Questions and Answers Thursday - 8 December 2005
Questions and Answers Thursday - 8 December
Uncorrected transcript of Questions to Ministers
1. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What assurances can she give that the New Zealand Police are to be adequately resourced to cope with existing and future demands?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): In the time we have been in Government we have recruited almost 1,400 more police. Over the next 3 years, through our agreement with New Zealand First, we will recruit another 1,000 sworn front-line police to provide—[Interruption] I am absolutely delighted that the National Party can see what a good job we are doing. After all, the National Party could not achieve it when it was in Government. We will recruit another 1,000 sworn, front-line police to provide the public of New Zealand with the reassurance it needs that we are committed to making its communities as safe as we possibly can. It is good news.
Ron Mark: Having had such good news to share with the House, can the Minister now reconfirm to the House what extra resources will be needed on top of the 1,000 sworn front-line police officers?
Rodney Hide: A front-line Minister!
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am quite sure that the ACT party would like a new leader—1.5 percent! Old “1.5 percent” himself! What extra resources do we need? We are not going to fall into the trap that sometimes has happened in the past, particularly in the 1990s. There is no point recruiting 1,000 extra sworn, front-line police unless we put in extra resources around equipment, infrastructure, non-sworn staff alongside the sworn staff. We are committed to doing that, and the details will be provided as we work through them with New Zealand First.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with New Zealand First’s deputy leader, Peter Brown, who told the New Zealand Herald on 1 December 2005: “there is some confusion. Dr Cullen and myself have identified that and it is being worked on.”, and if not, can she confirm that the confusion was actually identified by the National Party, not by New Zealand First?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The only confusion that members of the National Party could confirm is amongst themselves about who will be the next leader.
Ann Hartley: Is the Minister satisfied with progress in recruiting the new sworn front-line staff?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes; in addition to the normal recruiting approaches, the police are now working on a wide range of new initiatives. I am told that the current projections are positive, but the employment market is competitive and I certainly do not underestimate the job in hand. Where possible, police recruit people from the local community and they often are placed back into those communities. I am also told that the Royal New Zealand Police College has capacity to train the additional sworn front-line staff, as well as cope with normal attrition.
Simon Power: How much time was spent by the Minister’s office drafting Ron Mark’s patsy question for this afternoon?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Ron Mark has plenty of ability himself to write whatever he wants to write.
Ron Mark: The members really struggle with good news, don’t they? They will love this.
Madam SPEAKER: Will the member please ask his question. All members should remember that questions are heard in silence.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm to the House that the even better news is that the agreement between Labour and New Zealand First requires us to further increase front-line numbers with a view to achieving ratios comparable with those in Australia by 2010?
Hon ANNETTE KING: More good news—yes, I can confirm that.
Education, Secretary—Standards-based Assessment
2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with the statement made yesterday by the Secretary for Education, Howard Fancy, that there had been “a move away from standards-based” assessment; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): Good news—
Hon Annette King: More good news.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, more good news: the Secretary for Education says he made no such statement. I am advised by members who were present at the select committee yesterday that he said: “There hasn’t been a move away from standards-based assessment.” This statement was accurately reported by the New Zealand Press Association, and a correction is being sought to the report in today’s Dominion Post. I am sorry to disappoint the members.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he issued a statement on 5 December setting out an eight-step process leading to the re-marking of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams, and can he confirm that all re-marking of NCEA exams is done according to the process set out in that statement?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I have repeatedly said, along with Karen Sewell, who is the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, there is a six-step process of marking, which I have here in front of me. That is the process that is used and, yes, I understand that to be the one supplied.
Moana Mackey: Could the Minister outline the standards-based system of NCEA and scholarship?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The process has been applied every year since NCEA was first examined, as follows. The ministry sets the standards. The examiner sets the exam and prepares the marking schedule. The exam is set to encourage students to show that they can reach the standard. The standard remains constant, but the marking schedule can be adjusted if it is not clear enough, not comprehensive enough, or too specific, to ensure fairness and consistency for all students.
Hon Bill English: Given the Minister’s explanation of that process, how does he then explain the explanation given in this email from a marker, who describes it this way: “The panel leaders and check markers are hammered by the NZQA and have to instruct markers to tweak results to ease more candidates up into the ‘achieved’ category.”; how does he reconcile that with the official process that he has publicly announced?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: All markers have been fully advised of the marking process outlined yesterday and again today. As I have always said with regard to this member, if he does have evidence, he should give it to me. I always need to check it first to understand whether it has any veracity at all.
Moana Mackey: What advice has the Minister seen that New Zealanders can have full confidence in the exam system?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Post Primary Teachers Association has expressed a motion of confidence in the system, as has the Secondary Principals Association. Research from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research shows that students value NCEA and have a good understanding of the assessment process. The acting chief executive said today that we have an open and transparent process to ensure that results are consistent and fair. Those who set, sit, mark, and administer NCEA are confident that the process is working. There is only one person who is not confident of that, and he is paid to oppose it.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that this email from a check marker to a marker, which tells that marker and the others on the panel to go back over the “faileds” to see whether they could push them up to “achieveds”, and which states: “We are doing this because the number of students failing is too high.”, should give the public confidence in the process of re-marking an NCEA exam that is not on his official list of re-marked exams; how is that reconciled with his official list and his eight-step process?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I have said repeatedly, the 4,000 lead teachers who were taught the teaching of NCEA, and the 2,000 markers, have been trained in what they are doing. Yes, I have faith that what is happening here is according to the steps we have set out. As I have also said, I would want to check the single email that Mr English now has in his hand, because I never believe what he says on first blush.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that I am referring to two emails, not one, and that they are both regarding an exam that is not on his official list but whose scripts are clearly, according to those emails, being re-marked—one of those emails being from a marker, who says: “This is making a mockery of the whole examination process. The upshot is that many below-standard candidates will pass simply because the bar has been lowered.”, and the other email being from that marker’s senior colleague, telling the markers to go back and find anything at all among the “failed” scripts that shows some understanding of the question, and pass them. How can the public have confidence in that?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: To go back to the beginning of Mr English’s question, no, I cannot be aware of the two emails in his hand, because he has just brought them down now; it is hard for me to be aware of them until I actually get to see them. If he wants to show them to me, we will check them out. But I want to reassure the public that this year an enormous amount of work has gone into getting NCEA working. Everybody who sets it, sits it, marks it, and administers it agrees it is working—except Mr English.
