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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 15 March 2006

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )

Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Whangamata Marina—Minister’s Intervention
2. KiwiSaver Scheme—Alternatives
3. Payroll Tax—Employment
4. Pharmac—Subsidies
5. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—COOL IT Programme
6. Crime—Foreign Nationals
7. Surgical Discharges—Comparisons
8. Music—Commercial Radio
9. Prison Population Forecast 2005—Justice, Minister
10. Police Act—Review Proposal
11. Disability Issues, Minister—Advocacy Role
12. BreastScreen Aotearoa—Capacity

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Whangamata Marina—Minister’s Intervention

1. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: What communications did he or his office have with John Wilson or Bob Harvey prior to his decision on 7 March to overturn the Environment Court on Whangamata marina that would have given John Wilson information to write in an email on 3 March that “Chris Carter is going to pull the plug on the Marina but is asking for us to back him up.” and “We have received confirmation from Bob Harvey who contacted Shanksy to say the Minister has got the balls to go ahead and stop the Marina going ahead at Whanga.”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Following the lead story in the New Zealand Herald on 1 March speculating about my decision on the Whangamata marina, my office and I were besieged by inquiries. As far as I can establish, no communication took place with a person named John Wilson, although a conversation was had with Bob Harvey. At all times my office and I emphasised to anyone who contacted us that I had not made a decision on the marina, and in fact on 2 March I agreed to delay making my final decision until the following week to enable the Whangamata Marina Society to provide me with further information.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister tell the House exactly what he did tell Bob Harvey on the Whangamata marina; and might he also explain to the House why it was appropriate to talk to a mayor on the opposite coast, over 100 kilometres away, when he had no communication at all with the Thames-Coromandel mayor?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I have just answered in reply to the primary question, I emphasised to everybody who contacted me over this issue that I had not made a final decision. Mayor Harvey contacted me because of his long association with the surfing association, of which I understand he has been honorary president at times.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister did not answer the question. It was very specific. He said in his primary answer that he had discussed the matter with Bob Harvey. I asked him what he said to Mr Harvey. I also asked him why he had spoken to Mr Harvey and not to the Mayor of Thames-Coromandel where the Whangamata marina is, and he made no attempt at all to answer that.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If one chooses to ask a number of questions within a supplementary question, one can only expect to get an answer to one of those—the Minister may address one of those questions. It is clear the Minister did address what he said to Mr Harvey. He stated quite clearly that he told him he had not made his final decision.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Speaking to the point of order, I ran out of time in giving my answer but I would just like to tell the member that I spent an hour and a half with Philippa Barriball, the Mayor of Thames-Coromandel, looking at the site. I spent a lot of time discussing the issue with her before I made my decision.

Madam SPEAKER: As was said, Ministers are obliged to answer only one supplementary question. Also, the Minister did address the question. I listened very carefully.

Steve Chadwick: Along with phone calls and emails, is the Minister aware of any other email campaigns about the Whangamata marina proposal?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I have seen an email also dated 3 March circulated by the president of the Marina Society, which states: “If you haven’t yet emailed the Minister, do so, and encourage your friends to, as well. Another good option is to ring talkback and grizzle like hell.” The president of the Marina Society has every right to send out an email like that. I welcome lobbying from anyone.

Metiria Turei: Was the Minister of Conservation, in reaching his decision on the application, obliged to take steps to protect rare and endangered species, such as the banded rail, which inhabits the Whangamata estuary, and is this the same responsibility that he has for protecting the rare and endangered snail, Powelliphanta augustus, on the Stockton ridge?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes.

Gordon Copeland: What advice does he have at this point in time for the people of Whangamata who spoke to him and who would like to see a marina in their town; can he suggest an alternative site where a marina could be built and, if so, does he believe it would occur in less time than the 14 years it took in respect of the preferred site, now ditched by the Minister?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have a great deal of sympathy for the Whangamata Marina Society, but there is no legal capacity for me to suggest any other site. Each application must stand on its own merits. I am not against marinas; just not on that site.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: When he told the House yesterday that he had “followed due process”, does he consider it due process to tell his mates in advance of the decision, get them to organise an email campaign supporting his decision, and then use those emails to justify his decision?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: At no point did I tell my mates, or people who were not my mates, what my final decision was going to be. As I have already answered, I welcome people lobbying me on issues. It is good for politicians to hear from the public.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does he reconcile his statement to the Waikato Times on 7 March that he was seeking more information prior to making a decision on the Whangamata marina with the email on 3 March stating that Chris Carter is going to “pull the plug on the marina, but is asking us to back him up.”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am not responsible for what other people send out by email. If I had sent that email myself I would be responsible, but I did not.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister consider 13 years to be a reasonable time in which to process a resource consent; if not, what will he do to change things?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am sorry to announce to the House that I am not the Minister responsible for the Resource Management Act processes. That Act was passed by the National Government, of course, in 1991.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister not use the powers in section 119(4) of the Resource Management Act, which provides that the Minister may refer the application back to the hearing committee or the Environment Court, if he has a genuine concern about the scrutiny of the Environment Court?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I was intrigued when Dr Smith, a former Minister of Conservation, raised this issue yesterday. I sought legal advice from the Department of Conservation’s legal section and was told that such a thing is not legally possible. Either the lawyers have got it wrong or Dr Smith has, once again.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table a document of a former Minister of Conservation, Sandra Lee, which referred the Whitianga marina back to the Environment Court.

