Questions And Answers - 15 February 2006
Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 15
Questions to Ministers
1. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control: Has he received any reports on possible changes to New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control): I have seen reports on the debate during the election campaign on whether New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy should be abandoned, but the latest report that I have read is dated last Wednesday and was filed in Taupô. It suggested that the election policy of holding a referendum on the entry of nuclear ships to New Zealand promoted by National would be dropped by that party, and that the party would instead adopt Labour’s policy. The report said that this move was led by Mr McCully and was an admission by National that its stance in the last election was—and I quote from the report—“confused and turned off potential voters”.
Dianne Yates: Subsequent to that report, has the Minister received any other reports on the issue; if so, what further information is disclosed by those reports?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, I have received further reports. Sadly, they disclose that Mr McCully’s views on this issue were not unanimously supported by his colleagues and that his benchmate Dr Lockwood Smith, for example, has apparently threatened to resign from Parliament if the policy was changed. It would seem that splits and divisions within the National Party on this issue will prevent National ever having a coherent and credible stand on it, and that New Zealand’s nuclear-free status would, therefore, still be under threat from any future National Government. [Interruption] Let Dr Smith deny it.
Dianne Yates: If the first report referred to by the Minister today is correct, would he not welcome the fact that this would represent near unanimity in the House in support of New Zealand remaining nuclear-free?
Hon PHIL GOFF: With the exception of the ACT party, that is right. I very much welcome that, but regrettably there is a credibility problem. At the time when National’s policy was still actually in favour of a nuclear-free New Zealand in public, Dr Brash and Dr Lockwood Smith were promising privately that the policy would be gone by lunchtime. I have to say that there have been so many reversals and flip-flops in National’s policy that nothing they say on this issue now will actually have any public credibility.
Hon Murray McCully: I ask the Minister whether he shares the view expressed publicly by his colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs that New Zealand would benefit from an improved relationship with the United States; if so, why is he yet again playing cheap political gains rather than focusing on the advancement of New Zealand’s interests in a bipartisan way in an improved relationship with the most powerful country in the world?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The only thing cheap about this issue was the cheapness of the National Party, which said one thing in public and another thing privately to visiting congressmen. That was cheap, that was deceitful, and the National Party now recognises the huge damage that it has done to itself, leastwise the member does. I give him credit for that but sadly his benchmate and a number of others on those benches have a totally different view, but I wish him well in trying to persuade his colleagues to his point of view.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like you to consider whether the proceedings under this question would have gone more speedily and with more clarification if we had a more relaxed dress standard in this House and Dr Brash and Mr McCully had been able to wear the T-shirts I presented to them in the House yesterday, and possibly Dr Lockwood Smith, too.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Would he please be seated. The member has made his point. We will now return to questions.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I seek the leave of the House to table this report, which states that National is considering totally aligning its anti-nuclear policy with Labour, admitting that the party stance on the issue was confused and turned off potential voters.
Keith Locke: I seek the leave of the House to table a copy of the T-shirt I presented to Dr Brash and Mr McCully. I think I gave them an XL size but this would fit Mr Tisch—it is a smaller size.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table one or many T-shirts. Is there any objection? There is objection.
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “A functioning society which provides its citizens with liberty and dignity needs to be built on the values of political accountability,”; if so, does she believe that she has been fully accountable to the New Zealand public?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes and yes.
Dr Don Brash: Is she accountable for the pledge card that carries her photo, her signature, and her commitments; if so, will she now pay back the money she took from the public purse to pay for it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am accountable for every pledge on that card, all of which will be fulfilled, just as the last two cards have had all the pledges fulfilled.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister familiar with this pamphlet headed What National Stands For, which has the parliamentary crest on the back, suggesting that it was paid for by the Parliamentary Service Commission, and which does exactly what the pledge card does—say what National stands for, and indirectly, therefore, encourage people to vote National?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am indeed aware of that leaflet. I am also aware of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition this morning in which he absolutely denied that any brochures paid for from the public purse were put out by the National Party in the election campaign. I would really like him to explain why that leaflet was in this National Party package that was freely handed out throughout the country by the National Party during the campaign—that very same leaflet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does she have any reports suggesting that we model our society on the values of the National Party—that is the National Party’s idea of political accountability—values which allow it to rack up over $100,000 in unauthorised election advertising, values which had its leader initially denying any knowledge of the work of the Exclusive Brethren church despite his subsequently admitting knowledge of its half-million dollar campaign on behalf of the National Party; if so, what do those reports say? Sorry, Rodney!
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am advised that when a complaint went from the Labour Party about the Exclusive Brethren’s advertising not being attributed to the National Party, that party’s response to the Chief Electoral Officer was that because it had not known anything about them or authorised them, they could not be attributed. That, of course, runs directly contrary to Dr Don Brash’s final admission, when he was forced to admit that he knew about it, that he not only agreed with the brethren that the leaflets were a good idea but further said they were tremendous, and encouraged the church to print them. I say that is attributable expenditure, and that the Exclusive Brethren’s expenditure, which is known to have been in the region of half a million to a million dollars, should have been attributable to the National Party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is early in the year, but we surely do not mean to go on with that braying series of antics from National Party members, which rose to a crescendo during that answer. They simply should not be allowed to get away with bellowing out like that, just because they do not like the information they are getting.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his comment. I have noticed there has been a lot of bellowing in this House in the short time that it has been in session, and in future there has to be order in this House. Members have a right to be heard, whoever they are.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister have the slightest evidence at all that the Exclusive Brethren paid one dime to the National Party’s campaign, and has she seen any pamphlets issued by the Exclusive Brethren that suggest that voters should vote for the National Party?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Those are coming in from all over the country, but I draw the member’s attention to one I have in my hand, where the leaflet—part of a campaign, and agreed to by the leader of the National Party—states: “It is urgent that the current Labour Government is changed.” That is why it should be attributable.
