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Questions & Answers for Oral Answer 22 March 2006

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

Wednesday, 22 March 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Conservation, Minister—Confidence
2. Working for Families Package—Benefit from Changes
3. Economic Development, Associate Minister—Policy Development
4. Roading—Public-private Partnerships
5. SchoolSmart Website—Use of Data
6. Justice, Minister—UMR Survey, Mâori
7. Oil and Gas Exploration—Bidding Result
8. Climate Change—Obligations
9. Corrections, Department—Confidence
10. Organics Industry—Support
11. Elective Surgery—Service Provision
12. Pacific Island Affairs, Ministry—Policy Effectiveness


Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Conservation, Minister—Confidence

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Conservation; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Dr Don Brash: Does she agree with the comments of the Hon Dover Samuels, who said he was “galled” by the Minister of Conservation’s vetoing the Whangamata marina, and that: “Ministers should not be allowed to overturn the decision of a jury or a court. It undermines the integrity and the process”; if not, will she be taking any action to discipline Mr Samuels for his very public criticism of a ministerial colleague that is a clear breach of the principle of Cabinet responsibility?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, the Minister of Conservation did not overturn the decision of the court. The court makes a report. The Minister must then exercise a judgment on restricted coastal activities. I am absolutely amazed that the party that wrote the law and passed it does not believe that.

Dr Don Brash: Does she agree with the Hon Dover Samuels that it is galling that the Department of Conservation bureaucrats had an unfair advantage in the Resource Management Act process for the Whangamata marina because: “they could go running off to their Minister to have decisions overturned if they did not agree with the decision of the Environment Court.”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Under the law, the Minister makes a decision. He gets advice. I am not sure who else is supposed to advise him if it is not the Department of Conservation.

Dr Don Brash: Does she agree with the comments of the Hon Dover Samuels that the “integrity” of the ministerial veto process under the Resource Management Act as it applied to the Whangamata marina needed to be “reconsidered”; if so, what action does she intend to take as a result?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said yesterday, it is an entirely open matter for debate as to whether the Minister’s power should, in law, be exercised at the beginning or the end of the process. That is what Mr Samuels is commenting on.

Rodney Hide: When the Prime Minister is judging her Ministers’ performances, why does she apply different standards to different portfolios, such as she did yesterday when she said David Parker’s behaviour was not good enough for him to be Attorney-General but OK for him to be the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Transport, and then again last year when she judged David Benson-Pope to be unsuitable to be the Associate Minister of Education but OK to be the Minister for Social Development and Employment and Associate Minister for the Environment; and where in the hierarchy of ministerial standards does the Prime Minister’s job sit—at the top or at the bottom?

Madam SPEAKER: That question is extremely wide of the original question. If the member would like to—not taking one of his supplementary questions—focus the question in on the primary question, which deals with the Minister of Conservation.

Rodney Hide: When the Prime Minister is judging her Ministers’ performances, such as the Minister of Conservation, why does she apply different standards to different portfolios, as she has done with David Parker, when she said that his standard of behaviour was not good enough to be Attorney-General but OK to be the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Transport; like she did last year with David Benson-Pope, when she said his behaviour was not good enough for him to be the Minister of Education but OK for him to be the Minister for Social Development and Employment and the Associate Minister for the Environment; and where in this hierarchy of ministerial standards does the Prime Minister’s job sit—at the top or at the bottom?

Madam SPEAKER: The final part of your question, Mr Hide, is out of order, but the first part is fine. So I ask the Prime Minister to address that part of the question.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I judge the Minister of Conservation on how he does his job. He has a difficult job to do. He must make a decision on restricted coastal activity at the end of quite a long decision-making process. [Interruption] For the former Minister, who administered this law, to keep going on in a way that indicates he has no knowledge of it at all, is reprehensible.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm media reports that she fully supported the Hon Chris Carter’s handling of the Whangamata marina issue, and does she acknowledge that Mr Samuel’s comments regarding Mr Carter are, in fact, therefore an attack on her as well?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: To the best of my knowledge the Minister has followed a proper process.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have today asked the Prime Minister four supplementary questions. Three of the questions asked whether she agreed with the Hon Dover Samuels. She did not answer those questions at all. The fourth question asked about media reports relating to what Mr Carter said and what she herself said. She did not answer that question, either.

Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did address the questions, and I listened to the supplementary questions closely. I think it is unfortunate that normally more than one question was involved. So would the member like to redirect his question?

Dr Don Brash: Can I simply read my question again?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. I remind members that all members are heard in silence. I also remind the member before he begins that members can ask for opinions, but Ministers do not necessarily have to give them. That is what the Standing Orders state. As I said, if we wanted only factual questions and factual answers, then we would change the Standing Orders.

Dr Don Brash: Can she confirm media reports that she fully supported the Hon Chris Carter’s handling of the Whangamata marina issue, and does she acknowledge that Mr Samuel’s comments regarding Mr Carter are therefore an attack on her, as well?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that to the best of my knowledge Mr Carter followed a proper process.

Working for Families Package—Benefit from Changes

2. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: How many families will benefit from changes to the Working for Families package from 1 April?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): From 1 April three out of every four New Zealand families with dependent children will be entitled to tax credits through the Working for Families package. From 1 April, therefore, an estimated 85,000 extra families will become entitled to those tax credits, bringing to about 350,000 the total number of New Zealand families eligible for family assistance tax credits under the Working for Families package.

Sue Moroney: How do families know whether they are one of the three in four families eligible for Working for Families tax credits?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Eligibility depends on family income and the number of dependent children. For example, a family with one child under 16 could earn up to $69,320 a year and still qualify, while a family with three young children could earn as much as $93,760 a year and still qualify. Families can easily check their eligibility through the Working for Families and Inland Revenue Department websites, or by phoning or texting the advertised contact numbers.

Sue Bradford: Why, given Labour’s supposed commitment to social equity, will the Minister not reallocate the money given to the Working for Families in-work payment, so that family support is increased to at least $20 a week for all families, including those of the 230,000 children dependent on benefit income, instead of redistributing more and more taxpayers’ money to the better-off?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As I said in answer to the member’s question last week, and can confirm, the average weekly amount already received by beneficiary families from the Working for Families components has already increased by an estimated $32 per family.

Sue Moroney: What other countries provide tax relief similar to New Zealand’s Working for Families package?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Most OECD countries provide targeted tax assistance to families with dependent children. Australian families are eligible for a family tax benefit on a combined family income of up to about A$90,000, depending on the age and number of children. In the United Kingdom, tax assistance to working families is provided through a child tax credit, for which around 85 percent of families are eligible. Those countries recognise, as does this Government, the need to target tax credits where they are needed and not provide tax cuts for the wealthy.