Leave granted.

KiwiSaver Scheme—Alternatives

2. SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports, if any, has he received suggesting alternative approaches to KiwiSaver that would encourage people to save for their retirement?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I have seen one report, stating: “Incentives have to be put in place to make New Zealanders save more than they spend.”, and: “National is working on a range of incentives to make people want to save.” That report was from National’s finance spokesperson, Mr John Key.

Shane Jones: What other recent reports has he seen on the topic of incentives for savings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a second recent report that dismisses tax incentives as an option, stating: “If tax incentives don’t increase your savings total, what’s the point of them?”, and goes on to conclude: “I don’t think anyone has a simple answer to increasing savings.” That report comes from the National Party leader, Dr Don Brash.

John Key: Why does the Minister think that KiwiSaver will be successful, when, first, it does not match contributions except for somebody who is saving for a house—and even that is a minimum contribution—second, the contribution rate is double that of the State sector retirement scheme, and, third, there is no change to the after-tax income of New Zealand’s workers?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The only conclusion we can draw from that question is that the member is promoting tax incentives for savings—which, of course, his leader has dismissed on many, many occasions—and I might say that is consistent with all international research.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that the role of KiwiSaver in meeting his goal of increased savings by households is directly undermined by the behaviour of the trading banks, which are forcing credit down the throats of consumers by increasing credit card limits when asked not to, by urging people to mortgage their homes further to pay for overseas holidays and new cars, and by setting performance targets for staff to sell more credit; if he is concerned about that, when will he have measures in place to control that behaviour?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have expressed both public and private concern about a number of those issues, but I do not think legislation is an answer. How one would legislate to prevent people from being offered the opportunity to mortgage their homes for other purposes is quite beyond me, particularly when in New Zealand that is often used for the purpose of sustaining and expanding a small business.

Payroll Tax—Employment

3. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Would the introduction of a payroll tax have the effect of reducing employment in some industries; if so, what industries might be affected?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Even I believe that all taxes have economic impacts, and these would be considered alongside any proposals that any responsible Government would consider.

John Key: Does the Minister accept that introducing a payroll tax would make labour more expensive for employers—in fact, that is the whole point of having a payroll tax—and that employers would respond by reducing the number of people they employ; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly, a payroll tax, all else being equal, would increase the cost of labour. If it was accompanied by a reduction in the cost of capital, then, of course, that might lead to expansion of productivity.

Hon Mark Gosche: Would the introduction of a tax exemption for new migrants and returning New Zealanders have a positive effect on employment in some industries?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, indeed; it will assist businesses in gaining access to skilled labour in a tight market. The changes that this Government is introducing, with effect from 1 April, show that we are serious about making practical changes to benefit business, rather than simply relying on tired old rhetoric.

John Key: Has the Minister considered the impact of, for instance, Treasury’s 2004 analysis of payroll taxes—a 20 percent company tax rate and a 5.4 percent payroll tax—on a company such as Air New Zealand, because when I looked at its most recent annual report, which was, I think, the 2004 annual report, I calculated that that company would have a reduction in its capital, which is something he referred to in his first supplementary answer, of $12.6 million, and an extra payroll tax implication of $44.8 million, making a net loss to the company of around $32 million; and what impact does he think that would have on Air New Zealand’s desire to keep all of its 10,829 employees?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Any structural change in taxation has impact differentially upon business. Treasury, of course—most prominently—believes that the most appropriate change to the structure of taxation is to increase GST and to lower taxes on income. I notice that no party in the House is supporting the Treasury position on taxation.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any reports on the likely effect of alternative proposed changes to the tax regime on employment in some industries?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes; I have seen reports suggesting an extravagant programme of tax cuts costing $11 billion over 3 years. This would necessarily have an impact on employment in industries such as health care and education, as it would require severe cuts to public spending.