Dr Don Brash: Why, when the Prime Minister knew that the Auditor-General had forced the Government to reduce its Working for Families ad campaign, had undertaken a major review of spending from the leader’s budget, and had taken the unusual step of asking the Prime Minister to meet with him to discuss that report, did she then embark upon spending $440,000 of taxpayers’ money on Labour’s election campaign, in flagrant breach of the Auditor-General’s recommendations?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is worth pointing out that the Auditor-General took the unusual step of wanting to discuss a draft report with only two parties—Labour and National. Labour believed that that was inappropriate, and that the draft report should come out for all parties. If the member is as pure as driven snow, as he likes to pretend, why was Katherine Rich’s spokesperson circulating letters just before the election on National’s policy on tax and superannuation? I put it to you, Madam Speaker, that the reason was that the parliamentary rule has always stated that that money is to promote policies, and that is what all parties have done.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. While the Prime Minister is in the mode of pointing fingers, perhaps she might like to explain where David Benson-Pope managed to get all the addresses of State house tenants in order that they might receive Labour Party propaganda during the election campaign.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—2005 Examinations
3. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received concerning the 2005 NCEA exams?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): I have seen and heard many reports that show that the 2005 exams have gone very well indeed. The results for all 335 externally assessed standards were monitored daily, throughout the marking of the nearly 2 million papers. More than 144,000 secondary school students have now received their National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) results. All of those students can have confidence that the results accurately reflect their performance in their exams.
Moana Mackey: What criticism has he seen of the 2005 NCEA exams?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have not seen much criticism of the NCEA, but I have heard criticism from one particular source. That source, of course, is Bill English. Despite the evidence, public opinion, and support from the sector, he has continued to try to lead the anti-NCEA parade. Believe me, it is a very small parade these days. I think people’s opinions were summed up by the Christchurch principal Denis Pyatt of Papanui High School, who stated in the Press on 18 January: “I am finding Bill English’s constant attempts to undermine the NCEA tiresome in the extreme. He needs to get over it.”
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister intend to investigate allegations made, in these emails among others, that markers were told to go back over the Not Achieveds and see whether they could push them up to Achieveds, and other allegations that led one marker to say: “Professionally, I am appalled at the standard of work I am forced to give an Achieved grade to.”; and if he is not going to investigate them, can he tell us why he will not investigate allegations from markers that turned up spontaneously because of their professional concerns?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I understand that Karen Sewell has investigated every complaint that has been made. In fact, during a press conference she went through every single one of them with the journalists. She was hampered a little, however, by the fact that the two emails Mr English has been touting about have no names, and despite repeated requests for those two people to ring Karen Sewell with no repercussions—she would just fix the problem—they have refused to do exactly that.
Moana Mackey: What endorsements has he seen of the 2005 NCEA exams?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have a large number of them, but let me give just four. Debbie Te Whaiti from the Post Primary Teachers Association said that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority should be congratulated. Keegan Bartlett, a student from Wellington, said: “In my opinion NCEA is a successful, flexible, and quality system of assessment.” Bali Haque, the principal of Pakuranga College, said: “Fundamentally, it is a superior system, and philosophically it’s in the right place.”, and in the light of Mr English’s comments the president of the New Zealand Principals Federation, Pat Newman, said that Bill English needed to “step back and think about what he is doing.” It is time to step back, Bill.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister not understand that he is going down the same track as the previous two education Ministers, who lost their jobs, every time he defends the NCEA in principle but refuses to get to grips with individual issues; and does he not understand that teachers need to be told how and why scaling was reintroduced this year, and that if he cannot explain it, that will further undermine public confidence in the NCEA and himself?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not share losing a job with them, as the member who raises that question does. What I can say is that Karen Sewell has openly and transparently dealt with every problem, small or big, that has been raised, and I have encouraged her to do that every step of the way. This is not scaling, and if the member wants a seminar on that I am sure the New Zealand Qualifications Authority will provide him with one.
Hon Bill English: Would the Minister be happy for me to invite as many teachers as want to come along to the seminar on scaling in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, because many of them would be interested to know just how it has been applied; and can he confirm that he has now refused to investigate allegations that scaling was applied in an informal way to many exams not on his re-marking list?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would be delighted to meet with the teachers that the member may like to get together. I imagine it will take him a fair while to get them, and they may not want their names known, etc. But let him give it a whirl, and I will come along and meet with them. I say once again that Karen Sewell has openly and transparently dealt with every single issue. In a press conference she literally went through the issues one by one with the journalists who were there. That is what she has done, and if the member is not satisfied then that, frankly, is too bad.