Economic Development, Associate Minister—Policy Development

3. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Associate Minister for Economic Development: What part has he played in general policy development as an Associate Minister for Economic Development since taking up the role?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Associate Minister for Economic Development): I have been involved in the development of industry and regional development policy over several years.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Associate Minister stand by his quoted statements in the lead article of the Independent newspaper today?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: A number of statements were made in the article today. I say to this House that those statements were made from my experience as a member of the Far North District Council, both as a councillor and a member of the hearings committee on the council, over a number of years.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister really telling the House that the extensive comments he made in the Independent article about the Whangamata marina, which is about 200 kilometres south of the area of the Far North District Council, and his comments about the ministerial veto in the Resource Management Act, are to be believed, given his role as a former Far North District councillor rather than as a member of this Government?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I say to that member: absolutely. That is the contribution I made, and I made it quite clear to the journalist, Tim Donoghue, that I was commenting and observing through the process and the experience I had when I was a councillor and a member of the hearings committee—and sometimes on the other side, as an applicant.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder if you could help the House, and perhaps help the Minister in answering the question. It seems to me that the Minister is taking an odd position when, on being questioned in the House about what he is quoted in the press as having said, he says that he was speaking then not as a Minister but in some other capacity. It seems to me that as a member of this House, the Minister has no opportunity to do that. He is a Minister of the Crown 24/7, 365 days of the year. He cannot make a whole lot of comments he now wishes he had not made, then turn up to the House and not be held to account for them because he says he was talking about being a district councillor. That is certainly not possible.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member.

Hon Annette King: What about when the member’s a private investigator?

Madam SPEAKER: No, it is all right. I do not really need any assistance on this matter, but I thank the member. I make two points in my ruling. First, members are, of course, answerable only for comments they make in the course of their responsibilities as Ministers or Associate Ministers. Second, I point out that many members have several capacities. For instance, some are party leaders as well as being Ministers, and as well as being members of the House. That is perfectly in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: As the Associate Minister has brought his experience into the issue, can he recall how many times while he was sitting on the Far North District Council the Hon Nick Smith told him and that council that he intended to repeal National’s Resource Management Act—was it 100 times, 50 times, 20 times, or not at all?

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; that question is out of order. The Minister is responsible in this House only for his actions as a Minister. Does the member wish to rephrase the question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Minister, in his second answer today, put his experience as a councillor at issue, which is one of the experiences that was brought into an evaluation of matters in respect of the Resource Management Act today, does he recall how many times while he was gaining that experience as a councillor that Nick Smith, then in charge of the Resource Management Act, promised to repeal the legislation—was it 100 times, 50 times, 20 times, or never?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member’s question is based on the premise that I was in charge of the Resource Management Act. At no time, among the many ministerial portfolios I had, was I the Minister for the Environment. I will be pleased to be put in that role in the next Don Brash Government.

Madam SPEAKER: I come back to the original ruling. The Minister is responsible only for his actions as a Minister, not as a councillor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister was allowed to give the second answer, at which time he put at issue his experience, which I think is very valuable experience. I wanted to know whether, while he was gaining that experience, he witnessed any intervention from the then Minister of Conservation, who was in charge of significant portions of the Resource Management Act.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I ruled the question out of order. I will not go back on that.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Can the Minister give examples of his involvement in economic development and policy making?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I have been involved in economic policy-making on behalf of the tangata whenua, the Mâori people of this country, in advocating for the Hui Taumata, in setting up economic development agencies right around this country, and also in the promotion of Mâori tourism throughout New Zealand—and right now 13 Mâori tourism organisations make a valid contribution to the economy of this country.

Gerry Brownlee: When he made his disparaging comments about the Hon Chris Carter to his colleagues in the Labour caucus room, did he explain to them at the time that he was speaking as a previous Far North District Council councillor, or had he forgotten to put on that hat at that moment?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: Let me say that I have never made disparaging comments about my colleague Chris Carter. I hold my colleague in the highest esteem and integrity, and he and I have been friends for a long, long time. It is a little different from that mob on the Opposition side of the House. I wonder what happens in their caucus when nobody is listening.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In his role as Associate Minister for Economic Development, how many reports has he managed to access from the Minister of Conservation’s office, when it was in the charge of the Hon Nick Smith, that set out to amend or repeal the Resource Management Act; is it 10, five, or none?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: In my time as a district councillor and member of the hearings committee, there certainly were a lot of comments relating to the Resource Management Act and also to the then Minister—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but the Minister has heard me say that he is responsible only for matters in his capacity as Minister. The question was correctly put. Could the Minister please address the question.

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I have not heard any comments about Nick Smith.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: For the benefit of the member for Tauranga, who is usually asleep at Cabinet, I seek leave to table the—[Interruption] I am sorry, the previous member—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. I thought we were trying now not to make disparaging comments about other members when we raise points of order or ask questions. Would the member please put his point of order. If he wants to table a document, he should please seek leave for that.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Owen McShane review, done in 1998, of the Resource Management Act, which included the recommendation that the ministerial veto of the Minister of Conservation be removed. It was supported by me at the time.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think Nick Smith should be asked to withdraw and apologise, first of all for making an allegation about Bob Clarkson and his ability to stay awake, and second, for misleading the House by saying he is a member of Cabinet, which he will never be.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Hon Dover Samuels, Associate Minister for Economic Development, agree with Dover Samuels, Far North District councillor, in criticising Chris Carter’s “unfair” decision in respect of Whangamata and his statement that the ministerial veto of restricted coastal activities should be repealed?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, if he is asked to compare two experiences, one of which by Standing Orders and your rulings is out of order, there cannot be an answer to that question.

Rodney Hide: You have ruled already that a member can ask for an opinion, and can certainly ask for a Minister’s opinion of some other comment. That question is perfectly in order, and the Minister is required to answer it.

Hon Peter Dunne: I draw your attention, Madam Speaker, to Speaker’s ruling 139/3 from Mr Speaker Kidd. He states: “The primary condition of asking a question of a Minister is that the Minister has ministerial responsibility for the subject matter of the question.” He then goes on to state: “If there is no ministerial responsibility, there can be no question.” I would submit that not only this question but many of the other questions asked this afternoon on this subject are out of order in that there is no ministerial responsibility, and further, that much of the strife we have got into in recent weeks has been because of the practice of allowing members to ask questions that have only a tangential relationship to the responsibility of the person they seek an answer from.