John Key: In the Minister’s mind, is the purpose of a payroll tax to raise revenue or change the relative price of capital and labour?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No decisions have been made about any change in the structure of taxation, but I can assure the House that if any proposals are developed, they will be put out in the public arena for full consultation.

John Key: Is the Minister aware that the Nobel Prize - winning economist Paul Samuelson said: “Simple-minded people often say that raising wage rates will cause machines or ‘capital’ to be substituted for labor. More sophisticated folk have wondered a little about this argument ...”; if so, does he place himself among those simple-minded people?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. I am always happy to take guidance from Mr Paul Samuelson, who as one of the world’s leading neo-Keynesians rejects almost every economic argument put forward by the Opposition.

John Key: Why could the Minister not give a straight answer to the question of whether the business tax review is meant to be fiscally mutual; surely, before he embarks on such an exercise he needs to know whether he is digging another fiscal hole or simply filling one in?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because there is not a straight answer.

Pharmac—Subsidies

4. HEATHER ROY (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Health: What monetary value, if any, does Pharmac place on human life when considering new drugs for subsidy, and if none, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): Pharmac measures outcomes in terms of improvement of quality of life and extension of life. Quality life years is one of nine criteria used by Pharmac in assessing pharmaceuticals. Other criteria include health need, and effectiveness of the treatment.

Heather Roy: What does he estimate is the cost to Alzheimer’s sufferers who require rest home care or 24-hour care from family members because Pharmac refuses to fund cholinesterase inhibitors that could significantly improve their dementia, or is he interested only in money saved by denying those people treatment?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The issue around acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and Alzheimer’s is not as the member would suggest. I refer her to a 2004 Lancet article, in which the British looked at the use of those drugs in a real-life scene, and found that they made no difference.

Hon Marian Hobbs: How does access to prescription medicines in New Zealand compare with access in other developed countries?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Very well. The Commonwealth Fund shows that New Zealanders have a more ready access to pharmaceuticals than do Australians, Canadians, and Americans. We have a lot to be proud of, in that field.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister concerned that the price of the breast cancer drug Herceptin is 50 percent higher in New Zealand than it is in the UK, and does he agree that that illustrates not only how far pharmaceutical companies will sometimes go to make a profit but also the need to protect Pharmac and ensure that it can negotiate access to pharmaceuticals from as strong a position as possible?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I thank the member for her perceptive question. However, Medsafe is due to make its decision on Herceptin next Thursday, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment prior to that.

Rodney Hide: Will the Minister meet Epsom resident Dr Mamangalika Mendis, who is suffering from cancer and would benefit enormously from Herceptin, and explain to her and others, who are presenting on the steps of Parliament at 1.15 tomorrow a petition signed by 17,000 people, the Government’s policy on drugs; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am happy to explain to the member’s constituent and to the country now that Medsafe—

Rodney Hide: What about tomorrow?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Now. Medsafe is the first regulatory authority in the world to look at the licensing of Herceptin.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We seem to have this constant problem with Ministers. It is not a hard question. I assume the Minister is saying that he will not meet New Zealanders who are travelling to Wellington to protest. Why could the Minister not stand up and say that in the House? We have this time and time again from Ministers who are able to give an answer and refuse to.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. He was asked not only whether he would meet but also whether he would explain the policy. He addressed the question by explaining the policy.

Rodney Hide: He’s gutless.

Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We have some rules in this Parliament about the way members and Ministers can be described. I take offence at what the member said. I think he should be asked to withdraw.

Madam SPEAKER: I must say I did not hear what the member said. If an unparliamentary term was used, would the member please withdraw. No unparliamentary term was used?

Rodney Hide: I said he was gutless for not fronting up.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please withdraw.

Rodney Hide: Well, actually—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw.