Hon Bill English: Why have scholarship results been delayed until 23 February, when it is well known they were marked by the middle of December, and when a week or so ago they were accidentally put up on the website; and why are they delayed until all those who are interested in the results have already enrolled in their tertiary education courses?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Cabinet agreed in May last year that scholarship results would come out later this year in order to provide for the checking of all results. Cabinet agreed it was more important to get the results accurate, to make sure that we are now able to move forward on a firm platform, and I have just explained why.
Hon Bill English: Does this mean that Cabinet will look at scholarship results, in order to ensure they are not controversial, before students get the results; and can he confirm that students will get the results for scholarship in 2005 after they have enrolled in their tertiary education courses for 2006—and is that not just ridiculous?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, we will not be looking at the results, as the member suggests. Cabinet agreed that they would be a little later this year. That has been known since May of last year, so everybody knows exactly that. This morning I met with the reference group overseeing scholarship, comprising three people whom I think even Mr English would regard as authorities in the area. They told me this morning that scholarship has gone outstandingly well this year. The member should argue with them.
4. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “We need a strong economy to deliver the living standards, the services, and the quality of life which the citizens of our first world country expect,”; if so, does she agree that increasing the incomes of New Zealand workers depends in the long term primarily on increasing productivity?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes. And, yes, productivity improvements are critical to lifting New Zealand’s economic performance. Such improvements are not achieved by slashing workers’ and environmental protections, as the member favours.
Dr Don Brash: Why, given her acceptance of the crucial importance of improving productivity, does she seem totally unconcerned about the fact that productivity per hour worked in New Zealand increased by a miserable 0.8 percent per annum in the 5 years to September last, which is substantially lower than productivity growth in Australia and other developed countries?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I should think it is not uncoincidental that New Zealand has had a large surge in employment, and sharply falling unemployment. A lot of people come into employment at the lower end of the wage ladder and skills ladder. Our objective, over time, is to lift those skills levels to contribute to raising productivity.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister name one single economist who believes that with present policies, productivity growth in New Zealand will enable New Zealand incomes to overtake those in Australia within one decade, two decades, or even three decades; if so, who is that economist?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would advise the member to consider that under a Labour Government GDP per capita grew at a rate nearly 40 percent higher than Australia’s. When that member was running monetary policy and contributing to failed Government policies, our GDP per capita under a National Government over the relevant 5-year period grew 40 percent more slowly than Australia’s.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister made no attempt at all to answer that question. I asked whether she could name any economist—any single economist—who thought that, on present trends, New Zealand incomes would overtake those in Australia within one, two, or even three decades. A “yes” or “no” answer was required.
Madam SPEAKER: No, the Minister is entitled to address the question and that is what the Minister did. She may not have answered it in the way the member wanted, but there was an addressing of the substance of the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that there was such an economist who rejected the incremental approach of Australia post-1983, preferring of course the Douglas – Ruth Richardson approach, which has taken us to the position that we are now in, and that that economist, or so-called economist, was one Don Brash?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I believe that what the member said in his question is absolutely true. I also would not be able to name any economist who agreed with “Dr Doom” opposite that we were heading for a prolonged recession.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister, in answering that question, did not use the member’s correct name. Would she please do so in future.
Gerry Brownlee: She should withdraw.
Madam SPEAKER: The member wishes the remark to be withdrawn. Would the Prime Minister please withdraw the term “Dr Doom”.
Rt Hon Helen Clark: Cheerfully, Madam Speaker. I withdraw.
Sue Bradford: Has the Prime Minister seen a Treasury report dated March 2004 on the increase in income for young workers that demonstrated no negative effects on youth employment from a substantial increase in the youth minimum wage, and is she aware of any reasons why young people should earn lower wages for doing exactly the same work as other workers?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that the first part of the member’s question, which is a factual assertion, is, indeed, true. Contrary to the advice of all those who have advised for years that if the minimum wage went up unemployment would grow, in fact, as I said in my speech yesterday, 293,000 more Kiwis are working today than were 6 years ago before steady increases in the minimum wage began under a Labour-Progressive Government. I want to tell the member that I am aware of her member’s bill. Labour will be supporting that to a select committee so that the evidence for and against can come out.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Prime Minister received any advice from any economist, including Dr Don Brash, to explain why the Australian economy has had higher productivity growth despite a more tightly regulated labour market, 4 weeks’ annual holiday for all workers, a higher tax rate for high incomes, and tighter regulations of markets such as the telecommunications market; if not, is that why the Government has ignored that continual bleat of advice from the Opposition?
Madam SPEAKER: Before the right honourable Prime Minister responds, I remind members that questions are asked in silence, and that question was not.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the Minister of Finance suggested, the Australian experience is indeed instructive in that paying workers more highly and having more protections is certainly not running counter to having a strong economy and good growth rates.
Dr Don Brash: Is it not true that on the basis of present trends in productivity on both sides of the Tasman, New Zealand workers can never expect to enjoy the income levels of Australian workers, and indeed can expect to continue declining relative to Australian workers?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If anything like the performance of the last 5 years was repeated, with New Zealand GDP per capita growing far higher—40 percent higher—than Australia’s, indeed over time we would catch up. I say that the member’s tune on this issue of comparisons has not changed in close to 30 years, since he wrote to his mother in 1979 that he had a terrible fear that the economic gap would become so vast between New Zealand and Australia that the skill drain would accelerate. He said that if that were to happen, New Zealand society as we now know it might not survive. I say to Dr Brash, we are here—and thriving.
