impact on net worth would be negative. That shows the enormous danger of confusing an operating balance and net worth with the Government’s cash position.
John Key: Can he confirm that New Zealand’s net worth will be reduced by approximately $1.7 billion, or $400 per person, after 30 June 2007, as a result of Labour’s proposal to change the student loan policy, and what impact will this have on Labour’s Budget pledge to reduce net debt to zero by 2007?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot confirm that at this point. If the member is confusing net worth with net debt and gross debt, he is showing a gross misunderstanding of the accounting principles.
Gordon Copeland: Did any of the costings or advice requested by the Minister on the student loans policy include projections of the effect that tax cuts such as the $3,000 tax-free amount, and the adjustments to the existing threshold proposed by United Future, would have on disposable incomes, and therefore, on potential loan repayment rates?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely not. The member, of course, has those costings. That runs into some billions of dollars a year, which would lead to a substantial rise in the Government’s borrowing requirements, high interest rates, and therefore, if interest were still being applied to student loans, higher interest on student loans.
John Key: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand’s net worth would be reduced by a further 25c for every dollar of every new student loan written on top of the $1.7 billion it would be required to write off on the existing loans due to Labour’s proposal to change the student loans policy?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I have not sought advice from Treasury, so I cannot confirm the numbers.
Gordon Copeland: In light of the previous answer, would it therefore surprise the Minister to know that most graduates would be better off under United Future’s tax reduction policy than under Labour’s zero rate student loan offer?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, of course, on that basis they would be much better off if we scrapped taxation altogether and simply funded all expenditure out of borrowing.
John Key: I seek leave to table a letter I have written today to Kevin Brady, the Auditor-General, asking him to confirm that in fact, under the Financial Reporting Act, New Zealand will be required to adopt the international accounting standards, that New Zealand will be required to calculate fair value on the student loan portfolio, that that loss will be $1.7 billion, and that there will be an ongoing liability to all New Zealanders that will see fair value for every dollar reduced by 30 percent.
Resource Management Amendment Legislation—“Pet Projects”
7. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Associate Minister for the Environment: Does the Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill create a “backdoor for pet projects”; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Associate Minister for the Environment): No, the Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill is about getting better decisions on resource consents and getting them faster; about improved processes for working with councils, especially on cross-boundary or complex resource consents; and New Zealand - wide consistency in consenting, planning, and environmental standards. It is certainly not about favouring special interests over and above the interests of all New Zealanders.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: In light of the Minister’s statement last week that: “In essence, National’s plan would allow a Government of the day to specify minimum standards for any development project, pylons, prisons, or motorways, and would give a developer an unstoppable green light to go ahead.”, what is the difference between National’s policy and Labour’s leaked list of 39 fast-tracked major projects, including pylons, prisons, and motorways?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I cannot answer that better than in the words of the Otago Daily Times editorial on 29 July this year, part of which reads as follows: “The Government wants faster decision-making for resource consents, more power for local councils to work with developers to speed things along, and national guidelines to avoid the conflicting standards between regions. National wants to go much further—too far, in fact. … Under National’s proposals, we very much doubt whether, for example, the campaigns which succeeded in Lake Manapouri being saved from destruction, or Aramoana from smelter construction, would have been more than pipe dreams. National’s proposals to scrap the inexpensive provision of legal aid for objectors and reintroduce security for costs from objectors are a bare-faced attempt to erase basic rights of dissent, while its measures intended to diminish the rights of local government in resource consent matters would actually extinguish a basic premise of the Act, which is that communities most affected by applications should have the principal say in decision-making.”
Madam SPEAKER: That answer was too long.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How many flip-flops has the Minister’s Government done on the Resource Management Act, noting that in 1998 it described direct referral to the Environment Court as “evil and dangerous”, but it is now included in its bill; noting that he claimed in February that removing de novo hearings in the Environment Court would reduce costs and delays, but now that has been abandoned; and noting that in 2000 the party opposed limited notification, but later adopted it; and is it not the truth that Labour has no idea how to try to reduce the costs, the uncertainties, and the delays of the Resource Management Act?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The ministerial referral included in the bill reported back is quite different from the developer-driven referral that Dr Smith has always advocated.
David Parker: What reports has the Minister seen with regard to community consultation?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have seen a report that National will scrap the environmental legal aid fund. That was Dr Donald Brash at the Local Government New Zealand annual conference. We know that that view is not shared by the Port Levy Environmental Protection Society, which received $29,565 last year from the environmental legal aid fund. Of course, the leader of the Port Levy Environmental Protection Society is none other than David Round, National’s candidate for Christchurch East.