Rodney Hide: I withdraw, Madam Speaker.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: When will the Government recognise that investment in pharmaceuticals will actually keep people out of hospital, will save taxpayer money in the long run, and, most important, will save New Zealanders’ lives?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Successive Governments have recognised that for a very long time. The member seems to confuse that recognition with the Government’s desire to achieve an appropriate level of drug treatment in New Zealand at an affordable price, and we are one of the most cost-effective pharmaceutical users in the world. I say to the member that we have more medicines than Australia, and we pay a small part of the price.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology—COOL IT Programme

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Has the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology repaid any of the $3.5 million it agreed to repay the Tertiary Education Commission in 2004, following an independent evaluation of its COOL IT course; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister for Tertiary Education): Repayment is to occur by way of adjustments to the final funding payments from the Tertiary Education Commission to the institute for the years 2005, 2006, and 2007. The payment for 2005 has yet to be calculated.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister now telling us that when Parliament was told repeatedly by his predecessor, Steve Maharey, in late 2004 that money would be repaid, we were not meant to believe that, and that we had to wait 18 months or 2 years before anything happened?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the member was told that at the time.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm the statement made by the chief executive of the Tertiary Education Commission, who told a select committee last week that no money has been paid back, that the action it is taking is to set up a review during March of this year, and that that review is now in place; does he regard that as serious action to show accountability for a scam?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will try to explain it again to the member. The institute is not paying a cheque for $3.5 million to the Government. Over 3 years it will get $3.5 million less in its final payments than it would otherwise get. The first of those years is 2005, and that payment has yet to be calculated.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister think he may have trouble negotiating the repayment of $3 million out of the $15 million scam, when the institute has publicly reported that its enrolments could be 18 percent lower than last year and that it faces a $3 million deficit; why would we believe that he will get a dollar out of the institute?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will try again. There is no agreement for the institute to write out a cheque for $3.5 million to the Government. The sum of $3.5 million is being withheld from the payments due to the institute. The first of those payments has yet to be calculated.

Hon Bill English: What does the Minister think his predecessor meant when he told Parliament several times in August, September, and December in 2004: “where people have misused or inappropriately used the Government funding, that money should be paid back.”; and is it the case that Parliament was misled by his predecessor, because it was never his intention that the money “should be paid back.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: For the fifth time, I think it is, I say that the repayment is to occur by an adjustment to the final funding payment from the Tertiary Education Commission to the institute. The first of those payments is yet to be calculated. Therefore what the member said is correct—and the member has just failed to achieve in English level 1.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that this explanation is remarkably similar to the distinction the Government made, in the case of David Benson-Pope, between a complaint and a formal complaint, and that here it is making a distinction between money that the Minister said should be paid back as opposed to money it says it will keep and not pay to the institute?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Complaints come in about all kinds of people in this House to all kinds of other people in the House.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that his version of accountability runs like this: Christchurch Polytechnic runs a $15 million hoax course enrolling 18,000 people, the Government pays over the cash, senior staff in the polytech pocket millions of dollars of that cash for personal benefit, the survey shows that only 3 percent of the students ever engaged with the course, and the end result is that, 2 years after that was exposed, absolutely nothing has happened—no one was sacked and no money was repaid—nothing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Repayment will occur by way of adjustments to the final payments to the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.

Ron Mark: Was any of the $3.5 million spent by the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology on purchasing artworks painted by the chief executive officer, Mr John Scott; if so, how much did the chief executive officer of the polytechnic get for his masterpieces?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have absolutely no idea. I would welcome the information. I do note that Mr Scott is leaving in a matter of another month or two, I think it is.

Crime—Foreign Nationals

6. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does his department hold statistics that indicate how much crime is being committed by foreign nationals; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice): No. The Ministry of Justice sources its statistics from databases maintained for administrative purposes, which do not contain information on citizenship.

Ron Mark: Would the Minister consider recording whether those convicted are foreign students who are here on student visas; if not, will he be requesting that such statistics are kept, given the rise in kidnapping, extortion, and murder cases committed by foreign nationals, including the story of Bo Fan, outlined in today’s New Zealand Herald, Ding Yan Zhao, who killed a 4-year-old girl while driving recklessly, and countless other incidents involving foreign students, some of which recently prompted a judge to declare the existence of an apparent kidnapping season? If he does not accept that nationality statistics need to be collated, could he please tell the House why not?

Hon MARK BURTON: Whilst it is always prudent to keep such matters under review, I would have to say to the member that information collected by the ministry is used in a way to identify interventions to reduce further offending and to assist with administration of the criminal justice system. The ministry collects information, therefore, on gender, age, ethnicity, and other factors that assist justice sector agencies to administer and properly target their programmes. Nationality is not a predictor of offending and does not assist with targeting programmes within the justice sector.