Dr Don Brash: Why did the Prime Minister not haul her Minister of Finance into line when he condescendingly dismissed Treasury’s advice on how to improve productivity in New Zealand as “an ideological burp”; or does she agree with his assessment?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I absolutely agree with Dr Cullen that low-tax, low-wage, low-skill, low-value economies deregulated and privatised do not contribute to a thriving New Zealand. That is why we do not follow Dr Brash’s policies.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister think the transformation of the New Zealand economy is under way, given that ANZ National Bank believes that the New Zealand economy may well have gone backwards in the December quarter, and that the survey conducted by the Institute of Economic Research showed that business confidence was at its lowest level in 35 years; if she does believe that that is what transformation means, how does she explain it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, a process of economic transformation sees New Zealand forecast to come through this dip in the business cycle at the lowest growth of 1.7 percent. When Dr Brash was helping the National Party in his capacity as Governor of the Reserve Bank, we bottomed out at under zero, thanks to that combination of policies at the bottom of the business cycle.
Sue Bradford: I seek leave to table a paper from Treasury dated 2004 dealing with the impacts of raising the youth minimum wage on the labour market.
Information Technology—Broadband Capacity
5. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Communications: Does he stand by the Government’s target to get New Zealand into the top half of the OECD for broadband uptake by next year when New Zealand is currently 22nd out of 30 countries for broadband; if so, why?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Communications): Yes, the Government set an ambitious target to be in the top quarter of the OECD by 2010, and an interim stretch goal to meet the average of the OECD by 2007. Despite progress in some areas, that interim target appears unlikely, on present trends, to be met. As outlined in the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, New Zealand is lagging behind on many broadband indicators. The Government considers that those results are unsatisfactory. Therefore, we are addressing the policy legislative and regulatory settings—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would all members be seated. Would the Minister please be seated. The Minister’s response is far too long, and we could not hear it anyway, because of the barracking. So would we please now move to the supplementary question.
Gordon Copeland: When the Prime Minister said yesterday that the Government will address the policy, legislative, and regulatory settings surrounding broadband as a matter of urgency, does that mean that broadband will be within the means of ordinary New Zealanders by the end of this year?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The objectives of the Government’s digital policy are clearly set out in the Digital Strategy, and they are for all New Zealanders to have access to broadband that is cheap, fast, and available.
Maryan Street: What is the Government already doing to improve broadband uptake in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: First, the Digital Strategy launched last year represents a $400 million commitment to boosting demand in the sector. It includes the Broadband Challenge, the Community Partnership Fund, the Advanced Network for research, and the Government Shared Network. Second, we are upgrading the speed and decisiveness of the regulatory process through the Telecommunications Amendment Bill. Third, we have an urgent regulatory stocktake under way, and we will be announcing further action by the middle of this year.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that 85 percent of small businesses in Australia report efficiency gains through broadband use, whereas almost every small business in New Zealand is without broadband; if he is aware of that, why did the Government not take action on that matter years ago?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is obvious that the Government has taken action over the last 5 years, and that stands in complete contrast to the actions of the Opposition when in Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table two documents. One is dated 6 May 1998 and is a report to the Treasurer on these issues, and the second is a speech from 4 August 1998 supporting the deregulation of this industry, all of which the National Party promptly forgot.
Taito Phillip Field—Conflicts of Interest Report
6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: When does she expect to receive the final report from Dr Noel Ingram into allegations of conflicts of interest involving Taito Phillip Field?
Madam SPEAKER: Who interjected?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I apologise. I was responding unwittingly to a question from over here.
Madam SPEAKER: So two of you were having a conversation while a member was trying to ask a question. That is the last warning to you all.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Mr Ingram has not yet identified a date for the final report, but I am advised that he is making progress.
Gerry Brownlee: Why did the Prime Minister decide that the inquiry could “take as long as it needs” after the 4 October 2005 deadline was missed, and why has she not set further deadlines?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do think the inquiry should take as long as it needs. I am rather surprised at National Party members complaining about the time it has taken, because originally they complained that Mr Ingram had not been given long enough.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister aware of any reasons that might be causing Dr Ingram to delay his report back regarding this issue; if so, has she done anything to try to alleviate those reasons?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No. I am aware, however, that when we hired Mr Ingram he had a lot of other work on his hands. That has also had to be progressed while he has been doing this investigation.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr Field is continuing to make immigration representations while he is being investigated; if so, what checks are in place to ensure that all of those cases are above board?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not think anyone would expect Mr Field to stop acting as an electorate member of Parliament during the inquiry, but I am sure he will act in the light of knowledge that there is an investigation going on, in terms of which cases are forwarded to the Minister. The Minister will be considering them carefully in that light, as well.
Crown Law Office—Resourcing
7. HONE HARAWIRA (Mâori Party—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Attorney-General: Is he satisfied with the resourcing provided to the Crown Law Office to enable it to respond in a timely and professional manner?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Attorney-General): Generally, yes.