Larry Baldock: Can the Minister confirm that proposals to reduce delays in the Resource Management Act, such as by enabling resource consent applicants to refuse further information requests from councils and having their consent accepted or rejected on the information provided, expanding the capacity of the Environment Court and councils to reject vexatious and frivolous objectors, and enabling an applicant to seek direct referral to the Environment Court for major consents that are likely to be appealed, regardless of income, are, by and large, in major part dealt with in the bill before the House this week and will be fixed by about lunchtime Thursday, and that those come from the National Party policy to change the Resource Management Act?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I can confirm those statements. I would like to take the opportunity to thank that member for his very positive contribution in the select committee and in this very good policy development that I consider is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why did he exclude any representation of community, conservation, Mâori, or recreational groups on the six reference groups set up to develop national infrastructure standards on pylons, power stations, roads, stormwater, telecommunications, and gas facilities, choosing instead to leave the job to the industries that want to build them, and to Government officials?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As I think the member is aware from the news release from my colleague Minister Hobbs at 11.58 this morning, the status of those proposals is as scoping studies only. Those non-governmental organisations and the full community will have every opportunity to be involved in the development of any such national environmental standards or national policy statements should a decision be made to proceed with them in due course.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is it not true, though, that once the reference groups have developed drafts, written submissions from the community will make little difference, given that there is no provision for public hearings or debate and that the judges of the submissions will be the officials who wrote the first draft?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is not the only difference between National and the “Labour-Progressive-United” Government on the Resource Management Act the fact that National is upfront about shutting out environment and the community, and that the Government wants to maintain a facade of consultation?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No. I am sure that member is aware that these consultations have taken place within industry, with local government, with organisations such as the Law Society, and the Business Council for Sustainable Development, and are widely supported and greeted by them. [Interruption] If the member had read their letter he would find quite the contrary.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the press release of Mr David Benson-Pope on 14 February this year, saying that the de novo hearings would reduce costs and delays but that he subsequently had to abandon them.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I seek leave to table a number of documents. The first one is the incorporation document of the Port Levy Coastal and Marine Protection Society.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The second is a report from the Otago Daily Times editorial of 29 July 2005, entitled: “It’s our environment”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The third document is a column from the Nelson Mail dated 26 July, entitled: “RMA shake-up would limit local input”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The next is an article from the New Zealand Herald under the name of Raewyn Peart, entitled: “RMA plans an attack on rights. National’s proposals to change the Act will cut people out of decision making”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have two more documents. The first is a letter from the New Zealand Law Society, dated 1 August, in support of the changes proposed in the draft bill.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The second document is a letter from the Business Council for Sustainable Development, which is generally very supportive of the same bill.
8. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What reports, if any, has she received on recent developments in the health sector?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I have seen a report from Counties Manukau District Health Board on its most recent achievements. This is an area of New Zealand with some of the highest health needs, and in this last year the district health board has provided mental health services for 18 percent more people, achieved an 11 percent reduction in acute admissions for children, enrolled over 6,500 in chronic care management and in Care Plus, delivered all three doses of meningococcal B vaccine to 90 percent of primary school - age children, and has spent less on management and administration than it did before it became a district health board, while at the same time achieving a 29.5 increase in medical staff, and a 16.8 percent increase in nursing staff. What does the National Party want to do about that? It wants to go back to the future and wreck all that progress, to pay for tax cuts.
Steve Chadwick: What other reports has she seen on recent developments in the health sector?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I read a report in the New Zealand Herald last week that talked about rationalising small primary health organisations because they are inefficient. Yet the Counties Manukau district has several small primary health organisations, and they provide excellent examples of current primary health care policies and chronic care management programmes. Everybody knows that rationalisation is another name for cut-backs, and that is exactly what National promises to do so that it can pay for its tax cuts. National calls that choice. Yeah, right!
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she deny the damning statement of the July 2005 New Zealand OECD report specifically relating to health, which states: “Although it has long been assumed that an expansion of inputs would directly feed into a rise in outputs, it is now increasingly obvious that this assumption is false.”, which sums up the waste, bureaucracy, and inefficiency under her watch over the last 5 years—does she deny that report?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does one of the reports she has received on recent developments in the health sector include reference to the 1,329 people who died on hospital waiting lists last year because she and her administration could not get them an operation, or to the almost 2,700 who have died in the last 2 years, and in addition to the boast that we are at 54 percent of Australia’s cost on pharmaceuticals and at one-third of the OECD’s? Has she got those reports yet; if so, what will she do about them?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There is no such report that states that over 1,000 people died of conditions for which they were waiting for operations that they did not receive. In fact, that is palpably and demonstrably false. There is a report on people who died while they may well have been waiting to have their carpal tunnel fixed or their cataracts done. They may well have died in a car accident or of old age, but there is no such report that states that they died of the condition for which they were waiting for an operation.
Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister aware that the Australian Government has published a comprehensive and detailed plan outlining how it would respond in the event of a bird flu pandemic, and has allocated $156 million to bird flu preparations; why has her ministry still not published a similarly detailed plan outlining how New Zealand would cope in the event of a bird flu pandemic and, in particular, how the Government plans to plug gaps such as a lack of facilities to quarantine and isolate patients, a lack of laboratory surveillance to enable us to rapidly detect the virus, and a lack of preparedness in the primary health care sector generally and on how the ministry would resolve ethical issues such as the rationing of the Government’s limited supplies of the antiviral drug Tamiflu?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That member has requested a briefing from the Ministry of Health, which is to be held at 1 o’clock tomorrow, so she will be better informed about what New Zealand is doing, and we will certainly be able to show her the comparison between what New Zealand is doing and what Australia is planning to do. As I was at the meeting of health Ministers in Australia last week, I think I probably have a better idea as to how ready they are in comparison with New Zealand.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that the recent DigiPoll result showing that the majority of people believe doctors’ fees have increased under Labour can be explained by the fact that there are over 1.2 million adults, many of them parents who are struggling with the costs of raising a family, who are paying in excess of $50 or $60 to visit the doctor or, even worse, who do not go because they cannot afford it; if so, does she believe New Zealanders might think differently if all families were targeted as a priority to get subsidies?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree with the member, and by July 2007, under this Labour Government, all New Zealanders will have universal access to affordable primary health care, something that National would get rid of. Unfortunately, DigiPoll surveyed everybody, not just those who are receiving subsidies now. It is not a very valid poll, at all.
Steve Chadwick: What other reports has the Minister heard of the way the Government’s primary health care policy is working?
Hon ANNETTE KING: We have many reports of how well the primary health care strategy is working in many different parts of New Zealand. In fact, I could tell members of different parts of New Zealand that are now addressing issues like diabetes and chronic conditions like cardiac conditions, cancer, and so on. We are starting to see some real progress. What does National want to do? It wants to get rid of it, to give less than 20 bucks a week in a tax cut to all New Zealanders, it says. Yeah, right!
Student Loans—Interest-free Policy
9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by the statement he made earlier this year that major changes in student loan policies were only likely to happen “if the country struck oil, and we were guaranteed economic security for the next 50 years”; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): In the same interview, I also said that Labour had a commitment to keep improving things. I think last week’s announcement that we will scrap interest on student loans makes good on that commitment. I think that many of those responsible for the 620,000 hits on the Labour website agree.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the real reason he changed his mind was that Labour was behind in the polls, and that he and Helen Clark have rolled Dr Cullen and decided to abandon Labour’s claims to fiscal credibility?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No to all of that. I would like to add that one of the people who has been leading the policy in this area, because of his concerns for the long-term economy and the community as a result of the overbearing loan scheme approach, has been Dr Cullen.
Nanaia Mahuta: Has the Minister seen any alternative proposals to change student loan repayment policies?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen an approach. It is a rather unusual one. What it says is that the higher one’s income, the lower one’s effective interest rate is. That means that someone on an income of $100,000 or $200,000 has a much lower effective interest rate than a mum at home or a poor Pacific Island family on a very low income. I think that approach, from Bill English, is disgraceful.
Deborah Coddington: Can the Minister confirm that Mr English actually paraphrased, and that what the Minister really said was: “if the country struck oil, and we were guaranteed economic security for the next 50 years, or we’re down in the polls 2 months out from an election”, and that that is the real reason for this election bribe?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: From memory, the decisions on this were made when Labour was ahead in the polls, but that is an irrelevant point. At the moment, a person who is jumping before the ship goes down is hardly the one to talk about poll ratings.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that only 25 percent of borrowers have a loan balance of over $20,000, but that that 25 percent of borrowers will get 80 percent of the proceeds of a multibillion-dollar interest write-off; how does he justify channelling 80 percent of the multibillion-dollar interest-rate write-off to just 25 percent of the borrowers—those with the biggest debts?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am slightly bemused by that question. The National Party, of course, excludes from its policy mums at home looking after their kids. Their loan balances will go up—
Dr Don Brash: They aren’t paying interest now.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: They are paying interest. That shows, again, that Dr Brash does not know the detail of his own policy. Under the National policy, a woman at home with kids has her balance going up, while the person with income of $100,000 has a highly discounted interest rate. Dr Brash should get on top of the detail of his own policy; showing his ignorance in the House is not good.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The student loan scheme provides that, for mothers at home, their real loan remains constant. Can the Minister confirm that?
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Would the member like to rephrase it as a question.
Dr Don Brash: The Minister asserted something that is factually wrong. I challenge that.
Madam SPEAKER: That is a debatable issue. If the member would like to ask a question, then the Minister should respond to it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I made a complaint about the way you were conducting the House earlier today, and I am making another complaint now. A member cannot rise on a point of order and ask a question.
Madam SPEAKER: I entirely agree with the member, but I was saying that that was not a point of order, and that if he would like to ask a question he should ask one.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second thing is that points of order are always heard in silence. We cannot have this sham as we close for the election—it will be a big enough sham after, when these people go from here. My real point is that if Dr Brash was going to make a point in his point of order, it was that the thing was consumer price indexed—that is all it means. Dr Brash has got it wrong again.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It might just be a matter of advice to the member opposite, but the way to ask a question is to stand up, say “Madam Speaker,” then say “supplementary question”, and maybe the member should do that.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down. That is not a point of order.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister of Education explain to the House how he justifies the following figures: a borrower with a balance of $15,000, according to his calculator, will benefit by $4,600 over the life of the loan, but a borrower with a balance of $40,000 will benefit by 10 times as much? Why does he sit here shedding crocodile tears for people on low incomes, when the vast bulk of the benefit of this policy goes to people with loans over $50,000?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I pointed out to the member before, and as the member should know, the people who are best off under this policy are, in fact, the people who are at home—the people whose loan balances would keep on going up and up while they stayed at home looking after their kids. I do not know why the member hates women at home so much, but what I do want to say to that member is that Labour’s policy is based on people paying back what they borrowed; National’s policy is based on giving extra discounts to the highest-income earners in New Zealand.
Hon Bill English: If the member describes National’s policy as extra discounts to people on the highest incomes, why will someone with a loan of $60,000 benefit, according to his calculator, by $92,800 over the life of this policy, whereas someone with the average balance will benefit by about one-twentieth of that amount?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: What is clearly obvious is that people who have lower incomes and higher loan balances benefit more.
10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Immigration; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, what was wrong with the last Minister of Immigration, because she was a hard-working, conscientious Minister as well?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is right.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, she was! I will ask the Prime Minister two questions, then. If that is the case, one, why did she fire Lianne Dalziel—a hard-working, conscientious Minister—if she was not proved to be incompetent; and, two, why is the Prime Minister keeping this man, who has just written to me saying: “Don’t write to me; write to the department.”, his having, of course, got up in this House countless times to say: “Please give me the information.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am aware that as recently as only 25 July the member had a letter from the Associate Minister of Immigration informing him that we appreciated his sending in his 22 cases and additional information on one individual, and that, of those cases, the department was already aware of nine, and we were following up the other cases that the member had been kind enough to bring to our attention.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If this Minister is a hard-working, diligent, conscientious, capable Minister, what has happened to the family of 16, all of whose families were deconstructed in the Middle East, then reconstructed falsely here; and why does it take months to find out what would take any investigator about 3 hours to find out?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, I cannot comment on the details of cases like that. I simply do not have the details in front of me. I have no idea whether they are true.
Hon Paul Swain: Can the Prime Minister confirm the importance of checking details accurately when information comes across, given that the last time that member raised a particular person’s name in this Parliament, he went out for a terrorist and came back with a mechanic?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, it is important to get the facts right, because people’s status in New Zealand hangs on it.
Hon Tony Ryall: In respect of the Minister of Immigration, why should the people of New Zealand have any confidence in this Government, which always lets in the bad ones but makes the good ones wait in the line for years on end?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My recollection, from answering questions along these lines for some time, is that a number of the people we have had to act against were people admitted during that member’s time in Government.
Treaty of Waitangi Claims—Deadline
11. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Does he stand by the reported statement of then Minister in Charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Hon Margaret Wilson, in 2002, that National’s policy of putting a time limit on Treaty of Waitangi claims was out of touch and ignored the complexity of the treaty settlement process; if not, why not?
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Associate Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations), on behalf of the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Yes, and I note that the former Minister’s comment was in response to National’s policy that was to have a cut-off date by the end of 2006, and a target of 2008 for the settlement of all claims.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that under the Labour Party in Government there will be no restriction on how long claims take to settle, and no end in sight for the treaty grievance industry; if not, can he tell us what dates it has in mind for settling such grievances?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: We have been foreshadowing for some time that we will need to set a cut-off date, because the historical claims process can never be completed if there is an open-ended entry point. I suggest that the member wait for the announcement on 21 August to know what the policy is.
Russell Fairbrother: What other reports has the Minister seen about time limits on Treaty of Waitangi settlement deadlines?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I note that National’s 2005 treaty policy now sets down 2010 as being the date for total completion of historical Treaty of Waitangi grievance settlement claims.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister rule out that the 21 August announcement he just mentioned will set settlement date limits?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The member will have to wait and see.
Stephen Franks: What weight does the Minister give to warnings in the House against time limits for treaty settlements, complaints that ACT member Derek Quigley’s bill in 1998 brought them into the “games of party politics”, and claims that “…trying to set deadlines in legislation … is exactly the wrong approach. Artificial deadlines carved in stone will not work. They are a falsehood … I will bet that member the best bottle of Nelson wine … that if we go down this track, a future Parliament will be undoing those deadlines …”; and would the Minister care to repeat with me Dr Nick Smith’s bet that this will not be the only piece of ACT policy that Labour and National will eventually adopt?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I give no weight to those claims.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister accept that the statement by the Prime Minister: “Our treaty obligations extend beyond the settlements for historic claims—the closing of the huge gaps which have developed in almost every field between Mâori and Pâkehâ.” means that the public simply could not accept that Labour would ever enforce a closure date for the settlement process?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As I said, the member will have to wait and see.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister have any reports as to who gave the most legs to the policy about which the National Party is currently complaining, and who gave Doug Graham a knighthood for his work on the Treaty of Waitangi industry?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may well be indulging Mr Peters, given that it is the last day, but I think it is only fair to say that the National Party is firm in its policy that there will be closure on these matters, but is very proud to be promoting the idea that New Zealand should settle treaty grievances.
Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure where all that takes us, but that is not a point of order, actually. [Interruption] Yes, but I also note that the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations is not responsible for the awarding of honours.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know that, but I am asking whether he has received any reports, as Minister, of the National Party’s involvement in the Waitangi industry per se, and any reports as to how that actually graduated into giving Doug Graham a knighthood for it—contrary to the words they speak nowadays?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The reports that I have heard have come from the National Party itself.
Home Ownership—Government Initiatives
12. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: What initiatives, if any, have been put in place to assist New Zealanders into a secure and affordable home?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Housing): The good news is that 57,000 New Zealand households with 78,000 children are an average of $35 per week better off as a result of the income-related rents policy. This has contributed directly to the reduction in poverty levels in this country. Two thousand five hundred families have had their homes modernised, made more healthy, or improved, and another 2,300 families have received an energy efficiency retrofit. We have also launched Welcome Home Loans to help Kiwis buy their first house. Over 1,000 households have been helped into their own homes at this pilot stage. That will be expanded to 5,000 homes next year, with another 5,000 to 8,000 first home buyers per year to be assisted through the new KiwiSaver programme. It is good news.
Georgina Beyer: Is the Minister satisfied that the current number of State houses is sufficient to meet the need of the community for affordable, low-cost, and quality housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, not yet. That is why we have been providing for an additional 5,700 State houses since 1999, and why we have budgeted for another 3,288 houses over the next 4 years. We had to do this, because 13,000 houses were sold during the 1990s to provide at least $2 billion for the National Party to pay for its latest round of tax cuts.
Georgina Beyer: What responses has he seen to the Government’s housing initiatives?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Most people, such as all church leaders, have been very clear in their support of the Government’s housing policies. However, one group stands out, because it has labelled income-related rents as a complete disaster; it has rejected the idea of KiwiSaver; it has said, through its leader, Dr Don Brash, that New Zealanders would rather rent than own a home, so it rejects home ownership; and it has also said through its spokesperson on housing that it would sell houses to speculators if it had a chance. That is the National Party, which sold $2 billion worth of State houses and will do so again if it gets a chance.
Question No. 8 to Minister
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato): I seek leave to table the relevant pages of the July 2005 OECD survey.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.