Ron Mark: How can the Minister be comfortable telling the House that information is not specifically collated and that there are no plans to do so, when we know that the incidence of crime committed by foreign nationals, including students, is, like the incidence of crime committed by Mâori, disproportionately high and is, like Mâori crime, on the increase, and we know that the Government does not collate nationality data for legal aid, and that the police do not record the nationality of people arrested or charged with an offence but they will record every occasion where a Mâori commits such a crime?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I indicated to the member before, the information collected is on gender, age, ethnicity, and other factors that are proven to assist justice sector agencies to administer and properly target programmes. Nationality is not a predictor of offending. It does not assist with targeting programmes within the justice sector.

Ron Mark: I would like to table a couple of things. I would like to table firstly a report in the Christchurch Press that points out that in the last 3 years Asian crime has overtaken all other types of crime. It is an article by Bob Kerr, a detective.

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

Ron Mark: I would like to table answers to written questions from Mr Hawkins, the then Minister of Police, and from Mr Goff, the then Minister of Justice, saying that the police do not record details of people’s nationalities when they prosecute or charge and that the Legal Services Agency does not record the detail on its database of legal aid given to foreigners.

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

Surgical Discharges—Comparisons

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What is the number of individual surgical discharges for the calendar year 2001 and how does this compare with the number of individual surgical discharges for the calendar year 2005?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): About 205,000 people in both years. If the member had, however, asked about case-weighted discharges, the answer would have shown a 7.5 percent increase, and if the member wanted to go back to when he was last in Government, the increase would be about 11 percent.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the same number of New Zealanders are getting surgery as 5 years ago and the surgery they are getting is in fact more serious, does this not reveal how much sicker people in this country have to be to get an operation in our public hospitals?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I explained to the House yesterday the increase in case weights, and I shall have another go. What has happened in recent times is that a lot of so-called low case weight surgery, or simpler surgery, has been carried out in out-patient services and, in some cases, even in primary health care settings, and out-patients are not recorded as discharges for the very reason that the patient is not admitted in the first instance—or, at least, not reliably so.

Moana Mackey: Is the Minister concerned that New Zealanders who have been clinically assessed as being above the threshold for treatment are not receiving treatment?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I am concerned, and I think that is really the issue that shows us whether we are doing well or not well. The truth of the matter is that that figure has dropped by over a third in the last year and a half, which I think is a tribute to the efforts of our world-class health workforce. I would say, mind you, that when National was in office the data about which the member asks were not even available, because that Government had no appetite for transparency.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the Government continue to use surgical discharge statistics as some sort of evidence that hospitals are performing more surgery, when the Government has received advice from the Ministry of Health that says: “Discharges from surgical specialties simply indicate that a patient passed through a surgical service and was discharged from that service. They do not have to receive an operation to be included.”?

Hon PETE HODGSON: And they never have had to. That is to say, since the beginning of statistical collections, surgical discharges have included things such as endoscopies. All I would say is that if endoscopies were included then and they are included now, we have a reliable trend. What is really interesting is that when the National Government was in power it did include endoscopies, and nowadays we include fewer, because they are being done in out-patient services.

Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister explain why the Government, knowing that information, continues to quote the information as justification for increased procedures in the hospitals, when we actually have a system whereby someone can be admitted to hospital for an operation, have the operation cancelled, and be sent home, and this Government counts that person as having had surgery?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If that is the case, it was always the case. The member thinks he has found something new. We have one of the most transparent systems in the world about what is happening and what is not happening, and it has become more transparent under this Government than under his.

Jo Goodhew: Does the information that the Minister has confirmed today mean that the poor, unfortunate surgical patients who report that they have been sent home more than once because their surgery was cancelled could potentially be recorded up to three times in the surgical discharges data?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If that is the case, it was always the case. What is different about now from then is that these days more surgery is done and is not counted at all. It is done in out-patient services. That counting begins on 1 July this year.

Hon Tony Ryall: So the Minister stood up in the House today and claimed that after 5 years of Labour Government—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know it is hard for a relatively new member, but we do usually start with a question word, not a “So” and a statement while waving to a fellow giggling friend.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that reminder. Yes, the member will ask a question.

Hon Tony Ryall: How can it be, after 6 years of a Labour Government—

Madam SPEAKER: If members wish to remain to hear the full question, they should be silent while it is being asked.

Hon Tony Ryall: How can it be that after 6 long years of a Labour Government, and billions of dollars more being poured into the health system, a Labour Party Minister of Health can stand up in the House today and say that no more people are receiving operations than there were 5 years ago, and have to admit on the basis of his cooked figures that we could, in fact, have fewer New Zealanders getting operations than 5 years ago?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I beg the indulgence of the House to try to explain to that member once more that—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: He’s got the Bill English disease.

Hon PETE HODGSON: That is the Bill English disease. What is happening in our health system is that more and more people are having their surgical procedures undertaken in out-patient services. That means they are currently not counted at all. We are going to begin counting them from 1 July this year. What part of that explanation does the member not understand?

Music—Commercial Radio

8. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Has he received any reports on the levels of New Zealand music on commercial radio?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): I recently received a report from the Radio Broadcasters Association that stated that in 2005 commercial radio played an amazing 20.8 percent of Kiwi music. That well exceeds the target of 17.5 percent. Given that in 1995, under the National Party, airplay of Kiwi music was 2 percent, can any National members take pride in their contribution to that success? I think the answer is not many, if any.

Sue Moroney: Is the Minister aware of any other Government initiatives supporting local broadcasting industries?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In addition to the voluntary code of practice, which is the quota, the Government last year provided $4.2 million through NZ On Air to support promotion of New Zealand music, both here and as part of an export drive overseas. We support Kiwi television production through the funding of NZ On Air, and through the Television New Zealand charter. We are also very pleased to see that broadcasting has now become so important to the National Party that it has four broadcasting spokespeople. It has Georgina te Heuheu, Murray McCully, Katherine Rich, and John Key, but even with four spokespeople, it still has no policy. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the members are right. The Minister knows that that is irrelevant to the answer of the question, so I thank members for that.

Pita Paraone: Could similar achievements in regard to Kiwi content be made by Television New Zealand, without its need to have a charter that requires it to reach certain targets?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No.

Prison Population Forecast 2005—Justice, Minister

9. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by the information contained in the document Prison Population Forecast 2005, released by the Ministry of Justice; if so, why?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice): I am satisfied that the forecast is based on sound analysis of the available data.

Simon Power: Why did the Minister not include figures on growth in the prison population in his press release of 7 March 2006—was it because he did not want to point out that over 12 months his ministry had found that the prison population was not going to increase by 10 percent between 2005-06 and 2009-10, as previously forecasted, but actually by 17 percent; how has this Government got it so wrong, again?

Hon MARK BURTON: I did not focus on that in the press statement because the statement was about the forecast, not about the outstanding achievements of this Government in delivering to the hardened criminals in New Zealand.

Lynne Pillay: Can the Minister give the House some specific examples of Government initiatives that have impacted on the prison forecast?

Hon MARK BURTON: Yes. As intended, the Sentencing Act 2002 has resulted in longer sentences being imposed. Reforms to preventive detention in that Act have resulted in more serious and recidivist offenders receiving substantially longer sentences, including preventive detention. At the same time the Parole Act 2002 has increased the proportion of sentences that inmates actually serve. Under the Bail Act 2000, more high-risk defendants are being denied bail. A record number of police, and the improvement in police resolution rates, have meant more cases coming to court and more criminals being imprisoned. Those Acts are successfully targeting hardened serious criminals, who are, appropriately, the cause of concern for the public.

Simon Power: When did the Minister finally realise that new prisons could not be ruled out, given that he said last week, in relation to prison muster numbers, that “if the rate of increase continues on the same trajectory, the inevitable result is the need for more prisons”; and how does he reconcile that statement with Damien O’Connor’s statements last November, in which the latter clearly stated that no more new prisons were being considered?

Hon MARK BURTON: If the member wants to ask a question of my colleague, he should do so. But I can certainly—[Interruption] Well, if the member wants me to finish, I will—

Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was directed to a statement made by the Minister in his capacity as the Minister of Justice. I asked him to reconcile that statement with a statement of another Minister. The question is within the portfolio responsibility that he holds.

Hon MARK BURTON: Had the member not interrupted me, I would have come to my response to the part of his question that related to what I said. I was simply pointing out that the other part of the question related to a statement of a colleague.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question, so we can hear the answer in full.

Hon MARK BURTON: The purpose of forecasts, I say to the member, is to provide just that—a forecast. They are issued annually. They change with ever-changing data. I have at no point said anything that is inconsistent with the statement that the member attributed to me.

Simon Power: Why did his ministry state to a Sunday Star-Times reporter that no more recent forecasting was in the pipeline, when the report referred to in the primary question was released 2 days later; and should we take this to be a clear sign that every single limb of our justice system is now moving in a direction completely separate from every other limb of our justice system?

Hon MARK BURTON: I will be happy to get the member an answer to that question, but as I said to the member I have made no statement that is inconsistent with any previous statement.

Simon Power: Does the Minister intend to apologise to his colleague Damien O’Connor who, last November, stated: “there are no plans to build more prisons in light of these latest expanded prison population figures”, forcing Mr O’Connor into an embarrassing U-turn when he was forced to state last Wednesday that he is now determined to build only what is absolutely necessary?

Hon MARK BURTON: I will try again to point out to the member that the point of annual forecasts is to provide annually updated information. The Minister at the time no doubt based his statement on the best available information at the time. I have just released the new information.

Nandor Tanczos: With regard to the prison population forecast, does the Minister support the call of the Salvation Army for politicians to stop using crime as a political football, to sit down together and start talking about what actually works to reduce crime, and to work towards a cross-party accord; if he does support that call, will he give his commitment to this House to participate?

Hon MARK BURTON: I think the notion of putting aside playing political football with this issue is highly desirable, but I see little likelihood of it, given the performance in the House this afternoon. However, this Government is committed to looking at a wide range of interventions that are effective across a wide range of offenders.

Ron Mark: Why does the Prison Population Forecast 2005 report make no mention of the increasing number of foreign nationals held in our prisons, given that we are currently holding more than 400 at a cost of $23 million a year, which has climbed from a figure of 270 in 2002, and has the number of foreign nationals held in our jails been forecast for the future; if so, what do the forecasts indicate in terms of cost and bed spaces?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I indicated to the member in an answer to a previous question, the collection of data does not include nationality. However, if the member wants to follow up with a question to my colleague Damien O’Connor in terms of information held by the Department of Corrections he may, in fact, get some of the information he is looking for.

Police Act—Review Proposal

10. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Police: Has she received any reports on the reaction to the proposed review of the Police Act 1958?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): I am pleased to advise that I have received reports of a very positive reaction to the review of the Act, which is nearly 50 years old. The police generally are very supportive of the initiative, but I also want to thank other parties in this House for their openness towards the review, and I also welcome the support of the New Zealand Police Association and media commentators. The review is a great opportunity to bring the police legislation up to date and into the 21st century.

Martin Gallagher: What is the time frame for the rewrite of the Police Act?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The intention is to have a draft bill by November 2007, for introduction into Parliament in early 2008. The review will replace the need for the Police Amendment Bill (No 2). I think the police give New Zealanders outstanding service, often in difficult situations, and they deserve to have the best and most modern legislation. The review will enable the police themselves to have a real input into the way policing develops in this country.

Simon Power: Does she agree with Police Association president Greg O’Connor, who said on 7 March: “The Association does not believe any major changes are necessary to ensure that the New Zealand public receive a good service and will be keen to ensure that the legislative process is not used in an endeavour to cover for resource shortfalls.”; if so, what reassurances can she give the association on that matter?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The assurance I can give the association is one I have given it at meetings and publicly: that this Government, in conjunction with New Zealand First, is providing the resources for 1,000 more sworn police and 250 more non-sworn police, over the next 3 years, at considerable cost. This review is not about resources; it is about rewriting the Act. I am pleased that the Police Association agrees with it. The association may well be right to say that we do not need a lot of change, but let us go through the review in order to see what change we do need to bring the legislation up to the modern era.

Disability Issues, Minister—Advocacy Role

11. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister for Disability Issues: Can she confirm that as Minister for Disability Issues her role is to be an “advocate for disabled people”?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Disability Issues): Yes, and I am proud of significant achievements in this sector since the Labour-led Government came into office. It was the first Government to recognise the need to address disability issues through such measures as the establishment and implementation of the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she consider that the auditing systems currently in place to monitor disability services with regard to quality of life need improvement, in light of recent concerns around Focus 2000 that involve deaths, maltreatment, understaffing, and poor-quality services; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am yet to see any auditing process that does not offer opportunities for improvement.

Dave Hereora: Has the Minister received any reports at Government level concerning advocacy for people with disabilities?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have received a number of reports, although none are from the 1990s because there was not any advocacy then for disability issues. However, I have received a recent report that regards advocacy for disabled people as too PC and divorced from the mainstream. That report concerned comments made by the PC eradicator and anti-advocacy campaigner, Wayne Mapp.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Did she receive a letter from Standards and Monitoring Services on 8 July 2003 notifying her that the board unanimously decided that the Ministry of Health designated audit agency approach is “completely incompatible to enhancing the quality of the lives of individuals who use services”, and why has she done nothing to heed their warnings, when every day “abuse” is going on?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I do not have a recollection of receiving a letter on 8 July 2003, but if the member says I did, then I would certainly take his word for it.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Did she receive a second letter from Standards and Monitoring Services on 1 November 2004, which stated: “You should be aware of the huge levels of dissatisfaction in community residential services.”, and why has she, as the advocate for the disabled, stood silently by amidst revelations of untimely deaths, maltreatment, and abuse?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Again, I take the member’s word that I received a letter from Standards and Monitoring Services on 1 November 2004. That would be the first and, I assume, the last time I would ever be accused of standing silent while the abuse of any disabled person continues. That member knows that that accusation is wrong, and, frankly, I expect to receive a higher quality of question from him than I get from his colleagues.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What does she intend to do about improving quality assessment, when on 25 February Lorna Sullivan, who is an executive member of the Assembly of People with Disabilities said: “We see day after day providers that have got their compliance audit hung on the wall, where people are neglected, where people’s lives are being wasted, people are degraded—just systemic abandonment.”; or does she think that what Lorna Sullivan said is untrue?

Hon RUTH DYSON I have never disregarded anything that Lorna has said to me on the many occasions over the last decade that I have spoken to her. Lorna’s views are very well represented in the document I launched, To Have an Ordinary Life, which shows the difference between compliance with a contract and the aspiration of many disabled people to live a far better quality of life than that. So what the member is talking about is not systemic abuse, at all; it is opportunities that have not been taken under the current contracting model.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is a letter from the director of Standards and Monitoring Services, dated 8 July 2003, stating that the Minister’s audit agency approach is completely incompatible with enhancing the quality of lives.

Leave granted.

Dr Paul Hutchison: The second document is from the director of Standards and Monitoring Services, dated 1 November 2004, stating that she should be aware of the huge level of dissatisfaction in community residential care.

Leave granted.

Dr Paul Hutchison: The third document is a transcript from Radio New Zealand, where Ms Sullivan points out the great concern of systemic abandonment and neglect in the disability sector.

Leave granted.

Hon RUTH DYSON: At the member’s request, I seek leave to table a transcript of an interview between Dr Wayne Mapp and Mr Sean Plunket of Morning Report, on Radio New Zealand, where Mr Mapp says: “That’s the fundamental problem with giving power to minorities, and what you essentially have to do is”—

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

BreastScreen Aotearoa—Capacity

12. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made towards increasing the capacity of BreastScreen Aotearoa?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): Considerable. Breast-screening capacity has increased significantly since the age extension of the breast-screening programme. By the end of December 2005 over 200,000 women had been screened since the start of the age extension programme. That is a 21 percent increase in just 12 months.

Darien Fenton: Which communities have new breast-screening facilities?

Hon PETE HODGSON: New facilities were opened for BreastScreen Waitematâ Northland in December last year and for BreastScreen Counties Manukau last month. A new purpose-built facility was opened in Palmerston North last week, and, in the course of this calendar year, a number of other purpose-built facilities will open. As well, there will be still more mobile units.

Dr Jackie Blue: Why does the Government not admit that it has acted irresponsibly, when it has known for over 2 years that by extending eligibility to BreastScreen Aotearoa more women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and we still do not have enough people to treat these women?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Every time a screening programme is launched or extended, there has to be certainty of a high chance of adequate, appropriate follow-up treatment—whatever is needed. That is why this roll-out, occurring quickly as it is, did not occur instantly, for precisely that reason.

Tariana Turia: How will the Minister address the fact that Mâori women have a 47.7 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than non-Mâori women; and what is their access rate to breast screening?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not have the numbers to hand as to the access rate for Mâori, but we know that it is lower than for non-Mâori. We know that Mâori women die partly because of their access to screening being lower. The Counties Manukau screening programme, as an example, is adamant that it can reach more Mâori women in the extended age group sooner rather than later, and is committed to doing so. But I am pleased to advise the member that in some parts of New Zealand, including where I come from, the screening rate for Mâori women has now reached the target. I do not know of any other indigenous population anywhere else in the world where that has happened.

Tariana Turia: Why is it that the Government accepts that so many women are losing their breasts because they cannot access the drug Herceptin?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I said in answer to an earlier question that Medsafe is due to make its decision available next week and that it is, to the best of my knowledge, the first regulatory authority in the world to examine the licensing of Herceptin. Therefore, anybody’s suggestion to the effect that this country is dragging the chain is demonstrably, palpably wrong. But I make a further point that if one wants to take a cost-effectiveness approach to this issue, then the member’s first question is a much more important one. Extending breast screening to a higher level of Mâori women than we have reached at the moment will save a lot of lives.

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. For corrected transcripts, please visit: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/hansard )

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