Hone Harawira: He aha tôna whakautu ki a Pita Tashkoff o Tâmaki-makau-rau, kua whanga nei mô te 8 marama mai i te wâ i tae ake tôna amuamu mô te Ture Takutai Moana ki te Tari Ture o te Karauna, â, kua kôrero anô ia, ko te tikanga o te whakautu o te Kâwanatanga he mahi whakatô, kia roa, kia kore e tutuki wawe tana take?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What is his response to Peter Tashkoff of Auckland, who has waited for 8 months since his complaint about the Foreshore and Seabed Act was lodged with Crown Law, and who has stated that the ongoing delays in the Government’s response to his complaint are intended to deliberately stall the process?]
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Crown Law Office charges Government departments fees for any legal advice or services the office gives to departments. For example, in the case of foreshore and seabed negotiations, Vote Justice actually administers the cost of those negotiations. Having said that, I am not aware of any Crown Law resourcing constraint causing any delay in any of those negotiations.
Christopher Finlayson: If the resourcing of the Crown Law Office is generally adequate, how does the Attorney-General explain the serious decrease in client satisfaction with that office, which is recorded at page 28 of the report of the Crown Law Office dated 30 June 2005?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I do not understand there to be any serious complaint with the quality of the service that the Crown Law Office is providing departments.
Tariana Turia: What will Crown Law’s response be to the complaint that I lodged on 14 April 2005—some 10 months ago—which referred to the United Nations’ findings that the Foreshore and Seabed Act contained discriminatory aspects against Mâori in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Mâori customary title over the foreshore and seabed; and when will I receive a response, or will I be told yet again that the response is delayed because of competing work priorities?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I can assure the member that lack of resources is not behind any delay that the member may have suffered—if indeed such delay has been suffered.
Gerry Brownlee: With how many parties is the Government currently involved in negotiations over seabed and foreshore issues?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not see how that is related to the question of the resourcing of the Crown Law Office.
Madam SPEAKER: It was raised in a supplementary question.
Hon DAVID PARKER: The negotiations that are currently afoot with—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. To assist the Minister, I point out that the Attorney-General is responsible for foreshore and seabed negotiations, so the question is relevant. It was also raised in the context of the questions.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Current negotiations involve three iwi: Ngâti Porou, Te Whânau-a-Apanui, and Ngâti Porou ki Hauraki.
Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take offence at the comment the Minister made when he said “if such a delay indeed happened”. Is he questioning my integrity in relation to the first question, when I said that I had written a letter in April last year?
Madam SPEAKER: Ministers, in their responses, do not have to accept the assertions of members, of whatever nature. The Minister responded in addressing the question. If the member has taken offence at that, the member can raise a point of order and ask for that comment to be withdrawn.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I can clear the matter up. I did not intend to question her choice of dates, or cause offence. I was not accepting the proposition that there was delay, though.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you for that clarification.
Hone Harawira: E ai ki tôna môhio, he aha te whakautu o te Tari Ture o te Karauna ki te take i tae ake i te 17 o Hakihea i te tau 2004, i kî nei mô te Ture Takutai Moana he pire tçrâ ,“i takahi i tôna mana tangata, he mea whakahahani, he mea e noho taupatupatu nei ki ngâ kôrero o ngâ Ture Whakamana i te Tangata i Aotearoa”, kei te whakaae ia me waiho te take nei mô te 14 marama tuhi reta ai?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What will Crown Law’s response be to the complaint first lodged on 17 December 2004, in which the complainant contends that the foreshore and seabed legislation “violates his human rights, that it is racist, and that it should be declared as inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights”; and does he think it is OK to take 14 months to write a letter?]
Hon DAVID PARKER: I certainly do not accept the proposition advanced that this legislation breached the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Te Wananga o Aotearoa—Audit Reports
8. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Did Te Wânanga o Aotearoa receive unqualified audit reports in each of the years 1999 through to 2003, and did the Government believe those reports were a reliable measure of Te Wânanga o Aotearoa financial systems?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister for Tertiary Education): Yes; and, at the time, to the extent that the lack of qualification indicated there were no problems affecting the financial statements in a material manner, yes.
Hon Bill English: How did the Minister and officials manage to overlook a fundamental conflict of interest that went on for 2 years between the role of Deloitte’s as the auditor that signed off the accounts with an unqualified opinion, and Deloitte’s role at the same time as the Government adviser on fixing the wânanga’s financial processes?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It was not overlooked. There are Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand ethical standards covering such situations. Under those standards, two people from the same firm can perform different work for the same organisation if they follow certain rules set down by the institute. In the situation at the wânanga there was considerable separation: the auditors were working out of Hamilton, and the management consulting side worked out of Christchurch—a different section of the firm.