Gerry Brownlee: Mr Dunne raises an interesting ruling that was put in place by Speaker Kidd, but let us be very clear. Dover Samuels is Associate Minister for Economic Development. Economic development is very much threatened by the Whangamata decision. We would assume that that is why Dover Samuels was so publicly critical of the Minister of Conservation. For two Ministers who are taking different positions to try to hide that difference by climbing in behind the Standing Orders or Speakers’ rulings is quite wrong.

As for the comments that have been allowed from Mr Samuels that on that particular day he was not speaking as a Minister, but rather as someone who had some recollection of being a district councillor some years before, that of course, opens up the whole question as well as to whether he should be asked other questions. I think that Mr Peters’ question should have been allowed to stand, because the answers given by Mr Samuels would be about as ridiculous as the decision that was made by Chris Carter in the first place. So although Mr Dunne suggests that over a period of time there have been some supposedly tangential questions, we suggest that many of those questions would not arise if Ministers gave straight answers in the first place.

Madam SPEAKER: Points of order should be brief, and not long speeches. I get the grasp of the member’s issue.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Reiterating a false interpretation of the original answer does not make it true. Mr Samuels did not say he was answering as a Far North District councillor; he said he was drawing on his experience as a Far North District councillor. That he is perfectly entitled to do.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am ruling on the point of order. When looking at the Associate Minister’s responsibility, I say there has to be an official connection between the two positions. So I rule that the point made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters is correct. The question needs to be resubmitted, so that there is a connection. There is not at the moment.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does Dover Samuels, Associate Minister for Economic Development with responsibility for assistance in the development of policy, agree with the Dover Samuels, a former Far North District councillor who was quoted extensively in the Independent today, criticising—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I think that the member is right. He could put his question without the latter bit, and it would be within the rules.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: For goodness’ sake!

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: There is no official connection between the two.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was not the Opposition that went down the line of Ministers being able to wear different hats on different occasions. It was not the Opposition that allowed the Minister to suggest today that every comment he made as the Minister about Chris Carter was in praise of him. Yet we are able to read that somehow, as district councillor, Dover Samuels was not very happy with Chris Carter. All Dr Smith is asking is whether the Minister agrees with the chap who is apparently a former district councillor. It is Mr Samuels who has put on two hats, and it is the Chair who has allowed that to happen. Our opportunity to question the Associate Minister should not in any way be diminished because of the utterly ridiculous way in which the Government wishes to present itself.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to make two serious points. The first one is that if the questioner seeks a comparison between a ministerial position and a prior one, then no comparison can be made. That is the point I am making. But the second one is far more serious. It is the propensity of that member to get on his feet, take the House’s time for minutes, and not articulate one principle of law at all, or any principle from the Standing Orders, and get away with it.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order is not on the substance of that issue, but on the fact that you have repeatedly ruled that points of order are to be heard in silence. I saw four front-bench National Party members who were not silent during that point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I did too, so I remind members to please respect that ruling. I have endeavoured throughout question time to make sure questions and answers are within the Standing Orders. It seems to me it is important that we all do that, and that questions should be within the Minister’s official capacity. I have ruled on that. I will take no further discussion on that point.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, Mr Brownlee, this point of order has to be a totally different one. I have ruled on the matter, and we have had a considerable discussion on it. If it is on another point, that is fine.

Gerry Brownlee: As you know, all our questions have to be verified at various times, so if we now receive a news report of a member of the Labour Government making a statement somewhere that is of interest to us, are we constrained by the description that is put upon that person? It seems to me today that the Minister has decided that he will not be scrutinised on this matter because he is saying he made his statements in a capacity other than as a Minister. Perhaps there should be some directive to all members of the Government that when they make statements, to indicate, as you would put it, Madam Speaker, which hat they have on.

Madam SPEAKER: The original question was perfectly in order; the supplementary questions have strayed off the point. But I would refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 140/6.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does Dover Samuels, the Associate Minister for Economic Development with responsibility in the delegations for policy development, agree with Dover Samuels, a former Far North District councillor, who has extensively criticised—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but the member is repeating the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I made it absolutely plain that I am asking the Minister, in his role as an Associate Minister for Economic Development.

Madam SPEAKER: If the member stopped there, he would be all right.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The delegations make plain—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member is now being deliberately obtuse. He has been warned twice as to the impropriety of his question. He cannot make that comparison. The question is out of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on this matter. It is the comparison that is out of order. It is not the substance of the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: That is a farce.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please leave the Chamber.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: This is just a farce.

Madam SPEAKER: You may well say so, but you will be out of the Chamber. Please leave now.

The Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Why have you accepted an answer from Mr Dover Samuels that he did not speak to either the Labour Party caucus or the Independent as a Minister, but rather as a free-wheeling individual who had some experience as a Far North District councillor of those matters, and that those matters had annoyed him? You allowed that answer to stand. When we come to the House we look at the delegation and say the Associate Minister for Economic Development, presumably recognising that the veto exercised by the Minister of Conservation will terrify anybody who is looking at that sort of development in the future, makes those statements by drawing on his experience. But apparently he is not able to be questioned on them, simply because he chooses to designate himself as being in a different role at the time he made them. That does make this process utterly farcical.

Madam SPEAKER: I point out to Mr Brownlee for the last time that there is nothing new about Ministers acting in different capacities in which they are liable to be required to give answers to questions in the House. I have checked what the Minister said, and have told him to confine himself to the responsibilities, and I have said the questions had to be related to his ministerial responsibilities. That is what is in the Standing Orders. The question could have been asked within the Standing Orders. We will now move on.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. From my long experience in this Chamber, I know that when a member is asked to exit the Chamber in the way that you asked the Hon Dr Smith, if that member then hurls abuse at the Chair there are further consequences. I want to know what you intend to do in respect of his behaviour, which is simply unacceptable. In the past, any member who has done that has been punished. What does the Chair propose to do now?

Madam SPEAKER: I am considering the matter.

Gerry Brownlee: What consequences for development in coastal marine areas does he believe the decision of the Minister of Conservation over the Whangamata proposal will have?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I believe that the Minister of Conservation should have overall jurisdiction in terms of the final decision under the Act. That Act was put into place by a National Government. But I also understand the complexity of any application for coastal permits, when there has to be consideration of other stakeholders in terms of the particular activity being applied for.

Dr Don Brash: Will the Hon Dover Samuels, wearing whichever hat happens to suit, accept the sincere and wholehearted congratulations of every member of the Opposition on his very perceptive comments about Mr Chris Carter’s decision on the Whangamata marina?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I inform the Leader of the Opposition that I wear only one hat.

Gerry Brownlee: What discussions has the Associate Minister had with the Far North District Council, or any other district council or environmental council, about the consequences of the Whangamata decision?

Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I was on a local authority for over 20 years. I have not communicated with any local authorities or any regional councils in terms of the observations I have made to the Independent.

Roading—Public-private Partnerships

4. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree that public-private partnership contracts for road infrastructure are an efficient and cost-effective way to build roads and should be encouraged?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister of Transport): The member will be aware that it was this Government that made public-private partnerships a legal possibility. The fact that no one has yet to formally approach us probably reflects the fact that this Government’s huge increase in investment has, to some extent, crowded out opportunity.

Gordon Copeland: Why has the Government ignored the importance of encouraging private sector involvement in the provision of infrastructure, when it is “essential in helping to deliver the much-needed infrastructure required on the national road network”, as stated by the Irish Government?

Hon PETE HODGSON: We do not ignore the private sector. We could not build transport infrastructure without the private sector. They are the only people who build transport infrastructure. We contract to the private sector to build transport infrastructure. Part of the funding comes directly from the private sector, and will increasingly do so under the current Minister of Finance.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen a transcript of the Paul Holmes breakfast show this morning on which Mr Holmes said to Tau Henare: “The reason we’ve got all these roading problems in Auckland is because your lot failed completely in the 1990s to spend sufficient money on the Auckland roading infrastructure.”, and has the Minister seen the member’s response?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have. The member in question responded: “You are, you are absolutely right. You are absolutely right.” I think the member is absolutely right when he says that is absolutely right.

Peter Brown: Noting the answers to the earlier questions—not the last one—will the Minister tell us precisely what private participation can achieve, when it comes to road building, that cannot be accomplished by the public sector alone?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Public-private partnerships can have some advantages in the bringing in of new ideas and understandings in terms of construction and management. That is the logical idea. It certainly is not cheaper money, because the Government can borrow money more cheaply than the private sector can, so it has to be something to do with the ability that the private sector brings to the process. What is also the case is that it is clear from international experience that public-private partnerships do not always work, and often work best in large or very large projects.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: In light of the Minister’s answer today that the Government is prepared to proceed with public-private partnerships, will he now make available the Government’s share of the investment required to enable the public-private partnership for the construction of the Penlink toll road to proceed, given that the failure to proceed with it is strangling access to the Whangaparâoa Peninsula; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In an earlier time, as Minister of Transport, and prior to the last election, I met with those people representing the Penlink proposal. [Interruption] I am answering the member’s question, if he would like to hold his tongue. I met them in Rodney. I met them prior to the election and I said: “The next thing that has to happen is that you guys need to approach us.” I am still waiting.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: They’ve approached you.

Hon PETE HODGSON: To my knowledge, there has been no formal approach to the Government in respect of Penlink. As far as I am aware, there has been no approach. I must say that I want to know why the member voted against the legislation that allowed for this. I want to know that, because those members are all in favour of it, but when they had a chance to vote in favour of it they all said no.

Madam SPEAKER: It was very difficult to hear the Minister’s answer. [Interruption] Just because you shout does not mean you are necessarily heard.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that private involvement in road building will more than likely result in tolls, and that employers can usually pass the toll on or make it tax deductible, but the average New Zealander has to pay it out of his or her net income; if so, does he believe that is fair and just?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There are many ways to service the capital that needs to be raised for a public-private partnership, and tolling is one of them. As the member suggests in his question, internationally it is a commonly used method. In a number of countries, including the one closest to us, it has run into a number of difficulties. Tolling has meant that there has been diversion, and that has meant that business models do not always stack up in practice.

Gordon Copeland: Will the Government, in the light of the Minister’s complimentary comments about public sector involvement, support my member’s bill the Land Transport Management (Public Private Partnerships) Amendment Bill, should it be drawn from the ballot, which will remove remaining roadblocks to public-private partnerships, or does the Government still feel constrained by its pre-2002 agreement with the Greens?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can say uncomplicatedly that unofficial feedback to the Ministry of Transport from the private sector is that the Land Transport Management Act provisions are not a barrier to private sector involvement in road building. Therefore, the member’s bill seeks to correct a problem that, as far as I am aware, does not exist.

SchoolSmart Website—Use of Data

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What agreements, if any, exist between schools and education agencies that limit the use of data presented in the Ministry of Education’s SchoolSmart website?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): The understanding is that the data is made available to inform schools of statistics of their own performance in a range of areas and to allow them to benchmark themselves against other schools. Parents can get this information from their local school, along with other important information, such as the sort of environment the school has, the kind of teacher programme it operates, and what actually happens in the classroom to benefit students. That gives context, of course, to that data.

Hon Bill English: If the Minister has agreements that limit the use of the data, why has he publicly released to me, as a result of parliamentary questions, some of the data available on the SchoolSmart website, such as teacher turnover rates and suspension and stand-down rates, but continues to keep secret other bits of the data, such as a school’s spending on administration and student retention rates?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I said in my answers to a number of the member’s many questions on this topic, we are not releasing data that identify individual schools, but aggregate data that allow us to look at categories of schools.

Moana Mackey: Can the Minister elaborate on SchooolSmart and the benefits of running such a system?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: SchoolSmart is a website that displays information about individual schools compared with data from similar schools. Thirty-six reports are available, covering such areas as academic information, annual teacher turnover, expenditure on property and depreciation, roll change comparison by school type and area, ethnic and gender information, school-leaver information, and school retention to year 13 for secondary schools. I agree with the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Principals Federation, the School Trustees Association, the New Zealand Educational Institute, and the Post Primary Teachers Association that the information is best released by the schools themselves, so that they can give context to the raw data. For the information of members of the House, I have here, for example, raw data on the turnover of teachers per school. It does not mean a lot to people unless it can be put into context, and that is why everybody in the education sector, apart from the lone critic, would like it done the way it is done.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister not surprised to find that all teacher groups are opposed to parents seeing this information, and why does he refuse to allow parents access to this website so they can see a range of data about the performance of their child’s school?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It may be helpful to the member if I explain once again that teachers are not opposed to this. Parents can get access to this data through talking to their local school. What teachers are opposed to is having the data out of context. That is why they like to have it explained to parents within the local school. Mr English, people understand, wants to create league tables. Teachers see no value in that in relation to the education of people. They want to do it on the basis of good education, not league tables. They can get that information and they can get the context of the school wrapped around it.

Moana Mackey: What other information is available to parents to allow them to make informed choices about their children’s education?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: A number of sources of information are available for parents. The best way for parents to make choices about their child’s education is to look at things like the reports of the Education Review Office and to visit their local school to talk directly to teachers and principals, who will tell them about the school. They can make use of SchoolSmart information if they are talking with their local school, but because—and I repeat this for the member’s edification—the sort of data I have in my hand is the kind of data they will get, it is best that they make use of that SchoolSmart data in the context of the school they are talking about.

Hon Bill English: Could the Minister confirm for the House that what he has just said is not correct, and that if parents go to the SchoolSmart website they are not in fact presented with pages of detailed data but with clear graphic illustrations that compare the performance of their child’s school with other similar schools—and that parents are not stupid and could quite easily digest that information?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is what I have just said. If parents talk to a local school they will gain access to that kind of information about their school, but they will also have the advantage of having it in the context of that school. The data I have here was, in fact, pulled off the website, so yes, it is the data they could get.

Hon Bill English: Is it the Government’s view that the school principal should be allowed to look at this information, that the teachers in the school should be allowed to look at it, that the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office should be allowed to look at it, that he should be allowed to look at it, and that Opposition spokespeople who can find a friendly principal can have a look at it, and that the only people who are not allowed to look at it are parents —the people who have the most vital interest in the progress of that school; and what does he say to parents to explain why he regards them as too ignorant to deal with this dangerous information?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The first thing I would say to members is not to listen to the member’s characterisation of SchoolSmart, because it is not true. The way that this data is used—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take offence at the Minister making a statement that a statement I made in the House was not true.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has taken offence. Would the Minister withdraw and apologise.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member has just told me that what I said was untrue. So it is OK for him but not OK for me.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has asked for the statement to be withdrawn and for the member to apologise.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw. Can I say to the member—

Madam SPEAKER: And apologise.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I sat here and listened to Bill English call across this House: “That’s not true.” several times, when the Minister was on his feet. He has double standards. He does not like it when the Minister says it back. I took offence. I believe he ought to withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: No, you cannot ask for another member to do that.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: We are in a difficulty here, because simply saying that a statement is not true does not imply that somebody is lying; it merely means that he or she got something factually incorrect. We continually get into this trouble in the House when people assert motives and implications behind a statement that is a simple statement of interpretation. If we rule out saying the statement is not true, then I think we are in an awful lot of trouble in this House, because we would have to find convoluted ways of saying the same thing.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I agree with Dr Cullen, to the extent that to say something is not true is to say it is not correct—that it is not right. It does not mean that the argument is taken further to personalise that the person making the statement is seeking to lie to the House. If we have this lily-livered behaviour from National members every time they do not like something, then this House will be a very— [Interruption] This is a point of order, I should be heard in silence.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Would the member please just come to the point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am entitled to make my points of order without a barrage from National members, something which is all too frequently happening. Can I be heard in silence?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, and would you please make your point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is this: to say that something is not true, that it is incorrect, or that it is false does not imply that the person is a liar or deliberately setting out to mislead the House. The other point I am seeking to make is that we have countless points of order being taken here that have no precedent in the past, and if they were to be supported, as your initial ruling suggested, this House would be a thoroughly antiseptic and insipid place.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the members. The member is entitled to ask for a personal reflection to be withdrawn, and I understood that is what the member was doing. If, in fact, a member does take offence, then, of course, objection has to be taken by that member at the time. But the Rt Hon Winston Peters is correct: “untrue” does not imply lying—a point also made by Dr Cullen—but it can be taken as a personal reflection.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would say to parents what I said in my original answer, and I repeat it for the member: what we have here is a data source that allows schools—

Brian Connell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You made your ruling. You asked the Minister to withdraw and apologise, and the House is still waiting for that to happen.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. I heard the Minister withdraw—

Brian Connell: You made a ruling, Madam Speaker. You directed the Minister to withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please affirm that he withdrew and apologised. If he did not, would he please stand and do so. I am sorry, I thought I heard the Minister say that. The Minister has said he withdrew and apologised. His word is taken.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: To make life a whole lot easier for the House, I withdraw and apologise. In answer to the question, I would say to parents what I said in my original answer to the original question—that is, the data is made available to inform schools about their own performance in a range of areas, which allows them to benchmark against similar kinds of schools. Parents can get access to that information by approaching the school, and that is a good way to do it because then the information can be placed in context.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister now saying that he is happy for parents to have the information in any context, except the context of comparison with another school, and does he believe that it is evil intent on the part of parents to want to see comparisons between their child’s school and other schools?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No and no.

Hon Bill English: Can I take it from what the Minister has said that if schools agree to have their parents accessing this information, then he will direct the Ministry of Education to allow access by those parents, with the agreement of the school, to the SchoolSmart website, which is by far the easiest way for parents to get hold of the information?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I will not direct the Ministry of Education to do that, for the very simple reason that we have a very workable system now. Schools can be approached by parents to talk about this. We will not buy in to league tables, which is what Bill English is arguing for with his privatisation agenda. No one in the education system agrees with the lone critic. He remains the lone critic.

Justice, Minister—UMR Survey, Mâori

6. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Mâori Party) to the Minister of Justice: Has he been informed of the results of the UMR survey released yesterday, which found there was strong overall agreement (66 percent agree; 12 percent disagree) to the statement that “in addition to having the same rights as all New Zealanders, Maori have the right to live as Maori”, and what is his response to this finding?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice): Yes, I have been informed of the results of the survey that was released yesterday by the Human Rights Commission to mark Race Relations Day 2006. The finding that the member refers to is encouraging.

Dr Pita Sharples: Ka taea e ia te whakamârama mai i te aronga o ngâ kupu, “kia tû rangatira ai hei Mâori?”

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Is he able to explain what is meant by “live and succeed as Mâori”?]

Hon MARK BURTON: I did not author the report, but certainly I would take it to mean to fully participate in, and to have the economic, social, and cultural benefits of, a full, healthy, and wholesome life in New Zealand.

Pita Paraone: Can the Minister, given his response to the primary question, describe what is meant by “to live as Mâori”, and is this the reason that so many Mâori are relocating to Australia—now one in seven; soon to be one in three—where they can obviously “live as Mâori”?

Hon MARK BURTON: What I meant is essentially what I answered to Dr Sharples’ supplementary question. To add to that answer, a good example of what I was describing is the record number of Mâori in jobs, and the record number of young Mâori in education, in industry-based training, and in Modern Apprenticeships—those are all good examples of young Mâori in this country who are fully participating in New Zealand society.

Dr Pita Sharples: I runga i te kaupapa kei te whakaae te nuinga o Niu Tîreni kia “noho taketake te Mâori, hei Mâori” he aha ôna tohutohu ki te Minita mô te Manatû Aorere, nâ, ko te whakautu o Niu Tîreni ki te kaupapa kua whakaritea mô ngâ tângata whenua o te ao, kei te hç, kei te kuare, nâ te mea kare he kôrero mô te Mâori engari ka hângai anake ngâ kôrero mô “te katoa o te iwi”?

[As New Zealanders generally agree that “Mâori have the right to live as Mâori”, what action will he take to advise the Minister of Foreign Affairs that the New Zealand response to the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous people is both unjust and ill-informed in failing to mention Mâori people but instead focusing only on “all citizens”?]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. To the best of my knowledge, this country is called New Zealand. That is not the name that Mr Sharples just gave this nation, and he should not be allowed to let it creep into the language by way of using the Mâori language in the House.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This country is not Niu Tireni; it is New Zealand, and some call it Aotearoa. But that other name is not ascribed to New Zealand.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; it may well be a matter of fact—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When the question was asked, it had that word in it for describing this nation. The House surely recognises what name this country is called.

Dr Pita Sharples: Since the 18th century Mâori have been referring to this country as Niu Tireni, Niu Tîrangi, or Aotearoa.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. Members can use whatever terms they like; it is not to be ruled what is correct or not. We will now ask for the interpretation, please.

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

Hon MARK BURTON: As the member identifies, I do not have ministerial responsibility for the report in question—but I do frequently engage in useful discussion with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Oil and Gas Exploration—Bidding Result

7. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Energy: When will he announce the bidding result of the Government’s four oil and gas exploration block offers off the East Coast of the North Island and nine block offers in offshore Taranaki that closed on 17 February 2006?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): I will be pleased to announce the results of the block offers as soon as the assessment process is completed.

Phil Heatley: Will that Minister admit to the House today that he has again failed to secure bids for the oil and gas exploration off the East Coast, and off the coast of Taranaki—just as earlier this year explorers rejected his three deep-sea Taranaki offers and his three Northland block on offer—and, if he does admit that, is he at all concerned in light of New Zealand’s urgent need to replace disappearing Mauî gas?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: In the mid 1990s the industry was concerned about the depletion of the Mâui Gas field and drew attention to the need to address the issue—without any action from the then National Government. After careful consideration, in 2004 the Labour-led Government introduced the following initiatives: firstly, adjustments to tax provisions; secondly, reductions in royalty rates for new discoveries; thirdly, additional funding to promote investment in New Zealand; and, finally, the Government-funded seismic data that has since been made freely available to support block offers. Those initiatives were designed to encourage and expedite exploration, and to yield discoveries that will make a material difference to the security of New Zealand’s gas and oil needs.

Hon David Carter: Why are there no bids?

Phil Heatley: Why no bids?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I invite members to wait for the announcement on successful block offers.

Shane Jones: Has the Government’s expenditure led to increased exploration activity?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: It has, certainly. Bidding parties for the East Coast have stated that the timely availability of new data has materially changed perceptions of the potential of the East Coast basin, and stimulated their wider interest in New Zealand.

Phil Heatley: Is the Minister concerned that there is no bidding war when it comes to the Northland, Taranaki, and East Coast block offers, but there is just him, with a white flag of surrender, wallowing around in failure—part of an entire Government that is in failure?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am not sure where the member opposite is getting his information from, at all. He certainly cannot have been at the recent oil and gas conference held in Auckland, or he would know that the industry is not only very buoyant but we have twice—I repeat, twice—the number of wells being drilled in recent years than in any time in which the National Party was Government. I invite those members to wait for the results of the bidders’ offers.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Associate Minister explain to the House that there has also been a hurricane called Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, which has slightly reduced the availability of drilling rigs?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The Minister is quite correct. There has been a reduction worldwide in the availability of rig slots. I can tell members, just for their information, that rigs were previously available prior to Hurricane Katrina for around US$150,000 per day. A particular company working in New Zealand had one of its operations managers strongly criticised for agreeing to a contract at $180,000 per day, but he is now being lauded for agreeing to that contract, because drilling rig rates will be around $500,000 per day for the next 3 years. [Interruption] I tell the member that he needs to do a thorough bit of research into how the industry operates. I have also to say that he is one of the brightest of the current National members of Parliament.

Phil Heatley: In the Minister’s recent speech to that very Petroleum Conference he referred to, he said: “Have these initiatives been successful? I think it is too early to tell.”, so did he not really mean that all those failures mean it is too late to matter?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am very happy that the member mentioned my speech, to which I had a really marvellous reaction. We have received a very positive response from the entire oil and gas exploration industry to the initiatives taken. That is confirmed by companies recently telling the Ministry of Economic Development that the availability of data had very much influenced them to look seriously at New Zealand. We will wait for the results of the block offers.

Phil Heatley: Has the Minister apprised the Prime Minister of all his modest successes in his portfolio as Associate Minister of Energy, of his unwavering loyalty and endless years of service, and of all those successful bids, given that the job of Minister of Energy is now on block offer?

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Unlike the little member opposite, who waves the flag a lot, I am sure the Prime Minister is aware of my ability or otherwise in every field of endeavour around here. The member has raised a very good question as to the reaction of industry to the initiatives taken by the Government. I can tell the member that even members of his own party have congratulated me on the initiatives taken. As the member has raised it, I seek leave to table my address to the New Zealand Petroleum Conference, titled New Zealand’s exploration outlook.

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

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I seek leave to table a document from the 1996 New Zealand Petroleum Conference proceedings, a very good paper by a Mr C. Stone about the shortage of gas etc. in New Zealand.

Leave granted.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a graph showing Mâui’s decline over the next 4 years.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table an article titled “Explorers’ begging bowl goes unfilled”.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table an article titled “Government drags its feet on oil exploration”.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table an article titled “Overseas investors highlight barriers to investment in New Zealand”. None of these articles were written by Harry Duynhoven.

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

Climate Change—Obligations

8. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What is the Government’s current best estimate of the amount by which New Zealand will fail to meet its climate change obligations by 2012, and what will the likely cost of this be to the taxpayer in 2012?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): The member will recall that in May last year the official estimate of the net position changed from one of surplus, which had been the consistent advice over many years, to one of a deficit of 36 million tonnes. This was revised upwards last month to a deficit of 64 million tonnes, and the cost has been revised upwards to $562 million spread over the 5-year period from 2008 to 2012.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that it makes more sense to spend money now to pay New Zealanders to reduce our carbon emissions than to pay Russia for carbon credits in 2012?

Hon PETE HODGSON: To the extent that that is a possibility, I think it does make sense. That is why 3 years ago or thereabouts we introduced the Projects to Reduce Emissions programme, which enabled people who could access carbon-abating technologies to do so in response to receiving carbon credits, if their plan or their activity was more expensive than business as usual.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How much carbon and how many dollars have been saved by the Government’s Projects to Reduce Emissions policy, which has enabled most of our current wind power to get going; and will the Minister be able to assure the international climate change conference at Victoria University next week that this approach will be continued and expanded?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Let me answer from memory. The Government has put into the market something like 10.5 million tonnes worth of carbon credits and—because we run this thing at a profit—has probably secured about 12 million tonnes of abatements. That is a difference of about 1.5 million tonnes. The current Treasury price for carbon is about $8 or $9 per tonne. One can do the sums from that. It feels like a $12 million or $13 million profit, or thereabouts. As to the continuation of the policy, the member will be aware that the Government has climate change policies under review, and the outcome of the answer to her last question will be part of that review.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister regret the fact that New Zealand signed the Kyoto Protocol ahead of our major trading partners, given that all we have seen to date is increasing costs with no benefits whatsoever?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Leaving aside the fact that the projects to reduce emissions managed to kick-start wind energy in this country, as Jeanette Fitzsimons implied in her question, we need to be careful to address the fact of costs on both sides. There is a cost of doing nothing. I refer the member to some advice that I received from a member of this House that the cost of doing nothing is such that it will “eventually stuff life on Earth”. That seems to me to be quite a costly thing to have happen. That advice comes from the Hon Dr Nick Smith.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned at the rate at which forests are being cleared for conversion to farming, thus increasing our climate liabilities, and will the climate change policy review he mentioned seriously consider making some payment to the owners of forests planted since 1990 for the carbon they have stored, in order to discourage further deforestation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The policy suggestion the member has just come up with of course would increase the cost to the Government beyond the $500 million - plus that I announced in answer to the primary question, so we would need to take cognisance of any fiscal effects thereof. What is my view about the shift from forestry into non-forestry activities? It seems to me that a country that bases its economy on land resources has to have some flexibility of land use, and that is especially the case where forest was planted in areas where farming could not take place but now can because the cobalt deficiency in the soil that precluded farming from taking place has now been resolved.

Hon David Carter: Will the Minister acknowledge to the House today that the entity responsible for the greatest amount of deforestation in New Zealand is the Government, through its entity Landcorp?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It probably is—I am just not sure, but it probably is—because Landcorp has just picked up a bunch of land on the Rotorua-Taupô road, which is the area where the cobalt deficiency occurred. It is logical that that would be the first part of New Zealand to be converted back to farming.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister really believe Nick Smith’s statement, given the fact that New Zealand’s total emissions are 0.001 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and is it really credible that that will ruin life on Earth as we know it—because New Zealand First members do not think it is?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is hard to know what the truth is. It is even harder to know what the truth is when one examines the various positions of the National Party. For example, its leader, Don Brash, quotes himself as saying: “I am one who thinks the science is still debated.” Even his mate President Bush does not believe that any more. On the other hand, Nick Smith says it will “stuff life on Earth”. So one says nothing is going to happen, and the other one says everything is going to happen, and it is all a little bewildering.

Question time interrupted.

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Corrections, Department—Confidence

9. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Corrections): Yes, although there is always room for improvement.

Simon Power: How can he continue to have confidence in his department, when Department of Corrections officers are taking inmates to the beach, rewarding them with porterhouse steak, ice cream, chocolates, fizzy drinks, and lollies, and showing pornographic videos in their cells at night, or is this what the Government meant when it said it was getting tough on criminals?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I will always support a system within the prisons that incentivises good behaviour. However, the incidents the member refers to are outside prison protocol. Disciplinary action has been taken, and they will not occur again. I would like to remind the member, regarding the steak incident, that we feed prisoners for $4 a day or thereabouts, and steak is not normally part of their diet.

Simon Power: Does he have confidence that his department has the capacity to improve its efforts at rehabilitating prisoners, when only 65 inmates have been placed in drug treatment units in the last 7 months, out of an annual target of only 174—a number the Ombudsman condemned as “extraordinary”—and when 83 percent of the prison population has a history of or a current drug and alcohol problem?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not think we are doing well enough in the area of drug and alcohol treatment. We will be reviewing, and are reviewing, those programmes and we will be delivering better programmes to more prisoners in the future.

Simon Power: Can he give an assurance that the new rehabilitation programmes announced yesterday will include dedicated drug and alcohol programmes, in light of the fact that the number of positive tests for methamphetamine use in prisons has, according to his own answers to written questions, increased from five in the 1999-2000 year to 66 in the 2004-05 year; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I accept that the increase in incidents of P usage within prisons reflects the increase in incidents of P usage in the general community. That is a sad indictment of our society, and we must do everything we can to stamp out the use of P. I have every confidence that the new programmes we have in place—the new ones to replace the ones cancelled yesterday—will offer better drug and alcohol treatment for those inmates.

Simon Power: Can he give an assurance that none of the inmates of the 60-bed unit at Christchurch Prison who allegedly watched pornography in their cells at night were sex offenders?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware of that and I cannot answer the question. I would be more than happy to provide that information to the member if he wishes to write to me.

Simon Power: How can the Minister continue to have confidence that there is no need for an independent and wide-ranging inquiry into prisons when even the Corrections Association, which represents prison workers, has said in recent days that it supports an inquiry?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Corrections Association of New Zealand has not said that it would support an inquiry at all. The member should check with the association to get clarification on that point. We are dealing with a very difficult environment. We are not running kindergartens. We deal with over 50,000 new sentences each year in this country and with over 9,000 new people going into prison. I think that the Department of Corrections does an excellent job in a very difficult environment.

Organics Industry—Support

10. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development: What steps is the Government taking to increase the level of support available to the organics industry?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development): The Government is providing $1.5 million to Organics Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dave Hereora: Why has the Government increased its level of support for the organics industry?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because it is a small but important sector that is growing, especially in the United States and European markets.

Hone Harawira: E aha ana ia hei whakatau i ngâ âwangawanga o tôna Hoa Minita kua kî mai, ko te kaupapa â-moana he wawata noa iho, â, ko tôna mutunga hei whakakâhore i ngâ whakahiato whai rawa?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[What steps will he be taking to address the concerns of his Associate Minister that the oceans policy was just a dream and would undermine economic development?]

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: When he approaches me on that, I will consider it.

Elective Surgery—Service Provision

11. Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Minister of Health: Is he concerned about the Government’s ability to meet New Zealanders’ need for elective surgery; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): While I am delighted that the number of elective surgery procedures has increased by 12.6 percent on a case-weighted basis under this Government, and by more than that when our patient procedures are taken into account, there is always more to be done. This Government will never be complacent.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Can he explain from behind his statistical smokescreen why the Auckland District Health Board—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Ironic expressions in questions are forbidden by Standing Orders. That is about as clear a case of one as one can get.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. Would the member just ask the question, please.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Can the Minister explain why the Auckland District Health Board performed 813 coronary bypass operations in 2002, yet 3 years later, in 2005, less than half that number—394—were performed?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I cannot, because the member did not give me any notice that that was what the question was to be about. So I am not able to answer him. If the member wants to hide behind a bland primary question, then his supplementary question will not get a good answer. What I need to do is to take a bit of a guess. All I can say is that around the country, and therefore, I assume, in Auckland as well, coronary artery bypass grafts are giving way to another form of surgery, an earlier intervention known as angioplasty, which reduces the need for coronary artery bypass grafts—which I would have thought a doctor would know about.

Maryan Street: By the end of last year, how many more people had commitments for elective surgery compared with the year prior?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In December 2005 there were 4,600 more people with commitments for elective surgery than there were in December 2004. That is 4,600 more people who were benefiting from this Government’s work to create a fairer, more transparent, elective surgery system. The days when people were left on waiting lists with no guarantee of treatment, as was the case under a National Government, are gradually coming to an end.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Will the Minister accept that the number of angioplasties that he mentioned only rose from 930 to 1,080 during the period under discussion, which in no way explains the massive drop in open-heart operations; and will he also accept that 133 people who have been seen by an Auckland District Health Board heart surgeon are sicker than the threshold for treatment, yet have been given no commitment that they will actually receive an operation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Again I say to the member that because he does not give notice of what his deep, dark question is to be about, an informed answer cannot be given. So I shall have to make a guess at this one, as well. The member has done the classic thing: he has quoted the Auckland District Health Board without recognising that the Waitematâ District Health Board and the Counties Manukau District Health Board have, over recent years, significantly increased their surgical procedures. Has he drawn that fact to the attention of the House? No, he has not. Why has he not done that? Because he prefers to obfuscate. That is not a good look.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Would the Minister be so—

Madam SPEAKER: The question will be heard in silence.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Would the Minister be so eye-poppingly angry if—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but the member already been warned. Just ask the question without a comical comment, please.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Would the Minister further explain why, as of January 2006, a further 140 sick people in the Auckland District Health Board area had been given a commitment to open-heart surgery, but had been on the waiting list for over 6 months?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not know, because the member did not indicate at the beginning of the question what the question was to be about, and that is where the matter rests.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Will the Minister be embarrassed if patients on the heart surgery waiting list of Auckland District Health Board are advised that the district health board cannot give them any assurance of when their operation will take place, and that they should consider all options, including going private if they can afford it?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Certainly, people who can afford to go private will consider that as an option, but the public health system in this country is dealing with more and more elective surgery cases each year than the year before—more and more New Zealanders are getting their elective surgery. What is more, the number of New Zealanders who have crossed the treatment threshold but have not received their surgery has dropped by one-third in the past 18 months.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Firstly, let me observe that today we had a member of our caucus thrown out of the House as a result of that member’s considerable frustration at the way in which a question was being answered. When you consider the answers that Mr Hodgson has given, I think you can get a sense of just how that frustration builds. This question dealing with elective surgery has been on the Order Paper since 11 o’clock this morning. The Minister has repeatedly said: “Oh, there’s more elective surgery going on in the country than ever before.”, but every time he is confronted with some appalling statistics showing that that is not the case he simply says: “I don’t know.” and “The member should have asked a more specific question.” I do not think that helps order in the House, and I do not think it brings this Parliament into great respect. I ask you to consider perhaps ruling that Ministers should answer questions, or, at least, address questions that are on the Order Paper. Saying “I don’t know.” would stand as an answer, but to go on and give some speech of qualification behind why the Minister does not know that seems to be a condemnation of the person asking the question is just unacceptable.

Hon Trevor Mallard: It has been a long tradition in this House that—and I can remember my predecessor, the Hon Fraser Coleman, using the phrase—if a member wants a specific answer to a detailed question, the member either asks a written question or gives proper notice of the nature of the specific detail required. That has been the history of the House, and I think new members have to understand that if they do want details that drive right down to the number of open-heart surgeries in a particular hospital, they have to be more specific in the original question, or give notice.

Madam SPEAKER: I understand the points of order, and I thank the members. I am not clear exactly what the point of order was, because the Minister did address the question, and that is a common way to address questions of that nature—to ask for notice to be given of the specifics. If members want the rules changed, then they should take that matter to the Standing Orders Committee and we can review those rules.

Ron Mark: Given the National Party’s new-found interest in cardiothoracic issues, I seek the leave—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please get to his point of order without interpolating. Would Mr Mark just state his point of order, please.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a series of newspaper articles from 1997 to 1998—

Hon David Carter: Ha, ha!

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but members are on notice that when points of orders and questions are being given, they are to be without interruption. Would members please respect the member asking the question, and would the member please put his point of order.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a series of newspaper articles from 1997 to 1998, when New Zealand First was seeking to have a cardiothoracic unit built in Christchurch, and it was consistently fought and opposed by Gerry Brownlee, David Carter, and Bill English. Fortunately, we won and it was established.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a series of newspaper articles from the same period of time that show that the money that had been previously allocated for a heart unit in Christchurch was snaffled by New Zealand First to fund Aotearoa Television.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table countless press statements in respect of Aotearoa Television, which was the brainchild of one Maurice Williamson, the then Minister of Broadcasting. Those are the facts.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Pacific Island Affairs, Ministry—Policy Effectiveness

12. TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour—Mangere) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs: What are the main conclusions of the latest Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs report on the effectiveness for Pacific Island people of Government policy?

Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs: The report shows that, as a result of initiatives, including the Work and Income Pacific Wave strategy, there has been a 53 percent decrease in Pacific people receiving the unemployment benefit in Auckland in the last 2 years to June 2005. The report also shows that 140 Pacific people received TeachNZ early childhood education scholarships in 2004—an increase from 37 in 2000—which has strengthened Pacific participation in early childhood education.

Taito Phillip Field: What does the report say about Pacific economic development, and what is the Government doing to further strengthen Pacific economic development?

Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN: Government has an increased focus on economic prosperity for Pacific people through initiatives such as the Pacific Economic Action Plan. More Pacific people than ever before are in jobs, but we realise there is still more work to be done. It is about turning the one-day stalls at the Pasifika festival into ongoing sustainable economic business.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Did the report examine any allegations of misuse of the Samoan or Pacific Island immigration quota system and the effects of such misuse on Pacific Island people and the integrity of the Government’s Pacific quota policy?

Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN: No.

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

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