Hon Bill English: Will the Minister accept that he has put so much pressure on the Qualifications Authority to achieve results that avoid political controversy that the authority is now involved in unofficially and secretly re-marking exams, and that that directly contradicts his and the authority’s public statements that it has been open, honest, and upfront, and that only the exams it has published are the ones being officially re-marked?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I do not accept the first part of the question, at all. What I do accept is that the authority has been upfront and transparent, and that it is utterly committed to fairness and consistency across the marking system.
Hon Bill English: How can the Minister claim that the authority or himself has been upfront and honest, when these emails tell a story of pressure on a panel of markers to re-mark exams to get more passes; when that exam is not on his official list; and when the method being used for re-marking is not to adjust the marking schedule but to go and find anything that shows that the student understands the question, and pass him or her.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: All I can do is reaffirm that the authority has been committed to an open and transparent process. The member has come down with a couple of emails that I have not seen yet; he might like to give them to me afterwards, and we will find out. We have 156,000 young people out there sitting exams right now. The system is open and transparent. If there are any issues that can be dealt with quickly, we have utterly committed ourselves to doing so.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister accept that it was he and the authority that were deceiving the young people and the parents of New Zealand, when they went out and said there was one official process for re-marking exams, and, now, 11 exams have been re-marked; and when it is now widely understood among markers that most of the re-marking is happening because of unofficial and secret processes such as this one, of which the marker says: “This is such a professionally soul-destroying experience. I doubt that I will mark again next year. I hate seeing kids end up with what is effectively a useless qualification in this way.”—or is he going to dismiss this panel of markers as the only people who think there is a problem?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In answer to the first part of the question, no; to the middle part of the question, because it is not; and to the last part of the question, if the member has brought down a couple of emails that he would like me to have a look at, then what he should do is give them to me afterwards, because we are committed to openly and transparently fixing any issue very quickly.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister see the difficulty for the large number of markers who are very concerned about this process, who know that if they identify themselves, they will be subject to the normal, vindictive behaviour that that Minister is capable of; that it is extremely difficult, and therefore a very high risk for them, to blow the whistle and come forward in the way that this marker has?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The only person I can remember being vindictive over issues like this is Mr English himself. I recall, for example, the cardboard box incident that almost destroyed the school.
Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister continue to react to criticism of the NCEA by saying the critics are always wrong, or isolated, or, in this case, vindictive, when, in fact, every time the critics have raised an issue it has turned out to be right?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Up until this very moment the only critic has been Mr English, and every time he has turned out to be wrong.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table an email from a marker of exams employed by the Qualifications Authority, giving a point of view on how the re-marking process is being carried out.
Question No. 3 to Minister
JILL PETTIS (Labour): My question is to the—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Does that member wish to stay in the House, or not? All members know that during question time there is to be no chipping across the Chamber when questions are being asked. It came from all sides. We will start again, but that is the final warning.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Whenever Government Ministers get into difficulty they have a habit of breaking a longstanding practice of this House, and that is not to bring members’ families into the debate. In the course of the questioning of the Minister of Education about a quite proper public issue, the marking of exams, the previous Minister of Education responsible, Mr Trevor Mallard, chose to bring members of Mr English’s family into the debate. I think we need to rely on you, Madam Speaker, to ensure that the House is not dragged down into that territory.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his comment and his reminder.
Modern Apprenticeships Scheme—Progress
3. JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What progress is the Government making towards addressing skill shortages through the Modern Apprenticeships scheme?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister for Tertiary Education): Very good progress. At the end of September—the latest numbers—8,298 Modern Apprentices were in training, a net increase of 538 since March.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise further on the reports he has received on the value of the Modern Apprenticeships scheme?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen many positive reports. About the only negative one I have seen is a report describing the pledge to increase the number of Modern Apprenticeships as “rather trivial”. Of course, if one is obsessed with cutting the top tax rate, everything else in life tends to seem rather trivial. That came from the Leader of the Opposition.
Hon Bill English: Can the new Minister for Tertiary Education, who has been left with the difficult job of cleaning up the tertiary sector, explain why 35,000 secondary school children are enrolled in Computing for Free courses run by the Tertiary Alliance of polytechnics?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no information on that, but none of those are Modern Apprenticeships so I doubt whether it relates to the principal question.
Judy Turner: If skill shortages are being addressed, why does the Industry Training Federation report in its briefing to the incoming Minister that: “The fund that is stated to have the expectation of skills leadership saw some ITOs receiving a low nominal rate of funding, and many ITOs a real decline in funding per learner.”, when the Government expanded the industry training organisations’ skill leadership role precisely to address those shortages?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A number of issues surrounding the funding of industry training organisations and trade training in general are part of the review that is under way of the funding of the tertiary sector, but particularly of the relationship between industry training organisations and polytech funding.
Judy Turner: I seek leave to table the Industry Training Federation’s briefing to the incoming Minister.
Dr Pita Sharples: Kei te kaha çtahi Minita o te Kâwanatanga ki te whakakore i çtahi o ngâ mâtauranga Mâori i çtahi o ngâ whare wânanga me ngâ whare takuira, â, me ô râtou arotakenga o çnei kaupapa nâ reira, mâ te aha ka môhio a ia me tôna Kâwanatanga, te âhua o te mâtauranga Mâori, â, he aha ôna tikanga hei whakamâtautau?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Given that several Government Ministers have been working hard to abolish some Mâori-focused programmes run by some wânanga and community polytechs and their assessment measures, how do he and his Government determine what constitutes a Mâori-focused programme and what aspects should be assessed?]
Madam SPEAKER: The question is very wide of the original question, which relates to the Modern Apprenticeships scheme, but if the Minister wishes to address it in that context, it is within the scope.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, indeed, it is well wide. The recent report on te wânanga rather reminded me of the original Disney version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia, with a reproduction of a large number of people with brooms.
Dr Pita Sharples: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that the question should be addressed properly, because it does relate to the skills section of the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to say that I believe that the assumption made in the question is fundamentally wrong.
Reserve Bank—Cash Rate
4. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Is he concerned that the Reserve Bank governor has this morning raised the official cash rate to its highest-ever level of 7.25 percent, thereby leading to higher interest rates?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): As the member should know, since the passing of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act it has been the practice of Ministers of Finance not to comment on decisions made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, so as not to encroach upon his or her decisions. This is the highest-ever level because this is the only tightening cycle since the previous governor abandoned his stupid idea of a monetary conditions index and adopted the standard form, used overseas, of an overnight cash rate - type approach.
John Key: Was the Minister surprised when the Governor of the Reserve Bank specifically mentioned increasing Government spending as one of the key factors contributing to inflationary pressures in the economy; if so, will he now accept that his own actions have played a significant part in the hiking of interest rates today, if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member should not confuse fiscal easing simply with Government spending—the Governor of the Reserve Bank referred to fiscal easing. Of course, that suggests that the most stupid thing one could possibly do is give a $2-billion-a-year tax cut starting on 1 April next year, which was the National Party’s policy.
John Key: Would the Minister be surprised to learn that today at the Finance and Expenditure Committee briefing the Governor of the Reserve Bank described the exchange rate as exceptionally and unjustifiably high—the Minister may remember those terms, as they are the criteria set down for currency intervention—would he read into that statement by the governor that intervention in the exchange rate is now imminent, and does he support that intervention?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The last part about intervention is, of course, one for the governor. As to the first part, it is not appropriate for me to interpret the comments made by the governor. I am sure that financial markets will draw their own conclusion. As to the previous question, I refer the member to page 6 of the report: “further fiscal policy easing over and above what we have allowed for, could increase the degree of interest rate pressure …”.
John Key: Does the Minister think that a Reserve Bank that chooses to intervene in miniscule proportions because the exchange rate is exceptionally and unjustifiably high, at a time when interest rates are high relative to all other OECD countries, at a time when it is likely that billions of dollars of hot money will pour into the currency in Uridashi and Eurokiwi issues, and at a time when his Government is increasing spending at a rapid rate, will be effective; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Most of the assumptions in that question were correct. In particular, for a previous financial market speculator to describe Uridashi as “hot money” when they are actually long-term investments made by Japanese housewives and others, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the international bond market.
John Key: Can he confirm that during his tenure as Minister of Finance, nominal Government spending has increased by approximately 40 percent, interest rates have risen from 4.5 percent to 7.25 percent, and our trade balance and current account has deteriorated to the point where it is in significantly bad shape; if so, why is he continuing to increase Government spending and putting further pressure on the economy—or does he not care about exporters and homeowners?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Coming from a member whose leader raised interest rates 51 times while he was the Governor of the Reserve Bank, that is a fairly extraordinary question. Yes, indeed, nominal Government spending has increased about 40 percent, but so has nominal GDP increased, by slightly more than that. So the proportion of Government spending as a ratio to GDP has actually gone down.
John Key: Why did the Minister have so much to criticise about the current account when he was in Opposition, yet he has increased spending at such a rate that it has put pressure on the exchange rate and it is forcing our exporters to the wall, and when he is in Government he is as quiet as a little lamb?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I may be an old ram, but I am certainly not a little lamb. I have spoken frequently about the current account deficit in recent times and I have spoken about the overvalued exchange rate in recent times, but what I never did as the Opposition spokesperson on finance was try to intrude upon the independence of the Governor of the Reserve Bank by inviting the Minister of Finance to comment upon his decisions.
5. HONE HARAWIRA (Mâori Party—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Corrections: He aha te take i kore ai tana tari i whakautu i te tono a Ngâti Hine ma Ngâti Hine ake e hapai nga kaupapa Maori mo nga mauhere o Te Tai Tokerau i runga i te ahua, neke atu i te waru tekau orau o nga mauhere, kei roto whareherehere i Ngâwhâ he uri no Te Tai Tokerau, a, i runga hoki i te ahua o nga korero a Te Tari Mauhere ka pumau ratou ki nga kaupapa a-iwi Maori.
[Why did his department not take up the proposal from Ngâti Hine to provide a comprehensive habilitation service, which was specifically designed to be culturally appropriate to inmates from Tai Tokerau, given that over 80 percent of the inmates of the Ngâwhâ Prison are of Tai Tokerau descent, and the department’s commitment to culturally appropriate practices?]
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Associate Minister of Corrections) on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: He nui rawa ngâ tono i whiwhi ai Te Tari Mauhere mai i a Ngâti Hine, kâre çnei tono i whai hua otirâ, kei te mahi ngâtahi Te Tari Mauhere me te kaitiaki iwi o taua rohe, a Ngâti Rangi, kia heke iho ai te hunga mauhere o Te Tai Tokerau.
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[The Department of Corrections received a very large number of submissions from Ngâti Hine but none bore fruit. Indeed, the department is working alongside the local guardians of that region, Ngâti Rangi, to reduce the number of people of the north who are ending up in prison.]
Hone Harawira: Nâ, kua mârama ki a tâtou te rahi o te utu ki ngâ kaiutu tâke nâ te nui ake o te utu i ngâ utu i whakaritea i te tuatahi i te wâ i hangaia he whare mauhere i Ngâwhâ, â, i ngâ utu kei te utua hoki hei whakatikatika i te whare mauhere nâ te turi o te mauhere ki ngâ whakatûpato o te tangata whenua kia kore râtou e hanga whare mauhere ki reira, ka taea e te Minita te whakamârama he aha ai i hangaia te mauhere i Ngâwhâ nâ te mea, kâhore a Ngâwhâ i tohua hei tûnga tuatahi mô taua whare mauhere, â, i runga anô hoki i ngâ whakatûpatotanga nâ te tapu, ehara a Ngâwhâ i te wâhi hei hanga whare herehere?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
Now that we know of the massive cost to the taxpayer caused by the cost overruns in the construction of the prison at Ngâwhâ, and the ongoing costs in the repair of the prison caused by the department’s refusal to accept warnings by the tangata whenua not to build a prison there, can the Minister please explain why the prison was built at Ngâwhâ when it was not on the original list of preferred sites, and when he was prewarned that Ngâwhâ would be a culturally inappropriate place to build a prison?]
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Â, kei te mârama tonu au ki çrâ tû momo kôrero e te Kaihautû engari, tutuki noa atu çnei whakawhitiwhiti kôrero i te tau 1999, i raro i te Kâwanatanga o Nâhinara. Otirâ, i tçnei wâ kua whakamârama ake ki a mâtou o te Kâwanatanga ko çtahi o Te Tai Tokerau kâre i whakaae ki tçnei Whare Herehere. Otirâ, wçtahi atu, kai te whakaae. Kai te whakaae a Ngâti Rangi. Nâ reira, nâ runga i tçnei whakaae, ka haere tonu te whare herehere.
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[I am very much aware of those kinds of statements made during the previous National Government in 1999. We of the present Government are aware that some in the north were opposed to this prison, but some, like Ngâti Rangi, were in favour. And because Ngâti Rangi were in favour, the building of the prison went ahead.]
Simon Power: Can the Minister assure the House that other issues at Ngâwhâ prison have also been resolved, such as the fact that windows to prisoners’ cells do not close, enabling prisoners to help themselves to tea and coffee in the staff room at night, and to stroll in and out of the control room, and the fact that recent figures show that 84 out of 87 corrections officers at Ngâwhâ have less than 1 year’s experience?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Ka huri au ki te reo hoko parâoa!
I turn to the language that buys bread!]
I am aware of those issues. I am also advised by officials that there was one particular design fault in one of the windows of the cells. The inmate decided that he would go for a cup of tea. The fault has been repaired, and there is no longer a problem.
Hone Harawira: Ka taea e te Minita te wakamârama ki te Whare tô râtou pûmau ki ngâ kaupapa wakapakari tangata mô Ngâpuhi i te mea, i ngâ tau 10-15 kua pahure ake nei mô ngâ pûtea kua tohaina i roto o Kaikohe, te Manawa hotuhotu o Ngâpuhi, kua haere, tuatahi, kia rahi ake te tari mô ngâ tamariki, ngâ rangatahi me ô râtou whânau; tuarua, kia whakapaipaihia te whare pirihimana; tuatoru, kia tuwharetia te whare tautâwhi; tuawhâ, kia hângai he whare herehere kâhore e ârikarika te utu ngâ miriona taara neke atu?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
Can the Minister tell the House what the Government’s commitment to social enhancement programmes for Ngâpuhi is, given that over the past 10 to 15 years the Government’s social expenditure in Kaikohe, the heart of Ngâpuhi, has centred around, first, the expansion of the Department of Social Welfare; second, the upgrading of the police station; third, the opening of a periodic detention centre; and, fourth, the construction of a multimillion-dollar prison?]
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; that question is out of order. It is wide of the original question, which does relate to Ngâwhâ prison. Unless it was specifically related to that, the question is out of order. It is too general.
Hone Harawira: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It does actually relate to the prison, in that the prison was the final construction in a series of measures in Kaikohe beginning with the Department of Social Welfare upgrade, the upgrade of the police station, the building of a periodic detention centre, and culminating in the building of a multimillion-dollar prison. In the light of that, I was asking whether that is what the Labour Government’s commitment is to the social enhancement of the people of Ngâpuhi.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The problem is that the last part actually reveals the difficulty that this is a question to the Minister of Corrections. If it is a general question about contribution to social welfare, then, clearly, that is a question for the Minister for Social Development and Employment, not the Minister of Corrections.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the question was too broad, but I thank the member for his explanation.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that the recommendations of the most significant inquiry ever done into our prison system—the 1989 Roper report—is totally consistent with Ngâti Hine’s proposal and the philosophy underpinning it, and why does the Department of Corrections and the Government, despite their many fine words, continue to give habilitation and rehabilitation a low priority and move in entirely the opposite direction from those recommendations?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I am totally confident that Ngâti Hine’s proposal is consistent with what is actually happening now in Ngâwhâ prison. In fact, I visited Ngâti Hine twice earlier this year and observed those programmes, and I am very confident that they are doing a good job.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I did not actually ask the Minister whether he thought those recommendations were consistent with Ngâti Hine’s proposal. That was the premise of the question. What I was asking was: why does the Department of Corrections give a low priority to habilitation and rehabilitation, and why have the recommendations of the Roper report been ignored by the Government, and, to be fair, by the previous Government, as well?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. The original supplementary question was very broad, and therefore the Minister had much latitude in the way he responded to it, which happens in those instances.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I bring your attention to Speaker’s ruling 151/7, of Mr Speaker Kidd, in the interests of ensuring we have one law for all in the House. I note that in the exchange of supplementary questions from the Mâori Party in relation to a number of questions in the House today, questions have been prefixed with the word “given”, and two supplementary questions to this question have been prefixed with the words “now that”, which went on to a long diatribe. I note that the interpreter adjusted one of the answers for the member, but it was not an actual interpretation of the way in which the question had been put. I know that they are new members, and I understand, but could you possibly offer some guidance to ensure that we all do comply with the same laws in this House.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that observation. As he also observed, the members are new to the House, and now that you have referred them to that Speaker’s ruling, I am sure they will note it in the future.
Social Development and Employment, Minister—Police Decision
6. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he stand by his statement to the House yesterday, in relation to his authorisation of the leaking of his police file, “I gave no instruction, other than being completely honest with the media, to my press secretary”; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. I authorised the release of information to a Sunday newspaper to provide balance to the misinformation provided to the House last week by Rodney Hide. Of course I have an expectation that my press secretary will deal with the media in a clear and truthful manner. As soon as I became aware of this issue, I arranged for it to be corrected. The staff member involved was in error. This is now a staff disciplinary matter.
Simon Power: Can the Minister then explain why his press secretary will not confirm whether that Minister directed him to be honest to the media, and does that not leave the impression that the press secretary does not want to have to mislead the media twice in less than a week?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware that my press secretary was rung yesterday by the New Zealand Press Association and asked to comment on his disciplinary matter. My press secretary declined to comment, on the basis that it was inappropriate to comment on the matter. My press secretary advises me that the New Zealand Press Association has drawn an incorrect inference from his decision not to comment.
Simon Power: How does the Minister expect this House to believe that his staff member was briefed to act honestly, when that staff member leaked an embargoed police report, selectively made available quotes from that report, set up a “no comment” scenario for the Minister, and even suggested that the police had leaked the report?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not agree with those propositions. [Interruption]
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Did the member not hear the answer?
Rodney Hide: No, and I am sure it was a good one.
Madam SPEAKER: Members know that they have that in their own hands. I have warned the House before that there are to be no interventions during questions. Answers are a different matter. The noise level was high, and I am not surprised that the member could not hear. If the Minister would like to repeat his answer for the benefit of members, then would he please do so.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not agree with those propositions.
Simon Power: Why did the Minister not agree to have the leaked material attributed to him in the first place, and why did he later that day refuse requests from the newspaper in question to comment, if he and his office were not deliberately trying to conceal that he and his office were the source of the leak?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can repeat that I authorised the release of the information to the Herald on Sunday to provide balance to the misinformation provided to the House last week by Rodney Hide.
Simon Power: Has the Minister read the numerous editorials today that condemn his behaviour, in particular the Dominion Post editorial, which states: “… Mr Benson-Pope’s clumsy attempts to manipulate public opinion by damning his accusers, labelling police language ‘a bit bozo-ish’, reinventing the meaning the meaning of prima facie and leaking selected extracts of the police report … do nothing to inspire anyone with confidence that he is a fit person to hold a ministerial portfolio.”; if so, does he agree he is not a fit person to hold a ministerial portfolio, and will he resign?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes and no.
Rodney Hide: Is it not the case that there is only one person in the Minister’s office who is having trouble with honesty, and it is the Minister, and why does he not do the decent thing and resign from Cabinet and, indeed, from Parliament, for having lied to this Parliament, lied to the people of New Zealand—
Madam SPEAKER: The member knows that that is unparliamentary language. I ask the member to withdraw it and to rephrase that part of his question.
Rodney Hide: I withdraw it. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What phrase would be parliamentary to describe what this Minister has been doing to this Parliament for all these months?
Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, far be it for the Speaker to assume what members will ask. It is for the member to ask the question, not the Speaker. I ask the member to please readdress the question without that phrase.
Rodney Hide: Is it not the case that there is only one person in his office who is having trouble with honesty, and that person is the Minister; and why does he not do the decent thing and resign from Cabinet and from this Parliament for having deliberately misled Parliament, for having deliberately misled—
Madam SPEAKER: The member knows that a deliberate misleading is also not acceptable parliamentary language. Would the member like to try again, please, and rephrase that.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It seems to me that the member has got to the point now where he must withdraw and apologise. He knew what he was doing there, and he repeated the phrase for the purpose of making sure that everybody noticed what he was doing.
Madam SPEAKER: I agree with that. Would the member please withdraw and apologise, and have another attempt—the last attempt—at rephrasing the question in—
Ron Mark: Point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: I am ruling. So would the member please withdraw and apologise, and then have another go at rephrasing his question in a way that is consistent with the Standing Orders and Speakers’ Rulings.
Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I appeal to you on the grounds of consistency of ruling. Yesterday the Rt Hon Winston Peters placed a number of supplementary questions on the floor of this House that were ruled by you to be out of order. Later in the day he tried to ask another supplementary question, on the basis that his questions had not been accepted and therefore he had not actually asked them. You ruled that his questions had been ruled out of order, and therefore he had lost them. Rodney Hide has had two chances to put his supplementary question. He has failed on both occasions, and he has deliberately defied your ruling. I would have thought—and I appeal to you—that he has had his chance. Just like the Rt Hon Winston Peters yesterday, he has failed to present an acceptable supplementary question, and therefore he should be deemed to have lost it. I ask, on the grounds of consistency and fairness, that you rule he has had his chance, and that you move on.
Madam SPEAKER: The questions yesterday were ruled out of order because they were not consistent with the original question. Mr Hide has yet to complete his question. He gets one last opportunity to do so.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Mark raises a very important point, and I think it requires some careful elucidation by you of the situation. The smaller parties are particularly affected by the way in which the number of supplementary questions is allocated. If a member has two attempts, gets it wrong, and then loses his or her question, for instance, that has a much more significant impact on a smaller party, which may only be getting one or two supplementary questions a day, than on a larger party. Yesterday you ruled against the leader of New Zealand First because his attempt to ask a supplementary question had invalidated his total number. You now seem to be saying that a different set of circumstances applies today in respect of Mr Hide, who is potentially equally adversely affected. This issue will come back during the course of this Parliament, and I think it would be very useful to have a careful ruling on precisely what conditions and what actions by members will invalidate their right to ask supplementary questions.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. In this case it was not the question that was out of order; it was the use of language in putting the question that was ruled out of order. As I said, would the member please succinctly ask his question, and this is the last opportunity to do so.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order is not against Mr Peter Dunne, who was quite right, but against Mr Ron Mark, who was actually using a point of order to question your ruling—
Madam SPEAKER: I have already ruled on that matter. This is not a new point of order; it is, in fact, a questioning of that ruling. Would the member just ask his question.