Hon Bill English: If it was all fine, why did the Government, when it finally realised this conflict of interest, tell Deloitte’s it had to pick one or the other, and Deloitte’s decided to drop its $100,000 consultancy and stay on as the auditors; and how can he get up in the House and describe it as if it were all OK, when the Government itself forced Deloitte’s to address the conflict?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government took advice from the Auditor-General. There was a perception issue, and therefore the wânanga—
Hon Bill English: He was the auditor.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the wânanga development adviser resigned, not the auditor.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell the House whether accountability for this real and perceived conflict of interest could be sheeted home to, among others, Mr Shane Jones, who sat on the audit and finance committee of the wânanga, and who worked with Deloitte’s both as the auditor and as the consultant to the Government; and if Mr Jones was involved, why is he still the chair of the fisheries commission, particularly when the Prime Minister said last year that he would give up that position?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no responsibility for the fisheries commission. On the former matter, I repeat that there are rules governing separation. It is common in large accountancy firms for more than one aspect of business to be dealt with within the same firm. That is common both here and, of course, internationally. On the matter that the member raises, I do not think the issues he raised are at all appropriate, because Mr Jones acts as one of those trying to fix up the problems of the wânanga around the audit, and if the member had cared to check his facts somewhat better, he would have found that Mr Jones withdrew from that position when he was dissatisfied with the progress being made.
Hon Bill English: In the Minister’s opinion as an experienced Minister, is it satisfactory, given Mr Jones’ involvement in a number of aspects of the wânanga’s finances that the Auditor-General found to be unsatisfactory, that the Government continues to endorse Mr Jones’ position as chair of the fisheries commission, and why does it do so, when the Prime Minister told this House last year that Mr Jones would be standing down?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister does not have any responsibility for the fisheries commission. Would the member like to ask another supplementary question.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister, in the light of his experience of having responsibility for Mr Jones’ being involved in the wânanga’s finances, to therefore give an opinion on his capacity to carry out another job.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, and it would be very interesting to hear Ministers’ and members’ opinions on everything, but it does have to be connected to the matters they are responsible for. So perhaps the member would like to ask another supplementary question that connects it more directly to the Minister’s responsibilities.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that it is appropriate for a member of Parliament to continue double-dipping into the public purse when his performance as a member of the wânanga audit and finance committee was inadequate?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I reject the last assertion. Mr Jones is one of those who was trying to put to rights the mess being created by the National Party’s friend Rongo Wçtere at the wânanga—a man who was endorsing the National Party and supporting it, as the National Party was supporting him, before the election. Mr Jones was dissatisfied by the way in which the National Party’s Tory mates were behaving in managing the wânanga.
Hon Trevor Mallard: When considering matters to do with the wânanga, will the Minister take the advice of the Hon Bill English given on Radio Waatea, which was very supportive of the wânanga, and the advice of Dr Don Brash when he was inside the wânanga, which was highly supportive of it, or will he take the advice given on National Radio by Mr Bill English, which was opposed to the wânanga, and the advice from Dr Don Brash given outside the wânanga, when he attacked it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am getting far too old to keep up with the flip-flops within the National Party to worry too much about its members’ positions.
Taxation—New Zealand Residents
9. SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What is the basic principle that applies to the taxation of income earned by New Zealand residents?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): New Zealand’s system of income taxation is based on the principle that New Zealand residents are taxed on their worldwide income.
Shane Jones: Has he received any reports suggesting that this principle be altered?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I receive many reports, obviously, from people who do not want to be taxed at all, but I have seen two particular reports. The first, dated 8 February 2006, suggested: “… there is no rationale for taxing Kiwi investments offshore at all.” The second, dated 9 February 2006, read: “His suggestion that I want to abandon the current regime that taxes dividends on foreign-held shares is nonsense.” Both reports are from John Key, which shows that changing the leader will merely mean that flip-flops will be prettier in the future.
John Key: Does the Minister believe that whatever changes are made to the “grey list” countries going forward should include Australia, or does he believe that Australia warrants a special status going forward in terms of overseas taxation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure that any changes going forward will include Australia. I think it is likely that a special case will be made in respect of Australia as part of the single economic market project.
Television New Zealand—Former Chief Executive
10. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Is he concerned by the decision of the Board of Television New Zealand to strip former chief executive Ian Fraser of his remaining duties because of comments he made to the Finance and Expenditure Committee; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): I understand that the Finance and Expenditure Committee has met today to discuss correspondence from both the Television New Zealand chair and Mr Fraser. I also understand that the committee is expecting to raise the issue with the Speaker as there is no clear answer on the events that took place. I am further advised that Television New Zealand has withdrawn its allegation of serious misconduct towards Mr Fraser.
John Key: What information did he receive as Minister from the board in advance of the proposal to punish Mr Fraser for the comments that he made in front of the Finance and Expenditure Committee?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: None. The chairperson simply advised me that it had been done.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise the House of any proposed changes to the board of Television New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In December I had the pleasure of announcing the appointment of Sir John Anderson, who has now joined the Television New Zealand board as the chair designate. It is intended that Sir John will become the chair of Television New Zealand in April when the current chair, Craig Boyce, finishes his term.
John Key: Why was the Minister not informed of the board’s intention when this is in direct contravention of the “no surprises” policy, where Crown company boards are to inform Ministers in advance of anything contentious; what action will he be taking against the board on this account?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This was seen by the board as strictly an employment matter; therefore it took legal advice and advised me at the time that it sent the letter.
John Key: Does he believe that the actions taken by Television New Zealand in relation to Mr Fraser were appropriate; if he does not, does he still have confidence in the board of Television New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have confidence in the board as a hard-working and conscientious group of people. The matters of employment are in their hands; they are not in mine.
John Key: Does the Minister think it reflects badly on the governance of Television New Zealand that the Finance and Expenditure Committee this morning voted unanimously to send this matter to the Speaker for consideration as a breach of privilege; if not, why not?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Has that been announced publicly by the chair of the select committee or in fact is that still a matter not in the public arena?
John Key: It has.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If it has then there is no difficulty.
Madam SPEAKER: Has there been a public announcement of the decision by the chair of the select committee?
John Key: I take it that, when Shane Jones is surrounded by cameras coming out of the committee and the select committee announces that we have put out an announcement, that would be the case.
Madam SPEAKER: I ask the chairperson to confirm whether it is a matter of public record.
Shane Jones: A formal press statement will be released after this session.
Madam SPEAKER: So it has not been released yet?
Shane Jones: Not a formal press statement, no.
Madam SPEAKER: But the decision of the committee has been released into the public arena.
Shane Jones: The decision of the committee has been reached. Both Mr Key and I have been interviewed about it by the media.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The simple question is whether the chairman has confirmed to any media outlet that this course of action is under way.
Madam SPEAKER: I take it from what the chair said that that was, presumably, the subject of the press conference that Mr Key and Mr Jones gave. Is that correct?
Shane Jones: It is correct.
Madam SPEAKER: It is correct. Then we will proceed.
John Key: I made it very clear to the chairman that he would be interviewed coming out of the select committee in relation to this matter.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I understand that the matter has been referred to the Speaker’s office, because the Clerk’s advice was that there were a number of grey areas that would benefit from that advice being received by the committee. That is what I understand is going on.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That raises an issue that I also ran across when chairing a select committee in the past, in that a committee can make a resolution that a press statement will be issued. It does not necessarily get issued even that day. Cameras are sometimes waiting outside, knowing that the matter is on the committee’s agenda. I wonder what guidance there is for chairs about whether they must remain mum until the press release has formally gone out, which is a matter that the clerk of the committee usually deals with. Sometimes members are not aware when the press release has been issued and when it has still to be issued. I think there is a risk that members may be caught in a breach of privilege, and some clarity would be helpful.
Madam SPEAKER: As I understand it, when the chair is authorised by the committee to make a statement and that statement is made on leaving the committee, formally or informally it is made. But I accept the point the member raises. It would be a useful one to discuss at a meeting of the chairs of select committees so there is clarity about how to proceed in those circumstances.
Fisheries, Minister—Bottom Trawling
11. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: What advice or reports has he received or asked for on the ecological values of the areas proposed by the fishing industry to be closed to bottom trawling in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone, and who provided that advice?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Fisheries): The fishing industry, mainly the Fisheries Council with expert advice, developed a proposal for extension of the areas to be closed to bottom trawling—that is, in our exclusive economic zone—based on achieving coverage of closures broadly representative of the classes identified in the marine classification report prepared by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and released in 2005. After being approached by the industry, I sought advice from the Ministry of Fisheries on the proposal, and it provided advice in consultation with scientists from the Department of Conservation. As a result of that advice, I asked the industry to consider adjustment of its proposal, to improve the representativeness of the closures. The industry subsequently submitted a revised, enhanced proposal, which I now strongly support.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister satisfied that the areas proposed are genuinely the areas of greatest ecological importance, rather than simply areas in which the industry has no commercial interest?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am satisfied that the areas are genuinely representative, and that is confirmed by the scientific advice that I have received. I am advised also that the areas proposed for closure are virtually untouched, with only a small amount of fishing having occurred previously. We would rather preserve representative and undamaged environments than those already modified by bottom trawling. It is untrue for anyone to suggest that the proposed areas have no value to the fishing industry. The proposed closures include areas that the industry could have developed and, in fact, did want to develop. For example, the entire Kermadec zone is proposed for closure, and this zone is potentially very productive. It has not been fished yet simply because it is too far from ports.
Sue Moroney: Has the Minister seen any other reports on the merits of the industry proposal?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have. This morning the Christchurch Press quoted marine biologist Dr Steve O’Shea, whom I understand is a consistent adviser to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, and is the director of the earth and oceanic sciences research institute of the Auckland University of Technology. He said: “In my wildest dreams I never thought they would take something like this as a starting point. This is usually where you end. It is a totally commendable proposal.” The Press also stated that Dr O’Shea was “blown away” by the proposal, the likes of which he had never expected to see in his lifetime. According to the report, Dr O’Shea would have to rewrite many of the speeches and university papers that he had prepared in the past that were critical of the industry, but he did not mind doing so.