Rodney Hide: Is it not the case that there is only one person in his office who is having trouble with honesty, and that person is the Minister; and why will he not do the decent thing and resign from Cabinet, and, indeed, from this Parliament, for his less than honest comments in this Parliament, to the news media, to the police, and to the people of New Zealand?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, and I certainly do not agree with the member’s proposition.
Simon Power: Why did the Minister not take his own supposed advice that his staff should be completely honest with the media when he himself chose to release a selective and deceptive analysis of his police file, to tell the media that the release of the police report was in the hands of the police, and then to leak it himself?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not agree with the propositions of the member. The material that was released was not selective. Also, as I said previously, it contained comment quite critical of myself.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I struggled to hear what the Minister was saying. He offers so little explanation that we might have actually had a good one, and I misheard it. I could not hear it.
Madam SPEAKER: This will be the last time that I will do this, because members have it in their own hands in terms of their response. Would the Minister just repeat his answer for the benefit of the member.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I commented that the material that was released was not selective and did contain comment critical of myself.
Air New Zealand—Engineering Outsourcing
7. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Finance: What advice will the Government, as majority shareholder in Air New Zealand, seek on proposals from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union regarding Air New Zealand’s engineering capacity, which are due to be presented today?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I have been advised by the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union of its proposals. I would expect the board to advise me of its response. As a general matter of good employment relations policy, I would also expect, and am confident that, the proposals will be considered seriously.
Sue Bradford: Has the Minister, in light of the potential impact on shareholder value, considered seeking independent advice from outside Air New Zealand on this proposal or is the New Zealand Government shareholding simply a rubber stamp?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No and no.
Sue Bradford: When the Minister said, in response to a question from Peter Brown the other week: “The fact that the Government is a majority shareholder … is a strong reason for not intervening in a case such as this,” did he mean to say that when this Government has financial control over a company it should not exercise this control to benefit New Zealand’s workers?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government, as a majority shareholder, has to be particularly careful it does not intervene in a way that might affect the interests of minority shareholders.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that his answer to the principal question was somewhat vague where he “expects” and he “hopes” the engineers’ proposal be given fair consideration; can he not use his legitimate influence to assure this House that the engineers’ proposal will be given fair and meaningful consideration by Air New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. What I can say is I would expect it will be given serious consideration.
Sue Bradford: Will the Minister ask Treasury and the Ministry of Economic Development to compare Air New Zealand’s proposals with those from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union from a national interest so they might help the Government decide, in a positive light, about the union’s suggestions?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because this is a decision the board must take, not the shareholders. In the end, of course, the board is accountable to shareholders for its custodianship of the company.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that the majority of voters who supported the Labour Party at the last election would, at the very least, expect him to use his legitimate influence to ensure that the engineers’ proposal is given full and fair, meaningful consideration, rather than just expect it would?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have stated the shareholders’ expectation in my answer today. That is actually quite a strong statement.
8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for Land Information: Does Land Information New Zealand stand by its evidence to the Local Government and Environment Committee that its Chief Surveyors concluded that the estuary at Wakapuaka was not included in the title to the adjoining block, and that the Mâori Land Court vesting order could not be registered under the Land Transfer Act 1952?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Land Information): Yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister aware that two fishers were yesterday issued with trespass notices by police on the Wakapuaka Estuary; has Land Information New Zealand advised police of the fact that iwi do not have title to this foreshore area?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I was aware. Whether or not Land Information New Zealand has advised the police of that, I do not know. But I can say that if the police were to ask Land Information New Zealand whether that land had title, the answer would be definitely that it does not.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Government claim that its foreshore and seabed legislation has provided certainty about the ownership of the foreshore when he, as Minister, says that that area is not owned by iwi, yet the police are issuing trespass notices for it on the grounds that iwi do own it?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member will be aware that this issue significantly predates issues around the foreshore and seabed. Land Information New Zealand does not offer advice to me on whether or not a court order, in the absence of a title, invokes the Trespass Act. My guess is that the place to secure that opinion would be in a court.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister recall the statement by the Prime Minister that it was irresponsible and ridiculous for members of the Opposition to suggest that any person might ever be issued with trespass notices for the foreshore, given that we now have exactly that situation occurring in Nelson, despite the Minister saying that his department does not accept that iwi own the area?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Crown is joined in a forthcoming court case, which I hope will recommence in March 2006, to try to resolve the issue for once and for all.
Gerry Brownlee: What’s the point of the legislation if it’s got to go to court?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The issue has nothing whatever to do with the legislation that the interjecting member has anything to say about. It predates it by many years, and in fact the first appeal by the Crown was lodged by the then Minister of Conservation, the Hon Dr Nick Smith, in the late 1990s.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the public, when they go to the beaches and the estuaries this summer to enjoy their holidays, have any confidence in Landonline’s information about areas that are publicly owned, which they are entitled to go to, when just yesterday two of my constituents were issued with trespass notices for an area that the Minister’s own department says is publicly owned?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I say again to the Minister that Land Information New Zealand does not offer advice on whether a court order, in the absence of a title, invokes the Trespass Act. I am not sure whether another piece of land of this nature exists in New Zealand. My best guess is that the way to resolve that issue would be in a court.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the title for the Wakapuaka Estuary, where police yesterday issued trespass notices to people, and also the report of Land Information New Zealand, which states that the land is not owned by iwi.
9. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What has the Government done to support the development of the biotechnology sector?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): The Government has a comprehensive programme to support biotechnology, covering research, commercialisation, and the encouragement of investment. This includes spending $175 million each year on biotechnology research, seed funds to support early-stage biotech companies, a dedicated biotechnology investment fund to invest in New Zealand companies, $12 million to fund commercial projects with Australia, and support for two biotechnology incubators, one in Waikato and one in the Manawatû.
Dave Hereora: What has the Government done to ensure that New Zealanders are engaged with research in the biotechnology sector?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has a number of innovative community engagement projects, which include a website featuring examples of biotech for use in classrooms, research programmes on ways to involve the public in decision making about new biotechnologies, a network of experts to help the Government prepare for future biotech developments, and the recent Talking Biotechnology conference, which was a huge success.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Can the Minister explain precisely why Nigel Kirkpatrick, the former chief executive officer of Industrial Research Ltd, resigned—or was pushed to resign—after he had been a consistently strong advocate for what has been described as one of New Zealand’s most promising biotechnology projects?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am sure Industrial Research Ltd will thank the member for his endorsement of the company, but Nigel Kirkpatrick was employed by the board of Industrial Research Ltd, and his employment arrangements are a matter for the board, not for me as the Minister for Crown Research Institutes.
Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked an absolutely clear question, which the Minister ducked, as to why Nigel Kirkpatrick had resigned. He has avoided the question.
Madam SPEAKER: No. The Minister very clearly, in this case, did address the question in terms of his authority.
Dave Hereora: Has the Minister seen any reports on the value of the contribution biotechnology makes to our country?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I just happen to. A recent study commissioned by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology has shown that four biotechnologies used in New Zealand primary sectors contribute between $300 million and $400 million each year to those sectors, alone. With the recent biotech investments that the Government has made, which I outlined earlier in my reply, we expect that amount of money to rise significantly in the future.
Early Childhood Education—Kindergarten Sector
10. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Education: Has he been advised of reports that the kindergarten sector is in upheaval, with compulsory fees replacing donations and teachers taking their first industrial action in nearly a decade; if so, does he think that his Government’s policies have contributed to this situation?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): I am advised that negotiations will continue on 12 and 13 December, and that two key issues are in dispute. The first is child contact hours and the second is pay for head and senior teachers. The sector is not in upheaval.
Hon Tau Henare: Does the Minister agree with the senior ministerial employee who, while watching the protest outside the House today, stated that hundreds of kindergarten teachers being engaged in strike action was “nothing more than an extended Christmas shopping day”; if so, why?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I never respond to hearsay.
Dianne Yates: What major changes has this Government implemented for the kindergarten sector since 1999?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In 2000 the Government moved all kindergartens back under the State Sector Act, giving them the benefit of a national collective agreement for kindergarten teachers. Under the previous National Government kindergartens were undervalued, the services were rundown, and the quality was threatened. Negotiations under that Government were ad hoc, and different pay rates and conditions applied all over the country. In essence, the sector was in upheaval.
Hon Tau Henare: Is the Minister aware that Clydemore Kindergarten in Ôtara has been forced to close because Government policies mean the kindergarten can no longer afford to run a sessional-based service, and that this formerly free service will be replaced with a day-care service charging up to $180 per child a week; if so, how does he think this situation helps underprivileged, poor children in Ôtara?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not aware of that particular circumstance, but I am aware that this Government is putting $485 million a year into early childhood, and that kindergarten teachers will have pay parity with primary and secondary school teachers in the years ahead. What I am certain of is that all kindergarten teachers support this Government’s strategy, not the previous Government’s strategy.
Dianne Yates: What are the key changes in the early childhood sector, and how will they affect kindergartens?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This Government has developed a funding system designed to enable all early childhood services to respond to the needs of parents and communities. A number of kindergartens are responding to those needs by offering more flexible hours, and the funding system enables them to do just that. We are also offering 20 hours free early childhood education from 2007 to increase access to early childhood services. We are continually improving quality across the sector by reviewing regulations, funding more qualified staff, and improving staff; child-staff ratios are going down, and there is funding also—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member to my left please be seated. This has happened several times. While the Minister was addressing the question the member rose. The rule is that when I am on my feet, you are all seated; if another member is on his or her feet, then the rest of us are seated. I ask the member just to remember that, please.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am not questioning either your authority or your ruling, but I simply rose because there was a pause in the Minister’s answer. I thought he had finished. Well, you can shake your head if you want to, Madam Speaker, but I am entitled to give my reasons for rising to my feet. It was not in any way meant to be an attack on the Minister’s integrity, or whatever.
Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question.
Hon Tau Henare: Is the Minister aware that North Island kindergartens have been forced to introduce compulsory fees for their services in a bid to keep their centres open for the hours required; if so, will he take responsibility for his Government’s policies ending the century-long kindergarten tradition of offering a free education service?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am a member of a Government that is about to introduce 20 free hours every single week—no, I do not.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that there have been ongoing negotiations to accommodate Clydemore kindy while the new facilities are being built?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I can.
Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave of the House to table the Early Childhood Teacher Occupational Skill Shortage Assessment from the Department of Labour.
Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave to table a report dated July 2005 called Annual Census of Children and Staff at Licensed and/or Chartered Early Childhood Services.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave to table a report from the New Zealand Educational Institute about why kindergarten teachers need term breaks, why the employer claim for contact time is excessive, and why head and senior kindergarten teachers are not being fairly rewarded.
Athletes, Elite—Government Support
11. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister for Sport and Recreation: What changes have been made in Government support for elite athletes?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Sport and Recreation): Heaps. Investment in high performance sport has grown to $30 million in 2005-06. Athletes have benefited significantly from the introduction of Prime Minister’s Sports Scholarships, with around 500 athletes receiving support during their tertiary education whilst training and competing. Three hundred athletes received performance enhancement grants, to offset the costs of being an elite athlete. There has been considerable support to coaches. Unfortunately, for the member’s interest, that has not quite got us to the point of having the Warriors win frequently.
Hon Mark Gosche: I am very sad about the last part of the Minister’s answer, but what evidence has the Minister seen that these changes have made a difference?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The results of New Zealand athletes and teams at pinnacle events are steadily improving. We won 36 medals at world championship events in 2004-05. We have world champions in canoeing, rowing, softball, netball, cycling, triathlon, bowls, mountain running, and mountain biking.
Hon Maurice Williamson: How are we going in tennis?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We placed 24th out of 202 nations at the 2004 Olympics, and there has been a significant improvement on the 2000 Olympics, when we placed 45th. I am afraid that I cannot be responsible for all sports, although I understand that tennis is having quite an administrative review at the moment. As far as swimming and a number of other sports are concerned, when they got their administration right they started winning. I recommend to the National Party that if it gets its administration right, it might then win, too.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Are elite, successful waka ama athletes who achieve international rankings funded to the same extent that other successful rowers achieve; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, because they are not part of the group of internationally recognised sports in the way that rowing is. I know there has been quite a lot of work, especially by Dallas Seymour from Sport and Recreation New Zealand with people involved in the events, but they do not have the same level of recognition, as do probably hundreds of other sports that are not true international sports.
12. ERIC ROY (National—Invercargill) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Is he satisfied that Biosecurity New Zealand is taking all appropriate steps to prevent the spread of didymo; if not, why not?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Biosecurity): Yes. This afternoon Biosecurity New Zealand announced that it is imposing a controlled area over the entire South Island. This will make it an offence under the Biosecurity Act to enter North Island waterways with gear that has been used in South Island waterways and not been cleaned. It will continue to be an offence to knowingly spread didymo between catchments within the South Island. In addition, Biosecurity New Zealand also announced today an additional research and education campaign, bringing total expenditure on didymo control this financial year to over $6 million, to ensure that all New Zealanders know they have a personal responsibility to ensure that they clean clothing and gear used in one waterway before it is used in another, particularly in the South Island but potentially in the North Island as well.
Eric Roy: If the Minister is so concerned about the spread of didymo why is it that, 1 year after the initial discovery of this serious incursion in two Southland rivers, no information was provided to sports shops and other service providers to water users such as fishing licence purchasers?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think members should know that very little was known about didymo when it was first discovered in October 2004. Biosecurity New Zealand immediately sought information, both here and overseas, on its likely impacts, developed tools for cleaning, initiated a public awareness campaign, and surveyed neighbouring Southland rivers. It then imposed movement controls on the rivers concerned, following a review of this other work. This year, a number of other infected rivers were identified outside of Southland, and further controlled areas were imposed while a major research programme and survey of all high-risk rivers was initiated. These have now been reviewed, in light of more recent information. Since then, Biosecurity New Zealand has become aware of the significant extent of didymo spread and has moved its response to an appropriate level, through a comprehensive strategy set in motion today.
Maryan Street: Can the Minister say which countries are leading the way internationally on responses to didymo?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Again, I think all members should realise that there is no treatment or technology for controlling didymo known to anywhere else on the planet. New Zealand is doing more research and monitoring of didymo than any other country. In my view, Biosecurity New Zealand’s response is appropriate and realistic, given how little is known about this organism and the fact that nothing is available to control it. I note that scientific advisers believe there is a real possibility that didymo is being spread by birds, from catchment to catchment. If this is indeed the case, then there is very little anyone can do to prevent its spread within the South Island. The most we can hope for is that through education and personal responsibility we can reduce further spread while research is carried out.
Shane Ardern: With didymo now a permanent resident in New Zealand and spreading, and with the potential long-term damage that that will cause, will the Minister admit that he was wrong to dismiss in his biosecurity summit discussion document and speech that a pest management strategy in advance of a pest being found is a smart idea, will he now take notice of the likes of Professor Morris from Massey University, who has been advising him of this for years, and will he not continue to rely on accidents, like a visiting foreign expert discovering the sea squirt at Auckland by accident and then reporting it to his biosecurity agency, before he takes action?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: There were a number of questions there. Firstly, Professor Morris, whom the member mentioned, has not been advising me for years, because I have been the Minister for Biosecurity for only a number a weeks. Let me just say that one piece of advice I have not taken was from the member himself. Firstly, he advised us to take action against a pest that had not yet arrived. He gave his second piece of advice in a press release dated 7 October: “Didymo could have been restricted to Southland’s Mararoa and Waiau Rivers if appropriate action had been taken immediately. This stuff can be killed,”. Well, if the member has a patent for that, he will make a lot of money. I will take shares in the company, because no one has a way to kill it. He went on to state: “This stuff can be killed, but unfortunately they have to kill the river for a few years to do it.” I can just imagine, as Minister for Biosecurity, going around New Zealand and saying: “Boy, have I got a deal for you. We’re going to kill didymo—that’s the good news—but the bad news is that we’re killing everything else.”
Eric Roy: Does the Minister think it is appropriate that, in his own words, a new diatom, didymo, was found in the Mararoa in mid-October 2004 and it was not until 19 August 2005 that those rivers became controlled areas?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think the work of Biosecurity New Zealand has been world-class in this area, and so do many other scientists throughout the world. For the information of the member, who may not know, Fish and Game New Zealand today welcomed the announcement by Biosecurity New Zealand that it will invest heavily in constraining both the spread and the effects of this potentially devastating organism. The Chairman of Environment Southland, an elected authority, Stuart Collie, said: “It is a logical move by Biosecurity New Zealand and it does not make sense to control only the parts of the waters that didymo is in. Council was briefed about this policy last week, and while it does not have a formal policy position, I believe it will support Biosecurity New Zealand.”
Eric Roy: I seek leave to table a report from Environment Southland that states that didymo is now colonised in Lake Manapôuri, and shows that, in fact, the horse has bolted.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I seek leave of the House to table the report from Environment Southland that welcomes Biosecurity New Zealand’s moves, stating that they are logical and make a lot of sense.