Phil Heatley: Is the proposed benthic protection area set aside from bottom trawling a type of marine protected area, and how does it fit into that definition?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: This is a unique proposal. It is the largest area ever put aside by any nation, in the history of this issue of fish conservation alongside economic development. It goes through the exclusive economic zone, and it is side by side, of course, with the marine protection policy that the Government is developing now and will announce later in the year. I know that my colleagues in the environment and fisheries areas are very supportive of this as a productive, forward-looking, and visionary proposal, but it sits alongside the marine protected area proposal, which will be finalised this year.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Government be picking up the costs of enforcing these closures, or recovering the costs from the industry, or will industry compliance with the closure areas be voluntary?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: No area of economic activity has such stringent user charges as the fishing industry. The Government, however, has the Project Protector programme in which it is investing $500 million of capital, and part of that will be operational in terms of agencies like the Customs Service and the Ministry of Fisheries. Fisheries and customs officers will be on those ships, and they will be monitoring and holding to account anyone who is transgressing these areas. That will, of course, add operational expenditure for the Government, but the fishing industry knows that it shares costs with the Government in a variety of ways. The details of that are yet to be worked through. I just advise and remind the member that these are draft proposals. They go out for full consultation, and then officials from both the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation will advise the Government further.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What consultation process will his ministry be undertaking, and with which stakeholders, before backing the industry proposal, and will all the ecological reports he referred to be made public?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: To answer the last point first, the fishing industry prepared very full details of its proposal, and they were made public yesterday. The consultation will include all stakeholders—non-governmental organisations as well as fishing partners. All that material, and the official advice that comes to the Government as a result, will of course be made public.
12. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by his statement that “almost 30 percent of the inmates” currently in jail are “no risk to society”; if so, why?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Corrections): I stand by my statement that almost 30 percent of inmates received into prison are sentenced to less than 6 months, and some of those inmates are no risk to society.
Simon Power: Can he confirm to the House that his proposals to release almost 30 percent of inmates—people who are “no risk to society”—will not compromise the Department of Corrections’ primary goal of safer communities; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have no proposals. I was asked by the media what ideas had I learnt while on a trip overseas. I have qualified any of those ideas with an absolute commitment by myself, and by every Minister and member of this Government, that we will continue to catch, convict, and lock up serious and violent offenders. The record shows that we have been successful in doing that, and we will continue to protect society from violent and dangerous offenders.
Simon Power: Who is right: Phil Goff, who changed the sentencing, bail, and parole laws after the 1999 referendum on wanting tougher sentences, or the Minister, who now says that 30 percent of inmates are no risk to society, at all?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I did not say that 30 percent—
Simon Power: Yes, the Minister did. Here is the transcript from National Radio.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I welcome the opportunity to read the transcript of the interview, and I will do that.
Madam SPEAKER: As long as it is short; otherwise table it.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: “Those low-risk offenders, the people who are spending less than 6 months in jail—that is, almost 30 percent of inmates—and people who are no risk to society but who have a debt to repay, and perhaps there is a better way of their repaying that debt.”
Ron Mark: Has the Minister read the Department of Corrections’ annual report 2004-05 and particularly the table headed “Recidivism Index 12 Month Follow-up Percentages for 2003-04”, which shows clearly that those people who are imprisoned for short periods of 6 months to 2 years have a far higher reimprisonment rate and reconviction rate than those sentenced to prison for over 5 years—the figures are 30.4 percent reimprisonment for them, as compared with 18.9 percent reimprisonment for those with sentences of over 5 years—and does that not say that people who are sentenced to prison for longer learn faster and do not reoffend?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The one sad reality, with all prison systems throughout the world, is that the recidivism rate is far too high for people who go to prison. That is why it is far better if there are other options, rather than sending them to prison. The other reality is that we have to work better on rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, so that people who leave jail stay out of jail.
Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by his statements on National Radio yesterday, where he said: “the people who are spending less than 6 months in jail—that is, almost 30 percent of inmates—and people who are no risk to society”, or does he consider that to be part of what the Prime Minister has referred to as “sentencing creep”?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As I have tried to explain—and I am happy to table the full transcript after this question, and the member may choose to take a part of it—I was clearly implying, and have done in many interviews over the last couple of days, that 30 percent of the inmates in jail are there for fewer than 6 months. By inference, that would imply that judges have deemed them not to have seriously offended. There are also in excess of 39 percent of inmates who are deemed to be of low risk to society. I think we have a moral obligation to look at better ways of dealing with offenders than simply locking them up and throwing away the key. I would like to remind the House that the member Simon Power is very enthusiastic about US policy, and that in the US they lock up people at three times the rate we do in this country. I do not want that member ever to become the Minister of Corrections.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Minister of Corrections talking about that category of offenders who serve fewer than 6 months, which the previous National Government passed legislation on, through the Criminal Justice Amendment Act, that reduced the minimum sentence they had to serve from half of the sentence to a third of the sentence, or is it a different category of inmate, such as addressed by the sentencing and parole Acts, where the sentences have become much tougher and much longer, and inmates have to spend a much greater percentage of their sentence in jail, rather than being released early?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: It is not the second category. It is the first category that I am looking to try to help. I applaud the efforts of that Minister in making sure that we catch criminals and lock up serious and dangerous offenders. Indeed, that is exactly what we have done in Government.
Simon Power: Has the Minister just decided that it has all become a bit too hard for him, with budget blowouts, the increasing prison numbers, prisoners helping themselves to tea and coffee and showering at rugby clubrooms, and criminals applying for jobs as prison guards, and has he now decided to adopt a new policy of “if in doubt, let them out”?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am proud of this Government’s record around corrections. We have committed almost a billion dollars to build four new prisons. We now have in place facilities to cater for the increasing number of criminals whom we catch, convict, and penalise in this country. But we have a moral obligation to look at ways of better rehabilitating and reintegrating low-risk offenders into society.
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )